Ending the Fear of Big Books

I don’t know what it is about that 500 page milestone, but there is just something inside of me that immediately repels the idea of starting a big book.

Maybe it’s a feeling of unworthiness, or even a feeling of incompetence, but I seem to steer clear of all big books.

Honestly, I didn’t even think about my fear of big books until I watched Ariel Bissett’s video “trying to end my fear of big books!!!” and it inspired me to finally take on this terrifying challenge.

After watching Ariel’s video, I realized I was missing out on a lot of incredible books and literature all because of that daunting 500 page mark.

I love reading, and I usually romanticize this idea of books never ending and being immersed in a world I love so much, so why would I not want to tackle a longer read?

Perhaps I’m afraid of spending so much time on a story that I may not even enjoy? Or maybe I just have commitment issues (which seems more likely)?

No matter the case, I’m ready to add some big books to my TBR list! So, I present to you a few chunky boys that I plan to get to some time soon.

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

To be honest, I have no idea what this book is about except a whale and a ship? I think? Nevertheless, it’s a classic, and I want to see why this gigantic book is so memorable and held so highly. I’ve heard very mixed reviews regarding the story itself, but I’m trying to go in completely blind to develop my own unbiased review.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

I actually never heard of this until seeing Ariel’s video. Much like myself, Ariel is a huge fan of George Orwell, and this book is apparently based on his novel 1984. I have no idea what it’s about, but I have to read it solely because it’s based on George Orwell’s novel.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

I love France. I love literature. So why would I not include some classic French literature?

This book has been on my TBR FOREVER, and I just need to read it already. One of my classmates in college talked about how this was his favorite book and how awesome it was, so he definitely solidified Dumas’ classic text on my TBR.

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Yet another classic that has been on my TBR for a long time, but I have been too intimidated to pick it up. Not only am I intimidated by the size, but I also have no idea which translation to read. To be honest, I’ll probably just pick up the book with the nicest cover, but I’m also terrified to pick up a bad translation because I don’t want to dislike a story because the translation is poor, you know?

If you have a favorite translation, or know of a really good translation, let me know! I would greatly appreciate it 🙂

11/22/63 – Stephen King

Ah. Stephen King. A man I can trust.

I’ve already seen the Hulu adaptation of this book and I was addicted to it. Part of my addiction was obviously seeing James Franco dressed like a 1960’s heartthrob for hours, but I was also so engaged with the story and the concept. So even though I may have spoiled myself for the ending, I still want to read it simply because I loved the show. Plus, Stephen King is an incredible writer, so I hope his writing will help ease me into big book territory since I know (hopefully) that it will be enjoyable.

I also added King’s 11/22/63 to my blog post “15 Books I Want To Read In 2020“, so this particular book will definitely become one of my top priority reads.

I hope you plan on joining me (and Ariel, of course) in breaking down the stigma of big books being completely petrifying! Let us immerse ourselves into brand new worlds, and experience stories we have always been too afraid to dive into.

Honestly, I’m mainly excited to finally understand these big book references! How cool will that be!?

Finding Good Things In Bad Times and Gushing Over Dante Alighieri

I don’t know if it’s the abundance of Vitamin D, the depletion of my seasonal depression, or my inner introvert thriving during this self-isolation, but I have been feeling pretty damn good lately.

Minus the constant anxiety of a rapidly growing pandemic, of course.

Since this time can be very stressful and panic-inducing, I’ve been trying hard to stay physically and mentally busy.

Physically, I’ve been cleaning and rearranging the hell out of my apartment.

After working 48 hours a week while having a major depressive episode, it was safe to say that my apartment was absolutely disgusting. The dishes piled in the sink looked like a picture out of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, and there was enough dog hair to make at least one wig. And don’t even get me started on the amount of dirty laundry scattered in every nook and cranny.

In short, it was horrible.

So, I took all of this new free time to finally finish chores, as well as move around some furniture and organize a bunch of clutter that I’ve been putting off since we moved in at the end of November.

Nothing feels better than a clean house.

Well, it’s next to taking your socks off at the end of the day. That shit hits hard.

But I digress.

Mentally, I’m happy to say that I am ridden of both my reading and writing blocks!

It all began when I picked up Dante’s Inferno to reread for the third time, and now I can’t get enough of it. I’m currently reading the Robert Durling translation that I used for my Dante class a year ago, and I’m completely enveloped in Dante’s fictitious world.

I find myself incessantly highlighting and making notes on every page. While I was taking the course, I never really dedicated the time to fully analyze everything this divine epic has to offer because I was trying to also get assignments and readings done for my other classes. But even when speed reading it, I still loved it, and it became one of my all time favorites.

Now that I have the chance to interact with Dante’s Inferno intimately, it’s almost become a part of me, as cheesy as that is to write out (it physically pains me to, tbh).

By following Dante along his journey of self-loss, as well as literally facing his demons and enemies in Hell, he invokes the reader to follow and learn from his metaphorical journey.

And trust me, there is PLENTY to learn from Dante Alighieri. Rereading wise, I’m only on Canto 9 (and I’m already gushing about it this much), but the amount of wisdom within each canto is abundant, for sure.

This poem sparked a new found inspiration that was apparently buried deep down. Now, all I want to do is write, read, and ponder these philosophical questions of morality and humanism. Hopefully I’ll be able to practice my essay writing skills and bust out a few discussions on Dante’s truly divine epic.

Even though I have to go back to work in a week, (apparently liquor stores are essential in a pandemic?), I’m going to try and enjoy my small amount of free time as much as I can.

Much like every other person online, I’m going to try and make more content for everyone to enjoy during these isolating and scary times. I hope you all are staying safe, staying hopeful and staying home!

Thank you for coming to my Dante TedTalk and allowing me to gush about literature. It makes my bookworm heart very happy!

Learning to Love the Process | The Writing Diaries

As the great Maya Angelou once said, “If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

I’ve been really hard on myself lately. Whether it’s trying to write a blog post, painting something, or even cleaning the house, nothing ever seems to satisfy me.

And instead of working on improving the faults in my skills, I end up telling myself that I’m not good enough.

It’s almost as if I have an angel and a demon on both of my shoulders all of the time, like in cartoons, but they’re duking it out in my head.

In short, my mental health has been kicking my ass lately.

Trying to navigate the writing world has made me feel undeserving, even though I know I have the skills to do so. But instead of pushing through, I binged Youtube videos as a terrible form of therapy.

I found myself searching through dozens of articles with get rich quick schemes, and even trying to emulate other successful blogs, but that’s just not reality, baby.

Basically, I need to start being kinder to myself and let time do its thing. The only way you can improve your writing is, you guessed it, to write. There’s not a formula to improve your writing immediately. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out how you write and what you enjoy writing about.

Looking back on it, I now realize how much I romanticized the idea of blogging. I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. I love writing about things that I like, so how hard could this be?

Now, I realize any form of writing is tough, whether it’s a college essay or an article about different brands of dog food. It all takes time and momentum.

I think I’ve finally had one too many terrible phone interviews to finally gain the momentum to write every day, and be proud of what I wrote. Whether it’s a blog post, a short story, or a few sentences about my dogs, I just want to write like it’s the last time I’ll ever write again.

For the past few days, I haven’t been able to write anything. Every idea of mine was thrown into the trash. The idea was there, but the execution fell way flat.

As a writer, you have to learn to adapt. Before this blog, all I ever wrote were school essays and a short story or poem here and there. So trying to find my own voice as a writer has been quite the journey for me.

I was so used to having a certain writing format that I lost my own writing voice. To be honest, I think most, if not all, writers go through this process. And boy, is it painful.

Finding your voice as a writer also means finding out who you are, such as what you like, what you don’t like, etc. Sometimes that can be a grueling process.

Becoming more conscious of yourself can be a scary and vulnerable thing, but the outcome is well worth it. Granted, I’m still trucking along on this self-discover journey, but I’m learning to love the process.

Change doesn’t happen over night (oh, how I wish it did), and I’m starting to become okay with that. I always thought I was somehow going to become an overnight writing success, but like everything else, it takes time to grow.

Practice makes perfect, so I’ll keep on writing until my hands give out. Some days are harder than others, but there’s always tomorrow.

One day, I hope I can look back at this post and say that I’ve made myself proud. It’s all about putting that shit out into the universe!

Here’s to being kind to yourself and pushing through even the toughest of times.

15 Books I Want To Read In 2020

Oh, the places we’ll go.

Now.. I know what you’re thinking…

“Zoe, it’s the end of February. It’s a little late for this, don’t you think?”

To answer: Yes, I know we’re already two months into 2020, but my seasonal depression is just now starting to wear off. So, as they say, there’s no better time like the present!

Ever since graduating in December, I haven’t really read much of anything. After spending almost two years consecutively binge-reading books assigned by my professors, I decided I deserved a well-deserved break from reading.

However, that break has lasted two months, and I’m ready to start finally reading some books again!

So, without further ado, I present a list of 20 reads and re-reads that I want to get to in the 2020 year.

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Re-Reads

To begin, I thought I’d share which books I want to re-read. These re-reads mainly consist of classic literature that were previously assigned for my classes, as well as some old favorites.

1. The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

Even though The Divine Comedy technically consists of 3 epic poems (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), but when combined, they truly stand as one cohesive narrative and story. Plus, since they’re poems, they’re pretty quick reads.

After taking the best Dante course in college (shoutout to Dr. Reid), I completely fell in love with Dante and his incredible story of literally dragging himself out of his own hell and finding acceptance and love within himself.

Since our class was assigned to read The Divine Comedy twice, this will be my 3rd re-read of this epic poem. Every time I read it, I feel like I’m taking a new journey and still finding things buried within Dante’s masterpiece, and I’m really excited to see what I discover this next time around!

2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles was the first Victorian classic, and perhaps the first classic ever, that I read. This novel really paved the way for my love of Victorian literature, such as the Brontë’s and the infamous Jane Austen, as well as my entire literature endeavors.

Of course, I’ve always loved reading ever since I first learned how to read, but as my life started getting busier with cheerleading practices and jobs in high school, I didn’t have as much time to read. I first went to college thinking I was going to be a veterianarian, but complicated chemistry classes and THIS BOOK helped me decide to change my entire future.

Because Hardy’s book holds a sentimental value close to my heart, I’m really excited to pick it up again and see if it still holds up!

3. Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James

I’m sure everyone will judge me for this re-read, but hear me out.

There’s obviously a lot of controversy surrounding this series, but I completely fell in love with it when I first read it. I’m still a pretty big Fifty Shades stan (I’ve watched all of the movies too many times to count), but I’ve only read the books once. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED these books, but I am interested to see if I’ll still be rave about them the way that I do.

James’ book is sentimental to me much like the way Twilight is. A guilty pleasure, if you will. It is also how I found out about Tess of the D’Urbervilles in the first place, as well as the publishing world. So, even if I don’t end up liking it, I can still thank the Fifty Shades series for helping me find my love of literature.

4. Paradise Lost – John Milton

Honestly, I’m only putting this on here to try and hold myself accountable for re-reading this soon.

I was lucky enough to have an amazing professor that assigned and taught our class Milton’s entire epic poem recalling The Fall of Satan, as well as Adam and Eve.

However, with 18 credit hours and tasked to help organize and campaign for the 2018 Milton Marathon, I didn’t exactly have the time to “fully grasp” (aka not finish) the entirety of this poem.

Basically, I want to re-read it just so I can say that I read it all.

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New Reads

Now here’s a list of books I’ve been dying to get to, but keep pushing them to the side.

5. Various Plays – William Shakespeare

I’m a hoe for Shakespeare. Let’s just get that out now.

My first college English course was Shakespeare, and I was literally obsessed with anything Shakespeare for months (especially Richard III). To be honest, I miss that feeling.

In all honesty, I would love to finish all of his plays by the end of the year, but let’s just say “various” in case that doesn’t happen so I can feel better about myself.

6. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

I actually start this novel a few weeks ago and just never picked it back up.

Even though this is one of the most famous Victorian classics, I have no idea what it is about, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I have a feeling this one will be another favorite!

7. 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Yet another book I started a few weeks ago and sadly put down (are you seeing the pattern yet?).

I have yet to read a Stephen King book, and I refuse to stay that way this year. I’ve definitely spoiled myself by already finishing the Hulu series adaptation of this novel, but I couldn’t stop myself from watching it. James Franco in the 1960’s? Yes, please.

I’ve only finished one chapter of this so far, and I’m already enjoying it so much. I know when I pick it up again, I’m not going to be able to put it down. But who ever complained about that?

8. Astrophil and Stella – Sir Philip Sidney

Another classic set of poems that I have yet to dive into. As a lover of complex and difficult romantic relationships, I’m really excited to get into this juicy love affair.

Other than the love affair, I’m not very familiar with what Astrophil and Stella is about, but it’s just one of those classics that you know is incredible.

9. Doctor Faustus – Christopher Marlow

Fun Fact: I thoroughly enjoy exploring adaptations of Satan. No, I’m not satanic.

But I do love when writers create “Satan” figures that are deep, complex, and resonate a lot with what it means to be human, evil, etc.

I could go on forever about my research on Satan as a fictional character, but we’ll save that for another time.

10. Various Poems and Prose – John Milton

Somehow, I took a 3 month course all about John Milton and his works, yet I feel like I’ve only begun to crack open the interesting character that is Mr. Milton.

As I stated earlier, I would like to try to get a re-read in of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but I’d also like to explore his work even more. This man took 6 years off to “study” (basically reading a lot), so he must have quite a lot of influences.

Milton always stated he was destined for greatness, so let’s see what his other works are all about.

11. City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare

Again, ANOTHER book I put down and never picked up. Why do I do this to myself?

My friend Matthew swears by The Mortal Instruments series, and, apparently, so does the majority of the BookTube community.

I know a lot people read these growing up, much like Harry Potter, but I guess I was too infatuated with Edward Cullen at that time to really broaden my horizons.

I flew through City of Bones, so I’m sure I’ll finish City of Ashes super quick once I finally pick it back up again.

12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

Again, I know what you’re thinking.

“Zoe, shouldn’t this be in your re-read section? Everyone has read the Harry Potter series.”

Wrong.

I wasn’t interested in anything Harry Potter until around 2016. Of course, I’ve watched all the movies now, and I’ve even been to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando a couple of times. However, I’ve never read the books.

I do remember “reading” through the first book a few years ago, but I can hardly remember anything about it. So, here’s to a thorough read through.

13. Various Poems – John Donne

I’ve always heard John Donne being compared to Fifty Shades and other erotic ideas, and I’m honestly here for it. Surprisingly enough, I’ve never read any of his poems, even though I love Fifty Shades.

I have no idea what to expect, but I’m ready for the raunch.

14. Wilder Girls – Rory Power

I remember when this book came out last year, and everyone created all this hype around it. I always tried to start it, but classes and family kept getting in the way.

Apparently, Wilder Girls has a similar premise to Lord of the Flies, which I still haven’t read, but I believe it has something to do with being stranded/quarantined. I’ve also heard there’s body horror in this book, which really isn’t my thing, but I want to be invested in the hype, if there is any hype to be had.

15. Animal Farm – George Orwell

George Orwell’s 1984 completely changed my life. Naturally, I’m ready to pick up more of his works as fast as I can.

I love how Orwell tackles the issues of social classes and inequality, so I’m super pumped to finally get to another one of his well-known works. From what I’ve heard about Animal Farm, it seems like it might compete with my love for 1984.

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And the list goes on

To be quite frank, I originally planned on making this post 20 books instead of 15, but I didn’t realize how little my TBR truly is (at the moment, anyway). However, as we all know, the TBR list is constantly evolving and basically endless. There are always books, both old and new, that are always popping up on my radar.

Will I get to all of these books? Probably not.

Would I like to try to get to all of them? Hell yeah!

Apparently, this year seems to be a catch-up on all of the classics I have yet to read, as well as a few modern books here and there. I hope you found some new books, poems, or plays from this list to add to your own 2020 TBR!