Edward's Favorite TV Shows Based off of Books

For as long as stories have been being told on our screens, novels have been mined as source material. While often the product is far from the original text, adaptations can breathe new life into a story and illuminate a new aspects of some of our favorite fictional worlds. With the advent of popular streaming services and ever increasing production budgets, now more than ever books are being turned into films. Here are some of my favorite television shows based on books.


Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke. This book has it all—intricate history told against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, political intrigue, battle scenes, magicians, fairies, and books—so it is no surprise that it would be adapted into a stellar TV show. This seven episode mini-series produced by BBC One boasts an impressive cast with actors Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan in the titular roles. Of all of the adaptations on this list, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell stays as close to the story portrayed by the book as it can.   


Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin. It seems like a given that Game of Thrones would be on this list. HBO’s mega-hit series has changed everything I thought possible when it comes to creating a TV show—especially a fantasy TV show. While the response to the last few seasons of this show was not as enthusiastic as when it was originally released, there is no denying the cultural impact it has had. This show is full of slow burning plot lines, unexpected twists, and makes for an experience that cannot be described as anything less than entertaining.   


Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin. In 2019 Netflix released a star studded revival of Armistead Maupin’s popular series Tales from the City. This miniseries is a continuation of three previous miniseries based on Maupin’s work and features some of the same characters. This incarnation of the show goes even further by way of diversity and inclusion and gives a voice to many characters who are extremely underrepresented by the media. All the while, a riveting and emotional mystery unfolds that will have viewers hooked until the end.  


The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood. In 1985 when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, there was no way of knowing that the story would draw so many parallels to the coming world. In 2017 when season one premiered, it seemed as if there was no show that the world needed more. The Handmaid’s Tale shows just how fine the line is between freedom and a strict totalitarian regime. It emphasizes the danger of discrimination and valuing one type of human life over another. Most importantly, in my opinion, this show highlights the danger that some women face every day simply for existing.


The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson. I started this list with an adaption that stayed fairly true to its source material, and so it feels only natural that I end it with something that deviates from the original in a big way. Like so many adaptions of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, the 2018 Netflix show is a far cry from the novel. This fresh take on the Hill House, however, is one of those cases where the story is given new life. As terrifying as it is compelling, this show will suck you in until its final episode. I only have two pieces of advice about how best to watch it: with the lights on and not alone!    

Favorite Staff Reads of 2019

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has flown by! Before we head out to celebrate the new year and make those New Year’s resolutions, we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on 2019 and the gorgeous reads we’ve discovered. Each of our bloggers and editors have reflected on all the books—both old and new—they’ve read in the last 12 months and have chosen one book to highlight that impacted them most this 2019 calendar year. We hope this list inspires you to pick up a new book for your 2020 TBR list. Until then, The Spellbinding Shelf wishes you all another fantastic year filled with happy memories, adventures, time with family and friends, and—of course—lots of good books!


Staff Writer Roxanne Bingham

 Harlan Coben’s Run Away follows Simon Greene as he tries to find his eldest daughter, Paige, who has become addicted to drugs and her terrible boyfriend. When her boyfriend winds up dead, Simon and his wife team up to find Paige and encounter danger along the way. With two other stories interwoven, the mystery complicates and leads the reader to wonder why Paige spiraled and how the characters are all connected. As the mystery unravels, so does Simon’s life as he knows it, with secrets about his wife coming to the surface. 

I love everything Coben writes, but I really enjoyed this one because it highlights familial love and what one is willing to do to save their child. We receive clues as the characters do, making it a real page turner to get to the heart of the mystery. For any crime novel or mystery lovers, I definitely recommend Run Away!


Staff Writer Abhilasha Mandal

Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is about two people in Japan, Tengo and Aomame, who are pulled into a dystopian world parallel to the year 1984, where a series of inexplicable events envelops them and they are left wondering if time itself isn’t a loop in the world they nickname 1Q84.

It is so rare to find a book written for an adult audience that employs elements of fantasy that I recoiled in surprise when I first reached the page that revealed the supernatural theme of the novel.

The story is so captivating and unpredictable that for two whole chapters I found myself questioning which of the two worlds was “real.” This is a must-read for fans of fantastical thrillers.


Staff Writer Brandi Martinez

Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous presents a letter to a mother who might never read the message’s contents because she cannot read English. This makes the outpouring of Vuong’s heart even more poignant. In this exposed and emotional account of the author’s life growing up with a single mother, he examines their relationship and how these experiences have shaped his view of the world. The author knows that he may never receive answers to the many open-ended questions which he asks his mother throughout the work, but his need to voice these questions is laced through the memories which he recounts. 

Vuong utilizes the beauty of the poetic language to weave together the pieces of his youth. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is at once urgent in its need to find meaning in the memories, and languid in its wandering quality which relishes the moments for their own unique beauty. I was entranced by both the beauty of Vuong’s words as well as the sincerity and openness of his self-perspective. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to swim in a sea of haunting beauty and fearlessness.


Staff Writer Jade Stanton

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time provides an summative explanation of the history and theories behind our current understanding of the universe. Hawking’s aim was to create a book to explain complex theories that could be understood by anyone with an eighth grade understanding of math and physics.

Hawking’s book, although published in 1988, is my staff pick for the year mainly because of the advancements made in our understanding of the universe in recent times, specifically the first photographed picture of a black hole taken on April 10th of this year. It is these advancements that show just how important it is for all people to have a basic understanding of the theories and concepts at work, so that they can better understand the importance of the discoveries being made today. Although Hawking has since passed, his work in the field (and in our lives) has remained extremely relevant, and we owe him so much for our current understanding of the world around us.


Staff Writer Edward Dolehanty

Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, In the Dream House, explores Machado’s experience in a same-sex relationship that featured domestic abuse as well as the cannon of domestic abuse in lesbian relationships. Full of emotional depth and imaginatively told, this story attempts to show an aspect of the underbelly of modern queer culture through Machado’s personal story, literary and film criticism, and through the dissection of pop-culture.  

I love this book because like Machado’s previous work, Her Body and Other Parties, it is unlike anything that I have read before. As soon as I was finished reading it I wanted to start reading it again. The world which Machado creates and so elaborately and seamlessly weaves together is equally impressive and immersive. While the story comes from her distinctly queer perspective, that is not to say that there is not something in this book for everyone as it shines light upon the emotional traumas that unfold in our everyday lives.


Communications Coordinator Makenna Knighton

Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward follows a girl named Spensa who wants nothing more than to be a pilot and clear her father’s name. However, she almost misses the test to get into flight school because she finds M-Bot, an abandoned starship, while exploring—and Spensa’s challenges only get more difficult from there. While juggling escapes with M-Bot, tensions with her classmates, and her own impulsiveness, Spensa discovers important truths about herself and her surroundings, making it through to the surprising future after an engaging journey.

I love how this novel blends the science fiction and young adult genres, like Ender’s Game and How to Train Your Dragon combined at Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. With perfect pacing through the pleasantly long and thought-provoking narrative, you won’t want to miss Spensa’s riveting adventure—and the sequel, Starsight, released last month!


Managing Editor Payton Kline

Wendy Webb’s Daughters of the Lake begins when a perfectly-preserved body washes up on the beach near Kate Granger’s childhood home along the North Shore of Lakes Superior—but, the body has been dead for nearly 100 years, and Kate’s family had something to do with it. Through a series of dreams and stories told through Kate and the murdered woman, Addie’s, eyes readers see this chilling story unfold in the most unexpected and deliciously uncanny ways.

For those of you who have read the blog before, you know that I adore the Minnesotan author Wendy Webb—so it will come as no surprise that my absolute favorite read of 2019 was her newest book, Daughters of the Lake. With characters that still cross my mind to this day, a setting so gorgeous yet so ominous, and a plot so compelling that I often read into the early morning hours, I cannot sing high enough praises for this newest novel from the queen of Northern Gothic herself. For those of you looking for an entertaining, yet thought-provoking book to kick off the new year, look no further than Daughters of the Lake.


Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hagerman

Tara Westover’s Educated traces Westover’s journey from living with a survivalist family in the states without any formal education to earning a PhD from Cambridge University. This memoir reflects on Tara’s childhood working alongside six siblings in a dangerous scrapyard managed by her domineering father and learning from her talented healer and midwife mother. From here, it follows her departure from home into the seemingly secular world for education at BYU followed by Cambridge.

I heard numerous wonderful things about this popular memoir while I waited until it was finally available for pickup at my local library. I have to admit that I was suspicious that the book wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. I absolutely loved Westover’s writing style and reflection. I appreciated her brutal honesty about her mental states and her reactions to defining moments in her coming-of-age story. I found her educational journey inspiring and her relationship to faith, and the people who abuse faith, heart-wrenching.


The artwork featured on our blog post above was provided by local artist Bruce Black. You can view more artwork from Black at bruceblackart.com or on Instagram @bruceblackart.

5 Highly Anticipated Reads of 2020

As the year is now winding down to a close, we enter a time of reflection of the joys 2019 held and begin to look forward to the future—a perfect time to look for new reads to brighten our 2020! Whether you are searching for new books to add to your TBR pile or a fun new book to gift to a friend or loved one, this list is guaranteed to fill your 2020 with delightful new reads. Some of these selections are beloved and long-awaited sequels, while others are relative newcomers to the bookish world, but all of them have something special to offer to every kind of reader.


The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu. While Marie Lu is no stranger to the world of YA fiction, The Kingdom of Back is Lu’s first work of historical YA fantasy. This novel is centered around the two Mozart siblings, Nannerl and Wolfgang, and their love of music. Both siblings have a prodigious talent for playing and composing, but Nannerl’s ambition is hindered by the societal constructs of 18th century Europe that forbid women from composing. Wolfgang’s talents continue to grow and Nannerl’s hope dims further and further until a mysterious stranger appears offering her a deal that could cost her everything, or give her everything she’s ever wanted. This book tells a story of music, magic, and the unyielding bond between siblings.

Release Date: March 3, 2020


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins. This selection holds a special place in my heart, as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy was central to my literary journey as a middle school student. As of now, we don’t know much about what Collins has planned for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, but the novel will be a prequel to the trilogy, taking place sixty four years earlier than the events of The Hunger Games during the Tenth Annual Hunger Games. Although this novel will not include Katniss or Peeta (for obvious reasons) here’s to hoping that we might see some cameos of older characters from the original trilogy! This book is set to be released in May, giving us just enough time to reread the original books first.

Release Date: May 19, 2020


You Are Not Alone – Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. Hendricks and Pekkanen are already a highly-acclaimed writing duo, known for their top ten bestsellers The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl. Their latest novel, You Are Not Alone, is centered around Shay Miller, a woman without a job, apartment, or a love life. Her eyes are opened when she witnesses an average woman make the decision to end her life by jumping in front of a subway train and realizes that she could see herself traveling down the same spiral. She soon meets a group of glamorous, put-together women offering to take her in with the promise, “You are not alone.” As Shay becomes more involved with the enviable Moore sisters, she finds her life getting better and better, but at a terribly high price. As the stakes continue to grow higher and higher, Shay finds herself wondering if “You are not alone” is a promise, or a threat. This psychological thriller is sure to shock and fascinate all varieties of readers.

Release Date: March 3, 2020


Imagine Me – Tahereh Mafi. Imagine Me is the sixth and final book in the explosive Shatter Me series. Try as I might, there are no words to accurately capture the beauty of this series. The series is set in a dystopian future and is centered around protagonist Juliette Ferrars. Juliette possesses a singular ability that makes her both powerful and feared: anyone who touches her feels immense pain and can be fatally wounded. Juliette uses her abilities to try and overthrow the tyrannical Reestablishment destroying her world. The prose of this series is especially noteworthy, as some lines and passages are crossed out to reflect Juliette’s train of thought. The Shatter Me series tells a story centered around love, resilience, and triumph over adversity. For those who have already read the other books in the series, I’m glad you can empathize with my bubbling excitement; for those that haven’t, you have almost four months to get caught up before the final book is released!

Release Date: March 31, 2020


The Authenticity Project – Clare Pooley. “Everybody lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?” This is the question that aging artist Julian Jessop wrote in a green notebook labeled “The Authenticity Project” before leaving it in a local cafe. When Monica stumbles upon Julian’s notebook, she adds her own story and aims to find a way to make Julian feel less alone. Soon, a whole cast of characters have added their stories to the green notebook, and even begin to meet in real life, where they’ll subject themselves to the terrifying ordeal of being known. The Authenticity Project promises to be a lighthearted and quirky yet candid and outspoken narrative on the nature of honesty and love. This book is highly recommended for those looking for a book about the human condition and who want to change the way they think.

Release Date:February 4, 2020

5 Short Story Collections to Make you Fall in Love with Short Stories

Even amongst bookish people, the topic of short stories can be a divisive one. Some readers see short stories as too tedious or time-consuming, while others readers might complain that they feel short stories lack the depth of a novel. Adding to this conundrum, some readers were never properly introduced to short stories and now feel too overwhelmed by the genre and don’t even know where to start. Whatever the case may be, we here at The Spellbinding Shelf celebrate short stories, inviting you to abandon all prior convictions with our comprehensive list of five collections that are bound to make you fall in love with short stories.


Her Body and Other PartiesCarmen Maria Machado.
Machado is known for the macabre undertones in her writing and for creating female characters who are not always wholesomely motivated. The ease of her prose makes this collection incredibly alluring, but there is more to it than that—these stories are dark, empowering, nuanced, sinister, and above all else, great fun to read.


Civilwarland in Bad DeclineGeorge Saunders.
This is a powerfully imaginative collection that tests the elasticity of language. It doesn’t matter if Saunders is writing about subversive capitalistic greed or an amusement park that is reminiscent of West World, these tales are impeccably crafted. Each story presents a strange new world that will leave the reader intrigued and wanting more.


Stories of Your Life and OthersTed Chiang.
In this collection, Chiang challenges the notion of what short stories are capable of. He builds dense worlds rich with unique language and dynamic characters. He experiments with time to decrease the flow of information to a drip, and yet every page will leave you yearning to know the tales extraordinary conclusion. Ted Chiang is an author worth reading again and again. 


Magic for BeginnersKelly Link.
While all of the authors on this list so far experiment with blending the lines between genre and literary fiction, none are so adept at it as Kelly Link. That is not to say that her stories are gimmicky or weighed down by superfluous magic systems and supernatural characters. On the contrary, Link’s stories are full of emotional truth and excavate the far reaches of the imagination. Simply put, these stories are magical, but their power does not come from casting spells, but rather, in their ability to entrance their reader.


The Best American Short Stories Series—series edited by Heidi Piltor.

Since 1978, the Best American Short Stories series has been a literary staple with anthologies cultivated by great writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Margaret Atwood, Tobias Wolff, Annie Proulx, Lorrie Moore, Roxane Gay, and most recently Anthony Doerr. Each year, this anthology puts forward twenty short stories that represent the best published short fiction. Each collection offers new worlds of enchantment, heartbreak, and excitement. There is no better place to find scores of talented writers, and also a plethora of publications, to further explore short stories—which by now you’re bound to love. 

5 Books that Marked Changing Times

History is a rolling saga of love and war, and we are irrevocably changed by both. Generations of great writers have documented the change of times and the novelties they brought with them, and so I’ve decided to give you a few books that have truly marked the end of an era.


Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind fondly remembers the last golden days of the South antebellum, before the Civil War wrenched families apart and changed the landscape of American society.

Scarlett O’Hara, a blooming southern belle, and Rhett Butler, an outrageous pragmatist, fall in and out of love in this classic as they struggle with the pain of losing loved ones, drastically altered social positions and wartime hardships.


Mother is the most popular work of Maxim Gorky. Based on real-life events that Gorky was personally connected to, this novel is about the spiritual awakening of a young factory worker and his careworn mother in Tsarist Russia.

Pavel Vlasov starts out by taking after his hard-drinking father, but soon meets a group of revolutionaries and begins to get an education in politics and philosophy. He stops drinking and undergoes a quiet transformation into a sharp, receptive young man.

This incites curiosity in Pelageya Nilovna, Pavel’s mother. After a lifetime of abuse and poverty, she overcomes her illiteracy and political ignorance to become a revolutionary. It is because of this display of willpower and strength of character, Nilovna Vlasova, not Pavel, is considered by many to be the true protagonist of the novel.


In one of the greatest love stories to emerge from World War I, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is set against the background of the Italian front, where Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver, falls in love with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse’s aide.

The stark reality of war brings real affection out of the playful simulation of love that the two initially engage in.

Frederic and Catherine are symbolic of the countless men and women who were kept apart by social and geographical boundaries in those uncertain times. This classic is about the illusion of glory in war and the courage to bid it farewell.


One cannot think of World War I without remembering the concurrent movement of the suffragettes, which spanned decades before and after the war.

My Own Story is the autobiography of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Ghostwritten by Rheta Childe Dorr, it is a detailed memoir of Pankhurst’s work as an activist and the long road to electoral equality between British men and women.


The Diary of a Young Girl is a compilation of the diary entries of a pre-adolescent Jewish girl in Germany, forced into hiding with her family by the onset of the Holocaust.

Anne Frank kept a thorough record of the two years she spent in the Secret Annex, the mortification of growing up among near-strangers with various quirks, the lack of privacy and, of course, the uncertainty of life itself.

This piece of literature is remarkable for its unaffected style of prose and the sheer truthfulness and poignancy of the emotions portrayed on the pages. Anne Frank is a literary icon, immortalized through her work as an unwitting historian.


5 Books of Advice for Writers, by Writers

It’s November again, and that means that there’s some serious writing energy in the air. November is the month that writers from all over the world sit down to touch pen to paper, or fingertips to keys (be they of the analog or digital variety), and participate in what is known as NaNoWriMo. The elongated title of this exciting event is National Novel Writing Month, a challenge during which authors strive to write 50,000 words of a novel in November. NaNoWriMo is also the name of a non-profit organization (www.nanowrimo.org) which provides support, opportunity and encouragement to writers during this, and every one of their writing adventures.

Encouragement is of the utmost importance when beginning any new creative project. The process realizing our visions is immense. Even more overwhelming, is allowing ourselves the vulnerability to share our unique perspective. In times like these a few words of wisdom, by someone who has walked the same path, can be invaluable. Read on for some excellent tomes of sage advice for authors by authors. These books are filled with just the glimmer of hope that tender creatives need, often sprinkled with the wry humor and earth-shattering honesty that the best of authors are known for.


Make Good Art” – Neil Gaiman. The printed and bound version of Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts is not technically a book. However, its place as number one on this list is well-deserved. “Make Good Art” is a fantastic call-to-arms for any artist, not just writers. Gaiman delivers advice on having the courage to go out into the world and create. He urges artists who are just starting out, as well as seasoned artists, to ignore the boundaries created by the world and those that we create ourselves. He insists that no matter what you are facing, what you are going through, if you are an artist, you must create. This speech is an essential read for anyone who needs a little motivation given with a lot of heart. Put it on the shelf over your desk. Put it by the bathroom mirror so you see it when you brush your teeth in the morning. Put it anywhere that its powerful message can reach you again and again.


Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott. If you have seen Lamott’s Bird by Bird come up on many lists similar to this one, it’s for a very good reason. The advice given to writers by Anne Lamott is like that of your most honest older sister, the one that you are secretly intimidated by because she is so cool. With wit and cutting humor, each essay in this volume explores a different aspect of the craft of writing or the act of being a writer. If for no other reason, this collection is invaluable for the essay, “Shitty First Drafts,” which urges writers to put pen to paper, regardless of perfection. This is a hard won lesson, but it is absolutely essential to the writers’ craft. If you want to learn how literature’s cool sister does this writing thing, then Lamott’s advice is definitely for you.


On Writing – Stephen King. The catalog and success of Stephen King is daunting to say the least. One of the most prolific writers of our time, this man has been doing it, and doing it well for very long time. He has built an empire based purely on his evocative imagination and his drive to produce more and more work. In his book, On Writing, King talks about his own experience as a writer, as well as delivering both philosophical and practical advice to the aspiring writer. In this edition, King also describes his life-threatening vehicular accident, and how he had to struggle back to his life’s work. With sections titled “What Writing Is,” and “Toolbox,” King’s memoir is full of the tried and true methods which this powerhouse of an author has himself used. Even if you are not a devoted fan, this book is real-world advice from a man who has made writing into a way of life.


The Faith of a Writer – Joyce Carol Oates. In The Faith of a Writer, the well-respected and award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates weighs in on what it means to be a writer. She discusses how important reading is for the aspiring writer, how the journey towards self-knowledge is essential to the work, and how great ideas are not enough if they are not paired with the craft of good writing. Perhaps one of the most poignant pieces of advice that Oates offers in this slim, but forceful piece is simply the words “Write your heart out.” Offering both insight into what inspires a writer of Oates’ caliber to what is essential to narrative craft, this piece will inspire with its elegant guidance.


Advice to Writers – Jon Winokur. Last, but certainly not least is Advice to Writers, compiled and edited by Jon Winokur. The gathered advice of more than four hundred authors delivered in small quotes, snippets, anecdotes and even short lists. Somewhat tongue-in-cheek and willfully contradictory, this often hilarious and sweepingly insightful collection touches on all aspects of living the writers’ life. While there isn’t much for concrete wisdom on the logistics of writing to be found here, what Winokur has compiled is a joyful reminder that at the end of the day, writing is about the pure pleasure of telling a story, and doing it with style.

Top 5 Highly Quotable Works of Literature

In the modern age, we’ve seriously begun to take the wonder that is a well-written line or quote for granted. From our Instagram bios to epithets and even TV shows and movies, our world is framed around the words of others. To pay homage to the beauty of some of these memorable quotes, I’ve compiled a list of books (and a couple of poems) that are chock-full of swoon-worthy quotes that promise to stick with you and change the way you think about the world. Some of my selections are more modern, and some have stood the test of time, but they are all sure to leave you astonished by the brilliance of written word.


The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot. This existential poem is one of Eliot’s most famous and oft-quoted works, and for good reason. The narrative is fairly concrete in comparison with the author’s usual abstract style, and it’s mainly centered around the monologue of an narrator who finds himself paralyzed by fear and anxiety. This poem is justifiably well-known and finds its universality in our tendency as humans to try to control our own fate, and the feeling of being perpetually on the outside looking in. Because of the multiple interpretations of this poem that are available, it has appealing aspects for all audiences, but will be especially enjoyed by those with an appreciation for philosophy and the human experience.

Memorable Quote:
“For I have known them all, known them all:
Known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”


The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is another commonly quoted author, and The Great Gastby is one of his most popular works. The narrator, Nick Carraway, often provides memorable quotes through his pessimistic musings about the human condition. The titular protagonist, Gatsby, by comparison often speaks to the starry-eyed idealism that lives inside of each of us, and the innate desire to ceaselessly pursue our personal happiness. Together, these two characters create a beautiful juxtaposition and many meaningful dialogues. This novel tackles themes such as love, isolation, and a desire to relive or change the past, with these themes combining into a melting pot of outspoken quotes about living in a world enraptured by materialism and status.

Memorable Quote:
“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”


Looking for Alaska – John Green. Oh, John Green. Where would we be without your lighthearted but candid reflections on life? Looking for Alaska was Green’s first novel, but delights readers with so many strident ideas concerning the nature of life, death, and attempting to make the unknowable known. As a bonus, this novel also contains many great lines in the form of famous last words of men and women, as well as a reference to Gabriel Marquez’s The General in His Labyrinth, and Auden’s As I Walked out One Evening. While this is one of Green’s more graphic works, it provides many thought-provoking observations on the inherent interconnectedness of people and the unseen ways in which we impact one another throughout our lives.

Memorable Quote:
“We need never be lost, because we can never be irreparably broken.”


Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte. For fans of romantic writing, Jane Eyre provides a gold mine of ethereal and mesmerizing lines. Jane herself manages to be simultaneously timid and bold, and this balance is reflected in both her spoken words and her introspective thoughts. The novel is centered around themes such as independence, morality, and the struggle between rational thought and emotional feeling, making it relevant today for all audiences.

Memorable Quote:
“I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse.”


The Laughing Heart – Charles Bukowski. I have to admit, I am a huge Bukowski fan, and I couldn’t resist adding him to this list. While most of his works tend to be laced with a fair dose of cynicism, The Laughing Heart is uncharacteristically hopeful and optimistic. This poem manages to convey a powerful message in just a handful of lines, and has a duality to it that allows it to be both soft and stern, reminding each of us of the power that we hold within ourselves. On a good day, this poem is an affirmation that we are already equipped with everything we need to succeed in life, and on a bad day it reminds us to keep fighting and never yield to the darkness that sometimes threatens to encroach our vision.

Memorable Quote:
“your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.”

Top 4 Cozy Reads for Fall

As the weather begins to cool down (or so we can hope), there’s nothing better than cozying up with a warm blanket and a heartwarming book that just makes you feel good. These books are light and sweet, and always leave me with that warm & fuzzy feeling. So, settle down, wrap yourself up, and be prepared to stay there for hours.


The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris—Jenny Colgan. The book primarily follows Anna Trent, an Englishwoman who gets sent to work at a chocolate shop in Paris (the most famous chocolate shop in Paris, I might add) after an unpleasant accident at the old chocolate shop she worked in where she lost one of her toes. In Paris, she meets the owner of the shop, Thiery Girrard (Claire’s former lover), and his son, Laurent. The story switches between the past, showing Claire and Thierry’s story, and the present, showing how Anna and Laurent’s unfolds. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is both humorous and enchanting, making me want to book a one-way ticket to Paris as soon as I finished it, and the addition of chocolate making and tasting made it even sweeter. Colgan’s writing style makes the heavy stuff feel less so, making this book the perfect “get comfy by the fire” read.


P.S I Still Love YouJenny Han. This is the second book in the Jenny Han’s trilogy, and it is just as magical as the first. Lara Jean Covey is what most would call a hopeless romantic, and she writes letters each time she has intense feelings for someone. This novel follows the aftermath of the first in the series, where Peter and Lara Jean have decided to explore their very real feelings for each other. In this novel, another boy from Lara Jean’s past, John, comes into the picture. She ends up in a battle between her feelings for Peter and her compatibility with John. She leans on her sisters now more than ever, and we get to see their bond grow even more. P.S. I Still Love You is full of the Covey family bond that we grew to love in the first novel and romantic love—making it one of my favorite heartwarming reads.


Love, RosieCecilia Ahern. Also known as Where Rainbows End, this book has everything a feel good book should have. It follows the story of Rosie and Alex who have been best friends pretty much forever. When it comes time to go to University, Alex finds out he is moving from Dublin to Boston. The two plan to go to college there together, but then Rosie gets some life changing news that keeps her from going. The story continues to follow their relationship across the two countries, through all the ups and downs. They can never seem to get their timing right but I feel myself rooting for them the entire time each time I pick up this book. Their story is funny, at times stressful, yet most of all, heartwarming. Ahern’s wonderful novel combines friendship with love the most delightful way, and you can’t help but fall in love with the characters yourself. Love, Rosie is one of the coziest reads, keeping you so immersed you might just finish the whole thing in one sitting.


Everything, EverythingNicola Yoon. This one is a little bit heavier, but I still consider it a good cozy read. Madeline lives with her mother in isolation because she has a rare disease called SCID, which essentially means her immune system is very weak and cannot fight off diseases properly; a common cold could end her life if she is not careful. So, she is home-schooled and never leaves the house. As one would guess, Madeline’s mother is essentially her best friend, and there are no secrets between them. That is, until a new boy, Olly, moves across the street and they begin communicating. The book follows their story as they begin to fall in love; though, they aren’t allowed to touch each other. Everything, Everything was impossible for me to put down, making it a great book to read when you have nothing to do and just want to lay in bed wrapped up in your favorite blanket. It is more bittersweet than just sweet, but it is 100% worth it.

Top 5 Tear Jerkin’ Novels

Sometimes, we all just need a good cry—and what better way to achieve that than reading a book that gives your heartstrings a nice tug? Although I know exactly how each of these books end, I still go through a box of tissues each time I read them. They’re just that good. So, grab some chocolate, get cozy, and get ready to shed some tears.


The Best of Me – Nicholas Sparks. Let’s be real, any Nicholas Sparks novel would fit well into this category, but, The Best of Me is my go-to. It follows the story of previous high school sweethearts, Dawson and Amanda, who haven’t seen each other in 20 years since they split. Luckily for us, we find them as they reunite for the first time. The story bounces between the present and past as we learn about their very different family dynamics and, ultimately, why they broke up in the first place. The end comes with a surprising ‘Sparks Style’ twist—one that left me sobbing the first time I read it. This is the perfect read for any fans of star crossed lovers, and I can promise it delivers in the tear department. (Fun fact: they added an alternate ending in the movie version because it’s that heart wrenching).


The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky. This book holds a special place in my heart, probably because it’s one of the first books I ever truly cried over. The story begins as the main character, Charlie, enters his freshman year of high school. Following the death of his best (and only) friend, Charlie is lost and not sure what to expect. While suffering from this trauma, he is also still coming to terms with the death of his aunt who passed on his 7th birthday. Shy and insecure, he is befriended by step-siblings Patrick and Sam, who begin to help him open up to the world. We read his story through letters that he writes to a “friend”; though we never learn the name of this friend, and they never write back. This format gives us an intimate connection with Charlie as we are taken on a wild journey through the ups and downs that come with growing up. Skillfully crafted, this story never fails to leave me with me tears running down my face. 10/10 would recommend.


A Dog’s Purpose – W. Bruce Cameron. This one is for all my dog lovers out there. It’s a heart-warming story about a golden retriever named Bailey and his owner Ethan, who grows up with Bailey by his side. We follow the story through Bailey’s point of view as he is reincarnated multiple times, each time as a different breed. The unique perspective lets us live all of his experiences as he ends up in various homes throughout the book. Heartfelt ending aside, this book had me sobbing the entire time. I’m the type of person who cries whenever a dog dies in books, movies, real life, all of it. Apparently, I wasn’t consciously aware that in order for the pup to be reincarnated, he had to die each time first. So yes, I cried about 15 times reading this book, but, it was totally worth it. This story reminds us that even though our dogs are just a short part of our life, we’re their entire life. A Dog’s Purpose is great for when you want something lighter, but still tear-worthy.


The Sea of Tranquility – Katja Millay. Naturally, I had to include at least one book without a movie adaptation. I didn’t know much about this book when I first picked it up, but, a friend told me it was a must read—and, boy, was she right. The story follows Nastya Kashnikov, a former piano protégée, as she starts school in a new town. We don’t know much about her in the beginning except that she had been in a horrific accident and has decided to isolate herself from the rest of the world. She hasn’t touched a piano since the accident and she speaks to no one. That is, no one except for Josh Bennett, who has his own tragic past. Their story is full of raw, human emotion that is truly difficult to come by in this medium. This book wrecked me in the best and most unexpected way. It is definitely a must read for anyone looking for a solid cry session.


The Fault in Our Stars – John Green. No tear-rendering book list would be complete without this masterpiece. 16-year-old Hazel Lancaster was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 13 and since then, it has spread to her lungs. The experimental trial she is on keeps her alive for the time being, but, (as she so kindly reminds us) she is dying, a fact that she is more or less okay with. She meets Augustus Waters (Gus) in support group and despite her attempts to fight it, finds herself falling in love with him. This beautifully written novel follows their love story, and, no matter how many times I read it, I am a sniffling mess at the end. Towards the end of the story, Hazel says that she can’t talk about their love story without turning into a puddle of tears. Well Hazel, neither can I. If you have yet to read this book, I suggest you go out and get it right now. Yes, it’s that good.


6 Ways Literature Has Inspired Composers

In honor of National Classical Music Month, we’d like to share some beautiful instrumental songs that were inspired by gorgeous books! We’ve even prepared a Spotify playlist for you that is the perfect length for a long commute to and from school or work. We hope you enjoy reading and listening along to some beautiful literary tunes.


Musicals

Perhaps one of the most exciting ways books influence and inspire composers is in the creation of musicals. Take for example, how the composers of Les Miserables, Ragtime, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame each captured the raw emotion of their respective fictional characters. Whether you’re listening (or singing along to) Éponine’s tears over Marius, Tateh’s excitement about his new home in America, or the gorgeous choral singers at Notre Dame, musicals have a special sort of literary magic that is distinct from other genres of music.


Orchestral Works

As a former orchestra member (Do I have any fellow violists out there?), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about how literature has been an integral part of classical music. The first influential story that comes to mind is William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Tchaikovsky’s “Fantasy Overture” is an absolute masterpiece and my personal favorite musical take on Shakespeare’s writing. Hungarian composer Franz Liszt’s “Faust Symphony” is equally as fascinating. In this work, Liszt creates three character sketches from Goethe’s Faust: Faust, Gretchen, and Mephistopheles. Instead of recreating the drama’s plot, as many other composers do when inspired by a work of literature, Liszt writes musical portraits that explore the three unique fictional characters.


Operas

Operas lend themselves well to literary inspiration, needing dramatic narrative and compelling, emotional characters. Verdi adored Macbeth so much that he composed a four act opera that begins with an appropriately dramatic overture. Henry Purcell used opera to capture the betrayal of Aeneas to Dido from The Aeneid. What better way to musically express the stormy drama in these works than elaborate operatic arias?


Ballets

Combining both music and dance, ballet is another beautiful art form that can benefit from literary motivation. For example, Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty inspired Tchaikovsky to compose the famous waltz in his “Sleeping Beauty.” (Also, can we take a moment to appreciate how well-read Tchaikovsky must have been to make all of his literary references?) Prokofiev tackles the classic Romeo and Juliet in his ballet, which he ended up using to build three orchestral suites and a solo piano piece later on in his life. I have to say, my favorite part of Prokofiev’s work is the scene where Tybalt recognizes Romeo. That particularly catchy song has definitely been stuck in my head a couple times!


Plays

What’s a play without a little musical accompaniment? Shakespeare is once again an influential force in the musical arena. Several of his plays are accompanied by well-composed music. In fact, Robert Johnson, an English composer and lutenist, is well-known for working directly for Shakespeare to provide music, like “Galliard” and “Full Fathom Five,” for his plays. Mendelssohn is another Shakespeare-admirer known for his music composed to accompany Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Film Scores

Last, but certainly not least, literature has been instrumental (pardon the pun) in the “book-to-movie” film scores we listen to today. This just might be my favorite form of literary influence on music; it’s always so exciting to see a movie recreation of one of your favorite books complete with costuming, scenery, and a beautiful soundtrack. To name just a few books that have inspired recent film scores, theres’ the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, Pride and Prejudice, The Handmaid’s Tale, Alan Turing: The Enigma, The Hobbit, and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.


The artwork featured on our blog was
provided by local artist Kelly Seifert.


You can find a Spotify playlist with the songs mentioned in 
our post below. We hope you enjoy the music collection!