Historical Crushes

Madame Guillotine posted about her historical crushes recently, and what a fun idea!

Mine are mostly writers.

First, Byron, a perfect rake to be sure, but so handsome, and probably charming (or else he wouldn’t have been such a successful rake).

Lord Byron
Portrait by Richard Westall

To be honest, having a historical crush on Byron is the modern equivalent of crushing on bad boys, but much safer. No risk of life or limb. I have read several fictional portraits of Byron, and he always emerges as charismatic, intelligent, and, above all, interesting. Read my reviews of Passion by Jude Morgan and Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land by John Crowley, or better yet, read the books yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

I have had a mad crush on Shelley since 1989. I am not sure why, but his poetry just speaks to me.

Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1819, by Amelia Curran

Jude Morgan managed to do what I thought would be impossible in his novel Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets: he managed to make Shelley walk on the ground. I always thought he should be among the angels—surely too good for the solid earth.

You can read about the dream I had about having tea with Byron, Shelley, and Keats. I’ve posted about my crush on Shelley before.

Ever since I read The Great Gatsby, I have had a crush on F. Scott Fitzgerald. He writes some of the most beautiful prose in American English.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Corbis

He drank way too much, and he thought way too highly of rich people (which is something I glean from reading his novels rather than from a mis-attributed quote Hemingway pinned on him). Hemingway should be more grateful. The Sun Also Rises was a better book for Fitzgerald’s suggestion of deleting the first chapter and beginning with the second. And I love that book, by the way. There are some passages in The Great Gatsby that you can’t beat for poetry. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Robert the Bruce got a raw deal in Braveheart. I know the film was supposed to be about why William Wallace was such a hero, but honestly, did they have to besmirch the character of Scotland’s greatest hero in order to make Wallace look good? For starters, Robert the Bruce did not fight with the English at Falkirk or betray Wallace. He also didn’t decide on the spur of the moment at Bannockburn that he was not going to surrender after all—he was never going to surrender. Any argument the two had was the result of the fact that Wallace probably supported the Balliol claim to the Scottish throne.

Robert the Bruce and Isabella of Mar
Robert the Bruce and Isabella of Mar

One of my favorite legends about Robert the Bruce is the one about the spider. He was a wanted man, an outlaw on the run. Hiding in a cave, he observed a spider trying to make a web. It failed time and again as it tried to attach the silken threads from one section of the cave’s roof to another. Finally, it succeeded, and Robert the Bruce knew that he, too, would eventually succeed in his quest to take the throne he believed was rightfully his. And he did. It’s most likely a complete fabrication, but an inspiring one. Ronald McNair Scott has a great biography of Robert the Bruce: Robert the Bruce: King of Scots.

Queen Elizabeth, while famously known as the Virgin Queen (yeah, right), had a thing for Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex (at least according to many historians). He was so dashing that men clamored to imitate his fashionable beard.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

He was a military hero, but more than that, he had some serious cojones. He came back from Ireland after the Queen expressly forbid it and charged into her bedchamber before she had her wig on. Of course, he eventually paid for this flagrant disregard for propriety with his life (or, to be more accurate, it was the incident that instigated his inexorable fall from favor, rebellion, and eventual execution). Elizabeth was a formidable woman. Anyone who could pull a sword on her after she smacked him one deserves some grudging respect.

There is a legend that Alfred the Great was in disguise and took shelter with a peasant woman. She asked him to mind the cakes on the fire and not let them burn, but he was preoccupied with the troubles of his country. The cakes burned, and the woman scolded the King. Like the story about Robert the Bruce’s spider, it may or may not be true, but it makes a great tale.

Alfred the Great
Statue of Alfred the Great

Alfred is the only English king to have been given the epithet “the Great.” I am obsessed with the British monarchy. There are a load of interesting characters in that crowd. But trust me that Alfred is probably the only one who deserves the epithet “the Great.” He singlehandedly saved the English language. Don’t believe me? Listen to this. If Alfred had lost that battle, who knows where we would all be. Not only did he prevent Vikings from taking all of England, he also valued literacy and ordered translation of essential Latin texts into English for the first time. He also established some of the earliest schools in England.

In Rebecca Fraser’s The Story of Britain: From the Romans to the Present: A Narrative History, a story about Major General James Wolfe taking Quebec is recounted:

At dead of night, Wolfe led the the 5,000 British and American soldiers with blackened faces silently downriver in rowing boats till they were opposite the Heights of Abraham. As he was borne along the treacherous river whose rocks and shoals made it a hazard to all but Quebeçois, Wolfe softly read out his favourite poem, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray, published only a few years before, a copy of which his fiancée had just sent out to him from England. His thin face, touched by moonlight, seemed to wear a beatific expression as he murmured the sonorous words whose Romantic, melancholic spirit echoed his own. As the mysterious cliffs loomed up ahead and the men rested on their muffled oars, Wolfe closed the book. ‘Well, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘I had rather have written that poem than take Quebec.’ But then he leaped overboard, into the swirling St Lawrence, and ran ahead of them until his was only one of the many tiny figures on the vast cliff face pulling themselves up by ropes.

When dawn rose over Quebec Montcalm [the French commander] awoke to see on the plain behind him, above the cliffs said to be unclimbable, row after row of British redcoats. They were in battle array and far outnumbered the French, whose sentries’ mangled bodies bestrewed the cliffs or floated in the river below. It was a breathtaking, almost impossible, feat, to have put thousands of men on top of a cliff overnight, but Wolfe had done it.

Major-General James Wolfe
Major-General James Wolfe

Besides his dashing bravery in the face of illness—he was dying of consumption when he led the raid—he has an appreciation for poetry over military prowess. Why he isn’t more well known outside of Canada, I’m not sure.

And finally, after having read Jude Morgan’s Passion and seeing the movie Bright Star, I admit to developing a girl crush on Fanny Brawne.

Fanny Brawne
Ambrotype of Fanny Brawne ca. 1850

Fanny Brawne was the fiancée of Romantic poet John Keats and is believed by some scholars to be the inspiration for Keats’s sonnet “Bright Star”:

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

I wrote much more about her in the post I linked. She was an interesting woman in her own right.

Perhaps next week will be a good time to share my crushes on fictional characters. I must have already done it at some point, but I can’t remember.

So who are your historical crushes. And don’t say Henry VIII. He didn’t look like Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He had a disgusting sore from a jousting wound, he was despotic and arrogant, and he was a serial wife murderer. I will concede he was interesting.

Books I Had to Have

Mrs. Duffee Seated on a Striped Sofa, Reading Her Kindle, After Mary Cassatt

Stefanie at So Many Books found a fun book meme. I know a few times I have absolutely had to have a book and then promptly put it on the bookshelf.

  1. The Day the Universe Changed by James Burke. I absolutely loved this series. I think I caught reruns of it on The Learning Channel when it actually was an educational channel. That was a long time ago. Now it’s a massive cess pit of reality TV. Anyway, I actually kind of waffled about whether to buy it until another lady at the bookstore asked me if it was the last copy, which sealed the deal (because it was). I didn’t want the other lady to buy it and prevent me from owning it. I have no idea where this book is now. The other lady probably would have read it.
  2. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom. This is a very fat book. Harold Bloom. Don’t get me started on that guy. I probably will never read this one. I don’t know.
  3. Nigel Tranter’s The Bruce Trilogy. Bought during my Scottish phase. I did read and truly enjoy a lot of books about Scotland, but never did read this trilogy, and heck if I know where it even is now.
  4. Bernard Cornwell’s Arthur books. All of them. I absolutely love Arthurian legend, but for some reason I never read these.
  5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Yeah, I know. And I’ve had it since 2005.
  6. Who Murdered Chaucer? by Terry Jones. I actually have read part of this. And it’s a gorgeous book about a subject in which I’m very interested. Maybe this summer I’ll finish it.
  7. Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt. Still will read it. I know right where it is on the shelf.
  8. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. I just loved Girl in Hyacinth Blue and Life Studies: Stories. So of course, I picked up her new book. Yeah, it’s been on my self since September 2008.
  9. Same goes for People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, which I ordered at the same time as the Vreeland.
  10. How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. Now I loved How to Read Literature Like a Professor. I just knew I’d dig into this one as soon as it arrived. Not so much. I’ve had it longer than the Vreeland and Brooks.

Of course I still plan to read some of these books, but I think the ship has sailed on others. What about you? You ever run out and have to purchase a book only to let it collect dust on the shelf?

photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Elizabeth Bennet front

Jane Austen Heroine Trading Cards

I wrote a letter to Cassandra Austen as Jane Austen upon learning that she was still popular nearly 200 years after her first novel was published as part of a model research project for my students. I decided to share the Jane Austen heroine trading cards I also made for the project.

Elizabeth Bennet front
Elizabeth Bennet back
The Dashwood Sisters front
The Dashwood Sisters back
Anne Elliot front
Anne Elliot back
Catherine Morland front
Catherine Morland back
Emma Woodhouse front
Emma Woodhouse back
Fanny Price front
Fanny Price back

I made these cards using background papers from *freaky655 on deviantART and Bling Cheese and images from some of the film versions (see Works Cited below). I used Gimp to put them together. A note about some of my choices: I decided quick facts should include both a love interest and a nemesis. I tried as much as possible to choose for the love interest the main person the heroine was interested in, which is why Col. Brandon isn’t mentioned. It took Marianne most of the book to appreciate him. On the other hand, I listed both Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley for Emma because I felt she fairly evenly divided her time interested in them. The nemeses were also my own impression of the person who most crossed or most annoyed the heroine. I suppose both love interests and nemeses are open to interpretation in some regards. I was fairly subjective in describing the characters’ personality traits, too. You may/may not feel the same way.

Creative Commons License
Jane Austen Heroine Trading Cards by Dana Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Works Cited:

Emma. Dir. Douglas McGrath. Perf. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam. Miramax, 1996. Film.

Mansfield Park. Dir. Patricia Rozema. Perf. Frances O’Connor, Jonny Lee Miller. Arts Council of England, 1999. Film.

Northanger Abbey. Dir. Jon Jones. Perf. Felicity Jones, J. J. Field, Carey Mulligan. Granada Television, 2007. Film.

Persuasion. Dir. Adrian Shergold. Perf. Sally Hawkins, Alice Krige, Rupert Penry-Jones, Anthony Head. Clerkenwell Films, 2007. Film.

Pride and Prejudice. Dir. Joe Wright. Perf. Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen. Focus Features, 2005. Film.

Sense and Sensibility. Dir. Ang Lee. Perf. Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant. Columbia Pictures, 1995. Film.

Ten Fictional Best Friends

Holding hands

Iliana posted her list of ten fictional best friends, and I just love memes like this, so I had to participate, too.

  1. Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series: The boy wizard from the eponymous series captured my heart about nine years ago, and hasn’t let go. I’m widely known among family, friends, and co-workers to be the biggest Harry Potter fan they know. What I like about Harry is that he has had a great deal of responsibility thrust upon him, and even though he’s not perfect, he does the right thing. He learns kindness and the value of true friendship (witness how he changes regarding wanting to be seen with Neville and Luna from book 5 to book 6).
  2. Una Spenser from Ahab’s Wife: I think she’s one of the coolest women I’ve ever met in a book, and I’d like to be like her when I grow up. She makes difficult choices, and she lives with the consequences. She’s warm and passionate. She loves life.
  3. Elinor Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility: Elinor is so wise and sensible. She is kind to everyone and puts others’ feelings before her own. She would be the most loyal friend one could ever have.
  4. Anne Elliot of Persuasion: Anne is a little shy, and she doesn’t want to inconvenience anyone. She is true to her friend Mrs. Smith, even when her family thinks the woman is beneath her. She’s smart and frugal. No one in her family listens to her, but others see her value.
  5. Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice: Who couldn’t be in love with Lizzie Bennet? And if it seems to be cheating to pick three Austen heroines for best friends, I say in my defense that these books are my literary comfort food and make me feel good about the world, and therefore why shouldn’t they contain more of my literary friends than other books? She’s spirited. She loves her sister so much that she stands up to those she feels have slighted Jane. She cares for her family. She wants to marry for love.
  6. Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser of the Outlander series: If you’ve read this series, then you know Claire is the gal who made it acceptable and even desirable to have a FWA. And you know what I’m talking about if you’ve read the books. She is intelligent, passionate, and extremely cool. I would definitely want to have her help in a bar fight (not that I’d ever get near one, but I digress).
  7. Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird: Who couldn’t fall in love with Scout’s voice? She calls things like they are. She loves and admires her incredible father. She befriends Dill, who is the kind of kid one can easily imagined being slighted on the playground, and she looks up to her wise elder brother Jem. She is also the one to connect to Boo and bring him out of his exile in his house. She’s a great kid.
  8. Morgaine (Morgan Le Fay) of The Mists of Avalon:  She’s not evil, as we learn in this book—just misunderstood. She wants what is best for her brother and his country, and she winds up a pawn in the game so many others seem to be playing. But she’s intelligent and powerful and ultimately much more sympathetic than the Arthurian characters we traditionally view as “good.”
  9. Meggie Cleary of The Thorn Birds: She has a difficult life and chooses a difficult path for herself. She is, by the end of the novel, a pretty tough broad. Maybe too tough. But she loves completely and unreservedly.
  10. Davey Wexler of Tiger Eyes: I can’t remember how many times I read this book. I know I wore out my copy. Davey lived through a traumatic experience. She is brave and intelligent. She is a good friend.

Honorable mentions go to Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby, Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings, Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, Dr. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories, Christabel La Motte from Possession, and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, although she’d probably hate me if she knew me in real life.

So like Iliana, I invite you tell us who your best fictional friends are.

photo credit: Valerie Everett

Books Everyone Else Has Read

…but I haven’t. Stefanie posted about this topic today, and she inspired me. Here are the top ten books it seems like everyone has read that I haven’t read.

I know. I even work in a Jewish high school, but I somehow never read this book in school, and I haven’t read it yet. I keep meaning to, but somehow I never seem to get around to it.


Yeah, I probably need my English teacher card revoked for this one. I have read its cousin, Brave New World. And the thing is, I actually really like dystopian literature. I’ve read most of the other dystopian classics I can think of. Just not the classic, most well known one. I may as well admit I never read Animal Farm either.

The Kite Runner

My daughter read this and said it was amazing. My former department head highly recommended it. I read a bit of it, but I never finished it. I think I will some time, but for whatever reason, it’s just slipped off my radar.

Little Women

So am I the only woman who has never read this book? I mean, even my husband has read this book. Of course, it was required school reading for him, but still. And furthermore, I have no desire to read it. Even though my husband says, “It wouldn’t hurt you.”


And I also haven’t read any Vonnegut aside from “Harrison Bergeron,” which I actually did like. I am still not sure how I feel about some of the postmodern literature. I do intend to read some it. Really.

Flowers for Algernon

This book seems to be a staple of middle school. It seems as if all my students have read it. I don’t really have much of a desire to read it, either, even though the students seem to like the book.

Tuesdays with Morrie

I think I may be the last person on earth not to read this. And I have no plans to read it. This kind of book is not really my thing. I also never watched The Last Lecture, and I haven’t bought any Chicken Soup books.

Of Mice and Men

This one I’m ashamed of, and I will change it. Soon. I actually have wanted to read it for a long time. I loved the movie with Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

The Book Thief

My department head raves about this book. I haven’t read it, and I’m not sure I want to. I will keep thinking about it.

The Time Traveler's Wife

This one is on my TBR pile. One day. I am interested in it, and I’ve heard good things about it.

So which 10 books have you not read that it seems like everyone else has read? Sound off in the comments or post to your blog!

Living the Literary Life

NovelWhore tweeted a good question: “What book most represents what you want your life to be like?”

This is a tough questions to answer. I would love to be able to go to Hogwarts and do magic like the characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but Harry and Company go through some very rough times. They lose their loved ones, they’re tortured and outcast for their beliefs, and they experience a great deal of pain and suffering. Not even magic can eradicate these types of problems.

Una Spenser of Sena Jeter Naslund’s novel Ahab’s Wife is one of the strong female protagonists I most admire. She touches so much history, and she’s truly a remarkable woman. However, she also is forced into cannibalism to survive a shipwreck, an experience that drives her husband insane. I certainly wouldn’t want to have some aspects of Una’s life, but others sound truly amazing.

While I admire the passion and windswept beauty of the landscape in both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, the characters again must live through such ordeals, much of it at the hands of other people who are cruel for reasons that are difficult to fathom. Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and Thornfield Manor might be interesting to visit, but I can’t honestly say I’d want to live there.

Manderley seems like a great house to explore. I love Daphne DuMaurier’s descriptions of her unnamed narrator in Rebecca. However, if Mrs. Danvers must come with the house, I have to decline.

No, if I had one choice, one book in which I could live, one book that represents what I wish my life could be like, it would be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Here are my reasons:

  1. Empire waists are flattering. The clothes are simply gorgeous.
  2. Despite the supposed repression of the time, Lizzie manages to express her true thoughts quite well, especially when she’s been insulted. She does not accept Mr. Collins’s proposal: she knows she will be miserable. When Mr. Darcy insults her with his first proposal, she lets him know in no uncertain terms, exactly where he can stick that proposal.
  3. England. You will not meet a bigger Anglophile. If I could live anywhere in the world and money/job were no object, I’d pack my bags for the U.K. this red hot minute.
  4. Austen’s economy of description evokes just enough of the setting to give the reader an idea without becoming bogged down in detail. Even so, I can see all of it, and it’s so beautiful.

In Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, characters are able to jump inside books, and Thursday even lives inside one for a time. If anyone ever works out how to visit books, I want to book a trip inside Pride and Prejudice.

In which book would you like to live? Blog about it and tag others (we can make this a meme) or leave your answer in the comments.


Stefanie shared her responses to this meme for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Consider yourself tagged if you want to play along.

Do you snack while you read?  If so, favorite reading snack? Sometimes, but the snack varies according to what I’m craving. I do find it difficult to eat a full meal while reading, but note I said “difficult” and not “impossible.” I always read when I’m eating out alone.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? It depends. I absolutely mark my professional reading or school reading. Pleasure reading? Not so much, though sometimes. When I do mark, my tools of choice are pencil and/or yellow highlighter.

How do you keep your place while reading a book?  Bookmark?  Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? Most of the time, I use a bookmark. I can’t stand dog-earing pages, and I hate it when someone does that to a book I loan out. I do lay the book flat open if I’m going to turn right back to it.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? Both, but I definitely prefer fiction for pleasure-reading.

Hard copy or audiobooks? I think the costs for audiobooks are prohibitive. I can get a paperback so much cheaper. That said, I do like them and will listen to them. I forget to get them at the library.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put down a book at any point? I like to wait until the end of a chapter before putting a book down for any length of time, but if I can’t do it, I have to at least end at a paragraph. I can’t stand it when I’m interrupted in the middle of a sentence.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look  it up right away? Only if I can’t figure it out in context. I am reading Crime and Punishment via DailyLit and had to look up casuistry this morning. Of course, sometimes the fact that I don’t look words up sometimes means that I don’t immediately get the exact meaning from context and consequently use the word wrong.

What are you currently reading? Crime and Punishment in tiny bites from DailyLit, Dracula on my iPhone, and Grendel, but I think I’ll finish Grendel tonight.

What was the last book you bought? See my previous post for the full list.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? I used to read just one at a time, but over the last couple of years, I found I was able to read several. I don’t think I could do more than two at a time if not for DailyLit, however.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? Evening before I settle in. I also like to read in the bath when I can.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? I don’t have a preference as long as the series is good. I hate getting sucked into a series only to have it be uneven or end poorly (cf. the Twilight series, or at least in my opinion).

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund, The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

How do you organize your books?  (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc). In stacks and piles with no scheme whatsoever. It would most likely make you cringe.

Diversity in Reading

Via Bookgirl, here is an examination of how inclusive my own reading has been:

  1. Name the last book by a female author that you’ve read.
    Persuasion by Jane Austen. I finished it on April 18.
  2. Name the last book by an African or African-American author that you’ve read.
    Wow, it has been a really long time since I read anything by an African or African-American author. Looks like it was Ernest J. Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying in July 2007.
  3. Name one from a Latino/a author.
    That’s going to be really hard. Probably Judith Ortiz Cofer’s novel The Line of the Sun, and I’ll bet I read it in 1991 or 1992. Yikes. It’s no consolation, I suppose, that works by Isabelle Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, and Laura Esquivel are on my list if I haven’t actually picked them up, right?
  4. How about one from an Asian country or Asian-American?
    This is bad, too, but probably Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies back in 2006.
  5. What about a GLBT writer?
    Probably The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde in July 2007, unless, that is, I’ve read an author not knowing whether or not he/she was GLBT.
  6. Why not name an Israeli/Arab/Turk/Persian writer, if you’re feeling lucky?
    Ha, ha! That one’s just cruel. My book club read Reading Lolita in Tehran, but I had already read it, so I didn’t do a re-read. I read it in November 2005.
  7. Any other “marginalized” authors you’ve read lately?
    I guess maybe Native American writer Louise Erdrich. Her novel The Plague of Doves was one of my favorites last year.

So how about you? How diverse is your reading?

A Literary Meme

I discovered this meme through So Many Books, who ascribes it to Litlove.

  1. What author do you own the most books by?

    J. K. Rowling. I have three copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, two of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, two of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, one of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I *think* two each of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and three of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We were unable to share around my house, and some of them are audio books or different versions.

  2. What book do you own the most copies of?

    I don’t own more than three copies of any book, so I guess the aforementioned Harry Potter books.

  3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

    No. That’s an idiotic grammar rule concocted to make English work more like Latin. English, however, is not Latin, so it’s silly to go through machinations like avoiding ending sentences with prepositions and splitting infinitives to make it work like Latin.

  4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

    Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Also, maybe, just a little, Nick Carraway. If I were a little younger, I might like Edward Cullen, too.

  5. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?

    The Harry Potter series. With so little variance in my bookish life, I’m afraid this meme will bore you.

  6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?

    Let’s see, that was fourth grade for me. I’d say I was probably still very into Judy Blume’s Superfudge, which definitely was my favorite in third when I was nine.

  7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

    The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber (review here).

  8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

    That’s kind of tough because I have enjoyed a lot of them. From April 2008-April 2009, then? The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (review here). It was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Great, great book.

  9. If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

    Probably To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby. Or maybe The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Of course, I’m influenced by the fact that I’m an English teacher, and I consider each an essential text.

  10. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?

    I honestly don’t know. I know what I like, and I kind of keep track of awards, but ultimately, I’m not sure they mean all that much. Too many deserving authors don’t ever win, and too many undeserving ones (in my opinion) have won awards (not necessarily Nobel, but you get the idea).

  11. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

    I thought after reading the Thursday Next series that it might be a fun movie, but the moviemakers would never do it justice.

  12. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

    Because it’s on my mind from a previous question, A Plague of Doves. It’s a multigenerational saga that would not translate well to film. Film doesn’t have the nuance.

  13. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

    I’m sure I’ve had one, but now that I’ve been asked, I can’t remember one.

  14. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

    I tried to read Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower. It was recommended to me by my English department chair years ago. I can’t believe it. If I didn’t finish it, does it count as read? Yuck. OK, let’s be fair and pick one I finished. Highland Desire by Joyce Carlow. Blech. Romance novel. Out of print. I had to comb through my old Amazon reviews to recall the title of that one.

  15. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

    I suppose it would be Moby Dick, although reading it in small installments through a DailyLit subscription made it easier.

  16. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?

    That I’ve seen as opposed to read? Well, A Comedy of Errors, I guess.

  17. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?Either. Neither. Both. It depends. I really like the British.
  18. Roth or Updike?

    Never read novels by either, but I read “A&P” by Updike. OK. I don’t feel qualified to pick.

  19. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

    I haven’t read Dave Eggers, but I do enjoy Sedaris.

  20. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

    All three, please. However, if I have to pick, I can’t do without Shakespeare.

  21. Austen or Eliot?

    Never read Eliot, but I love dear Aunt Jane. I’m sure I’d feel the same way even if I’d read Eliot, so I’m going with Austen.

  22. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

    I actually don’t think I have really embarrassing gap, but I haven’t read enough Dickens to be as old as I am.

  23. What is your favorite novel?

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Well, really the series as one long book.

  24. Play?

    King Lear or Othello. Tough to pick.

  25. Poem?

    Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem” (“What happens to a dream deferred?” as opposed to “Here on the edge of hell / Stands Harlem.”

  26. Essay?

    “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift.

  27. Short story?

    Right now, at this moment, it’s “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx, but that one changes a lot.

  28. Work of nonfiction?

    At the moment, either The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester or How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster.

  29. Who is your favorite writer?

    J. K. Rowling. Also love Jane Austen and William Shakespeare a lot.

  30. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

    Is Dan Brown overrated? If so, him.

  31. What is your desert island book?

    The Harry Potter series. We’re calling that one book.

  32. And… what are you reading right now?

    Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White (which I am really enjoying) and Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde.

Reviving a Reading Meme

I like reading-related memes, and I was actually Googling to find one today. I encountered one I haven’t seen before at Lucy Pick Books. The post is dated July 9, 2008, but I’m bringing this meme back.

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?

I have loved reading as long as I can remember—even before I could read myself. I have a clear memory of holding my copy of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat in my hands, wishing I could read it by myself. I probably had it memorized. I was always reading as a child. I liked reading to learn (a favorite early topic was dinosaurs) and reading for pleasure. I have always loved being read to.

What are some of the books you read as a child?

I read Gertrude Chandler Warner’s The Boxcar Children (and later some of the mysteries in that series), Judy Blume’s books (Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Tiger Eyes, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Iggie’s House, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Then Again Maybe I Won’t), Beverly Cleary’s books (the Ramona books, Ellen Tebbits, Socks). I loved E. L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (I really wanted to live in a museum after that). A favorite I re-read several times was Sterling North’s Rascal. I checked it out of the library many times. Sterling North was one of the first authors I wanted to write to, and I was so sad to discover he had died when the media specialist at my school helped me look up his contact information. When I was older, I read a series of teen romance novels—Sunfire Romances. Does anyone remember those? I particularly remember reading Cassie and Danielle by Vivian Schurfranz, Victoria by Willo Davis Roberts, and Susannah by Candice F. Ransom. I liked those stories because I learned about history. Many times these books had me pulling out my encyclopedias to figure out who Jean Lafitte was, or to learn more about the Texas Rangers. I had already read Gone with the Wind by the time I read Susannah, and I remember feeling disappointed by some similarities between the two novels. It might be that these novels sparked the interest in historical fiction that I still have today. I also enjoyed books by Lois Duncan. My favorite was Stranger with My Face, although I liked them all.

What is your favorite genre?

I suppose it’s historical fiction, but I like fantasy, too. I have learned to be selective about fantasy after some disappointing reads. If you want my opinion, the best fantasy around (aside from Tolkien) is written for children: the Harry Potter series, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, and Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Sequence. I read nonfiction, especially if it is related to the Middle Ages, Shakespeare, the English language, and the like. In terms of historical fiction, I especially like novels set during the Middle Ages or Victorian Britain. I like to read the Victorian classics. Jane Austen is a favorite, though she precedes the Victorian period.

Do you have a favorite novel?

I have several favorites: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Where do you usually read?

In my bed, but now that I have an iPhone with several reading apps, I will also read in line and while waiting for any purpose. I also read quite a bit in the tub.

When do you usually read?

While taking an evening bath and right before I fall asleep.

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?

I’m not too good at juggling multiple books, but in the last few years, I have usually had at least two going at any one time. Right now I have two going: one on my nightstand, and one on my iPhone.

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?

Not really, unless it’s professional reading or reading for grad school. I tend to highlight and write in grad school books and professional books.

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?

I buy them. I need to be better about using the library.

Do you keep most of the books you buy? If not, what do you do with them?

I keep all of them. I probably should give some away just because our house is bursting with books (they’re not all mine!), but I can’t bear to give away a book if I’ve enjoyed it.

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?

The Harry Potter books were a joy to share with my oldest daughter, and I look forward to sharing them with the other two when they’re ready. I also read the Ramona Quimby books with Maggie. I had, as I said, read those as a child, and it was nice that she enjoyed them. I was sad to revisit Heidi with Maggie only to learn Heidi is a bit too good to be true—to a rather annoying degree actually, and the story itself a bit too treacly.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots and Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. You can always see what I’m reading in the sidebar of this blog thanks to a WordPress plugin called Now Reading. I also update Goodreads with what I’m currently reading; however, if it’s not in the sidebar, it means it’s really just on my nightstand and I’m in the middle of it, but I haven’t picked it up in a while.

Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?

My mom writes books she wants to read down in a notebook, but I had been kind of bad about keeping track of that sort of thing until Goodreads. I can mark books as “to-read,” which has encouraged me to keep a TBR list.

What’s next?

I am either going to read Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten, which is the next in the Thursday Next series I’ve been reading, or I will return to Terry Jones’s Who Murdered Chaucer? or Charles Dickens’s  A Tale of Two Cities. I have been looking forward to Anthony Burgess’s A Dead Man in Deptford and Jennifer Lee Carrell’s Interred with Their Bones.

What books would you like to reread?

I’d like to return to the Harry Potter series again, especially when Maggie and Dylan are old enough to read them. Maggie doesn’t seem at all interested, but Dylan does. However, he’s only six, and I think he needs to be at least nine or ten. I would like to re-read The Lord of the Rings again. I plan to return to The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Who are your favorite authors?

J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Barbara Kingsolver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

If you would like to play along, consider yourself tagged.