Literary Magazines

Category : general

Once upon a time, I decided that when I had a “real job” I would subscribe to some literary magazines. Four years later, I’m finally getting around to researching it.

Literary magazines were drilled into my head during college. Most great authors started with selling their stories to them, so it was natural that we wanted to get on reading them ourselves. And after a weekend away at my alma mater, it refreshed my memory.

So here’s a handy list (with U.S. subscription fees). You knew this was coming, right?

1. Ploughshares $30/year
Probably the most well-known lit mag out there. It’s been around for 40 years, and was the starting point for many of today’s well-known authors. You can also submit works online, if you are so inclined.

2. Paris Review $40/year
Also home to a good number of modern writers, including Adrienne Rich, Philip Roth, Samuel Beckett, and various others. It can also be purchased at a number of bookstores, though it’s obviously the cheaper option to subscribe (as with most things).

3. Tin House $24.95/year
This one’s a baby in comparison, having started in 1998, but quickly became a household name, so to speak. Their issues often have a theme, and feature both fiction and poetry.

4. Kenyon Review $30/year
A bit of trivia: Short stories printed in Kenyon Review have won more O. Henry Awards than any other nonprofit journal, and are frequently found in Best American Poetry. I’d say it’s fairly reputable.

5. Georgia Review $35/year
I’m running out of things to say aside from, “they’re good.” This one has also won many awards and featured some notable authors. And hey, if you subscribe for 2 years or more, you can get a free T-shirt.

If you don’t want to pay the cash to subscribe, there are many literary magazines that have their content online. It used to be that us literary folk looked down upon this, but many of them are reputable now. I fear to list any because, honestly, I don’t know a lot about them. But it’s like anything else—there are good ones, and not-so-good ones. I’m open for suggestions and recommendations.

Our Animated Comrades

Category : general

Perhaps unsurprisingly, whenever I acquire a new hobby/interest/anything, I’m always drawn to the bookish types—even in the imaginary, animated sphere. I love those scholarly characters that get lost in books and their studies. Those guys that, even though they’re a product of someone else’s imagination, I can relate to.
Of course, this call for a list.

1. Daria Morgendorffer, Daria

Starting things off old-school. Daria is smart and sarcastic, and—much to the dismay of her popular sister—she reads. I was called Daria many times in my high school years, and the similarity is striking. Though I didn’t wear glasses back then. And didn’t have a cool artsy best friend, as much as I really wanted one. But the book collection and sarcastic tendencies? No wonder I thought of her first.

2. Shad, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Shad is obsessed with continuing his father’s studies of the sky people, and ultimately helps Link in his quest to find the City in the Sky. His speech is formal and he dresses like a proper gentleman. One of my favorite quotes is stated by him, as said to Link in regards to his friend’s grand adventures: “I’m formidable at book reading but I lack, shall we say, physical skills.” Shad, we have much in common.

3. Canas, Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword

Canas is a magic-wielder who craves knowledge. He studies the dark arts, following the familial trend of generations before him. If he dies in-game, his death quote states there was “so much more [he] wanted to learn.” He’s frequently found reading during battle and, in one support conversation, offers to teach a young girl to read. Everything is does is for research. (And he’s an excellent fighter as well.)

4. Criminy, Sinfest

He’s your typical “voice of reason” in a crazy world. And the Sinfest world is insane. There are constant religious battles and worldly temptations around him, but Criminy is often found seated beneath a tree amongst his book piles. He’s the token intellectual, and it’s no wonder the girls often fall for him.

5. Sheska, Fullmetal Alchemist

When we first meet Sheska, she’s buried—literally—beneath a pile of books. She was a librarian who was fired for reading too many books on the job. Sheska is mousy and awkward, and I love her for it. She also has this amazing skill of remembering everything she reads, and having a photographic memory to boot. Never doubt the librarian.

Surely there are many, many others out there. Who are your favorite imaginary book nerds? I must expand my list.

Paper Passion: the Fragrance

Category : general

If you’re friends with us over at facebook, you may have already seen this (like that shameless plug there?). Karl Lagerfeld, fashion designer extraordinaire, is rumored to create “Paper Passion,” a fragrance based on the scent of books.

Of course, I later learned that this is untrue, much to my dismay.

But I did learn that there are other scents out there based on books. There is Paperback; In the Library, and OPUS II: Library Collection. Among others. I’ve never been one for perfume, but I’m slightly intrigued by this (are we shocked?). They claim to be inspired by the scent of old books. There are few things I enjoy more than stepping inside a used bookstore and breathing in the air around me.

But would I wear it? That’s debatable. Wish I could get some samples. Do you think they come in a candle variety? Or a car air freshener? I’m getting some frightening ideas.

The Case of the Disappearing Jacket

Category : general

Like any good commuter, I carry around my reading material. Because of this, I always remove the dust jacket from my hardcovers. I don’t trust myself to keep it pristine while carrying it in my purse. Usually I toss the jacket behind the books on my shelf (the back is closed), in the same spot. But for some reason, I cannot find the jacket to my recently-completed Yates novel.

There aren’t many places it could have gone, as my space is ridiculously organized and most of the furniture is comprised of shelves. I was forced to file it sans jacket, which is going to bother me all day.

This instance is a break in my system, of which I am rather picky. Let’s review.

  1. There is a never-ending list of books I plan to read (thanks, goodreads, for keeping this organized). They’re listed by date acquired, and I read them in the order in which they were received.
  2. If the current selection is a hardcover, I remove the jacket and slip it behind the stacks of my bookshelf (as discussed earlier).
  3. Depending on the size of the book, I may require an extra bag to carry it with me on the train (I have a shoulder bag from the Strand just for this purpose). Otherwise it fits in my purse.
  4. Upon completion, usually no more than a week, I shuffle the books on my shelf to fit it in alphabetically.

The process then repeats. So you see why I was so bothered by my inability to fully complete the last step—I have proceeded to the next book on the list, but I have not completed the system for my last read. I must find this jacket.

And yes, I did just write an entire entry inspired by a missing dust jacket.

My Issue with Book Clubs

Category : general

The concept of a book club is great. Sit around with people and discuss a book you’ve mutually agreed to read. And this would be nice, considering most of the time I have no one with whom I can discuss fabulous literature.

But for some reason, I can never get into it.

I’ve tried, certainly. But there are several reason why book clubs just don’t work for me.

1. Book selection. Unless I’m grandmaster of the book club, we’ll have to read something someone else wants every so often. Most of the time, I just don’t trust other people’s taste in literature. And let’s face it, most book clubs tend to migrate toward best-sellers and the like, and I obviously don’t pay attention to that.

2. Timing. We obviously can’t all read at the same pace. If I read something in chapter three that I must talk about, and your’e still in chapter two, I’m still stuck reading by my lonesome. By the time you catch up, I’ve already moved onto the next great thing.

3. Meetings. Who honestly has time for meetings? Even online, with people in various time zones, you’re not going to be discussing things at the same time. (And we’ve circled back to point #2.)

4. Discussion. What do you say about a great novel, after all? I just feel like discussions would be forced. It’s great that you’re all reading, but something obviously has to be said upon completion. Perhaps I’m just used to my reviews—which are basically me talking to myself—and don’t know how that would translate into a proper discussion.

I have been invited to join clubs on many occasions, and I have no nice way of declining. I stick with the “I don’t have the time” argument, which is basically true. I don’t have a lot of free time, when you consider work and commuting. Plus the endless stack of my own “to be read” pile of books, which I simply cannot ignore.

If book clubs work for you, that’s great. It’s a good concept for people who share similar literary tastes, or have to make time in their schedules for reading. I obviously do no have this problem. If anything, I should probably find a hobby that doesn’t contribute to my constant need for new bookshelves.

Book Swapping Fun

Category : general

I’m of the rare breed that, not only do I buy books (I mean like real, physical books), but also keep them. Even if I hate something, I’ll file it on the shelves. After all, how else am I supposed to warn people of bad literature if I don’t own it as a reminder to myself?

Regardless, I am a faithful member of paperbackswap. You post the books you’re looking to give away (in good condition, of course) and create a wish list of the stuff you want. You do have to post ten books before receiving your first swap credit, but it’s totally worth it once you get into it.

Occasionally I’ll upgrade my collection. I have a thing for leatherbound books, and once I get my hands on one I post my old copy to the site. So see, I’m not really getting rid of books. Just upgrading. They also have this nifty thing that you can auto-request books on your wish list, so when something comes available it automatically requests it. No sitting around stalking your email for notifications. Brilliant!

I’ve saved a total of $125 with my swapping (or so the site says), so I’d say it’s worth it. Of course, if I keep on buying more expensive books to replace my old mass markets, it may defeat the purpose. But my bookshelf looks great.

Disturbing the Reader (Why Not to Do It)

Category : general

Scenario: Upon boarding the train (or subway, or plane, whatever), you spot someone sitting quietly by himself, gazing longingly into a book. The proper course of action would be:

A. Ignore him completely.
B. Strike up a conversation.
C. Say hello and move on.

Answer: A

Option C would be acceptable if you are friendly with the reader, but his level of annoyance with the interruption depends upon how good your friendship is. Personally, I wouldn’t test it in this manner.

Truth is, when the reader is engrossed in a book, it’s hard to snap out of it. He’s been transported to another world, and the immediate snap back to reality can be harsh. If you approach the reader and his reply is short and/or snappy, you really can’t blame him. You just disturbed his concept of reality, and forced him to return to that in which he just escaped. He doesn’t mean to be rude, and would surely apologize if he wasn’t so eager to return to the task at hand.

Once, on the train, I was asked, “What are you reading?” This didn’t bother me much, as I could share the wonders of literature (though he could have also glanced at the book to figure it out. Yes, I condone this behavior). But it didn’t stop there. For the 1.5-hour trip home, he talked to me—as if my response invited a conversation. I can’t tell you what we discussed. My mind was still in reading mode, and I continually glanced longingly at the open pages. Also, I’m too nice to tell people to shut up.

Regarding glancing at other people’s books: I do it often. Rather than ask, and disturb his literary journey, I subtly check the book cover. Or page headers, if I’m sitting beside him. And if it’s something good, we are instant friends—even though we never speak and it’s unlikely we’ll see each other again.

Readers are very fussy when interrupted. We don’t like it. Safest thing, for your sake, is to just leave them alone. Everyone will be much happier that way.

Silly Book Meme

Category : general

I apologize for my lack of posting lately; there’s been some unexpected family stuff going on. So in lieu of a real post, you get a silly little book meme. I have all intentions of resuming my book babbling shortly. Of course, if we’re facebook friends, you’ve probably already seen this. Oh well.


Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Currently reading this!)

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

And the grand total is… 41%

And now, for my obligatory comments:

1. Why is it always the BBC that gets tossed on book memes? Do they really care what people are reading? (Those silly English.)
2. Anyone notice that there’s no #23 or 26?
3. What’s with all the Jane Austen? Isn’t one enough?
4. I can’t understand why Shakepeare’s complete works and Hamlet are on here. That’s kind of redundant.
5. Every time I see Dune on a list like this, I’m reminded that I’ve never read it, and therefore I fail as a geek.


Category : general

It’s 9:30 at night in the middle of November, when the rest of the literary world is cranking out words for NaNoWriMo. Me? I’m creating a book blog.

(Now, mind you – I, too, am a NaNo participant. But I have all weekend to work on that word count. Right?)

I have been contemplating a book blog for quite some time, for books pretty much consume my life. Nothing too profound there. That’s pretty much it.

I’ll probably tweak things over the next few weeks, but wanted to get this up and running. (Translation: You’re stuck with this lame theme for a while.) Perhaps I’ll go back to writing my novel now.