Rediscovering My Love of Reading | A Lesson in Patience

Ah. Reading. The word itself is like a breath of fresh air.

A lot of my recent posts have been very “book” heavy. Whether it’s gushing about my favorite author, binging Booktube videos (mainly Ariel Bissett, if I’m being honest), or scrolling endlessly through Barnes and Noble, I feel like I’m constantly surrounding myself with books or book-related things every day.

You would think as someone who studied English literature that I would be doing this all of the time, but oh no.

As much as I love reading and discovering stories, both old and new, my time at college REALLY burnt me out. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all of my classes, but the overwhelming workload and constant anxiety to finish each book for each class was not the best for my mental health.

Now, I could go on about the faults in my academic experience, but that’s for another time.

In short, I associated reading with a chore and work rather than a luxurious past time. Because of this, I would typically end up falling asleep while reading or just not picking up a book up in general.

However, rather than consistently forcing myself to try and read again and again, I decided to save myself from the headache and take a break. I took a few months to destress, play some video games, and just be kinder to myself because I was beating myself up over not reading (of all things) so badly.

Dumb, I know.

But, alas! My itch to grab a book off of my shelves has finally resurrected!

Now, I can’t keep my nose out of the pages, and I’m actually enjoying myself in the process! Who knew time and patience was all I needed?

Currently, I’m in the middle of Dante’s Inferno, and I just started Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (which I am already loving).

I use to put a lot of pressure on myself to finish a lot of books, but sometimes that’s just unrealistic for me. I don’t know exactly where this panic of having to read a lot came from, but no matter where it developed (probably college), I’m ready to break that habit because, honestly, it’s stupid.

Why am I rushing to get all of these books read when I have an entire lifetime to do so?

In that moment, when I asked myself this question, a very important lesson about patience and time seemed to hit me in the face. I realized that I had developed a false sense of “time” and how much we truly have in a lifetime.

(Well, technically “time” is a social construct, but we’ll keep up the positive vibes for now.)

Perhaps it’s my persistent anxiety, but I always seem to feel as if I don’t have enough time to do anything, whether that’s reading a book or cleaning the house. I always seem to avoid activities that require quite a bit of time (commitment issues much?), but that ends today!

From now on, I’m going to try my best and not think about time so much. Of course, it’s pretty difficult to do that with the continuous reminder of death during this pandemic in the US, but, at the end of the day, all you can do is try.

So, with my rekindled love of reading, I’m ready to escape from the crumbling country around us into an infinite amount of worlds locked away on my bookshelves.

It’s time to stop hassling myself over not finishing unrealistic expectations and freaking out about the limit of time, and to start having some damn patience!

I hope everyone is doing well in these tough times, and remember: STAY HOME

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!

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!