Book Review

How to Feed Yourself: 100 Fast, Cheap, and Reliable Recipes for Cooking When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing: A Cookbook by Spoon University

Publisher: Harmony
Genre: Nonfiction, Cookbook
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

It is back to school season—and whether this fact spurs feelings of fear or excitement, there is one unavoidable, and oftentimes frustrating, subject within everyone’s fall schedules: food. The COVID-19 pandemic has restructured dining halls for college students, tightened the budgets of families, and possibly even allowed time for new at-home hobbies. Spoon University’s How to Feed Yourself is a simple and comprehensive cookbook designed by college students, for college students.

It is incredibly flexible for anyone’s cooking level, desires, and situation. As we enter the fall with changing situations, How to Feed Yourself offers simple, cheap meals that don’t force the reader to buy a plethora of unknown ingredients, spices, and tools. The recipes are based on common ingredients to create plenty of simple, diverse, and healthy (but not too healthy) dishes. Spanning from “All-Day Breakfast Tacos” to a “No-Sharing-Required Mason Jar Banana Split,” Spoon University has prepared dishes for every occasion, every skill level, and every lifestyle.

Thoughts

This year I made the bold and, admittedly nerve-racking, decision to cancel my meal plan as I am sure many incoming and returning students are doing. As I ventured into my new reality of consistently cooking for myself, I wanted a cost-effective, nutritious (but not too healthy), and simple cookbook tailored to my novice skill set to help me out. I am usually apprehensive about cookbooks because they are often shrouded in mystery from complicated recipes, expensive and uncommon ingredients, and unrealistic expectations (because let’s face it—my food never turns out looking like the picture). However, I was very satisfied with this cookbook—it uses simple recipes, has consistent, colorful, and an easy-to-follow page layout, in addition to encouraging language. The ingredients needed for every recipe are basic, and the recipes are created with the expectation that the reader only has “an oven with a stovetop and broiler, a microwave, a fridge, and a sink.” The book is split up largely by chapters with recipes featuring some of the most common food items (eggs, chicken, pasta, fish, potatoes, toast, grains, veggies, and bananas). Later chapters provide recipes for occasions or habits, such as make-ahead meals, group recipes, date-night ideas, alcohol, and desserts. While this structure seems confusing, it allows you to find recipes based on what you have available. The book also outlines the most basic and important points of cooking and flavoring meats, using grains, and seasoning vegetables while offering flexible recipes which is encouraging and a helpful tool to understand the basics of food.

I’ve tried several recipes, including the “Not Your Average BEG,” the “Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie,” and the “2-Ingredient Flourless Pancakes.” The recipes were fairly delicious and creative. The “Not Your Average BEG” used toaster waffles to create a kind of bun for the egg sandwich, and while the “Deconstructed Chicken Pot Pie” could have used additional seasoning, it was simple and a great dish to learn how to cook with chicken. My favorite recipe so far, however, are the “2-Ingredient Flourless Pancakes” because they offer different flavor suggestions and I had the freedom to get creative and substitute or add ingredients. As a beginning cook and novice cookbook reader, I am very happy to have taken a chance on this book because it is tailored to any cooking level, flavor pallet, and bank account. If you don’t eat meat or need a dairy/gluten free diet, the recipes offer substitutes and diet-specific recipes. Additionally, it has recipes for the lazy days, the single-parents, the working student, and the tired-of-ramen freshman.

We naturally come to food for community and enjoyment, and while our lives might be stressful in many ways right now—and our dinners might look different—our food shouldn’t be stressful. This book gives me hope in my ability to create a meal instead of spending that extra five dollars on the grocery store’s frozen meals section; it gives me hope that I can learn a new skill; and it gives me encouragement during this time—I hope it can for you, too.

6 Books That Explore Social Dis/Connection

You might be feeling disconnected and isolated right now going through this global pandemic. Whether you are the type of person that likes to take a deep dive into what you’re feeling and really indulge
and explore it, or you’re the type of person that likes to go in the opposite direction and find
hope, there is a book on this list for you.

Feeling socially disconnected can be disorienting. The first three books on this list capture the
essence of social disconnection and the yawning chasm of isolation. Spooky! Lonely! Take a
deep dive into the solitude you’ll find here.


Johnny Got His GunDalton Trumbo. Be warythis tale is dark, scathing, and unsettling in its embodiment of social disconnection. A young soldier returns from the First World War and slowly becomes aware that he is severely injured. His injuries are such that he has little ability to communicate with the people around him. Written in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Trumbo writes a depressingly persuasive anti-war story by describing the communal untethering it brings.


Room—Emma Donoghue. Made into a movie in 2015, Room is narrated from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy named Jack. Room is all he knows. See, his mother was kidnapped and kept locked in a shed in the kidnapper’s backyard. Completely isolated from others, Jack slowly has to learn how to forge bonds with people other than his mother. Ultimately hopeful, most of the story is unnerving and claustrophobic in the characters’ total forceful removal from society.


The Martian—Andy Weir. To balance out the heaviness of the previous two recommendations, I suggest The Martian, the basis for the 2015 film of the same name. This book will make you laugh out loud. Mark Watney is an astronaut who gets accidentally left behind on the planet Mars after an aborted mission. The story explores themes of survival, communication beyond great distances, and the importance of the many rallying together for the few. Talk about social disconnection when you’re literally the only person on a whole planet!


Or if that’s just not your thing, take a peek at these other three books that speak to the importance of social connection and the awesome power of interpersonal relationships. Hope! Kinship! We will find one another even in the dark.


Still Alice—Lisa Genova. Alice is a successful linguistics professor who begins to struggle after a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the usual associations with the disease as causing further isolated from others, it is her husband and children who remind Alice—and us—about the power of connection and being with loved ones to ground us through hardships.


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared—Jonas Jonasson. Get ready for one of the most delightful books you’ll ever read—seriously, it’s so cute. After escaping from a nursing home, 100-year-old Allan takes off on a series of wild and surreal adventures. You’ll learn about Allan’s colorful history as he creates new friendships along the way. And if you enjoy this book, there is an equally lovely sequel.


Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body—Neil Shubin. Your inner fish? Now hear me out. In this engrossing nonfiction book, Shubin will take you on an evolutionary journey that will leave you never looking at yourself and the place of humans in the greater scheme of the universe the same again. Through fascinating evolutionary biology, he shows us how vastly interconnected all of humanity and nature are. You’ll never feel alone again.


All of the books on this list remind us that we are human, that we thrive when united, and that coming together is the most important thing. Read a few chapters, and then call a friend to tell them you love them.

Book Review

A House is a Body by Shruti Swamy

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 201
Format: Hardcover
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Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

A House is a Body is a bold and provocative collection of short stories from emerging author Shruti Swamy. Her collection contains twelve short stories that are set in India and the United States. Each one is an intimate dive into the human experience. Her narratives redefine the genre of domestic fiction, focusing on the tension of relationships and the inevitable isolation of being human. Swamy doesn’t hold back any punches. She navigates the challenging circumstances of birth and death, love and loss, betrayal and redemption as if she’s been writing for a lifetime. Swamy’s ability to craft authentic domestic turmoil within such a small space on the page is both impressive and unsettling.

Thoughts

I was beyond excited to pick up my copy of A House is a Body. I discovered Swamy’s collection on a list of exciting books to anticipate in 2020 and was intrigued by the description of her writing as a marriage between the realistic and the fantastic. I couldn’t wait to experience what promised to be a literary uprooting of the domestic. Her stories did not disappoint—each narrative was more compelling than the last, pulling me through the entire collection in a matter of hours.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is titled “The Siege.” The story is told from the point of view of a young queen who is married to a selfish and violent king attempting to steal the wife of another man. The circumstances are dramatic and devastating, yet I still had so much fun reading a story that was placed in a setting with royalty and wars fought over romance. Swamy’s depiction of the setting was fantastic—within just twenty pages she was able to build a world with complex characters and conflict. This story is a can’t miss for anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre.

Another one of my favorites was titled “Wedding Season.” This story takes on a very different tone from the one in “The Siege.” The story is centered on two young women, Teja and Al, who travel from the United States to India for Teja’s counsin’s wedding. The young women are forced to hide the romantic nature of their relationship for fear of being ridiculed for their sexuality. Swamy’s narration manages to be beautiful despite the tragic circumstances. The stark contrast between the beauty of India and the tension of the lovers’ secret makes the story captivating. This is definitely a story for the modern world. I was impressed by how Swamy addressed the subjects of sexuality and identity with such boldness. Her story left me trying to decide if the ending should be considered happy or sad. What I am sure about is that it’s worth reading to decide for yourself.

It’s not often that I find a collection of short stories where I can say I enjoyed every story, but I can confidently say I enjoyed every story in A House is a Body! I would recommend this collection to readers who enjoy strong female characters and the uneasiness of the mundane. In other words, if you like “The Yellow Wallpaper” or “The Story of an Hour,” Swamy is the contemporary voice you’ve been waiting for. This collection is an impressive and promising start to a young author’s career, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Shruti Swamy.


Thank you to Changing Hands for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Book Review

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Thriller, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

The stage is set in pre-second-world-war New York with an oracle, an assassin, and an underworld gang about to lose its alpha—all thriving in a be-bop jazz bar, brazenly ignoring the Prohibition. Phyllis Green, blessed with saints’ hands, is mob boss Victor Dernov’s executioner. Known to some as Victor’s angel, and to most as Victor’s knife, she goes by Phyllis LeBlanc in downtown Manhattan, meting out mob justice with her holster of knives.

That is until she meets Dev. Playing judge, jury, and executioner turns out to be a lot more complicated when she falls in love. Devajyoti Patil, bartender at The Pelican, is also blessed with saints’ hands – he can detect threats on a single touch. But unlike Phyllis, he does not use them to throw knives. Just when Phyllis believes she can act on her promise to Dev of never killing again, she is given a task that forces her to go back on her word.

Someone is killing people with “the hands” and leaving the corpses behind with bleeding stumps and clear signs of having involved them in some form of dark ritual. It’s obvious—they’re trying to steal the power of these hands. Victor’s lieutenant, Red Man, tells Phyllis that the murderer is Trent Sullivan, and that she must take him out.

Having grown up in an all-Black neighborhood, Phyllis has spent her whole adult life trying to pretend that she’s not. Owing to her lighter skin, she passes scrutiny in most segregated places in 1930s New York. She has even taken care to change her name, so no one can trace her back to her old neighborhood—it’s how she has survived. But a decade after she executes Sullivan, and Dev leaves her for it, she finds that her heritage is about to be revealed, and that, suddenly, her life depends on her proving her whiteness.

A lot of factors wrestle for priority as Dev returns unexpectedly to her life as she’s simultaneously given a new assignment. Not to mention, the draft creeps up and starts upending the lives of everyone she holds dear.

Thoughts

The struggles of people of color before World War II that changed society in many irreversible ways are depicted in sincere detail in this book. Skin trumps economic status as Phyllis, Dev, and their friends find themselves increasingly vulnerable as they try to get away from the criminal element that has protected them so far.

It is really promising to find that BIPOC literature is finally making its way into the limelight. The story is set at a time when very few would think to write a novel with a black woman and an Indian man as the lead duo. Hopefully, we are at a time when we can look back at these immortal years from a different perspective than we are used to.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

Short and Spooky: 4 Horror Anthologies To “Fall” For

“The Spooky Season”

Every October a craving begins for pumpkin spice-flavored anything, sweet tooths start aching, and harmless orange fruit becomes the bearer of terrifying and toothless grins. The yearning for a good scare also grows as full as a harvest moon as we flock to haunted houses and corn mazes, or even to Netflix to give us that shot of fear-based adrenaline. Another surefire way to create some chills is simply turning to some classic horror stories—and there are a plethora of short story anthologies to get your spine tingling and your heart racing. In this classic selection of oldies-but-goodies, there will be aches (but not the sweet tooth kind), the bittersweet taste of revenge, mad men, and weird women a-plenty. Enjoy, but be sure to read with the lights on.


Norman Bates has nothing on some of these psychos…

Psychos—Robert Bloch. Not to be confused with Bloch’s classic Psycho, this collection centers around madness and its many forms. Whether it comes under the guise of a seemingly benign object with murderous intention, the most intense road rage on record, a meticulously planned revenge plot on a drunk driver, or a “oops” of an autopsy, these stories will genuinely freak you out. A notable tale from this anthology is “Grandpa’s Head” by Lawrence Watt-Evans, which will make you rethink the pasts of every single person in your family, even the most innocent-seeming! 


These ladies were ahead of their time…

Weird Women: Classic Supernatural Fiction by Groundbreaking Female Writers (1852-1923). More recently published, yet by no means modern, Weird Women is a collection from the female perspective. Compiling work from such greats as Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, these stories are beautiful, bold, and brooding. From ghostly little girls in locked rooms, unrequited wishes coming true through dreamscapes, and the beauty of wistaria (the old-fashioned spelling) covering sinister deeds, these tales are all supernaturally stunning. The stories are helpfully annotated to bridge the gap in some vernacular differences as well. If you appreciate lush writing, descriptive details, and the suspense of a slow burn, you will love this collection.


A little naughty, not nice…

I Shudder at Your Touch: 22 Tales of Sex and Horror. For those who like a little risque with their risk, I Shudder at Your Touch features distinguished writers such as Stephen King and Clive Barker. With such disturbing topics as devilish weight loss programs, a not-so-little mermaid, a yearning for youth gone dark, and perverse revenge on an ex-lover, these stories spice things up more than that latte at Starbucks. A notable tale here is “Keeping House” by Michael Blumlein, with a creepy look at a woman’s descent into madness. If you like “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, you will be sufficiently spooked by Blumlein’s story. There is also a follow up edition, Shudder Again.


The indisputable king of macabre…

Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales—Stephen King. No list of short story anthologies would be complete without one from the king of horror, Stephen King. Everything’s Eventual is a collection featuring what you would expect from King—the unexpected. A lunch date gone gruesomely wrong, wish fulfillment for a quarter, and a traveling salesman debating his own self-inflicted untimely death, this is one diverse batch of dark tales indeed. Notable stories are “1408,” which explores just how creepy a hotel room can be, and “The Man in the Black Suit,” which is King’s nod to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” Incidentally “1408” was adapted into a decent film starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson.


So, curl up with your favorite blanket and a pumpkin spiced latte, turn the lights down low, and give yourself the willies. Just don’t blame me when you lie awake in the dark wondering what those strange sounds are!

Fractured Fairy Tales: How to Fix Humpty Dumpty Even if You’re a King’s Horse with James Riley

Most of us grew up reading Fairy Tales. They are both bizarre and alluring and for many of us, they continue to interest us well into our adulthood. Best-selling author James Riley takes an in-depth look at fairy tales: why they are so strange, the logic within them, and why we are so fascinated by them.

Riley has written his own collection of fairy tales, which he will use to illustrate some of their most peculiar features. If you’re interested in learning more about fairy tales, this event might be perfect for you!


Date: September 23, 2020
Location: Zoom
Time: 6:30–7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free

To RSVP and for more information, click here!

Top 4 Netflix Book-to-Movie Adaptations

As Netflix has grown more popular, they have started producing more and more of their own content. Plenty of top ranking shows, movies, and documentaries are Netflix originals. A handful of these are based on best-selling novels, and most of the time they do a pretty solid job bringing these beloved books to life. I have compiled a list of my top four book-to-film adaptations from Netflix which are all very close to my heart.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before—Jenny Han. When I was 14, this was one of my all-time favorite books, but I had forgotten about it as I got older. As soon as I heard Netflix was coming out with a movie adaptation of it, it immediately jogged my memory and I couldn’t wait.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, it is about a girl named Lara Jean who wrote five love letters throughout her life, kept them in a box with no intention to mail them. So when they suddenly got out and all the recipients had them, including her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, Lara Jean freaks out. She decides to fake date a different letter recipient named Peter to throw Josh off, but that doesn’t exactly go as planned—you’ll have to watch to find out why.


Book to movie adaptations are always hit-or-miss, but this one did not disappoint for me. They cast it well because the characters are exactly how I envisioned them, and they truly brought the story to life. I highly recommend this film to any lovers of the books!

All the Bright PlacesJennifer Niven. This novel is definitely a bit heavier than the previously mentioned one, but it is still phenomenal. It’s definitely a tear jerker, but in the best way. If you haven’t read the book, it follows Theodore Finch starting when he finds his classmate, Violet Markey, about to jump off a roof. He doesn’t know her very well but decides to befriend her anyway, making a silent pack to himself that he won’t let her struggle alone. As he is dealing with his own mental health issues, this is something he hopes will help him, too. It’s a beautifully written story, but I definitely recommend reading it alone (unless you don’t mind people seeing you sob uncontrollably).


Netflix did a great job bringing it to life as a film—it’s a great blend of tragic and heartwarming, and is sure to tug on your heartstrings. Whether you loved the book or just prefer to watch movies, I recommend getting cozy with a box of tissues and putting this one on.

1922—Stephen King. This one is for the horror/suspense junkies out there. This novella is quite different from the previous two books on this list, but the film adaptation is pretty solid and very underrated. The story follows a farmer named Wilfred who kills his wife—and gets his son in on it—in order to avoid having to sell his land. After this happens, weird things begin to happen around the farm, most of them unexplainable.
The film adaptation came out in 2017, which was a big year for King, so naturally this one was swept under the rug a bit more. That being said, the film does bring certain aspects of the novella to life and the story is very interesting. If you’re a fan of King and a fan of supernatural horror stories, this movie should definitely be included in your scary movie marathon.

Let it Snow—John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson. When I was in middle school, I went on a John Green kick, much like a lot of people my age. In doing so, I stumbled upon this masterpiece of a story. This is one of my favorite holiday stories and when I saw they were making a movie out of it, I freaked.


If you’re not familiar with the novel, it follows three different main characters in the same town as they handle various decisions. Without giving too much away, we have best friends who may or may not have feelings for each other, a celebrity encounter, and a girl dealing with a breakup. These stories all take place simultaneously around the holiday season—I mean, what more could you ask for?!
Netflix turned this novel into a film last year and despite some small changes, I absolutely loved it. I felt that the changes really added to the story and the actors were perfectly chosen. It really is an adorable film and sure to put you in the holiday spirit (so maybe save this one for after Thanksgiving).

Book Review

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Publisher: Atria/ Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Fiction, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Dear Emmie Blue tells the story of Emmeline Blue as her life falls to pieces. When she was 16, Emmie released a balloon with a secret written on it, only for it to wash up on a distant shore and introduce her to her best friend, Lucas. Now in her twenties, she is hopelessly and irretrievably in love with Lucas, and thinks he is finally going to ask her out—only for him to announce that he is getting married. To make matters worse, Lucas wants Emmie to be his “best woman,” prolonging and magnifying her anguish. From her dead-end job, distant mother, and aloof landlady, Lucas’s engagement is the last straw for Emmie.

Despite all the loneliness and heartache, however, wonderful things are in store for Emmie Blue. Lia Louis’ novel pays homage to the idea that life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, and reminds us that unexpectedly wonderful things could be waiting just around the corner.

Thoughts

I don’t know about you, but this year has been a doozy for me. This was a book that I desperately needed to help me cope with this unpredictable—and sometimes depressing—world we’re living in. This might seem to be an odd sentiment, given that Emmie faces heartbreak and calamity for a decent portion of the book. I would argue, though, that a book with a certain amount of despair is fitting, given the current state of things (so long as all ends well). While Louis undoubtedly forces the reader to empathize with the protagonist, there is a certain hope found in seeing a character continue pressing on, even when things look bleak.

I think a great deal of charm in this novel comes from Emmie Blue herself. She manages to be strong and fragile, resilient and weary, all at once. More so than this, you truly feel for her throughout the book. Especially when she divulges the details of a sexual assault in her youth, and wrestles with her broken relationship with her parents, you can’t help but root for her. It’s hard to not be in Emmie’s corner, especially concerning her relationship with Lucas—a kismet meeting if ever there was one. Both Emmie and us as the reader see these two as so obviously destined to be together, and it’s beyond frustrating that they aren’t. Even characters that I didn’t find very likable, such as Rosie and Marie, were appreciated insofar as they related to Emmie.

Dear Emmie Blue is an important reminder that life is unpredictable, and that sometimes that’s the best thing about it. If everything stayed the same, there would be no way for things to get better. It’s a cheesy sentiment, sure, but true nevertheless. The only complaint I had about this book comes from the predictability of the ending, but I would argue that even this lends a certain charm—knowing how something ends doesn’t make the journey any less meaningful, right? I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a mental reset, or a reminder that there are sunnier days ahead.


Thank you to Changing Hands Bookstore for providing an ARC
in exchange for this honest and unbiased review.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Ranked

When I was little, my mother bought all 13 books in this series because it was the first series we found to have a character named ‘Violet,’ my sister’s somewhat unusual name. This was what began my love for this series, and I have endlessly consumed the books, movies, and TV shows based on it ever since. From Klaus’ distaste of bread pudding to Violet tying her hair up when inventing, and from Sunny transforming from an infant who loved to bite into a brilliant chef to Lemony Snicket’s endless wit, I love everything about this series. That being said, I love some of the books more than others. Here is my ranked list of every book in the series.


13. The Vile VillageThis book just didn’t do it for me. It was lacking the humor and the storyline, and characters were just not as engaging as the other books on this list. In each of these books, ridiculous and comically unfair things happen; here, it felt like just unfair things happened. It is somewhat of an outlier in the series, both in terms of plot and tone, which is why it ended up near the bottom of the list. Also, the book seems to taunt the audience by naming the town “VFD,” but it isn’t the real VFD we don’t even learn anything about VFD!

12. The Miserable MillAs much as I enjoyed Count Olaf dressing up as Dr. Georgina Orwell, this book just was not as interesting as some of the others. I found the tone depressing, but not in Lemony Snicket’s classic, darkly humorous way. In general, this book felt like filler and it didn’t have much of a real and lasting impact on the broader plot of the novels. Overall, it was not my favorite and was pretty hard to get through without feeling sad.

11. The Slippery SlopeWhat this book is missing is the dynamic between the Baudelaires and their guardians. Though naturally they need to be on their own at some point, as well as the plot needing some diversification, this book lacked many of the elements that make A Series of Unfortunate Events books so wonderful. I also felt like this book dragged on a bit too long, and with the exception of meeting Quigley, it was not as integral to the plot of the series.

10. The Carnivorous CarnivalThis book definitely isn’t bad, but it just isn’t my favorite. I really liked the “freaks” who were really just relatively normal human beings, and I love the sheer absurdity of feeding the Baudelaires to the hungry lions. However, despite these humorous moments, it was simply not as engaging as some of the others, and I did not leave this book desperate to read the next one like I did with the books further up on this list.

9. The EndThough this book is rather sad and I wish things could be different, the ending of the series is fitting. I found it bittersweet to learn the answers to some of the secrets that had plagued the Baudelaires since the beginning of the series. Part of the fun of the books was the thrill of the secrets and reading until late hours in the night hoping to find answers. Secrets were a driving part of the plot, and, while my curiosity was satiated, I was slightly saddened to learn the answers because it meant that the series was over. That being said, it is a good and interesting conclusion to this 13 book series.

8. The Hostile HospitalWe are now getting into the section of this list where I thoroughly enjoyed all of the books listed here. Cutting off Violet’s head is a stroke of genius and Lemony Snicket’s writing perfectly blends humor and horror. The library is also one of the best parts of this book because it makes the mystery of VFD even more intense.

7. The Penultimate PerilThe morality of this book is a lot more gray than some of the earlier ones, with some characters not exclusively good or evil. Though I like this development a lot, it does not lend itself to as much wittiness as the stricter binaries that the earlier books do. My favorite part of this novel is how close we get to unraveling the secrets without actually revealing them. This makes it very intense and engaging. It’s also a stroke of sheer inspiration to organize a hotel based on the Dewey Decimal System!

6. The Bad BeginningThe first book in this series is a classic for a reason. Meeting iconic characters like the Baudelaire orphans, Count Olaf, and Mr. Poe is the reason why this book is number six on the list. It establishes the amazing dichotomy between children and adults, good and evil, and smart and stupid. I really adore how the children need to convince an incompetent adult that Count Olaf is evil. This is not present in some of the later books and it is detrimental to them. Though the plot is not as complex and interesting as some of the later books, it is still amazing, absolutely hilarious, and sets the tone that we all know and love for the rest of the series.

5. The Grim GrottoThis book sets up the ending for the next two books and introduces the newest danger: the Medusoid Mycelium. I also love the mystery of the Question Mark, which only shows up on the radar as a “?.” I’m still angry at the TV series for telling us what the question mark was, because the ominousness of not knowing was why it was so terrifying. Overall, this was an excellent addition to the series and I love the shenanigans—albeit rather frightening ones—that accompany the Baudelaires and Count Olaf on a submarine.

4. The Reptile RoomWho can forget the whole page of “ever?” The Reptile Room is full of wonderfully executed twists and turns, and I adore that it almost reads like a classic mystery novel. Uncle Monty is also one of my favorite adults in the whole series, and his charm is one of the reasons why I love this book as much as I do. This is also the first novel where we get one of Count Olaf’s disguises. The disguises are a hilarious constant throughout the series. When I was reading the series the first time, finding out his latest disguise was always one of my favorite parts to each novel so needless to say, the very first disguise he donned was particularly exciting.

3. The Wide WindowThere is something deliciously hilarious about Count Olaf dressing up as a sailor named Captain Sham and having none of the adults notice his disguise. This book really sets the precedent that the adults either can’t or won’t help the Baudelaires, something that remains constant throughout the series. Thus, in this book, we find the orphans coming into their own. 

2. The Austere AcademyThis was our first introduction to the Quagmires! I absolutely love the Quagmires, and their introduction leads to even more knowledge of VFD and the secret lives of the Baudelaires’ parents. It is also where we first meet Carmelita Spats, who is undoubtedly one of the most hilariously entitled characters that I’ve ever read. The ideas of an “Orphan Shack” and a Vice Principal named Nero who plays the violin are similarly brilliant. Overall, this book is amazing and one of my favorites!

1. The Ersatz ElevatorThis book is my all time favorite! I love the constant fluctuation between what is “in” and “out.” It also exemplifies the narrator’s dark humor and both clever and hilarious writing style.The Ersatz Elevator is also perfectly paced and highly suspenseful and it was honestly difficult to find anything wrong with it. I also love how it introduced us to Esmé Squalor, a recurring character. She adds a lot to Count Olaf’s pretensions of grandeur and their relationship creates two compelling villains for the remainder of the series. This book represents everything that is great about the series!


I hope you enjoyed my ranking of these childhood classics! Feel free to comment your list or to disagree with me in the comments! If you want to purchase any of these books, go here!

Top 5 Subreddits for Book-lovers

Reddit is one of the most popular social media sites in the world because it provides a platform for almost anyone to talk about almost anything. There are subreddits for nearly every mainstream or niche hobby a person could think of—so yes, there are many, many great subreddits for book-lovers. Whatever book related advice, discussion, or personal anecdote you want to discover or share with others, Reddit has a platform for you. I’ve found many great subreddits during my time there. I’m going to share my five favorites, but by all means, feel free to dig into the hundreds of book-related communities Reddit has to offer to find the ones that are best for you!


r/suggestmeabook—This subreddit is essentially what you would expect: a community where you can ask for books suggestions. I’ve used a lot of websites and read many blog posts to find book suggestions in the past. Those were great sources for me when I had a vague idea of what I was looking for. I could read lists about the best new books of the year or best books about a certain topic or time period on blogs much like this one and discover some truly great reads. However, if you have a specific idea of what you’re looking to read next and you’re struggling to find it on a more general platform, r/suggestmeabook is the place to go. If you want “a book set in space with a strong female protagonist, a happy ending and an equally well-written sequel” or “a book with talking animals that isn’t written for children and also includes a healthy family dynamic” or even “a book based on a true story that I can read in a day and will make me cry by the end,” the members of this subreddit will find those books for you. There have been times where the requests are so specific I don’t think anyone could possibly suggest a book that fits all of the criteria, but they do. Every time. Try it out and I promise you won’t be disappointed.


r/shortscarystories— I cannot express how happy I was to discover this subreddit. It is a great subreddit which I encourage you to check out and it is r/shortscarystories is amazing for those of us who enjoy a well written scary story. This subreddit provides a platform for writers of any experience level to share their original scary stories. These stories must be longer than two sentences, but under 500 words, making them the perfect length to read on a lunch break, while waiting in line, or before going to bed (if you’re brave enough). I enjoy this subreddit because it’s a way for me to read stories I otherwise never would. Although they may not all be literary journal worthy, these stories are fun and a great way to fit in some reading time during a busy day.


r/bookshelf—This is yet another subreddit I’m grateful to have discovered. Members of this community post aesthetically pleasing pictures of their bookshelves daily. I love scrolling through new posts and seeing the effort people have put into arranging their shelves or seeing the new additions they’ve made to their collections. These posts range from pictures of expensive vintage collections, to single shelves of brightly colored spines and twinkling lights. Everyone can enjoy the diversity of the reading community through these posts and celebrate each other’s passion for reading. This subreddit is an all-around feel-good community of people sharing what they enjoy so that others can enjoy it, too. What’s not to love?


r/bookclub—Have you ever wanted to start a book club but you can’t get it off the ground? r/bookclub is a great solution to this problem. I enjoy this subreddit because it allows thousands of people to come together and share their thoughts about books. However, I also spend a lot of time in the comment sections of this subreddit because it’s a great place to find users who want to start niche book clubs. Many members will suggest starting book clubs for a certain series they’ve been wanting to read or a book club about a certain social topic they feel is important. r/bookclub is a great place to start when looking for a book club that fits your specific interests, or even for getting your own book club idea off the ground.


r/writingadvice—Although this subreddit is geared towards writers more than readers, there’s a place for all book-lovers in this community. As a writer, I enjoy posting short excerpts of my work to get feedback from other writers. However, even those who love reading but don’t post their own writing are invaluable to this subreddit. As a reader, you can read many great stories from amateur writers and give them your feedback. The perspective of a reader is valuable in the process of making revisions. The r/writingadvice community welcomes anyone who has a passion for good writing regardless of whether you are writing it yourself or just enjoying the work of your peers.