Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book 22: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

"The last time of anything has the poignancy of death itself. This that I see now, she thought, to see no more this way. Oh, the last time how clearly you see everything; as though a magnifying light had been turned on it. And you grieve because you hadn't held it tighter when you had it every day."

Dates read: February 19-22, 2016

Rating: 9/10

Lists/Awards: NY Times Bestseller

Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In today's world, it's ground zero of the hipster renaissance. It's more expensive to live in Brooklyn lately than it is to live in Manhattan. But it wasn't always that way. A century ago, when A Tree Grows in Brooklyn takes place, Williamsburg was where the immigrants and/or poor people lived. People like Francie Nolan and her family.

If you're a fan of plot-driven novels, this probably isn't going to be the book for you. Nothing much really happens...two young people, the children of Irish and German immigrants, meet, fall in love, and marry. They have two children, a girl and a boy. The father, Johnny Nolan, is charming and sweet-natured but fundamentally weak, incapable of holding down a steady job because of his alcoholism. The mother, Katie Nolan, is strong-willed, hard-working and tries but fails to hide her preference for her son over her daughter. The family lives in poverty, barely scraping by, as the children grow up. Francie, the daughter, is the center of the story, and the plot is largely about her poor but otherwise mostly unremarkable childhood.

But for me personally, I didn't even really notice that there was less in the way of plot, because the characterization and quality of writing were so strong. The shy and bookish yet resilient Francie and her world were apparently an only thinly veiled version of author Betty Smith's own childhood experiences, and a feeling of lived emotional truth resonates throughout the novel. Smith's prose isn't showily beautiful like Vladimir Nabakov's, but she strikes home keen insights about childhood and growing up with elegance and sensitivity. The characters are all people that exist in the real world: the good-natured and lovable but ultimately feckless overgrown child, the harried parent who has to stay strong enough to keep it all together at the expense of their own emotional wants and needs, the standoffish person who holds themself apart and pre-rejects everyone else before they can be rejected, the younger sibling who manages to get away with more than the older sibling would have ever thought to try. It may be set 100 years ago, but the story it tells is still meaningful today.

It was pure coincidence that I read this book right after The Namesake, and a minor plot point got me thinking about immigration, second languages, and class. In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, both Katie and Johnny, despite being the children of immigrants, speak only English. Their parents are determined that their children will be American, and to be American is to speak English. It actually reminds me of a story my dad has told me about my grandfather, who is 100% pure Polish but speaks not a lick of the language. When my dad asked his grandpa about it, he said something similar: we're Americans now. We speak English. The Gangulis and their friends in The Namesake, on the other hand, make an effort to preserve their Bengali language and culture with their children. Their offspring hold oral fluency, at least, in their parents' native tongue along with their spoken and written English. When I was at the University of Michigan, I had friends whose parents were immigrants from the Middle East or Asia, and it wasn't uncommon to hear them answer calls from their parents in Mandarin, Hindi, or Farsi. There was never a sense of judgment attached to it. But there's a real hostility to Latino immigrants and their children speaking Spanish with each other, although their children brought up in America speak English just as well as anyone else. The perception of immigrants and their children who speak a second language seems to be tied more strongly to the social class of the speaker than any value judgment about having a non-English home language.

Tell me, blog you or anyone you know have immigrant parents? Did they speak a second language at home?

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookworm Delights

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish!This week's topic: top ten bookworm delights, so ten things that make my reading soul happy. This isn't something I ordinarily really even think about, so it was a little work to flesh out this list, but here are ten things I love in my bookish life!

Finding the right spot on the couch to get cozy: The eternal struggle! Find a spot that makes your back happy, realize it's making you lean on your arm funky. Then your neck starts to ache from looking downward all the time. So you readjust, and your back starts to hurt, so you move again and lather rinse repeat. Finding that perfect spot is the greatest thing.

A new bookstore: That feeling of walking into a brand new store full of books to explore and run your fingers over and figure out how it's laid out is an exhilarating feeling! When we travel and are out exploring, I like to find a local bookstore to poke around in. You never know what you'll find!

Snagging that book you've been looking for secondhand: When there's a book you've had your eye on and you stop in a secondhand store and there it feels like fate. I recently picked up an apparently new hardcover copy of Seveneves, which has been on my TBR list for a while now and even the Kindle book is like $13.99, for $1 at the SPCA thrift store and I couldn't stop grinning triumphantly to myself for hours.

Finding someone to talk to who loves the books you love: It's pretty rare for me to meet an actual real-life person (I know all you lovely book bloggers out there are also real life persons, but I mean in my own real life) who enjoys books like I do. So when I meet someone who tells me that they've enjoyed The Virgin Suicides or The Secret History, my eyes light up like Christmas morning.

Quiet time to read: I love my fiance with my whole heart but he enjoys playing video games and watching TV. While I can mostly block out the noise, some uninterrupted quiet time (well, quiet besides the weird noises my pug makes) to get my read on is just lovely.

A gift certificate to buy books: Money to spend at a bookstore, for books only (not like Amazon where the temptation to replace a dying hairdryer can be hard to resist) is a rare treat. And I hardly ever splurge on new books, so it's a double treat!

Bookish decor: I've been looking for a print of Arya Stark's lesson from her dancing master Syrio- "Fear cuts deeper than swords"- for forever (I actually found one I liked and then as I dinked around deciding whether or not to pull the trigger, they stopped making it). But finding quotes that I loved from books that I loved as decor or coffee mugs makes my heart sing.

Someone loving a book you recommended to them: For most of us serious readers, the books that we love are more than "just books", they're little pieces of our heart. So recommending one feels like revealing a long-held's so personal, and if they're not receptive it just feels like a slap in the face. But when they love it? You feel so on top of the world and bonded.

Finding out they're making a movie/TV show of one of your favorite books: This is delightful and also frightening. Some book adaptations are the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and some...are The Hobbit. It's hard to tell until it hits the screen but casting announcements and director choices are so fun to react to and talk about!

Little Free Libraries: The actual library is the bomb, but it can be located at quite a distance from your house or have restrictive hours that makes it hard to get there at the right time. Which is why neighborhood-based little free libraries are such a thrill to find in the wild! Just people sharing books with other people. It's fantastic.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book 21: The Namesake

"He hates having to live with it, a pet name turned good name, day after day, second after second. He hates seeing it on the brown paper sleeve of the National Geographic subscription his parents got him for his birthday the year before and perpetually listed in the honor roll printed in the town's newspaper. At times his name, an entity shapeless and weightless, manages nevertheless to distress him physically, like the scratchy tag of a shirt his has been forced permanently to wear."

Dates read: February 16-19, 2016

Rating: 9/10

Lists/Awards: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Time Magazine Best Books of the Year

One of the quirks I've noticed since I've been living in Nevada is how proud people are of how long their family has been in Nevada. If someone is a third, fourth, or fifth generation Nevadan, that will be one of the first things out of their mouths when they meet you. Growing up in Michigan, I never heard someone proudly call themselves a third-generation Michigander. It never would have occurred to anyone to say. Part of it, I think, is the immigrant culture of the other side of the country. Plenty of people aren't even third-generation Americans.

When I went to school at the University of Michigan, it it felt like all the Indian kids knew each other. They had built-in friends as soon as they walked on campus. Good friends, not the "that girl who graduated a few years ahead of me and we were in the National Honors Society together" friends. Their parents knew each other, they would explain. But I didn't really get it...with some exceptions, I wasn't necessarily close to my parents' friends' kids. And then I read The Namesake, and it clicked.

Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake is the story of Indian immigrants and their children in America. It begins when Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli are about to have their first child, recounting a bit of their individual histories in India and how they came to have their marriage arranged. When the boy is born, the pet name his parents give him while waiting for an Indian grandparent to send a letter with his "real name" ends up being recorded on his birth certificate out of confusion. Their child is named Gogol, after a Russian writer who is meaningful to Ashoke. Although his parents eventually settle on Nikhil to be his real name, Gogol sticks until he gets to college. Gogol hates his name, the way it sounds, the way it stamps him as unmistakably "other" in his American life. He changes it legally to Nikhil once he becomes an adult, but it is not quite so easy to deal with the uneasy internal tension between the Indian culture of his parents and the American culture he was raised and lives in, between who he was/is, and who he wants to be.

Although the novel takes turns, illuminating the story briefly through the eyes of Ashima and Ashoke, it mostly follows Gogol/Nikhil as he navigates childhood, college, and his adult relationships (curiously, it never follows his sister Sonia, who remains on the periphery, although it does very briefly follow the woman who becomes Gogol's wife after their marriage). Lahiri's prose is's rich without being flowery, and her words beautifully illustrate the dilemmas the characters face in a way that shows you without telling you. The characters themselves are well-rounded, multi-faceted, and face their entirely normal lives and problems in a way that feels like actual people you might know rather than characters on a page. Lahiri doesn't need to put them through incredible obstacles to show you who they are and why you should care. She just writes them with such humanity that it wouldn't even occur to you not to care. It's a wonderful book and I loved it.

Tell me, blog people tell you how many generations they've lived there in your state, or is that just a Nevada thing?

Note: review cross-posted on Cannonball Read

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books That Will Make You Laugh

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The BookishThis week's topic was a struggle for me, honestly. I'm not super into comedy-type books, so this was really hard for me to put together. But I got to ten!

Bossypants: Tina Fey is amazing. Weekend Update, Mean Girls, 30 Rock. She's a total role model: super smart, successful, best friends with Amy Poehler, cute husband and adorable really doesn't get more #goals than that. Reading her witty prose is about as close as I'm ever going to get to hanging out with her and having her tell me stories, so of course I love it.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?: Mindy Kaling feels like a Tina junior to me. She's not my role model so much, she's more the person I wish was my best friend because she's so relatable and her humor feels so spot on with my life...she's only about five years older than me, so her words resonate with me hard and are usually really applicable to my life. This is more wry chuckling than full-on cackle, but it's wonderful and I really liked it.

My Horizontal Life: My dad actually used to watch Chelsea Lately, and when I was living with him after law school trying to get a job, we'd hang out and watch it together. Which might not have always been the best idea, Chelsea Handler gets pretty bawdy. She's much more so in this, her first book, which I enjoyed enough to buy her second which promptly underwhelmed me. I haven't tried another one of her books since, but if you're into dirty humor, this is great.

Approval Junkie: Like I said in my review, it wasn't a sidebuster, but that Bill O'Reilly chapter and when she talks about her feelings about her husband's dog are both really funny.

My Booky Wook: As a Yank, I was mostly aware of Russell Brand for some MTV VMA hosting, which as I recall fell pretty flat, and of course, his marriage to Katy Perry. But before he came to our shores, he was quite a celebrity in his own right in the UK. His memoirs of his sex-drugs-and-rock-n-roll lifestyle before he got clean made me chortle like a crazy person on the airplane when I read this.

Bridget Jones' Diary: Moving out of the realm of "books written by comedians" and into the realm of "books that are just funny". I found the sequel to be a little much and the third book so unpromising that I have no interest at all in reading it, but the O.G. Bridget Jones is a classic for a reason. Helen Fielding's chronicle of Bridget's quest to smoke less, lose weight, and find a man is filled with actual laughing out loud moments.

Angus, Thongs, And Full Frontal Snogging (series): I remember picking up the first one at a bookstore in a mall on vacation with my mom in California. I was 13 or 14, and Georgia Nicholson's exploits made me cry I was laughing so hard. The whole series is a little hit or miss (with the usual decline in quality near the end that seems to happen in an extended series), but there are enough truly hysterical moments to keep on reading!

Lamb: Religion can be a sensitive subject, and if your Christian faith is very meaningful to you, this is probably not the right book. But if you're comfortable laughing about the misadventures that Christopher Moore concocts for Jesus and Biff (the Lord's childhood bestie), this is a delightful and irreverent treat!

Catherine, Called Birdy: This is an older book, and much more middle-grade focused, but that's because I first read it in middle school. It's held a special place in my heart ever since. Catherine is clever, witty, and determined to make sure that her parents plans to marry her off to one of her disgusting prospective suitors don't come to fruition. There's some heart along with the humor, but it's mostly humor and it's really funny.

Hyperbole And A Half: If you've never visited Allie Brosh's website, you need to stop now and go there immediately. After you're done making sure you didn't pee a little because you're laughing so hard, you should think about buying her book. It's mostly repeats of what's online, but it's somehow even better to hold it in your hands while you're shaking with laughter.

Monday, April 18, 2016

My Reading Life: Thriftbooks

As much as I wish it could be true, I don't actually have a money tree in my backyard. I don't even have a backyard, we live in an apartment. Books can be an expensive habit: with shelf prices about $25-30 for a hardcover and barely cheaper at $15-20 for a paperback, that adds up quickly. Even if you go the Amazon route and pay $10 for a paperback, that's still not an insubstantial sum, especially if you're looking to acquire several books. And while local used bookstores/thrift stores can be great, they can be a substantial investment of time to devote to digging, trying to remember if you have a copy of that one already, maybe leaving empty-handed. Enter Thriftbooks.

It's easy enough to describe: it's an online used book outlet. Prices range from $3.59 and up (depending on the book, its condition, hardcover v paperback, etc). You get free shipping if your order is over $10 (so, basically three books). I personally use the everloving bejeesus out of Thriftbooks. For fairly popular titles, I'm willing to make a trip or three to the local secondhand joints to dig for something cheaper because I can be relatively sure I'll be able to dig it up. But for older, out of print, or even newish-but-not-old-enough-so-that-it'll-be-easy-to-find-secondhand? Thriftbooks. That website has enabled me to expand my library farther than I would have thought possible without bankrupting myself (sorry not sorry, fiance). If they don't have a title that you're looking for in stock (or you want to watch the price to see if it drops), you can add it to a wishlist and they'll send you alerts when they get a new one in.

Here's the deal: if you click the link embedded above (at the end of the first paragraph), you'll get 15% off your first order (and I'll get the same off my next one), so if you're inclined to check it out, please click on the link and it'll take you there!  So if there's a book that you're looking for and you're not fussy about whether someone else has read your books before you, definitely check it out!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book 20: Ahab's Wife

"There did seem to be a small boat upon that sea, but that boat was myself. It was this house and all that was in it, and I was alone at the tiller, reading the stars."

Dates read: February 10-16, 2016

Rating: 7/10

Lists/Awards: Time Magazine's Best Books of the Year

For some reason, Moby-Dick has gotten a reputation as a boring slog of a book. That's what I had in my head before I read it last year, anyways, and was delighted to be proven wrong. It's actually both lively and informative, full of adventure and interesting facts about whaling in the olden days of yore. And while our narrator, Ishmael, is a bit of a cipher, Captain Ahab is one of the most memorable characters in literature, with his ivory false leg and burning wrath for the white whale. And in a throwaway line or two, it's mentioned that he has a wife at home.

In Ahab's Wife, author Sena Jeter Naslund takes that barely-mentioned, never seen character and gives us her whole life. A novel I read in high school, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, had the same kind of basis (took a minor biblical character and told her life story), and I loved that book wholeheartedly. Which probably set my expectations a little too high, which isn't really fair, but between that and a killer first line, "Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last", I was really excited to read this book.

As you can probably surmise from the above, I didn't like it quite as much as I was hoping. Una Spenser is meant to be a one-of-a-kind, irrepressible heroine, but I found her maybe a little too special. She's not just lovely, smart, brave, resilient, passionate, and strong, she's also an object of desire for virtually every man she meets, treated with lavish kindness by almost every person of either gender that she comes across, and unfailingly tolerant and liberal in her attitudes. Which is just not very realistic, and leaves her ringing false as a character. While she certainly has to overcome obstacles (the aftermath of a horrific shipwreck, her treatment at the hands of her first husband, the loss of her first child, the death of her second husband), her only real "flaw" seems to be that she's too impulsive and headstrong, too daring. Which, of course, is presented as not much of a flaw at all.

I wish that Una was a better-drawn and more well-rounded character, because this book could have been quite lovely. Naslund's prose is definitely on the flowery side (if this turns you off, avoid this book at all costs because you will hate it), but I can get down with that if the story is compelling. The first half of the book had much more dramatic tension and excitement than the second half, which dragged in the long sections describing Una standing in the wind and gazing at the stars and/or sea, philosophizing about the world and her place in it. It's quite a lengthy novel at over 650 pages, and editing down some of the aforementioned mind-wandering-while-hair-blows-in-the-wind passages might make Una (and her story as a whole) a little more dynamic and interesting. That being said, I did enjoy reading it and thought it was a pretty good book. Just not quite as good as I wanted it to be.

Tell me, blog there a minor literary character that you'd like to read the whole story of?

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books Every Young Woman Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The BookishThis week's topic is Ten Books That Every X Should Read. Nothing came to mind immediately, so I started paging through my Read books on Goodreads, and when I saw the first entry on this list, my topic came to me and it was hard to narrow it down to ten from there. I don't know where exactly I'd draw the lines around "young woman", maybe from about fourteen to your mid/late twenties (I don't know that I feel like I qualify as a young woman anymore at 30), but really, these books are resonant and meaningful at any age and for either gender. They just seem especially relevant for young women:

The Handmaid's Tale: This should absolutely be mandatory reading in high school for everyone. Women's reproductive freedom has been a hot topic for decades, but this book takes the consequences of those freedoms being abridged to a horrifying extension. I don't think it's possible to read this, especially as a woman, and not be aware of how important it is to ensure that we have control over our own bodies.

The Stepford Wives: This is a quick and haunting read. When Walter and Joanna move to Stepford, it seems like it's full of perfect happy families. But there's the wives. It's a scathing statement/satire about what men really want. 

The Interestings: This novel explores long-lasting friendships, and the kind of competition that works its way into them. A group of young boys and girls at an artsy summer camp bond together and pledge to remain friends forever. It's not as easy as that, obviously, and the book explores how friendships, especially female friendships, grow and change over time and the damage that the self-induced pressure to be "special" can inflict on lives that turn out to be more or less ordinary.   

Persuasion: Love and relationships are a huge part of life in general, but especially when you're young and just figuring out how to handle other people's hearts and how you'd like them to handle your own. Anne Elliot spurns the marriage proposal of Frederick Wentworth, even though she loves him, because her friends and family convince her he's not good enough. She's in her late twenties when they meet again and their fortunes have shifted...he's now a hot prospect and she's staring down spinsterhood (boy am I am so glad we don't live in Ye Olden Days anymore). She still loves him, but fully expects that she has lost him, and the heartache this causes her until (spoiler, but not really because this is Jane Austen) they get back together makes you really think about how you treat other people. 

Anna Karenina: I know, this is a monster novel, clocking in at well over a thousand pages. And Russian literature, with its naming conventions alone, can be hard to get into. But this story, about a young mother who is married to a bureaucrat with whom she has a satisfactory relationship but does not love, and falls into a passionate affair with a young nobleman is AMAZING. Is Anna brave? Is she selfish? What's a better situation: a settled and content existence or a passionate and completely unstable love affair? There's the whole side plot about Kitty Shcherbatskaya that progresses independently and is also good in its own right, but it's more of a slow burn than Anna's story, which raises all kinds of interesting questions to think about.

The Awakening: This too is a book about a woman living a conventional family life with a husband she doesn't really love, who falls for another man and finds the prospect of a relationship with him infinitely more compelling than continuing her staid existence and a wife and mother. This explores similar themes to Anna Karenina, obviously, but it's not quite as good. It's also not nearly as long, though, so it might be a good starter before you tackle the beast.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (series): As important about decisions about what love is and who to love are a central part of young womanhood, there's much MUCH more to your life than boys (or girls, or both). Lisbeth Salander kicks ass, takes names, looks how she wants to look, and has the sex life she wants to have. She has her own goals and pursues them and romantic relationships aren't something that's especially important to her. Being single or not making your love life a big serious deal is totally okay.

A Game of Thrones (series): The main female character in this series, Danaerys Targaryen, begins the books by being sold by her brother to a tribal warlord with whom she has no common language. But Dany and Khal Drogo's love story ends up being one of (if not the most) happiest relationships depicted in the series. When he dies, Dany turns her focus to learning how to rule a city. She has relationships, but they take lower priority than her personal goals. There's an interesting, complex model of any kind of woman you'd want to be over the course of these novels: Catelyn, Sansa, and Arya Stark, Brienne of Tarth, Cersei Lannister, Maergery Tyrell. You don't have to be just one thing. You're allowed to have internal contradictions. 

White Oleander: I don't know any woman who has a perfectly pleasant and smooth relationship with her mother. I don't think those exist. We love them but they drive us crazy: I think both sides would agree with that statement. The fraught relationship between Ingrid and Astrid is an exaggerated one, as are Astrid's relationships with her foster mothers, but coming to terms with your mother for who she is and recognizing and reconciling the parts of you that are like her are important (albeit difficult) parts of growing up.

The Devil Wears Prada: It's a lightweight, kind of fluffy read, remarkable to most because of its thinly-veiled look at Vogue editrix Anna Wintour. But there's also an important lesson in here about work/life balance. It's tempting to, like Andy Sachs, let everything else in your life fall by the wayside when you first get into the workplace, and if you've got big goals and are willing to let your personal life go for a bit while you chase them, go for it! But we all learn eventually that we can't be both a perfect employee and a human with a functional social life, and learning where to draw those lines is an important lesson. Just because you've got the job a thousand girls would kill for doesn't mean it's the right one for you. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book 19: Creative Mythology

"Whereas formerly, for generations, life so held to established norms that the lifetime of a deity could be reckoned in millenniums, today all norms are in flux, so that the individual is thrown, willy-nilly, back upon himself, into the inward sphere of his own becoming, his forest adventurous without way or path, to come through his own integrity in experience to his own intelligible Castle of the Grail- integrity and courage, in experience, in love, in loyalty, and in act."

Dates read: January 19-February 10, 2016

Rating: 3/10

After exploring ancient, Eastern, and Western mythology and religion up until the approximate time of the Dark Ages, Joseph Campbell's final volume of his Masks of God series deals with the "modern" world. As societies became increasingly mobile and fluid, the social purpose of religion and myth (transmission of local cultural "rules" to each generation, and the acceptance of those rules) fades in importance. Now what?

Creative Mythology explores what happens as cultures begin to intermingle, how local symbols are repurposed for new reasons in new places. He uses the lens of epic poetry to show us the heretic Christian ideas of Tristan & Isolde, the heavily pagan roots of Beowulf, and the Islamic influence on Dante's Divine Comedy (which was super interesting to me, since I took a class on just this work in college, and to the best of my recollection, this never came up). He moves into the modern world by dissecting some of the works of Thomas Mann and James Joyce (Finnegan's Wake, Ulysses, and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). Portrait was something I read several years ago that I enjoyed not at all and remembered precious little of, and after reading about it here, I'm not sure I want to read Ulysses even though it's a "classic" because it sounds very tiresome. Campbell wraps up his review by discussing the Holy Grail mythologies in the Knights of the Round Table/Arthurian legends (this section is very very long), and then concludes by reflecting back on the functions of mythologies, and how they have and do work (or not, as the case may be).

I'm not going to lie...I'm very glad to be done with this series. It was very informative, but only sporadically interesting. Do I feel much better versed in world religion and mythology? Yes. Would my life have been just as lovely without it? Absolutely. Sometimes pushing through books that you aren't really enjoying can be rewarding, but just as often it isn't. I'm a die-hard finisher, though...I haven't abandoned a book since high school.

Tell me, blog friends...are you okay with a DNF (did not finish) of a book you don't like or do you keep slogging through?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish People You Should Follow On Instagram

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! This week's topic: Ten Bookish People You Should Follow On Social Media. I'm not big into book vloggers or Snapchatters, but I do follow several bookish Instagram accounts, so here are ten of my favorites!

@kath_reads: Lots of people are into super carefully posed and arranged photos. I like those every once in a while too, but I like looking at pictures that don’t seem “art directed” but are still pretty even more. Kath’s photos are lovely without making me wonder how long she spent putting everything into place just so.

@theguywiththebook: Faroukh posts very naturalistic book pictures from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The instagram book community (at least the parts that I see, which may be a reflection of my own internal biases) tends to be very female and mostly white and Asian women at that. To see a Middle Eastern guy's perspective is refreshingly different.

@wordrevel: Josephine’s images are simple and striking. You don't realize how hard it is to achieve that kind of unfussy grace until you try it yourself!

@thethumbedpage: Just because I'm not always into more artsy photos doesn't mean I never appreciate them! Tess's photos look like she wants to make them nice, but doesn't spend hours working to make them perfect.

@bookmarauder: Mara's pictures always make me want to start collecting the Funko Pop figurines!

@books.tea.quotes: I fell in love with Nina's account when she posted a photo with her hedgehog in a book. Who can resist a hedgehog?

@hardcoverquotes: Seeing quotes that are meaningful to people is something I especially love about the book community! This account is just quotations in their natural habitat: the books they're in!

@sweptawaybybooks: Alyssa's sock game (and, of course, book collection) is seriously on point.

@pulitzerprizes: The book awards official account is full of interesting insights and information about the many books they've honored over the years.

@theenglishreader: These pictures give me serious cover envy. I pick up most of my books secondhand, so they're frequently in less than perfect shape in the cover department (as long as the words are still there, that's what matters to me), but it sure is nice to sigh longingly over the gorgeous copies on display here!