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Benefits of Being a Nerd

This is a place for books and other awesome things.

Currently reading

Great Mythologies of the World
Professor Robert André LaFleur, Professor Kathryn McClymond, Professor Julius H. Bailey, Professor Grant L. Voth, The Great Courses, The Great Courses
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Herman Melville, Andrew Delbanco, Tom Quirk
Progress: 135/509 pages
"Scars are the paler pain of survival, received unwillingly and displayed in the language of injury."

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski (page 130)

The Fault in Our Stars Review!

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

This is my third time reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and, if anything, it was even more satisfying than the first two reads. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Hazel and Augustus' story.


Every time I read this novel, I am surprised by how much I love these characters. I love the humour that they maintain in the face of illness and the genuine ways that they explore the side effects of dying. 


I can't thoroughly express my thoughts about this novel without spoilers, but suffice it to say that the events were even more profound for me in this reading than in the previous ones. I am so looking forward to the movie coming out this summer and cannot wait to see how this novel is translated to the screen. If the trailer is any indication, this movie is going to be fantastic!


Happy Reading!

The People of Paper Review!

The People of Paper - Salvador Plascencia

It's early in the year, but Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper has definitely made it on to my top reads of 2014.


This book is amazing! Though not especially plot driven, The People of Paper kept me thoroughly engaged. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and the novel is dispersed with beautiful, surreal images and concepts. 


On a basic level, this is a novel about sadness and the ways that people cope with it. Now, I know that this sounds depressing and kind of boring, but it really isn't! The surrealism adds a ton of beautiful insight into the material. Also, the writing and unique use of format really propels the novel forward. 


The People of Paper also has a really well done metafictive element. I usually don't like metafiction very much because, on average,  I find it more distracting than insightful, but I absolutely loved how it was done in this novel! I don't want to spoil anything so I'm not going to go into detail, but believe me: it's awesome. 


I would recommend this book to anyone who loves well-written and engaging prose, surrealism, or metafiction. It's so good. So good!


Happy Reading!

Eunoia Review!

Eunoia - Christian Bök, Christian Bök

Christian Bok's Eunoia, a book of prose poems confined to the use of a single vowel per chapter, uses a density and texture of expression uncommon even among poetry. As an aspiring writer and lover of language, I could not help but swoon over the absolute brilliance and musicality of Bok's language in this collection. I got introduced to so many wonderful words!


Remarkably, each chapter told a coherent and engaging story without straying from its assigned vowel. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the English language (though Bok does add phrases from other languages) can still deliver a narrative with great artistic merit under harsh constraints. Inspirational.


I found the reading experience very engaging, and the book, being short, was easy to complete in a single sitting; however, I will definitely be rereading this in the future because so much can be gained from a second, closer reading. 


I would recommend this book to any poetry or language enthusiasts. There is honestly so much texture and richness to the language in this collection. I also think this could be a great introduction to poetry for readers who are interested, but don't know where to start. The foundation of narrative, and also the prose format, may make the transition into poetry more manageable for readers used to prose fiction. 


Great book, one of my favourite volumes of poetry!


Happy Reading!

Don Quixote Review!

Don Quixote (which was a dream) - Kathy Acker

Kathy Acker's Don Quixote, which explores and pushes the boundaries of gender and sexual identity, certainly shocks the system, as Acker intends it to. This book is full of cuss words, "low-brow" language, and graphic, even crude, sexual encounters. Part of this seems to be purely for shock value; however, I understand that this almost violent assault of language also complements the content of this novel, which looks rather extensively at the connection between violence and sexuality. 


I found the content of this novel highly engaging and really enjoyed the way that Acker takes some of the classic male-centric plots, such as Cervante's Don Quixote and Shaw's Pygmalion, and retells them from a gender-deconstructionalist view point. Though purposefully extreme, I found Acker's conversation with the literary tradition that preceded her exceptionally interesting, especially having read some of the original texts that she references, such as Pygmalion. This was probably one of my favourite elements of the novel. 


In its telling, Don Quixote is very surreal, and it can be a little difficult to orient yourself while reading. The physical reality, though usually present in the novel, is not always clear, as Acker often goes into mock-academic, almost essay-like passages. A lot of the novel seems very in-the-mind, and sometimes it's unclear whether or not events are imagined or happening in the fictive present.


All this aside, the reading experience is, for the most part, pleasurable. And some of the passages are written with absolutely gorgeous language, for which I have a soft spot. Toward the end of the novel, I did begin to get a little tired of all the cuss words and graphic sexuality, but I think that this feeling is inevitable as Acker is consciously working to bring readers out of their comfort zones and works with some of the most taboo elements of society, such as abortion. 


Overall, I think that this novel has its fine points and is definitely worth reading if you are interested in gender deconstruction, pro-sex feminism, and issues surrounding love and loneliness. I'm glad to have read it and can see myself reading it again in the future, if only to gain a greater grasp of the complex material. I have no way of giving this novel a star rating at this point, and would not recommend it to anyone who shies away from swearing and graphic sexuality in fiction, but suffice it to say that I found it a worth-while and informative read. 


Happy Reading!

The Unfortunates Review!

The Unfortunates - B.S. Johnson

Wow. I'm so glad that this book was on my syllabus this term.


BS Johnson's The Unfortunates has the most interesting format of any novel that I have ever read. It's essentially a book in a box, and once you open the box up there are a bunch of separated sections, which can be shuffled in any order as long as the section marked "First" and the section marked "Last" are read as such. 


The fragmented format, though it may be difficult to adjust to, is incredibly engaging once  you embrace it. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, the narrative, and the way the the unique form of the novel enacted its content. 


On a basic level, this story is about a narrator, who seems to be a fictionalized version of Johnson himself, and his struggle with the death of his friend Tony, due to cancer. I really loved the way that the fragmentation of this novel enacted not only the narrator's struggle to remember his friend's life correctly, but also allowed me, as a reader, to experience the narrator's doubts about whether or not life has any meaning. 


I'm still having a little trouble articulating my thoughts about this book, but suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience and would recommend it to anyone willing to tackle a unique novel format. 


Happy Reading!

February TBR!

Eunoia - Christian Bök The People of Paper - Salvador Plascencia House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski The Songlines - Bruce Chatwin The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

This month I have to focus almost entirely on school-related reading, but I'm actually really excited for most of it!


For my experimental contemporary lit class, I'm going to be reading Eunoia by Christian Bok, People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia, and House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. And, for my travel writing course, I will be reading Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines. I will be posting reviews for each of these toward the end of the month.


I'm also going to reread John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. It just has to happen. I'm unreasonably excited for the movie coming out this summer, and would love to re-experience the book beforehand. 


I'm still making my way through The Return of the King, but with all the heavy, analytical reading that I have to do this month, I think that it's wisest to put it on pause.


What are you planning to read this month?


So good. 

No words.

January Update!

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - Guy Delisle A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five - George R.R. Martin The Unfortunates - B.S. Johnson Don Quixote (which was a dream) - Kathy Acker Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 - William Dalrymple

My required reading for school has been a lot heavier than I anticipated this month, so there are going to be a few changes to my January TBR. So far this month, I've read Pyongyang by Guy Delisle for my travel writing class, The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson for my experimental fiction class, and A Dance with Dragons from my original TBR. 


In the next week or so, I'll be reading Kathy Acker's Don Quixote for my experimental fiction class, and I hope finish J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King as planned. The Hobbit, however, will have to be bumped to another month, probably February. 


Happy Reading!

A Dance With Dragons Review

A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five - George R.R. Martin

Success! I finally had the time to finish reading the latest instalment of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance With Dragons. I thoroughly enjoyed getting back into this world and revisiting these characters (loved and unloved alike).


As many of you may know, A Dance With Dragons shares its timeline with A Feast for Crows. This was a little jarring at first because characters weren't necessarily where I'd last seen them, but as the novel progressed I got used to it. Luckily, A Dance With Dragons supplies some of the background information that readers may have forgotten, which I found very helpful.


It's hard to give an in-depth review because I don't want to spoil anything from this book or the series up until this point, but suffice it to say that it did not disappoint. It had all the action, deception, and surprises that we have come to love (or hate) in this series. 


I can't wait to see what happens next (cliche as that may be), and am anxiously awaiting the announcement of a release date for the sixth book, Winds of Winter



The Robber Bride Review

The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride takes an intensive look at the lives of three women and how those lives are affected by a charming and manipulative woman named Zenia. 


Though the novel takes place primarily in the past, it maintains an immediacy and suspense that feels very present, which is effective given that this is not an exceptionally "plot-based" novel. Of course, there still is a plot, and one I found very interesting at that, but the true strength of this novel is in its characters.


Each character is interesting, well developed, and real in a unique way, which really keeps the story engaging and authentic. I really liked how frustrated I could get with Zenia and the men in the novel (which is obviously the intended by Atwood).


Another aspect of the novel that I really appreciated is the prose. Something about the way it's written kept me reading. Atwood writes lovely descriptions and particularly full and authentic female characters, whose backstories are poignant and different from the struggles of other character's that I have read. 


I also really liked that there is a dash of magical realism in the novel. This is very subtle and only really comes out toward the end, but it provides an extra layer that I found delightful. (I have a weak spot for magical realism.)


Overall, I really enjoyed the reading experience and would recommend this book to anyone interested in character studies or appreciative of beautiful prose writing. This is quality literary fiction.



January TBR!

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) - George R.R. Martin Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 - William Dalrymple The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

It's the first month of a New Year! Time to read some epic fantasy! I'm only planning to read three books this month, which is a relatively slow start, but each of these books is quite large.


This month, I will finally complete A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin. I started it again at the very end of last month, and was finally able to get back into it after some time apart because of school. I am currently about 350 pages in and have about 800 pages to go! I am really excited to finally read this book!


I will also be reading two J.R.R. Tolkien books: The Return of the King, the last book of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit! I'm really looking forward to finally completing this trilogy and getting to compare The Hobbit to the first two instalments of the movie.


It's been awhile since I've read epic fantasy, so I'm really looking forward to a shift in genre. What will you be reading this month?



2013: A Year of Reading in Review

Let it Snow - Lauren Myracle, John Green, Maureen Johnson Wilderness Tips - Margaret Atwood Fifth Business - Robertson Davies Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami Sputnik Sweetheart - Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel

I read a lot of really amazing books this past year and though I did not complete the 50 books challenge (I fell three books short) I spent a lot of time reading and engaging with literature. So, overall a success!


Out of the amazing books that I read this year I would like to spotlight my top five reads. Now, I'm going to be honest; I don't remember which books I read earlier in the year, so this list mostly consists of books that I read in the later half of the year.


5: Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myacle. This short story collection was just so fun! Now warranted, this book probably only made it onto my list because of the great mood I was in while reading it. It was just so nice to sit back and enjoy these three sweet, funny romances. So much fun. I gave it four and half out of five stars.


4: Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood. I love Atwood's writing. She's an old favourite of mine. (Her sentences are just gorgeous.) But the reason that this book made it on to my top five is because this was the first collection of short stories I've ever read cover-to-cover. And I absolutely loved her stories. Her writing, as always, was breath-taking, her plots were unique and engaging, and her character had a special quality to them that made them all feel real in a mysterious way. Overall, this is a great collection of short stories. I gave it four and a half out of five stars. Definitely worth a read.


3: Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. I read this book, which is the first in a trilogy that I desperately want to complete, for my Canadian Fiction course last summer. It was amazing. The voice of the novel was phenomenal and the focus on religion, saints, magic, and mystery was absolutely enthralling. It had such real and engaging characters and such profound comments on religion. Such an interesting read and one I would definitely recommend. I give this book five out of five stars.


2: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. So good. Just so good. I absolutely love Murakami's writing. He gives such a unique, mesmerizing quality to his characters. They feel real, but at the same time magical and surreal. And it's so interesting to read books set in Japan. Also Murakami's ability to write settings! Yes. Yes. Five out of five stars.


1: Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami. My favourite book of the year! And tied for my favourite book of all time! This is the book that introduced me to Haruki Murakami's writing and I absolutely love it. Great characters, great writing, amazing metaphors, and a dash of magical realism to keep everything together. Five out of five stars. 


And finally, my spotlight author of the year: This should come as no surprise…it's Haruki Murakami! I am so happy that I was introduced to his work this year! And I can't wait to read to read more of his books.


Overall, 2013 was a great reading year! I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store.



Reading Resolutions!


A new year means new books and goals to go along with them.

Here are some of mine:


1. First and foremost, complete "all" the unread books on my shelf: I have quite a few, and some that have been on my shelf for years already. It's time to get 'em read! This goal will aid in the completion of the second goal on my list.


2. Explore some new genres: "If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking." -Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami. I'm particularly looking forward to checking out some historical fiction, some YA contemporary, some humour (in particular, Douglas Adams), some manga and graphic novels, and some obscure classics. 


3. Read 50 books. I'm pretty loose with quantity goals, but I like to give them a shot. So, just for fun and with no pressure, I'm going to try to read 50 books in 2014.


4. Read more short stories and poetry: For my writing degree, I'm currently working in short fiction and poetry and, as such, I need to read more in these mediums. This ties into my first goal, as I own unread poetry and short fiction.


5. Reread some favourites: This year, I want to reread the Harry Potter series, Sputnik Sweetheart, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I may decide to read others, but this is my list at present.


Friday Reads!

The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood

This weekend is the Booktube winter Read-a-thon and, though I'm not a booktuber, I decided to participate. So this weekend, I want to read ALL of Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride, which is a small giant at 689 pages. I still have 601 pages to go, so wish me luck! Even though there is a lot of reading to be done, I'm enthusiastic. So far, I'm really enjoying The Robber Bride, as I enjoy the majority of Atwood's work. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this story develops and ends.