Bahnreads Overseas: Literary Sights

I recently traveled from the West Coast overseas to London, Dublin, and Italy. I already blogged about my favorite bookshops I found while traveling. I also visited and/or discovered a few literature-related spots, some of them by accident because I am not as good at planning as I like to pretend. Read on for my favorite literary sites that we visited.

The Jane Austen Centre (Bath, England)

Is it touristy? Yes. Is it gimmicky? Yes. Is it a ton of fun? ALSO YES.

What first struck me at the Jane Austen Centre was the sincere enthusiasm of everyone who worked there. The young woman calling herself Louisa Musgrove gave a practiced monologue on Jane Austen’s family, but she made it interesting enough and got some laughs, and she handed us off to Lady Catherine De Burg who told us about the different portraits of Jane Austen and the arguments over their authenticity. Everyone else we interacted with, whether it was the costumed gentlemen at the door or the cashier in the gift shop seemed knowledgeable and honestly glad to be there.

The Centre itself was full of both contemporary Austen artifacts and reproduced versions. Besides the information displays and museum exhibits, there were some interactive areas where you could try on costumes, practice writing with a quill, and play contemporary tabletop games.

Check out my photos below for some examples of the displays and costumes.

 

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The Book of Kells and Long Library Exhibit (Trinity College, Dublin)

On our first full day in Dublin, we took a tram (because Trams Are Best) to the Trinity College campus. First of all, gorgeous campus, what is this, ridiculous, so beautiful. Second of all, they have the Book of Kells at their library so we visited that. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take pictures of the old books in the exhibit. But trust me when I tell you, WOW ILLUMINATED BOOKS, THEY ARE GORGEOUS AND BEST. The level of detail and the bright colors and gold were incredible. The pages we saw were the genealogy of Jesus and a section from the Gospel of John. You can see some official photos here.

We were able to see the Long Room in the same library building. It’s the perfect library aesthetic with a longgggggg room (imagine that) with fabulous-looking arches, as well as a bust or fifty of famous writers. You can check out my photos below.

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Via Dante Alighieri (Florence, Italy)

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There are quite a few Dante-related sites in Florence, Italy, which you can read about here on Walkabout. Our time was very limited there, although we did, of course, see the Duomo. I spotted this street named after Dante and snapped a photo. It’s really fun going to cities where these famous writers lived and worked, and imagine them as they were.

 

Jonathan Swift’s tomb (St. Patrick’s Cathedral)

While in Dublin we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I had no idea that Jonathan Swift’s tomb was there! I really need to brush up on my author history because Jonathan Swift was Dean there for 32 years. If you visit the Cathedral, which is beautiful in its own right, you can see artifacts such as Swift’s pulpit. Swift wrote his own epitaph, because of course he did. The epitaph marks Swift’s grave and is in Latin, but the translation is:

Here lies the body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity and Dean of this Cathedral,
Where savage indignation can no longer lacerate his heart;
Go traveller and imitate if you can, this dedicated and earnest champion of liberty
He died on the 19th October 1745, aged 78 years

Check out my photos below.

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Overall I had an amazing time exploring, especially when we found places and sites we didn’t always know were there.

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It’s Music You Can Read 2

Previously on It’s Music You Can Read To I recommended 5 music albums for listening to while reading.

I’m back with more reading music ideas!  As I said on the first installment, I’m not a musical expert in any way, so I chose these based on 1. my level of enjoyment while listening and 2. its ability to float in the background without demanding center stage of my attention.

X-Men: First Class score by Henry Jackman

What I like about this soundtrack, besides that all of it is really good, is that there are a lot of different Moods and they’re all really intense. You have the triumphant “First Class” theme, along with the pensive and sad “Would You Date Me?,” the chilling “Frankenstein’s Monster,” and the resigned “Mutant and Proud.”

Pair it with: something with a lot of Feels like Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis.

Panic by Caravan Palace

And now for something completely different! Caravan Palace is a French electro-swing band. I don’t know anything about French electro-swing, but I do love this band. They do have a varying degree of vocals in their songs, especially their newer album, so Panic (2012) is my favorite. Here is one of their tracks if you want to check them out.

Pair it with: a steampunk adventure like Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The Phantom Menace score by John Williams

This is one of my favorite Star Wars soundtracks. Don’t @ me.

Like all things Star Wars, there are multiple editions so I’m referencing the “Ultimate Edition.”

Besides the epic-but-overplayed “Duel of the Fates,” there are few tracks I especially love, including the eery “Swimming to Otoh Gunga,” pretty much any of the Trade Federation battle songs like “Activate the Droids,” and the surprisingly happy Tatooine tracks like “Anakin, Podracer Mechanic.” There’s a lot of variety in this score, making it easy to put on repeat while I’m reading.

Pair it with: an interesting biography like Alexander of Macedon by Peter Green (you didn’t really think you’d get through this without some Alex, did you?).

The Best of Chopin

Frédéric Chopin is pretty obscure so you probably haven’t heard of him. If I want some soothing piano background music, Chopin’s definitely one of my top three choices (spoilers the other two choices involve Nobuo Uematsu).

Pair it with: a volume of 19th c. poetry, Christina Rossetti perhaps?

Last Exile score by Dolce Triade

How much I love this score definitely has nothing to do with how much I love the anime of the same name. I don’t know what you’re talking about. But seriously, this score has a plethora of trumpet fanfares (“Silverna”), suspenseful battle music like “Naval Affair” and quirky flutes like in “Brave Willing.” Plus “Cloud Age Symphony” is just a lot of fun.

Pair it with: an alternate history like Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

 

Until next time on It’s Music You Can Read To!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Character Names

I saw that this was the prompt for this week and I HAD TO DO IT. One thing I noticed while putting together this list is that often the best names in books, from a functional standpoint, are the most simple; a long, beautiful name can be distracting and/or hard to pronounce. But on the other hand, those long beautiful names can be so fun!

Here are my top 10 favorite character names (from books):

 

  1. Misty of Chincoteague. As a kid one of the first proper names I ran to figure out how to pronounce was Chincoteague. I still love saying it and reading it. Plus, the horse is called Misty. This just a genius combination and I don’t care if you disagree, you are wrong.
  2. Betsy-Tacy. Besty and Tacy are such epic BFFs that they go by a single name, and I love it.
  3. Rodian Romanovitch Raskolnikov. I mean, if you’re going to have a moral breakdown and murder an old lady with an ax, you might as well have as epic a name as possible.
  4.  Kamala Khan. It really rolls off the tongue and can sound both cute and badass (which is impressive, just like Kamala).
  5. Fai D. Flowright. It’s ridiculous and flowery, just like Fai. But appearances can be deceiving!
  6. Tristen Conn. Elizabeth Bear is the one of the best at beautiful and usable character names.
  7. Jane Fairfax. I love all Jane Austen names equally but Jane Fairfax is my favorite.
  8. Atomic Robo. I sometimes enjoy names that teach you about the character’s key physical traits. Plus Atomic Robo is simply fun to say.
  9. Newland Archer. Nobody does illustrative names like 19th century authors. Edith Wharton’s are more fun than, say, Thomas Hardy’s or Henry James.
  10. Winnie-the-Pooh. There is no reason on God’s green earth that a name like “Winnie-the-Pooh” should work, and yet it does.

 

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. What are your top 10 book character names?

 

Bahnreads Overseas: My Favorite Bookshops

It’s good to be blogging again! I returned a few days ago from a long trip overseas, with stops in London, Dublin, Rome, Venice, and Florence (with a tiny stop in Keflavik). While I didn’t do any sort of comprehensive tour of libraries or bookshops, I did my best to visit and explore them when I could. In this post I’m going to share my favorite bookshops I found while traveling. In a later post, I will share about other literature-related places I visited, including a certain fantastic library.

London

IMG_7828Okay, it’s not technically a bookstore, but the Globe Theater gift shop sells a lot of books by William Shakespeare. The theater is a reconstruction of the Globe Theater that Shakespeare worked in and wrote his plays for. We were able to do a tour as well as see a show. I highly recommend the experience! As far as books are concerned, the gift shop sells many different editions of the plays and sonnets, including big fancy folio-like reproductions.

I also managed to visit Forbidden Planet, which has been on my list for a while. If you like science fiction or fantasy, this is a magical place. The ground floor is entirely non-book nerd gear: toys, games, shirts, etc, from alllll the franchises. The Star Wars wall was really delicious. The basement floor is all books! They had many signed editions, along with a fantastic selection. Yay Forbidden Planet!

Dublin

Manor Books Limited in Malahide (just outside Dublin) was a fun little shop. They had a lot of Ireland-related books and books by Irish authors. What I love about independent bookstores is that I discover books I would never otherwise know the existence of. I bought a book here titled How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of The Crossroads (by Daniel Cassidy). I haven’t read it yet, but our tour guide at Malahide Castle mentioned quite a few common expressions that supposedly came from Ireland, so I’m very intrigued!

The Winding Stair Bookshop was one of my favorite finds on the trip. It’s pretty small, but very carefully curated to include both new books and used, with an emphasis on feminist books and Irish authors. I found a tiny little book titled A Little History of Dragons by Joyce Hargreaves, but there were a bunch of other books I wanted to carry off with me.  It’s also right next door to The Winding Stair restaurant.

I went into at least one branch of the Dubray Books chain. Besides being a decent all-around bookstore, they always had sizeable displays on Irish authors and Ireland-related topics, which, as a tourist, I really appreciated.

Rome

So the thing about Italy is that they speak and read Italian there, and I don’t. We went into a couple of little bookshops but the only place I bought books was actually the Colosseum gift shop, where I found a delightful little book called A Journey to Rome that had beautiful watercolor illustrations paired with quotes from famous literary people who visited Rome. Not to worry: I definitely plan to visit Rome again and next time I will plan my bookshop visits a little better.

Venice

Okay, first of all, Venice is surreally beautiful and probably not even a real place. Second, it contains a bookshop called Alta Acqua that is also probably not real. I have photographs of it and I’m still not sure. They keep many of their books in waterproof flotation devices, whether it be a gondola, a bathtub, or a canoe. I didn’t actually buy any books here, although they did both English and Italian. Enjoy the photos, and visit this place if you can.

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Florence

Right outside the Accademia Gallery (which is awesome, you should go there) is a bookshop called Libreria Gozzini. I definitely only saw like four rooms when I was there, so I was surprised to look it up online and be told there are multiple floors and 23 rooms! We really missed out. However, we did find a few shelves of English books and I found a couple of tiny old copies of Shakespeare plays, one of which I took home with me (Romeo and Juliet). Besides beautiful shelves of books, there were many old prints and drawings, which were fun to look through.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my trip. But being in a strange place can be disorienting, and it’s always very comforting to hang out with books in between eating delicious food and seeing the sights. What are your favorite bookshops you’ve found while traveling?

April 2018 Reading Recap

So I went on a bit of a trip this past month, and so I’m behind on my recaps, blogging, etc. But like…I was kind of busy in London, Dublin, and Italy. I read quite a bit before I left on my trip, though, so without further ado, here’s what I read last month!

Comparatively, I read a lot of Tai Nehisi-Coates. I really enjoy reading him: I don’t always agree with him, but he always makes me think. Also his Black Panther comics are good storytelling!

My favorite reads were by Patricia McKillip and Martha Wells (all fantasy novels, so I’m staying on brand).

Fiction

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip (5/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble by Ursula Vernon (4/5 stars)

And I Darken by Kiersten White (5/5 stars)

The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

The Harbors of the Sun by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

Persuasion by Jane Austen (5/5 stars)

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (4/5 stars)

Graphic Novels/Comics

The Wicked and the Divine: Imperial Phase II by Keiron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (4/5 stars)

Afar by Leila del Luca (4/5 stars)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Who Run the World? Squirrels by Ryan North (5/5 stars)

Poe Dameron: Legend Lost by Charles Soule (3/5 stars)

Ms. Marvel: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson (5/5 stars)

Black Panther and the Crew: We Are the Streets by Tai Nehisi-Coates (4/5 stars)

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet book 2 by Tai Nehisi-Coates (4/5 stars)

Nonfiction

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Tai Nehisi-Coates (4/5 stars)

The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian (4/5 stars)

 

March 2018 Reading Recap

Whew I read a lot this month! And most of it was really amazing. My favorites were Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura series (this was just nominated for a Hugo award, too!), and The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski (my review here). My favorite comics were Joyride, which I’m pumped to read more of, and the Library Wars manga series, which is hilarious but also really resonant. Yikes.

What were your favorite reads this month?

Comics/Graphic Novels

Fruits Basket 16-23 by Natsuki Takaya (5/5 stars)

Library Wars 1-15 by Kiiro Yumi (5/5 stars)

Heart and Brain by Nick Seluk (5/5 stars)

March: Book Three by John Lewis (5/5 stars)

Garbage Night by Jen Lee (2/5 stars)

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown (4/5 stars)

M.F.K. Book One by Nilah Magruder (4/5 stars)

Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates (3/5 stars)

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Who Is Oracle? by Julie Benson (3/5 stars)

Joyride Volume 1 by Jackson Lanzer (5/5 stars)

The Force Awakens by Chuck Wendig (2/5 stars)

Lumberjanes: A Bird’s-Eye View by Shannon Watters (4/5 stars)

The Wicked and The Divine: Imperial Phase 2 by Kieron Gillen (4/5 stars)

Afar by Leila del Duca (4/5 stars)

Poetry

How We Became Human by Joy Harjo (4/5 stars)

Fiction

Opal by Maggie Stiefvater (5/5 stars)

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo (4/5 stars)

The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

The Siren Depths by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip (4/5 stars)

Harriet the Invincible (Hamster Princess) by Ursula Vernon (5/5 stars)

Lost Things by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham (5/5 stars)

Harrowing the Dragon by Patricia McKillip (5/5 stars)

The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien (5/5 stars)

Nonfiction

Castles by Alan Lee (3/5 stars)

The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski (5/5 stars)

 

A Book for the Book Nerds

95979.jpgI recently read a fantastic book detailing the technology of books and bookshelves in the western world called The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski. I recommend reading it if you’re a bookworm or interested in learning about basic things that we take for granted.

The main questions this book answers are: “How and why did we get books in the form they are today? How and why did we get bookshelves in the form they are today?

The Book on the Bookshelf goes through the history of books in the western world, starting with scrolls, tablets, etc and going all the way through 1999 (when it was published), when e-readers were in development. This book is worth it if only for the (sometimes hilarious) speculation and analysis the potential effects of e-readers and e-books. It also goes into how we came to organize the books the way we do, and goes over the different ways of arranging books, which I found fascinating because I am constantly reorganizing my personal library.

However, whether or not you end up reading it, I’m going to share some (BUT NOT ALL) of my favorite facts that I learned from this book:

  • capsae are adorable-looking hat-boxes that one could use to carry one’s scrolls about with them. I want to get some scrolls and then I want to get a capsae and I want to frolic around and whip out my scrolls whenever I need to look up fun facts.

    clark-the_care_of_books-book_box
    Online Source (this image of a capsae is also shown in The Book on the Bookshelf)
  •  Apparently in the 11th century, English Benedictines had really strict rules on using the limited-and-precious books they had. In some monasteries, the librarian would assign ONE book per brother per year to read. At the end of the year, the librarian would gather all the brothers and read off their names and the book they had been assigned. If the brother had NOT read their assigned book, they had to confess their terrible literary sin on their knees to the librarian. I’m not saying we should bring this one back, but….
  • Books were stored in locked chests, but eventually the chests were turned on one end and left open and shelves put in, leading to the first armarium which turned into bookshelves!
  • Monasteries had the biggest collections of books until the Reformation, when they DESTROYED ALL THE MONASTERIES AND BURNED ALL THE BOOKS because no one has any religious chill. The printing press took a while to replace all of those big collections. Boo!
  • Spines were considered ugly for a VERY LONG TIME, like until the 17th/18th centuries. Books were shelved with their spines facing the back, because no one wants to look at that ugly thing. Sometimes librarians used slips of paper sticking out of the pages to mark what book it was, since titles weren’t on the spines and the spines were facing the back.

 

There’s lots more where those came from! I really enjoyed this book, although I’d love to read something similar that looks at book technology around the world. This one didn’t often specify if/what technology we received from or gave to the middle-east, east, etc.