Category Archives: Classics

Starting Classics Early: BabyLit Board Books

As a lifelong lover of books, it has always been a priority for me to share books and literature with my future (now present) children.  Little did I know, however, that I would have the opportunity to share some of my classical favorites with him or her in infancy.  BabyLit offers a series of baby board books teaching colors, weather, counting, etc. via classics such as Wuthering Heights, Dracula, and Pride and Prejudice.

drac

Currently, we only own Dracula, which teaches counting (get in? get it? huh?).  A little macabre, yes, but very entertaining for this mom and the colors keep my son’s attention for as long as any one thing can hold his attention at this point.  I won’t feel completely content, however, until I obtain Wuthering Heights A BabyLit Weather Primer.

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Which classical title would you most want to have as a board book for any little ones in your life?

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Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Title:  Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Author: Shunryu Suzuki
Length: 176 pages

Shortly after moving into the “new” area, I began searching for local Buddhist Temples to resume my study and practice.  Surprisingly, I found a Zen Center in a nearby city and headed out to see if I felt comfortable there and to see if it seemed feasible for me to make the drive on a regular basis.  While there, one of the teachers recommended that I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind in order to familiarize myself better with a branch of Buddhism that I know little about.

The sections are broken up into short lessons or talks by Shunryu Suzuki, a respected Zen Master who moved to the United States from Japan.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it all made complete, crystal clear sense to me on my first read-through, but the parts that did felt like a breath of fresh air to read.

The most important teaching that I walked away with is presented at the very beginning and woven through each section and through to the end:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.

It is vital to always approach life with a beginner’s mind – check out this book to allow Suzuki to show you why.  Whatever your faith may be, you will be able to take the lessons from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind and apply them to your life.

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Filed under Books, Buddhism, Classics, Non-Fiction

Song of the Witches by William Shakespeare

Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse

It is officially Autumn and tomorrow is the first day of October.  Halloween is coming!  So, here is a classic to get us in the mood for the month of spooky happenings and copious amounts of candy!

Song of the Witches
William Shakespeare  (from Macbeth)

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

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Monday Quote: Homer’s The Odyssey, fate & free will

Odysseus and the Sirens, Greek Red-Figure Stamnos Vase, c. 480-460 BCE, British Museum

Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame on us gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather, who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given.

Zeus in The Odyssey

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Monday Quote: Frankenstein

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

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Happy Thanksgiving! Books that I am thankful for…

For all of us in America, today is Thanksgiving.  For me, Thanksgiving is a good push to remind me to reflect upon all of the things in this world that I am thankful for.  And, every year, I tell myself that it is vital to keep all of these things fresh in my mind on a daily basis.  The older that I get, the easier it becomes to do this.  So, today, I decided would be the perfect opportunity to make a list of all of the books and/or authors that I am most thankful for.

Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

Lord knows how many entries in this blog are now completely dedicated to either one of them and/or their children, but, as we know, Sylvia Plath is my all-time favorite.  Her signature is tattooed on my back.  All of her writing – whether it be poetry, prose, or her journal – inspires me.  She was the first writer that really got my jazzed about writing poetry and, if I’m ever in need of inspiration to write, I just pick up some of her work.

Ted Hughes writes differently than Plath, but thanks to my love of her, I was exposed to his work.  And I love it.  I won’t lie, I tend to prefer Birthday Letters to most of his other work, but all of his work is beautiful.  And this blog is named after a line from one of his poems, after all.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This was a ‘required reading’ novel my sophomore year in high school.  The length looked daunting, but I started devouring it after getting into the first chapter.  The setting is bleak and the characters are awful to each other, which could potentially make for an entirely dreary read.  But, buried in all of this, there is a love and passion that just won’t cease to exist – no matter what.

As a teenage girl, yet to have a real boyfriend, I thought that the idea of having a Heathcliff in my life was absolutely DREAMY.  However, now, as a 27 year-old woman, I can honestly say that he would be exhausting to deal with.  Not to mention that in present-day, any sane woman would probably slap a restraining order on him as soon as possible, no matter how beautiful and dark he was.

In short, this is my kind of romance.  I revisit this book as frequently as possible.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

This book will (hopefully) disturb you, but it’s just so beautifully written, you can’t put it down.  Even translated, the prose writing by Nabokov is far more beautiful than the majority of poetry out there.  I am thankful every day that I made the choice to pick up this book and give it a whirl.  I would recommend this to everyone who loves and appreciates good literature.

Picture from Elle.com

Joyce Carol Oates

If I could meet any one person on the planet, I would easily – without hesitation – choose Joyce Carol Oates.  From the first pages of Beasts (the first book that I ever read by her), I have been madly in love with her work.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I deeply admire her raw, honest writing and her ability to write her work so completely in the voice of her characters.  In addition to being a prolific writer, intelligent, and cutting edge, Oates is hilarious and charming, while not taking any gruff (or crummy interview questions) from anyone.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

I already wrote about Miranda July earlier this week, but let us recap, shall we?  Miranda July, and all of work – specifically these stories – are refreshing.  She’s inspiration.  Her words bring me back to life, renew my hope, and get me really riled up to be alive.  Thank you for that, Ms. July.

Virginia Woolf

I am thankful for Virginia Woolf because, well, her writing is there to give me a good kick in the rear whenever I might be feeling a little too full of myself.  All I need to do is read the first page of The Waves and it’s like she’s speaking to me – Megan, now, you’re really not as smart as you sometimes think you are!  Silly Girl!  It’s true.  I own a fair number of her books, but have only successfully read two from beginning to end – To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dalloway.  Some day, though, I hope to read them all.

Paradise by Toni Morrison

Read any book by Toni Morrison and you will be floored.  Her work is honest, raw, and powerful.  Paradise was the first book by her that I picked up to read that wasn’t a required reading book for school.  My praise for this novel is similar to my praise for Lolita – it’s poetic and beautiful.  Every page left me stunned by her power over the english language and left me wanting more.  Her work is a palpable reminder that there are still incredibly talented authors writing in the present-day.

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Prior to reading these books, if you ever asked, I would have told you that I had absolutely zero interest in ever reading a series.  Back to back books written by the same author, featuring the same characters, and, most likely, written in a similar style, didn’t sound like a good time to me.  I’m all about variety.  Right?  Well, at the recommendation of a close friend, I gave these books a try.  I immediately fell in love with Lisbeth Salander and the intricate tales that Larsson was the master at weaving.  I am left wanting many, many more of these books.

I’m sure that after I post this, I am going to immediately think of a slew of other books and/or authors that I should have included.  The above list covers the best of the best, however, in my heart.  I am thankful to be literate and to have access to so many wonderful books – between Amazon, local bookstores, libraries, and my time studying literature in college, I am incredibly wealthy in this regard.

What books are you thankful for?

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Filed under Books, Classics, Collections, Emily Bronte, Favorites, Joyce Carol Oates, Nabokov, Series, Stieg Larsson, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Toni Morrison, Women Writers, Wuthering Heights

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Title:  The Bell Jar
Author:  Sylvia Plath
Length:  288 pages
ALL-TIME FAVORITE!

It’s hard to believe that I have yet to dedicate a post to The Bell Jar, but I just looked back and confirmed it.  What’s wrong with me?  This is my all-time favorite novel.  The only novel that I make it a point to revisit at least once a year.  Every time that I read it, I keep a pencil or highlighter in hand, because I always find some new passage that I absolutely need to make a note of.  Though, there are plenty of passages that are so powerful, that they stuck out from the beginning.  Such as from this past Quotable Monday post:

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.

From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.  One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Antila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above thee figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

The Bell Jar sucks the reader into Esther’s downward spiral.  Plath makes mental illness completely accessible in the pages of this novel – you don’t, for a second, doubt what the character is going through.  At times, perhaps even a lot of the time, you see some of your own fears, paranoia, or thoughts reflected in what Esther is experiencing.

Additionally, the pages are full of memorable scenes, absurd characters, passages that will make you laugh, and some that will make you shiver.  For all of these reasons, and more, The Bell Jar is considered an American Classic.  And, for me, it will always be a personal favorite.

There is even talk that there will be a re-make of the film.  The talk has been going on for years now, but according to IMDB’s page, it’s slated for a 2012 release and starring Julia Stiles and, possibly, Rose McGowan.  All I can say is that it can’t POSSIBLY be any worse than the version that came out in the 1970s.  “YIKES!” is the only word to describe that theatrical failure.

Purchase The Bell Jar on Amazon.

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Filed under Books, Classics, Favorites, Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Women Writers

Poetry by Emily Bronte


Emily Bronte is best known for her novel, Wuthering Heights (one of my all-time favorites).  In addition to this amazing, epic novel, however, Bronte wrote poems.  A slew of poems that I have yet to read!  So, today, the poems that I share here are poems that I am reading for the first time, as well.

Spellbound

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing dear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

Remembrance

Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?

Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?

Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring;
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!

No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.

But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.

Then did I check the tears of useless passion—
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?

See more of Emily Bronte’s releases on her Amazon page.

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Books that I hate – The Great Gatsby, Nicholas Sparks, and… The Scarlet Letter

Every time that I post about a book on here, it seems like I love it, doesn’t it?  Well, it’s true.  I don’t seem to read too many books that I don’t at least like a little bit.  It’s probably because, as I mentioned in a previous post, when I start a book that I’m not entirely into, I move onto the next one.  And I rarely write about books that I only read 100 pages of.

Well, today this is all going to change!  Today I am going to list out the top 3 books that I absolutely detest!  And, in a preface to the (hopefully) amusing negativity to follow, I would like to point out that I began this thinking that I would have a top 5, but, honestly, I couldn’t pull up 5 books in my memory that I hate that much.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


The first in the list of books that I didn’t enjoy, at all, from my junior year in high school.  I wanted to like this, I really did.  But I don’t think that I really dig the Jazz era “feel”.  The characters bored me and I struggled to stay awake while reading for my assignments.  I wish that I could remember specific details for what I really hated, but I believe that I forced those memories out of my mind.

I would like to note that this is a novel that I tried to revisit as an adult, thinking that maybe I could find some new-found appreciation for this American classic.  Guess what?  I couldn’t.  Maybe I’ll try again when I’m in my 30s.  Maybe then I’ll be able to appreciate what teenage and twenty-something Megan couldn’t.

2.  Anything by Nicholas Sparks


Alright.  I will admit — I love the movie, The Notebook.  I cried.  I squealed.  I daydreamed that one day I would find a love like the characters in the movie.  Oh, and Ryan Gosling is pretty nice to look at, too.  So, naturally, I believed that I would enjoy the book.  Oh, boy, was I wrong.

I borrowed this book from the bookstore while I worked there, so I didn’t actually waste any money on it.  I can’t recall how many pages in that I made it, but I do know that the story started out OK.  It was different from the books that I naturally chose to read at the time, but I was enjoying it enough to keep on reading.

At some point, though, Sparks took a crack at trying to describe the thoughts that go through the female character’s mind while she’s looking at her naked body in the mirror.  This IMMEDIATELY creeped me out.  And I can’t honestly imagine any woman thinking what this character was thinking when studying their nude reflection.

More recently I attempted to read another of his book.  It left such a weak impression on me that I can’t recall the title.  But, again, this is a book and author that I want to like.  It’s just not happening, though.  I’ve been mentally scarred from my first experience reading his work.  Might  be another one to revisit sometime in the next decade.

1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


How many times have I voiced my distaste for this book?  Countless.  Every and any time possible.  Ever.  This was another book that I had to read during my junior year in high school for my American Literature class.  Hester Prynne tried to be an independent woman and shack up with someone and the town disapproved.  The text is wordy, the symbolism is mind-numbing, and every sentence leaves me wanting to run out the door.

This is yet another book that leaves me feeling like classic American literature just ain’t for me.  And I don’t foresee myself ever, ever, ever trying to revisit The Scarlet Letter.  I just hate this one far, far too much to ever do that to myself.  Maybe it will be removed from the curriculum by the time my kids reach high school.

Don’t take my word for it, though.  I’m possibly in the minority in my opinions on the above books and authors, so definitely check them our for yourself.  But I am interested to hear your thoughts – What books do you absolutely hate?

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Poems by Shel Silverstein

I decided that I was going to stick me unintentional theme of kids-related “stuff” this week and post some poems featured in A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.  As a kid, I loved reading his work.  Always silly, funny, and accompanied by silly drawings that always went perfectly with the poems that they were paired with.  If the Berenstain Bears were the books that most excited me about reading as a child, it was Shel Silverstein who got me excited about poetry as a child.

Spelling Bee

I got stung by a bee
I won’t tell you where.
I got stung by a bee
I was just lyin’ there,
And it tattooed a message
I can’t tell you where
That spells out
Hello… you’ve been stung by a bee

I always loved this next poem probably because of the picture accompanying it.  A man with a fleshy face and skeletal body sits, sweating, on a chair with a fan (apparently not turned on) in front of him.  How odd.

It’s Hot!

It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

Poemsicle

Id you add sicle to your pop,
Would he become a Popsicle?
Would a mop become a mopsicle?
Would a cop become a copsicle?
Would a chop become a chopsicle?
Would a drop become a dropsicle?
Would a hop become a hopsicle?
I guess it’s time to stopsicle,
Or is it timesicle to stopsicle?
Heysicle, I can’t stopsicle?
Heysicle, I can’t stopsicle.
Ohsicle mysicle willsicle Isicle
Havesicle tosicle talksicle
Likesicle thissicle foreversicle-
Huhsicle?

What were your favorite poems as a kid?

Buy A Light in the Attic on Amazon

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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, Poetry, Shel Silverstein