Thursday, December 22, 2016

Literary Tourism in NYC

From bookstores to libraries to historical writers' homes, New York City is a trove of literary treasures for the avid reader. I hope to visit and document many of these hidden gems but in the mean time I wanted to share some already existing resources for anyone traveling to NYC (or locals!) who want to explore the city's bookish history. Enjoy!

Bookwitty: A Tour of Literary New York

DK A Book-lover's Guide to New York City

Buzzfeed: The Book Lover's Guide to the Big Apple

Lonely Planet: 10 Great Literary Bars in New York City 

NYT: A Critic's Tour of Literary Manhattan 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I can't remember a time in my childhood that I didn't have my nose stuck in a book, although I didn't have a grasp of the differences in genres (book to me were either fiction or non-fiction) I tended to gravitate and especially love books with magic, adventures, and preferably dragons. In retrospect, these books were the foundation of a love of fantasy that made me the ring-bearing, wand-wielding, dragon-riding nerd I am today.

The problem with diving into fantasy, and a factor that can intimidate curious first-timers and veteran readers alike is the sheet volume of series, spinoffs, novellas and side works that a single universe or author can have. Where do I start? In what order do I read them them? Will I miss out on important information if I don't read the e-novel prequel?

I've decided to tackle my giant, convoluted fantasy TBR pile like I approach any task: with a list. My goal is to read an entire fantasy series each year in publication order starting with Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere Universe.

Brandon Sanderson is an incredibly prolific American fantasy author mostly known for his Mistborn series and for finishing Robert Jordan's classic Wheel of Time series after the author's death. Typically publishing 1 or 2 books per year since the debut of his first novel Elantris in 2005, Sanderson's growing oeuvre includes children's and YA books as well as his fantasy books but for me his most intriguing project is the Cosmere.

Broadly speaking, the Cosmere is Sanderson's fictional universe in which many of his standalone novels and series are set. Each series and novel can be read independently without missing out on anything but reading the books together reveals some crossover characters, a common mythology to all the books and some fun Easter eggs for the diligent reader.

#YearofCosmere was originally created as a 2015 booktube read-a-long by the wonderful Sanaa of InkBonesBooks (one of my favorite booktube channels!) to tackle all of the Cosmere books in a year. Each book in the Universe is accompanied by a thoughtful warp-up by a different booktuber. I have appropriated her great idea and decided to follow suit albeit two years late. My plan is to read each book in the Cosmere (2 more are scheduled for publication in 2017!) in publication order and review them (list is below). I will also include Sanaa's Original video and the youtube wrap-ups for each book.

TitlePublication YearSeries
Elantris2005Elantris #1
The Hope of Elantris2006Elantris #1.5
Mistborn: The Final Empire2006Mistborn (Era1) #1
The Well of Asencion 2007Mistborn (Era1) #2
The Hero of Ages2008Mistborn (Era1) #3
The Way of Kings2010Stormlight Archives #1
The Alloy of Law2011Mistborn (Era2) #1
The Emperor's Soul 2012Short work
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell2013Dangerous Women Anthology
Words of Radience2014Stormlight Archives #2
Sixth of the Dusk2014Shadows Beneath Anthology
Shadows of Self2015Mistborn (Era2) #2
The Bands of Mourning2016Mistborn (Era2) #3
Mistborn: Secret History2016Mistborn (Era1) #3.5
White Sand Vol 12016White sand #1
Arcanum Unbounded2016Anthology
Edgedancer2016The Stormlight Archive #2.5
Oathbringer2017The Stormlight Archive #3
White Sand Vol 22017White sand #2

2017: Back to the Classics Challenge

I am so excited to try my hand at the 2017: Back to the Classics Challenge! This 2017 reading challenge created and hosted by the lovely Karen at Karen's Books and Chocolate, is designed to get you reading more classics! This is something I've been wanting to add back into my reading life after college, so now here's my chance!

Enjoying a books and Greek coffee in Astoria

The challenge is to read 12 classics following certain criteria in 2017, people who complete part or all of the challenge are entered into a raffle for a prize! I definitely recommend taking a look at her challenge rules which are more detailed if you are interested in participating along (in the link above) or just check out her blog which has great classics reviews and recommendations!

Without further ado, here is my TBR for each of the challenges!
Let me know what you think? Have you read any on the list before?

I will be writing non-spoiler reviews of each book which I will link below as I finish each one. Reviews will include fun 'bonus' materials for each book so definitely check them out!

1.  A 19th Century Classic 
Huckleberry Finn
2.  A 20th Century Classic 

The House of Mirth
3.  A classic by a woman author

Pride and Prejudice
4.  A classic in translation.

Arabian Nights
5.  A classic published before 1800

The Aeneid
An romance classic.

Jane Eyre
7.  A Gothic or horror classic. 
8.  A classic with a number in the title.

20,000 Leagues under the Sea
9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  

The Wind in the Willows
10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit.
11. An award-winning classic.

Gone With the Wind (Pulitzer Prize)
12. A Russian Classic.  
Anna Karenina


52 Book Goodreads Challenge

2016 was the first year that I set and attempted a Goodreads challenge and it changed my reading life. I don't know why I hadn't attempted it earlier since my type-A-ness loves a good goal and check list.You can set your Goodreads challenge to however many books you want to read in a year and then track the books you are currently reading and have completed to see how you are progressing towards that goal.

I love it because you get to define what a successful reading year means to you. Wanna shoot for 200 books read this year? Awesome. Only have time for 10? that's great too, and you can adjust your reading goal as you go. Ultimately it's more a tool for you to keep track of what you read than a competition.

Enjoying a hot latte and on a cold winter day at Joe's Coffee

Having a complete record of what I read this year was really enlightening. It confirmed some of the reading habits I thought I had (I read a TON of mysteries) and surprised me in other ways (I read more non-fiction than I thought I had). Having the hard data in front of me allowed me to reflect on my habits as a reader and set goals in a more informed way.

This year a friend has proposed a new Goodreads challenge for 2017: 52 books (or about 1 per week) with the criteria that the books must be over 200 pages and must not include graphic novels or poetry. I say challenge accepted! I'll be keeping my track of my progress both on my Goodreads page and on this blog:

Book #1: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Book #2: Pendulum by Andy Hamdy
Book #3: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Book #4: The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
Book #5: Through the Grind by Cleo Coyle
Book #6: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Book #7: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking


Do you have any reading goals for 2017?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Years READ-solutions: 2017 Reading Goals!

2016 was the year of getting settled in New York and attempting to adult. Now that I know my uptown from downtown and my co-payments from my deductibles, it's time to go bigger and better!

As I mentioned in my 2016 Wrap up, this was my first year without assigned readings or classes to restrict my reading, so I basically I just read voraciously without rhyme or reason or planning apart from setting my Goodreads challenge to 50 books to make up for lost time.

This year I want to be more guided and thoughtful as to the goals and reading activities that I set for myself. This includes both personal reading challenges and bookish social media activities. This was the first year that I consistently used Goodreads to track what I was reading, and the ability to look back on my yearly reading record was super rewarding to a data-nerd like me.  So I've come up with a couple of READ-solutions to guide my 2017 reading and they are:


52 Book Goodreads Challenge


Back to the Classics: 2017

Bookish Social Media/Community

Be consistent with blog and Instagram posts.

Attend 3 big literary events this year and blog about them

Get involved in a bookish volunteer opportunity

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Wrap Up: A Year in Books

Screen shot taken before finishing book #63
2016 was my first full year out of college where my reading has not been restricted by school work and as a result I went a little berserk in my reading (and buying) of books to make up for lost time. I set my Goodreads goal to 50 and cleared it by a long shot (I'm hoping to add to the margin in these last couple of weeks!) I did not however follow any sort of plan or guidelines except for going on a bit of an Agatha Christie binge. Basically, I  read whatever I felt like and the results were interesting. Here is the breakdown of the books I read in 2016 (as of 12/19/2016):

Total Books read: 63
Total Pages: 18,461

Longest book: The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Shortest book: We Should all be Feminists by

 As the new year approaches and I plan my New Years bookish resolutions, I was thinking about structuring my reading with more thought, including joining a crime-fiction book club, and attempting to complete 3 different bookish challenges. More to come on my bookish resolutions! But in the mean time, do you make reading resolutions? Do you go with the flow or follow a TBR list?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Try the Penguin Book Recommendation Hotline!

So the (Judeo-Christian) holiday season is around the corner and many us are scrambling to find the right book for our loved-ones. Fear no more! The Penguin Hotline is here.

Yes, that's right, Penguin Random House, one of the big 5 publishers has set up a hotline form to help you find the right book for that special someone. You input their interests and voila! A few days later you get personalized recommendations in your inbox!

Out of curiosity, I requested a recommendation for a friend to see how accurate (i.e. if they would like the suggestions offered) the hotline would be, I'm still waiting on the results but if you would like to try the hotline for yourself or for a friend you can try it out here:

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Narrating my first NYC booksigning: PHDeath by James Carse

A couple of weeks ago I was perusing the weekly e-newsletter from one of my favorite indie bookstores, The Mysterious Bookstore (a heaven for any mystery/crime/thriller fan!) when the title of a book caught my eye: PhDeath. As someone who has spent the majority of their life in and around Higher Ed this piqued my interest and I clicked on the link to read the synopsis:

 In a famous University, in a famous city by a famous square, the Deans dies in a strange and bizarre way with apparently no killer around. 2 hours before his death, the University community received a puzzle via email, a puzzle that Professor Carmody, renowned scholar of Rhetoric realizes is linked to the murder. Soon more puzzles and more corpses start to appear, the anonymous killer, dubbed 'the puzzler' seams to be leaving a trail that leads to hidden, dark secrets in the University's very fabric.

Universities + Death + Puzzles? Ahmegawdineeddis! I ran (well, took the subway) to the bookstore where I was informed that they did not have the book in store (what!?) but that there would be a launch event next week and that the author would be there and I could possibly get my booked signed. In a huff, I shuffled around the store for half an hour and bought 3 books I was not planning to buy (that'll show them!). I promptly returned on the day of the launch event at 6:00pm (the event started at 6:30pm) this was after spending 45 minutes at a Pret a Manger reading beforehand to kill time so I wouldn't be too weird for showing up super early.

The event space was cozy with a few chairs and sofas set up and grown up refreshments placed on a little table to the side (i.e. wine and cheese and olives) There were one or two people sitting but mostly the shop was empty. Should I sit down? Would I look to eager if I claimed a seat this early? Who was I trying to prove a point to anyways? I decided to browse the bookstore for a bit to look casual. I was done much faster than I expected (the store is only one room) so I ended up sitting down with four books to skim while I waited for the event to start with still plenty of time to spare.

A couple of minutes later, I pulled my eyes away from one of the books and glanced around the room; it was decidedly fuller and my strange irrational fear that I would be the only one to show up and the author would be sad vanished. I also noticed that I was by far the youngest person in the room most people being of the be-spectacled and be-tweed variety (they were mostly colleagues and students of the author/retired emeritus professor later learned). One lady, who appeared to be in her 50's turned in her seat which was a row in front of mine and smiled at me. "So how did you learn about this event?" she asked. I mentioned the newsletter and gushed about being intrigued by the plot. She looked at me like I was a little off in the head (who reads bookstore's newsletters I could imagine was the though running through her head). I looked down at my lap, embarrassed. "So what about you?" I asked after a slightly too-long pause.
"I was his student when I was an undergraduate. I got an email"
Oh, "that's nice" I said with a smile. We chatted a bit about the university before she turned towards a newly arrived group of people all of whom seemed to know each other from back in the good old days.

Eventually, the author showed up. By this point no chairs were empty and people were filling up the aisles. The author was a retired professor of religion at the University after which he had modeled the one in his book. He talked about the inception of the book, his love of puzzles, Greek philosophy and read some of his favorite passages. He spoke in a comfortable and humorous manner, his 30+ years of lecturing experience evident in the way that he held the crowds' attention with witty and thoughtful remarks. It was like watching what I imagined Robert Langdon would be like if he ever got a chance to retire and wasn't offed in one of his crazy adventures.

The author ended with a searing critique of Higher Ed that gave me all the feels and pulled a heavy round of applause from the audience. After a few words from the editor and the publicists the crowd broke off into smaller groups, chatting and getting refreshments. Several people approached the author and started a conversation. I stood around nervously for a while. Could I get my book signed? I wanted him to sign my book but no one had said if we could. Was it ok? I clutched my book tightly with my index finger wedged between the dedication page and the title page in case I had an opportunity of getting it signed. I waited and watched. Someone else had asked for a signature, it was ok! I approached and gave him my name. I made some comment about higher ed and he answered with a non-committal response. Then my brain went dry, I thanked him and fled.

On the subway, I sat there, gripping my newly signed book and hyperventilating. Overall it was a great experience although I wished I could have acted more like a normal human being and less like a nervous wreck. Something about meeting the author of a book reverts me to 15 year old fan girl era. Like that one time I nearly had a mental melt down when Alexander Chee responded to a post I tagged him on in Instagram *swoon*