Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly
Matthew Goodman’s Eighty Days is a really fantastic piece of nonfiction—the kind that’ll make you gasp out loud, even though you know how this race between two lady journalists in the 1880s is going to turn out. I’d heard of Nellie Bly in passing before (something something asylum something something), but Eighty Days introduced me to her in her entirety, from birth to death. Naturally, despite Goodman’s warnings about Bly’s subpar attempts at writing novels, I was interested in what put Nellie Bly on the map: Ten Days in a Madhouse. While it was originally published as a series of articles in The New York World, it was collected into a book the same year (1887), making it eligible for my establishment.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
For some insane reason, I thought that my final finals season at Agnes meant that I would have tons of time for reading. This was not only a lie, but a damned lie. I checked out every book I could only get at my college library and a handful of books from the local library. Fines piled up on the school books and the local books went home, unread, save for one: The Man in the High Castle. I’d only known Philip K. Dick by reputation, and I had confused The Man in the High Castle, the “Nazis won World War II” story, with another “Nazis won World War II” alternate history short story that was much more dour and depressing. Well, not that this isn’t…
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
I started Tiny Beautiful Things on a Sunday and logged into my library account later that day. Huh, I thought, it’s due tomorrow. I tried to renew it, but was faced with the fact that somebody else wanted to read it as badly as I did. What was a bibliophile in her last weeks of college to do? Why, finish it the next day, of course, neatly avoiding library fines and actual work in one fell swoop. It’s not procrastination if you’re doing something else productive, we all know that.
Fashioning Teenagers by Kelley Massoni
When I was what is technically considered a teenage girl, I was far too busy reading fanfiction, scheming to get my hands on Velvet Goldmine, and being a femmephobic little terror to even realize what mainstream teenage culture was. In my understanding, it was something to do with Saved By the Bell, which I couldn’t watch without my mother darkly muttering about how it gave my brother unrealistic expectations of high school. It’s both a blessing and a curse: I never felt like I was chained to a script, but mostly because I had no idea that the script existed. Thus, I was pretty blind to Seventeen magazine until I read an article that cited this book, which pointed out both Seventeen’s age and its origin story as a women’s service magazine. I had to investigate.
Beyond Katrina by Natasha Trethewey
And that’s it—that’s the last book for my “Old South, New South, No South” class. I think it’s really just hitting me that this is it—college is over. Knowing anything about my life for sure beyond a year out is over. Wearing chucks and band t-shirts every day is over. Not cooking for myself is over. (Thank you, Jesus.) But enough about me and my “problems”, which fade away in the face of what Beyond Katrina covers. Our professor has been talking up the book since day one of the class, and I’ve been looking forward to it because of that. Well, that and its slim size. That’s always appreciated when finals are posed to attack…
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
I’d never heard of Sarah Beth Durst before Michael Ann Dobbs reviewed her latest novel, Vessel, for io9. While I do end up reading a lot of young adult fiction, I don’t especially pay attention to that market, electing instead to float around speculative fiction spaces and fellow omnivorous book bloggers online, so something like Drink Slay Love was way off my radar. But Dobbs’ review made me immediately add it to the spreadsheet—not so much because of glowing praise, but because of that premise. Somewhere in time, child Clare is throwing a tantrum and claiming that Durst stole her idea (from an awful fantasy manuscript squirreled away on a long-dead computer? Shut up, child Clare). I, as an adult and actual person, merely appreciate what Durst did with a concept I’ve always found intriguing.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of those texts most American kids encounter in high school, but, as a literary critic in training at a women’s college, it’s popped up as the ideal candidate to practice feminist theory on in the class that teaches you about the major schools of literary theory. It’s also popped up in one of my history classes. So Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a very familiar name to me, but only because of that one short story. But her bibliography is much deeper than that, and includes a utopian trilogy of which Herland is the middle installment, flanked by Moving the Mountain and With Her In Ourland. I’ve tried reading Herland once before, as a kid discovering Project Gutenberg in high school, but I thought it was time to give it another shot.
What It Is by Lynda Barry
Part of my evolution as a writer over the last year has been realizing that I am much more of an editor or a literary critic than a creative writer. I mean, I’m still a creative writer to some degree. I’m not Paul Collins, who thinks the idea of characters escaping their writers is preposterous, because I’ve had characters decimate entire plot outlines by being smarter than I am. But there is a reason I’m an English Literature major, not a Creative Writing major. So why would I pick up a book pretty clearly aimed at a more traditional creative writer? Well, I’m trying to get my mother to write her memoirs and she does not subscribe to her daughter’s blunt way of leaping blind into new hobbies, so I’m vetting writing resources for her. Plus, I’ve heard a lot about Lynda Barry, so I thought it was time to get acquainted.
Daredevil: Volume 1 by Mark Waid, Paolo Manuel Rivera, and Marcos Martin
I was about twelve when I was exposed to the film version of Daredevil. It came out in 2003, so I must have been about thirteen. We watched it because my dad has the kind of open mind when it comes to films that a director wishes ey could buy. It didn’t make too much of an impression, beyond cementing my brother’s resemblance to Ben Affleck for the family, and that’s been my major impression of Daredevil ever since. Given my previous antipathy towards Marvel, I saw no need to correct it, but something moved me to pick up this while picking over the graphic novels at the library. I’m quite glad I did.
The Art of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
Of my various stupid human tricks (lactose intolerance, short hamstrings, that thing where I can bend my thumb behind my hand…), I’m usually most fond of my browsing sense. An urge to get up and go browse somewhere usually means that there’s gold in them there hills (hills being, of course, thrift stores, libraries, and, occasionally, curbs), and I often return with, say, a copy of The Cake Doctor or a Wonder Woman t-shirt from my adventures. Such an urge gripped me while at the library for the Jessica Hagy event, and, afterwards, I meandered upstairs to find a copy of The Art of The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, one of my long-shot books to read, just lying there in the new books. Oh yeah.