Wanderlust Literature: 7 Travel Stories

In this new era of COVID-19, there are plenty of us staying at home suffering from a different kind of illness: cabin fever. Quarantine and isolation are entering their third month for many of us, and the spring season gaining traction isn’t helping at all. Spring typically motivates people to start new projects, clean out their homes and garages, start their gardens, and get outside. Unfortunately, for many people this still isn’t a safe option and may not be for a long time yet. For others, caution would still need to consistently exercised, but as local parks and trails begin to reopen, the opportunity to exercise some old fashioned social distancing by venturing out into nature might just be what the doctor ordered. Regardless of your options or what the future holds, a great way to scratch that itch for exploration is through the following books, each of which is able to spark that sense of wanderlust in their readers. The benefit of being a book-lover is that there are always worlds to explore inside the pages of a book, but, these books have the added benefit of offering a mental escape whilst reading that inspires real-life travel and adventure. So, let’s see if we can fight a little of that cabin fever with these seven books of wanderlust literature.


On the Road by Jack Kerouac—I’ve always been a sucker for the Beat Generation, and On the Road is one of those iconic pieces of work that has come to represent the genre. The novel follows characters that can’t seem to sit still, and as such can never settle down and stay in one place for too long. They definitely make some questionable choices along the way, but there is something to be said about their sense of recklessness in association with their constant search for meaning and adventure in their lives. This novel has a sense of restlessness that all of us can feel sometimes deep down—especially now that we are confined in our homes and hometowns. While this book probably won’t inspire you to engage in the same sort of shenanigans the characters are engaging in (hopefully), it just might inspire you to do a little soul-searching like they have, whether its while you are lost in the pages or on the open road yourself.


A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson—Bill Bryson has become a famous voice in the world of travel writing, probably because he writes with the tone of the uncle who seems to have a funny anecdote for everything. What is really appealing about him, though, is just how relatable he can be—he’s a regular guy who decided to undertake a challenge usually only completed by people who have trained their whole life to do. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot harder than he anticipated. But, it’s his persistence and his observations that make his account so enjoyable. Sometimes, it just takes an itch for adventure and discovery to push us out the door, and despite the challenges that this might present, the journey, not the destination, ends up being the best part of the story.


Walden: Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau—A book quoted by naturalists for the last hundred years or more, Walden is the ultimate memoir for the nature lover. Thoreau’s spiritual quest to connect with mother nature is recounted in great and quotable detail in this book. What’s so important about this novel in the current climate is the idea that isolation and solitude are not always negative things to undergo in one’s lifetime, and in fact can sometimes be good for the human spirit. Reconnecting with one’s self, beliefs, and nature itself is important for the mind, body, and soul—and what better time to attempt it? Meanwhile, enjoy this classic piece of influential literature and the enlightenment that it can offer.


Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer—This is a book that has been mentioned on this blog before, and for good reason—it’s a powerful and tragic true story of a boy who wanted to attempt something greater than himself. Idols such as Jack London, John Muir, and the aforementioned Thoreau inspired the love of nature and travel which sent Chris McCandless on his ill-fated journey. And though most of us know about his sad, lonely end, his drive to push on into the wilderness still inspires a sense of romance and wanderlust in the readers of his story.


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed—Second only to the infamous Appalachian Trail is the Pacific Crest trail on the other side of the country. Reflecting on a painful divorce, the illness and subsequent death of her mother, and the influence of drug use, Strayed makes the decision to set out on the trail with no prior experience or knowledge if only to get moving to try to find something missing from her life. It’s also a familiar feeling, to feel powerless as one’s life spirals out of control, to want to run or move to try to escape your problems. On the trail, instead of running away, Strayed confronts her past and finds a sort of spiritual awakening in the different kind of difficulties she encounters there. While not the safest guidebook on attempting a hike of this magnitude, Strayed’s memoir is a truly a “lost to found” kind of story.


Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert—In this well-known memoir about self-discovery, Gilbert travels across Italy, India, and Indonesia after a difficult divorce and a failed rebound relationship. At a certain point, we sometimes have to contemplate if we are happy with the way our lives are going. The bravery to make a change and to pursue your own happiness is a powerful message in Gilbert’s novel, and is something many people never had the chance to consider when we’re rushing through our work weeks and trying to make ends meet. This time to slow down can be used to take a closer look at our own happiness and to make the changes we need.


The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien—I seriously considered leaving this book off this list, but, I simply could not do it. The Hobbit is so near and dear to my heart that a list about wanderlust and finding yourself seemed incomplete without it. While it stands apart as a work of fantasy compared to the memoirs on this list, it is no less the story of Bilbo Baggins taking that first step out his door (with a little bit of a nudge from Gandalf) and discovering a whole new side to himself along an epic and dangerous journey. If we are confined to literature and fantasy to satisfy our cabin fever, then so be it, a trip from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain might just be the cure we need. And if it’s future real-life adventure you’re craving, The Hobbit, and all the other books on this list, are testament to what can be gained from taking that first step.

6 Best BookTubers to Watch During Quarantine

I started watching BookTube pretty recently and I have found that it is a great way to keep in touch with the literary community while we are all stuck inside. For those of us who are new to BookTube, it is the segment of YouTube that focuses on all things book-related. The content ranges from book reviews to book crafts, from funny to focused, and from YA books to classics. It is also an excellent way to find new books to read, or, to explore different genres. I picked these channels because they represent a wide range of BookTube styles. Whatever you are looking for, there is bound to be a BookTuber for you!


readwithcindy—First of all, Cindy is absolutely hilarious! Her self-deprecating humor adds a lot of flavor to her videos. She makes wrap-ups, which are summaries of all the books that she read during any given month and they are normally spoiler-free, as well as read-with-me vlogs. She also makes some artsier content, such as redesigning book websites or book covers, which are a lot of fun to watch.

What sets Cindy apart from other BookTubers is that she is staunchly against consumerism on BookTube. She only owns four books and gets all of her books from the library. She also promotes diversity in literature and hosts the Asian Read-athon. She is a bigger BookTuber who got her start pretty rapidly, but for every subscriber-count milestone that she reaches, she promotes smaller BookTubers. Cindy’s content is clever and engaging, so I definitely recommend watching her videos!

Here is a great introduction to Cindy’s channel: “i read my airplane seatmate’s trash romance book and it was a mistake.”


Merphy Napier—The biggest strength of Merphy’s channel is how focused it is. It centers strictly around “book” content and not “bookish” content, which means that she does not make videos about things that are only loosely related to books. She makes very typical BookTube content, such as reviews, wrap-ups, and rankings of characters and books.

Merphy is an author herself, so she also gives writing advice and has “Dear Author” videos in which she gives her opinions on tropes and book features. These videos can be pretty helpful for aspiring writers. I recommend her channel for people who enjoy more focused, book-related content.

Here is a great introduction to Merphy’s channel: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Doesn’t Make Sense?”


James Tullos—James’s channel mostly consists of very analytical videos. I love these because I get to learn so much more about the books that he reads than I would from most other BookTubers.

He mostly reads science fiction and high fantasy, such as Tolkien and Sanderson. Because the universes have such extensive lore, he makes a lot of in-depth videos about worldbuilding. James has a dry sense of humor that lends itself very well to his analytical content. He also does book reviews and top ten lists, all of which are very well made and entertaining.

Here is a great introduction to James’s channel: “Fantasy is very pro-monarchy (and that’s weird).”


Caleb Joseph—Caleb is one of my personal favorite BookTubers. His sense of humor is amazing and makes his rather lengthy videos worth the watch. His content is better classified as “bookish” because he will make videos about bad crafts involving books or about hosting a wedding for two of his books, in addition to traditional book reviews.

He will also make videos for book releases and do read-with-me vlogs, which are some of his best videos. Caleb reads a lot of “Bad Boy” romances, cringey Wattpad stories, and books that he knows he will dislike (which sounds strange, but all of this makes for absolutely incredible rant reviews). He mainly reads YA, so if that is your cup of tea, you will definitely enjoy Caleb’s content!

Here is a great introduction to Caleb’s channel: “Reading ‘The Worst Book of All Time.’”


paperbackdreams—Kat’s channel is absolutely adorable! She is the epitome of a classic BookTuber: she makes wrap-ups, book reviews, read-with-me vlogs, book hauls, and lots of collaboration videos with other BookTubers.

She has an awkward and adorable, yet calm sense of humor that makes her videos very watchable and enjoyable. Kat mainly reads YA books, like many other BookTubers, and the process of how she reads books is very relatable to many of us readers. For an introduction as to what a typical BookTuber is like, Kat’s channel is perfect.

Here is a great introduction to Kat’s channel: “let’s talk about ninth house…i guess.”


The Artisan Geek—I love Seji’s channel! First of all, she has the most lovely and relaxing voice to listen to which makes her videos super fun to watch! She also reads a lot of classics, which is interesting because many BookTubers focus on YA.

Seji makes a lot of videos about book hauls, her to-be-read list, wrap-ups, and she even reads stories out loud occasionally! She reads a lot of books from diverse authors, which is wonderful because BookTube can often lack diversity. I also love Seji because she knits and occasionally posts videos about her life. Her channel is really fun to watch and it is a great introduction to BookTube!

Here is a great introduction to Seji’s channel: “Diverse Classics Book Haul.”

Our Staff’s Favorite Places to Read

When I think of cracking open a good book, I immediately imagine myself in my favorite reading nook—nothing is more luxurious than relaxing in my spot of choice, book in hand. Inspired by the solace my own favorite spot provides me with, I decided to ask some of our staff writers what their favorite reading spots are, and why. So, if you also love a good reading spot, scroll down to find some new ideas for where to spend your page-turning time.


Rachel Hagerman

Editor-in-Chief

Favorite place to read: Outside 

Why: Whenever my family goes on vacation, whether it’s out in the mountains or on the beach, we sneak in a few hours of reading time outside. I love this little mini-vacation within our vacation, where I get to travel to a new fictional world with the sound of ocean waves in my ears or the shadows from a tall pine on my cheeks. Bonus points for any reading scene where a cacophony of nature sounds (I absolutely love to hear the birds singing to each other!) replaces your everyday traffic and crowd noise, so you can fully immerse yourself in the fictional world.


Sharon Enck

Staff Writer

Favorite place to read: In a big, squishy chair

Why: If there is one thing that I have discovered about myself, it’s that I can read anywhere: in grocery store lines, on planes, trains, and in automobiles. Yet my favorite place to read has to be the enormous chair and a half that sits in our living room. The room is well lit, and I can see trees outside the window when I bring my eyes up for air. Typically, I have a candle burning so it always smells good, and there’s a lamp nearby for when it gets dark. The chair is squishy enough to sink into, and is big enough to curl my legs to the side. A throw blanket hangs off the arm in case I get chilly, or just feel the need to cozy up. A cup of hot chocolate and I am set! 


Payton Kline

Managing Editor

Favorite Place to Read: In bed

Why: I always love reading in my bed because it usually means I get to go to sleep soon! It’s also such a relaxing place to lay back and get lost in a book, of course, with my kitty by my side. Plus, you just can’t beat all the coziness that comes with the territory of blankets, pillows, and a nightstand candle—there’s nothing like it for reading time. 


Roxanne Bingham

Staff Writer/Communications Coordinator Apprentice

Favorite place to read: On the back porch

Why: My favorite place to read is my back porch, it is unbelievably serene. It has been my favorite spot since I was a little kid and could read. My house backs up to a greenbelt with a creek, so aside from the occasional runner/dog walker, it is quiet and peaceful. When the weather is nice, it’s the perfect temperature and a great way to get outside right now without going in public. It is so relaxing I have actually fallen asleep while reading here before! You get to be surrounded by nature and read a book, so it’s really the best of both worlds.


Makenna Knighton

Communications Coordinator

Favorite Place to Read: By the pool

Why: My favorite place to read is sitting in my backyard dipping my feet in the pool, probably because it is just nice to get outside and escape into whatever fictional world I have for that day. I like being able to tell when I am so engaged in my book that I stop hearing the bird calls and feeling the water ripples. There’s no better way to soak up the sun while beating the AZ heat!


Jade Stanton

Staff Writer

Favorite Place to Read: Coffee Shops

Why: Personally, I love reading at coffee shops. Nothing accentuates the (wonderfully) disorienting return to reality after getting lost in a good book like being surrounded by people, music, and the tantalizing smell of coffee. Locally-owned shops also have the added benefit of a calm and cozy atmosphere that ensures your reading experience isn’t hampered by the hustle and bustle of everyday life, as is often the case in other public spaces. Beyond this, a good cup of coffee or tea is an essential part of a complete reading experience. I have grown especially fond of Tempe’s King Coffee: the coffee is superb, there are plenty of cozy reading nooks, and the atmosphere is perfect for diving into a good book. 

If you also love to read in coffee shops and need some ideas, check out our blog post on the 5 Most Readable Coffee Shops in the Valley.


Abhilasha Mandal

Staff Writer

Favorite Place to Read: In bed

Why: Although I can read just about anywhere as soon as I’ve found myself a little nook and tuned off the outside world, my favorite place to read is in bed, just before I’m about to turn in for the day. Other than being cozy and peaceful, it’s also a great way to unwind and coax the body into sleep mode. Reading to sleep is probably the best antidote to stress insomnia.

A little tip: It’s better to read from a printed book than an ebook during this time because the light from the phone can keep you awake.


So there you have it, some of our staff’s favorite places to read. Where is your favorite place to read? Comment below!

Reading With Your Ears: The Pros and Cons of Audiobooks

This time of staying at home, sheltering in place, and social distancing is the perfect opportunity to catch up on your reading. Right now, readers are lucky to have so many options when to comes to getting their literary fix. With hardback, paperback, ebooks, and, of course—the main reason we are here—audiobooks, there is a format for every type of reader. 

I am not a seasoned pro when it comes to the audiobook format. Until recently I avoided them, not out of fear, but because I consider myself to be too tactile of a creature to be able to just listen to a book. I like the feel of the paper beneath my fingers, that quiet little shooshing noise as I turn the pages, and the satisfying weight of whatever novel in which I have lost myself. I was also concerned that I would get distracted and lose my place if I wasn’t visually focused.

Yet, as a reader, I didn’t feel that I would be complete without at least trying an audiobook on for size. So, for my first foray into the audiobook arena I chose a novel that I had read before—a bit of a safety net you could say. At the time of my experiment Doctor Sleep was in the theaters (remember when we could see movies on something other than Netflix?), and I figured Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining would be a good one to cut my teeth on (or perhaps I should say perk my ears up) in anticipation of the cinematic adaptation. Based on that experience, I ended up compiling a list of pros and cons on listening to your literature.


Pro #1 – Master of Multi-Tasking

Without a doubt the audio book format gives you a ton of freedom. Need to do some housework? Plug in, turn on, and off you go. Although, I don’t necessarily recommend listening while vacuuming since the two sounds compete. Have to run an errand? No worries, use your car’s bluetooth and be entertained on the ride. The majority of my listening was done in the car, and the only downside was getting to a juicy bit in the story and having to step out.


Con #1 – You’ve Lost That Touching Feeling

The audiobook experience isn’t a particularly tactile one. I suppose you could lovingly stroke your phone or computer or play with your headphone cord (if you have one) but it is just not the same. Flipping pages, and holding a good solid hardback has its own particular joy.


Pro #2 – Perfectly Portable

All of touchy feely stuff aside, it has to be said that hardbacks and paperbacks are not easy to transport. That lovely weight? It’s not as pleasant when you’ve added pounds to an already overloaded suitcase or backpack. The audio book is far more portable, and you can keep a list of titles at the ready. Dragging three or four books around just isn’t as convenient, or good for your back. 


Con #2 – The Voices in Your Head

Do you know that voice you hear every time the main character speaks in a novel? Me too! If you are listening to a book that you have read before the voice actor might not portray the character the way you imagined. It was a bit of a letdown to discover that Dan Torrance didn’t quite sound the way I expected. The narrator could be too animated, or not animated enough; they may be dull, or their pacing may not suit you. You never know exactly who are you getting when you hit play.


Pro #3 – Accessibility 

Like ebooks, audiobooks can be downloaded within seconds. No trip to the bookstore or library necessary! This feature is even more convenient considering the lockdown situation we are all in. The library offers a plethora of titles for the price of just having a library card, and now, local bookstores like Changing Hands offer them! You can check out their system for purchasing and downloading here.  A quick internet search will give you lots of additional options.


Con #3 – The Price Is Not Always Nice

There is a price for all that accessibility. An audiobook can cost you significantly more than a paperback or ebook. A quick search of bestselling audiobooks through various services revealed prices upwards of $24 with some reaching nearly $40. The same novel in an ebook, paperback, and even hardback format can cost you far less. However, if you are an avid listener, many sites offer a membership deal which makes far more financial sense.


Pro #4 – Storytime

Remember when your kindergarten teacher would gather you in a circle and read a story aloud? I view consuming a novel through the audiobook format to be a different kind of experience in reading—you’ve engaged a whole different sense.


Con #4 – Time Is Not On Your Side

Depending on your individual speed, you can actually spend more time listening to a book rather than reading one. You can adjust the speed in which you listen, so that can help, but I can tell you that it took me quite a bit longer to listen to Doctor Sleep than it did to read it.


So, would I do choose an audiobook again? Sure. It added some variety to my reading routine by giving me flexibility to read where and when I wanted. Would I trust an audiobook for a literature class? Never. Was Doctor Sleep some scary fun with Stephen King? Absolutely!

3 Books You Should Read before You’re Thirteen

Whether or not you’re a nostalgic person, you will never forget your favorite books growing up. Your taste in literature may change, along with your reading habits, but the books you read when you’re young are imprinted in your brain forever. Here are a couple books I read and re-read through middle school, along with one I wish I had read before my teenage years.


What Katy DidSarah Chauncey Woolsey. In college, Sarah Chauncey Woolsey wrote this charming novel under the pen name of Susan Coolidge. It follows Katy Carr, a twelve-year-old daydreamer, into adolescence. As the oldest of six children who lost their mother years ago, she is constantly expected to set an example to her younger siblings, which she often fails to do, but not for lack of enthusiasm. She is reminded of this frequently by her father, Dr. Carr, and Aunt Izzie, a strict disciplinarian who has been raising the children since their mother died. Aunt Izzie’s general disapproval of her only adds to Katy’s disappointment at being “all legs and elbows, and angles and joints.”

Among the many relationships that the book explores, a notable one is the strong bond between Katy and her sister Clover, second oldest of the Carr siblings. Shy, soft-spoken Clover complements Katy’s wild, whimsical nature. Katy doesn’t know exactly what she wants to do when she grows up, but she’s sure it will be something marvelous, and Clover faithfully agrees. Through the countless escapades, Katy grows on you with her wit and artlessness. It is a heartwarming story filled with colorful characters with interesting turns in the plot.


Black BeautyAnna Sewell. This famous autobiography of a horse personifies a handsome black stallion with a white star on his forehead. He begins at his dewy days as a foal on a farm. After he is broken in, he is bought by the village squire. Here he meets a few other horses, some of whom, he realizes, have not been as well-treated as he has. As he grows older, he moves from the countryside to the city, and has a diverse experience at the hands of several owners with varying temperaments. There are instances of animal cruelty in the book that give you the victim’s perspective on the subject.

The theme of empathy towards animals and their reciprocation to it is prominent throughout the book. When Black Beauty describes how uncomfortable it is to wear a bit, and how his first owner takes great care to make sure his breaking in is as comfortable as it can get, his affection for the farmer becomes prominent. Later, he grows to love his first ever groom, John. Black Beauty is the first popular novel to change the way we look at animal welfare, and is a classic for all ages.


Anne of Green GablesL.M. Montgomery. The novel is set in the picturesque, fictional town of Avonlea where life is uneventful until the Cuthberts decide to adopt a boy from an orphanage to help around the farm. Matthew and his sister, Marilla Cuthbert, live in Green Gables, a house on the edge of the woods. When Matthew goes to receive the boy at the station, he is in for a surprise. A fortunate miscommunication brings Anne to Green Gables, which her extraordinarily imaginative mind transforms into something out of a fairy tale—something she frequently does with places and things. The only thing she can’t seem to improve with imagination is her red hair, which she hates.

Through many adventures and misadventures with her “bosom friend,” Diana Barry, and other assorted characters over the course of four years, Anne becomes irreplaceable in the hearts of her family and friends in Avonlea. Although Anne sounds mature for her age when she speaks, mostly because she uses long words, her naeïvete appears every now and then when she gets into scrapes, or when she tries to deal with the awkwardness of entering adolescence. Reading this book is a luxurious experience, full of eloquent descriptions of the most mundane things transformed into something exotic and beautiful through Anne’s eyes.

10 Books to Inspire Women

As a female book lover, there is nothing quite like being able to effectively identify with a female protagonist. This is especially true when the heroine of the book isn’t reduced to a simpering mess without a romantic driving force, or when the author is able to use that trope as a way to balance the strength of their protagonist. Some books are able to do this well, and some, not so much. But, it just so happens that sometimes the strongest female characters are created by writers who also are strong, independent women. Below is a list of books starring female characters that are able to overcome anything life throws at them. These women are real, flawed characters that are more than a pretty face or pining heart—they are mothers, sisters, wives, and lovers—fulfilling these roles in a way that represents strength, class, and perseverance. In turn, these books are written by female authors that also fulfill these roles: talented women that give a voice to women of all ages through their novels, empowering current and future generations through their work.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë—Let’s start this list off with a classic. Jane Eyre is the timeless story of a young girl’s life from the time she is passed into the care of her cruel aunt, to living in poverty at a derelict boarding school, to finally finding her purpose as a governess for an arrogant, but alluring gentleman. What makes Jane’s story iconic isn’t her romance with Mr. Rochester, but her tenacity through all the trials and tribulations that plague her throughout her story. She overcomes and remains true to herself throughout. The same can be said of the writer, the eldest Brontë sister. Despite having to don masculine pseudonyms to have their work published, the sisters have gone down in literary history for their role as women writers.


Ezperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan—Set during the Great Depression, Ezperanza’s story begins with the death of her father in Mexico, her family forced to flee to the United States to start a new life. To go from a position of wealth to one of hard work and toil is difficult for 13-year old Ezperanza to come to terms with, but, throughout the novel she grows as a young woman and learns to adapt and have hope. Writer Pam Munoz Ryan has won numerous awards for Esperanza Rising and other works, representing strong role models for young girls and her own Mexican heritage.


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd—Lily Owens is haunted by the memory of her mother’s death and the abuse she sustains from her father T. Ray. Her only ally is their maid, Rosaleen. After an incident that sets them on the run, Lily attempts to track down the truth about her mother’s life and in the process, comes to terms with her role in her death, finding her own inner strength. Sue Monk Kidd continues to honor her role as a feminist after the immense success of The Secret Life of Bees and its important message not only for feminism, but for its depictions of the civil rights era and the relationship of a little white girl with strong women of color.


Untwine by Edwidge DanticatUntwine is the story of 16-year-old Giselle and her twin sister Isabelle. This novel explores the bonds of family, especially those between sisters, as a horrific accident forces Giselle to look back on her past and come to terms with change, garnered by the love for her sister. Edwidge Danticat has become a driving force as a female Haitian-American writer. Her work continues to be praised for shedding light on historical and current issues ongoing in Haiti.


The Awakening by Kate ChopinThe Awakening has earned its place as a literary classic most commonly associated with female independence, a concept that is discussed and symbolized greatly throughout the novel. Edna Pontellier is a wife and a mother, but she takes on that role only because that is what society has deemed appropriate for a woman to do. When she falls in love with a younger man, for the first time in her life she starts to consider what it would be like to break free of societal constraints. While her thoughts might be tied to her romance, Edna still represents a woman struggling to break free, and that lack of freedom is what drives her. Kate Chopin also was able to cement herself among the great female writers of history, alongside Flannery O’Connor and Edith Wharton.


White Oleander by Janet Fitch—Astrid Magnussen is only 12 when her mother poisons her cheating boyfriend and is sent to jail. Astrid then begins a long journey between foster homes; dealing with addiction, abuse, and trying to grow up without her mother in her life and reconciling with who she is. This is a powerful novel about growing up and becoming your own person, and an equally important novel exploring the concepts of motherhood. Janet Fitch gained notoriety with this bestselling book after transitioning from her love of history to writing fiction.


Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison—Another novel that explores the complex feminine role of motherhood, Cavedweller follows Delia Byrd and her daughter Cissy. Delia has two other daughters that are estranged, working throughout the novel to establish a relationship with them. Dorothy Allison became a household name with her novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, another novel with a strong female protagonist, and often explores complex relationships in a brutally honest fashion. She champions her own fearless brand of feminist lesbian representation in her work.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker—Celie’s story is as iconic as it is tragic. A poverty-stricken African American girl, she suffers rape and abuse at the hands of her father. The two children she mothers in her youth are taken from her, and the only bond she can rely on in the world is the one she shares with her sister Nettie. Once she loses her, she must learn to find strength in herself. Celie finds this through relationships with other strong women throughout her life, until she is finally reunited with her loved ones. The Color Purple is an incredibly moving account of the bonds of sisterhood and motherhood. Alice Walker is a household name in the literary community, through this masterpiece and her work championing African American women writers.


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah—In another story that explores the bonds of sisterhood, The Nightingale tells a tale of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, surviving through the Nazi occupation of France. With both sisters exhibiting their own unique display of strength during a time of violence and war, this book is a poignant and powerful tale of perseverance. Kristin Hannah used real women who resisted the Nazi occupation and rescued allied soldiers to inspire her bestselling novel.


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—Last but not least, we return to another classic. Little Women has been inspiring young girls and breaking hearts for many years—still remaining a testament to the roles of mothers and sisters to create independent women. The main character, Jo, defies many gender norms and remains true to herself in her journey to become a writer and was a source of inspiration for me as a young girl. It is a powerful novel of women supporting other women, and one that has stood the test of time. Louisa May Alcott based the character of Jo on herself, and was an abolitionist who was active in women’s suffrage throughout her life.


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

6 Best Sherlock Holmes Stories

Few works are quite as timelessly transcendent as the stories of Sherlock Holmes, and as such, the pipe-smoking sleuth needs little introduction. The legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works is made obvious through the many adaptations that have been created throughout the years, as well as the reshaping of the mystery genre as a whole. The last Sherlock Holmes story was published in April of 1927, and to celebrate the 93rd anniversary of our favorite detective, I have compiled a list of my personal favorite Sherlock Holmes stories. Don’t worry, I won’t give away any endings! So, without further ado, let’s dive in!


The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot. This story has a title that’s as unique as its plot. Holmes and Watson find themselves vacationing in a cottage in Cornwall, as Holmes has been urged to take a break from consulting for his health. Their holiday is soon interrupted, however, by the news that a local’s house was struck by a terrible tragedy. Mortimer Tregennis explains that he had visited his sibling’s house one night, then returned the next morning to find his sister dead and his brothers sitting at the table maniacally laughing and singing. Judging from the grotesquely horrified faces of the three victims, the death and insanity was presumably caused by fear. At once baffling and eerie, I especially love this story for the way it shows Holmes and Watson’s unyielding dedication to unveil the truth, at times with no regard for their personal safety.


The Yellow Face. Initially appearing to be somewhat mundane compared to some of Doyle’s other works, this story shows itself to contain a great deal of depth upon its conclusion. Mysteries tend to highlight the darker side of human nature, and this story is a uplifting exception. A visitor arrives at Baker Street one morning seeking the detective’s help to discover a secret his wife is keeping from him. Mr. Munro swears by a happy and trusting relationship with his wife, Effie, until her peculiar behavior beginning a few months earlier. Without preface or reason, she asked her husband for one thousand pounds, then began secretly sneaking off to a nearby cottage in Norbury. Despite his wife’s insistence that he not speculate about her actions, Munro surveyed the house and saw a mysterious figure with a yellow face, and promptly decided to consult Sherlock to discover the truth. This story is singular in that it highlights a rare folly on Holmes’ part, and strikes a strong contrast to the typical nefarious acts carried out in Doyle’s other mysteries.


The Reigate Squires. This story begins, yet again, with Holmes and Watson taking a vacation from their investigative work, as Holmes has fallen ill after a particularly strenuous case. Rest continues to evade him, however, as a string of robberies in the area is brought to his attention. The first burglary was puzzling in that the thieves stole a number of items, but none of them were of any value. The second, however, resulted in the murder of the estate’s coachman, who was found with a torn note in his hand. Amidst the mystery, Holmes finds opportunities to use his illness to his advantage in order to discover the truth. This story in singular in that it highlights Sherlock’s cunning, and sometimes duplicitous, methods. The reader is reminded that the detective has a keen understanding of both crime and deceit.


The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton. Charles Augustus Milverton is a notorious blackmailer, and regarded by Sherlock as the most repulsive type of criminal. Presently, he and Watson are forced to meet with Milverton on behalf of a client currently at his mercy. The client, Lady Eva Blackwell, is hoping to buy compromising letters from Milverton that, if released, would scandalize and end her engagement to the Earl of Dovercourt. Upon meeting with Charles to negotiate a price for his silence, the duo finds Milverton to be uncooperative, and must result to alternative means to protect their client. As an independent consultant, Holmes is ruled more by his own morals than any legal obligations. As such, this story highlights the moral gray areas that exist in the detective’s business and provides an interesting glimpse into the sometimes criminal acts of the two men.


The Speckled Band. This story is widely-acclaimed, with Doyle himself claiming it to be his best work. It begins with Helen Stoner consulting Holmes and Watson because she fears that her stepfather is trying to kill her. Helen explains that Dr. Roylott was the widowed husband of her mother, and was known to be a violent man, having already served time for murder. Two years earlier, shortly before being married, Helen’s twin sister died, her last words being, “The speckled band!” Now, Helen has been the observer of many strange occurrences within her home, and has recently been relocated into the room where her sister died under the pretense of construction. This work is a classic locked room mystery and provides perhaps the best example of the way in which Doyle’s works forever altered the genre as a whole.



The Red-Headed League. Last, but certainly not least, is the baffling and entertaining mystery of the red-headed league. As the title suggests, the detective meets a client with shocking red hair and a perplexing story. The client, Wilson, explains that his assistant had previously urged him to respond to a newspaper ad offering high wages for employees with bright red hair. Taking this advice, Wilson attends an interview and is hired on the spot, as the other applicants had hair that was either too light or too dark, according to the interviewers. His “job” with the league entailed going to their office during the week and copying pages of the encyclopedia, a menial task which Wilson happily completed for high wages. A few weeks later, however, Wilson arrived to find a note announcing the disbanding of the league, and was unable to learn more. This story is amusing and singular in its plot, but the conclusion reveals itself to be far more sinister than it seems at a glance.

Edward’s Most Anticipated Sci-fi & Fantasy Reads of Fall 2020

Times might be strange right now, but the book publishing industry is still bringing forth promising reads. While the current moment likely has your TBR pile stacked to the ceiling, I say half the fun of being an avid reader is looking for future books to salivate over. With that in mind, and just needing a break for the stress of life moment-to-moment right now, I’ve curated a list of five science fiction and fantasy books that are forthcoming in the fall of 2020.


Beowulf: A New Translation, by Maria Dahvana Headley (08.25.20)

While August might not technically be the fall, that does not make me any less excited for this book! Maria Dahvana Headley is the author of The Were Wife, a modern retelling of Beowulf from the perspective of Grendel’s mother; and this new translation seems like it will be equally tantalizing. This translation is said to have an eye gear toward gender, genre, and history, and I can’t wait to revisit this classic tale through the scope of the twenty-first century!


Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke (09.15.20)

It is hard to believe that it has been sixteen years since Susanna Clarke’s debut novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was published! That book has remained in my heart since the first time I read it all those years ago, and is one that I go back to often. So, maybe I am being dramatic, but I feel like I have waited my whole adult life for Susanna Clarke to publish another novel. While Piranesi is said to be much shorter than Clarke’s debut, it does not sound any less enchanting. It is a tale of a man who lives in an endless magical house that contains countless corridors, an infinite amount of statues, and even an entire ocean, and is about a newfound truth turning his reality upside down.


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab (10.06.20)

Versatile author extraordinaire V.E. Schwab will be back this fall with her new adult fantasy book. The story is said to be about a young woman who trades immorality for being forgotten by everyone she meets. The young woman carries on this way for over three hundred years, until one day, a man remembers her name. I have never read anything by Schwab that did not have me instantly hooked, and this book does not sound any different.


The Conductors, by Nicole Glover (11.03.20)

Author Nicole Glover’s debut novel, from JJA Books, is about a magic wielding African-American couple in post-Civil War Philadelphia who use their powers to investigate a murder that the police won’t touch. Said to be a mash-up of The Dresden Files and Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred, this book combines elements of traditional fantasy, mystery, and history. I can’t wait to get my hands on it, as it combines some of my favorite things, and because the narrative sounds so exciting and fresh!  


The Rhythm of War, by Brandon Sanderson (11.17.20)

What would a list of forthcoming science fiction and fantasy novels be without the genre’s darling, Brandon Sanderson? The uber-successful author will be publishing the fourth installment of The Stormlight Archive this fall. Coming in at over one thousand pages, this book should keep readers busy, at least for a few hours. It is said to pick up with the human resistance taking on the enemy, only to find that the situation is a stalemate. From there, the war with the enemy develops into an arms race that begins to unveil secrets of the past. Sanderson can almost do no wrong, and I am sure that this book is going to be fantastic! 

4 Books to Help you Spring into the New Season

As the weather gets warmer and the flowers start to bloom, it’s the perfect time to pick up a new book. Whether you’re taking a break from spring cleaning or looking for an excuse to sit on the porch and relax, I’ve compiled a list of books sure to keep you occupied on a nice, spring afternoon.


Safe HavenNicholas Sparks. This is a great novel to begin with, but it is especially great for spring, a season of fresh starts. It follows Katie Feldman as she flees to the coast of North Carolina to start over. She attempts to lay low and keep to herself, but is won over by a local named Alex, who was recently widowed. As Katie grows closer to him and his two kids, she finally starts to feel a sense of belonging—until one day, when her past comes back to haunt her. Eventually, she has to decide between facing it or running away for the rest of her life. Throughout the novel, the reader is given small hints at what Katie’s past entails, which heightens some of the drama. This novel perfectly blends mystery and suspense with a heartfelt romance. It is sure to keep you on your toes and warm your heart at the same time.


The Spectacular NowTim Tharp. What kind of spring book list would it be without a blossoming romance? This novel is exactly that, and it is fantastic. The Spectacular Now follows the story of Sutter and Aimee, polar opposites with seemingly nothing in common. One morning, Sutter wakes up on someone’s front lawn and Aimee finds him. After learning a bit about her and her lifestyle, Sutter takes it upon himself to show her the “fun” side of life. But, what he doesn’t realize is how harmful his way of life is, as he drags her down with him. This novel takes place during a transitional time in life, making it perfect as we transition into spring. It is a bit on the heavier side, but will definitely keep you occupied—it’s a page turner! So, clear your afternoon and get ready for the roller coaster that is The Spectacular Now.


Always Never Yours Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka. This novel is great for fans of YA fiction. It’s lighthearted and a bit corny—but in the best way. And, let’s be honest, we all could use a bit of that sometimes. It follows the story of Megan Harper, who dates someone until she finds them falling in love—with someone else. She doesn’t let this get her down though, and focuses on the next fling as well as getting into her dream school. To do so, she has to fulfill an acting requirement, which consequently lands her the lead in her school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Through this, she expects to find her next “thing” but ends up making an unlikely friend, who may end up being the one for her and not someone else. This novel is refreshing and sweet, making it the perfect light read for a nice spring day.


Dear Evan Hansen Val Emmich. Winter can be a tough season mentally, so as we transition out of it, a book around mental health can be a great addition to the process. Adapted from the musical, the novel follows Evan Hansen as he attempts to navigate the world. He starts his senior year of high school with a broken arm after falling out of a tree. On that same day, Connor Murphy, his classmate, commits suicide. Evan gets tied into the situation when Connor’s parents find what they believe is a suicide letter from their son addressed to Evan Hansen, leading the Murphy parents to believe Evan was their son’s only friend. In reality, the two were never friends—and the letter wasn’t actually Connor’s. It was a letter Evan wrote as an assignment from his therapist that Connor had stolen earlier that day. Afraid to upset Connor’s parents further, Evan goes with it and the lie spirals from there. He is forced to face the truth of the situation and about himself. This novel is definitely on the heavier side but a great staple for the transition of seasons. It is sure to keep you busy for the whole day and hopefully bring you some warmth as spring approaches.

Pranksters on the Page: A Look at Literary Troublemakers

April Fools’ Day: that first day of April when numerous people, from the smallest kindergartner to the largest corporations, try to put one over on each other. Today, pranks include Swiss farmers announcing a record “spaghetti crop,” Taco Bell buying Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell,” and Burger King’s “left handed Whopper” making its way onto the menu.  

You may be surprised, however, to discover that April Fools’ Day has a long and historic past. One popular theory states that its roots could very well go back as far as 1582 when France switched calendars. Those who did not realize the new year had changed to January 1st, and who continued to celebrate at the end of March/beginning of April, became the victims of hoaxes and pranks. The befuddled revelers got a paper fish placed on their backs and were referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish) which signified gullibility. 

So, in honor of this fun, albeit confusing “holiday,” I give you four (to coincide with the month’s number, of course) literary legends of the prank.


The Weasley Twins – J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Fred and George Weasley get high marks as jokesters at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With aging potions gone wrong, pinching the Marauder’s Map, and identity switching just to confuse their poor mother Molly, the fiery headed brothers never fail to delight us with their shenanigans. Eventually they take their tricks outside the classroom with their very own novelty joke shop. The name? “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes”—we love a good alliteration!


Chip “The Colonel” Martin – John Green’s Looking for Alaska. At another boarding school thousand of miles away, Chip “The Colonel” Martin brings his friends along on his prank parade while deceiving the strict headmaster, “The Eagle.” Providing some much needed levity in a rather heavy novel, “The Colonel” spends his time trying to buck the school’s rigid rules. Defying “The Eagle” by spending a night in the woods just to get a school’s bully to dye his own hair blue? Now that is commitment.


Puck – William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Jester, fairy, sprite—whatever name you choose to call him, William Shakespeare’s Puck from A Midsummer’s Night Dream is the quintessential prankster. On a mission to collect a love potion flower, Puck creates chaos for those around him by bewitching the wrong lovers, and turning Bottom’s head into an ass. While his antics do vex those around him, he eventually rights his wrongs, and Shakespeare’s play ends on a happy note (for a change).


Loki – Norse Mythology. Without a doubt our most powerful and ambiguous trickster on the list, Loki from Norse mythology, has the power to wreak havoc in some serious ways. Nihilistic and playful, he can change shape, and sex, which he often used to trick his fellow gods. Having been known to act without regard for others, Loki masterminds the death of beloved god, Baldr, inciting the gods to tie him to a rock while a serpent drips venom on him. Far worse than being charged with underage magic or detention! Loki’s power to beguile and confuse astounds most scholars who debate the reason for his existence at all. 


Now that you have some literary inspiration, go pay tribute to these tricksters by planning to wreak a little (safe) havoc of your own this upcoming April Fools’ Day!