Your Study Session Menu

Can you say #finalsweek ?

A few tips from our intern on how to tackle finals and hunger simultaneously. Beware: it may put you in the mood for the Sixth Sense and drippy, crumbly things…

Good food can make any situation better. Even if you were experiencing the worst possible thing (i.e. traffic on the 405), think about how much happier you would feel with a bag of your favorite chips or a donut by your side. Road rage: managed.

In my many years of falling asleep in lectures and movies and on tables in libraries… I’ve come to realize that food has another awesome benefit: as long as you’re eating it, you stay awake. You might fall asleep the second you stop eating (me), but while the munching is happening, it’s physically nearly impossible to be sleeping. As I’m sure you can imagine, by this stage of my life, I am a professional snacker and I pride myself in it. I know what kind of snacking is appropriate for various situations and what individuals’ snacking choices and preferences say about them. It’s like I’ve got a sixth sense. (I see snacks, people.)

Now, there’s a good chance you’re an avid reader. Books are your hobby. They’re the soap opera to the 70 year old woman living inside of you. They’re your thing.

I, on the other hand, would love to be an avid reader, but I fall asleep the second I open a book. Unless I’m snacking. So, after much trial and error, I have finally figured out what kinds of foods you should and shouldn’t eat when reading a book. Even if you don’t need food to stay awake, like I do, some of these snacks might just make your reading experience that much better. DRUMROLL, please.

DO’S!

1. Foods blended together in liquid form and consumed via straw. Also known as, your average smoothie. These work for many reasons. For one thing, if positioned properly in front of you, you don’t even need hands to consume it. You could just put it on the table and sip away with your book in front of your cup. It’s just you and the straw. Pretty simple. You also get the added benefit of eating like…5 things at once. Which is great if you just really get a kick out of multitasking or if you’re trying to get some veggies or fruits all up in your diet regimen.

2. Pretty much any cold liquid consumed via straw. I’d recommend chocolate milk. The most important part here is the straw, though. They just makes your life easy. Which is one of the reasons you shouldn’t drink hot drinks, because anyone who has ever drunk hot liquid out of a straw knows the roof-of-your-mouth burn is probably one of the worst, and that it’s inevitable.  No matter how many times you try to cool the drink down, no matter how many times you engage your different ‘testing’ tactics pre-consumption, you will almost always burn yourself when drinking hot liquid through a straw. And that’ll just ruin your reading experience, and probably your whole life. Just please don’t do it.

3. Family-sized bags or boxes of snack foods in original flavors. These are things like cheez-its, goldfish crackers, pop chips, cereal, you know the drill. They are in the snack aisle for a reason, and it’s because they have been perfected for your snacking pleasure. They literally exist because of your munchies. You should be able to stick your hand blindly into these bags/boxes without becoming nervous or surprised by what comes out of it.  If you can’t, you’re not eating the right snack. The goal is to be able to grab a bunch and shove it directly into your mouth without ever having to avert your glance from your novel. Original flavors mean you’ll have the stamina to keep snacking without wearing out your pallet. And family-sized is crucial because there’s nothing more annoying than wanting to read but running out of snacks to read with. Could you imagine?

4. Peanut butter via spoon. Yes, it can and should go on a spoon. This applies to Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, almond butter, and Nutella, as well. You get the drill.

5. Cereal with milk. This might be a little messy, and yes, it might not be ideal for reading because you have to sort of turn your head to face your cereal bowl every now and then…but cereal is worth it. Cereal is always worth it.

DON’TS!

1. Warm drinks like coffee or tea. I already discussed the dangers of attempting to drink hot drinks. But there’s more. Unless paired with other foods, or if you’re part of the 5% of the population that is actually still affected by the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, these will just make you sleepy. Warm milk, warm water, whatever it is. Parents give little kids these drinks in order to make them fall asleep. And even if they don’t make you sleepy, these are still no-no’s because these things don’t really qualify as foods and therefore they’re inherently just not as enjoyable. Simple as that. You also could potentially and will likely spill on yourself, since you won’t be drinking out of a straw, which will lead to sheer anguish. If you attempt to prevent the spilling of said hot liquid, you’ll just end up having to look away from your novel all the time. That’s not what we want, is it? Goodness, why is it all so complicated?

2. Flavored anything. How many times have you grabbed a page of a novel and gotten that red hot-cheeto residue all up in there? Or maybe you’re the type who feels the need to lick your fingers after eating something flavored…then you’re just going to get your drool all over your novel the next time you page turn. Is that what you want? Is that really what you want? I know these things are delicious, but they’re dangerous. Many of them also require things like water or milk for the washing down of strong flavors. That’s just time wasted, right there. Please, do yourself a favor and avoid the flavor.

3. Small bags of snacks moms put in lunchboxes. Are you a baby? Tell me, are you a baby? Do you really want to read this novel? Because if you DO then you better be in it for the long haul, and the long haul has no room for teeny tiny snack bags. You’re a big kid now. You pack your own lunchbox.

4. Soup. I mean…what are you thinking? That’s just begging for disaster.

5. In general, things that drip.

6. Things that require two hands to eat. How do you expect to read with no hands? Are you a magician? If you aren’t which I suspect you aren’t then you should probably you know…stop doing that. Reading while devouring a subway sandwich isn’t possible. It just isn’t. At this point you’re just pretending to read while you eat your sandwich, so you might as well just eat your sandwich.

7. Bags of things with too much variety. Unless you like all of the items within that variety. For instance, chex mix. Do you like those awkward circular pretzels? Bleh. Next.

8. Foods that are so good you can’t help but think about them as you eat. My god…it’s just…it’s just so good.

9. Things that crumb. There are few things as frustrating as getting crumbs stuck in the seam of your novel. Trying to get them out just means you make more and more, progressively smaller crumbs out of the one large one you dropped in the first place. They crumble exponentially until there’s nothing to grab and you’re left feeling sad and defeated. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s masochism. I don’t care how much you love those fancy croissants or slices of toast with jam. It’s just not going to work.

10. Anything with melted chocolate. This is the most painful “don’t.” But we all know…chocolate gets everywhere. You eat a cookie that’s fresh out of the oven and somehow five minutes later you have chocolate on your shirt, your fingers, your face- and in this case, your book. No good.  Just no good. Brown smudges on novels just invite inquisitive questions later on. Just try to fight it and stay away.

Let the snacking begin!


Confessions of a Book Abandoner

A positively shameful confession from college student and eNotes intern, Yael…

I need to confess something, guys.

I’m a book-starter. That kind of sounds like a positive thing, but it’s not.

Allow me to rephrase.

I’m a book-abandoner… a book-deserter.

I just can’t kick the habit.

In the past two years, I’ve probably started and stopped reading about 20 books. With each, as goes the one before it, I make it through about a quarter of the novel. Then I bookmark it and put it on my nightstand like I’m totally going to tackle it “one of these days,” but I know, deep down in my book-neglecting heart, that my lame attempts to try and pick it back up weeks later will result in one page being read, over and over, until I realize I’m hungry. Then, you know, it’s game over. Book goes back on the nightstand. Collects dust. Poor book. (Sometimes-and I put this in parentheses because it’s just so shameful-I even do this to used books…books who have already gone through so much. Who does that? It’s like…where’s my heart? I don’t know. I just don’t know.)

Theoretically, I love books. I love the idea of books, the feel of books. I’m one of those people (or maybe the only person) who walks down the hallways at Barnes & Noble just, you know, lightly grazing book bindings with my finger tips, flipping through random pages and thinking about all the possibilities that lie within them. I even love smelling books. Don’t you furrow your brows at me…there’s no denying it: books smell like hundreds of years of life and also like warm, cozy memories and those are the best smells that were ever invented. But…seriously? I haven’t been able to read past chapter 3 in any book since high school when reading fictional novels was required and life was a little more chipper. Harry Potter, where you at? (Obviously…on my book shelf in order from 1-7 and properly covered with their respective book sleeves, but that’s beside the point…

The real point is, I’m fed up.

I’m done. I’m ready to change.

TODAY IS THE DAY I START MY JOURNEY TO BECOME A WELL-READ, BOOK-COMPLETER. I will be a book-MASTER. (You go, girl ← yes, that was self encouragement, and it makes talking to yourself acceptable)

If you’re like me, this transformation I’ve just gone through might spark something in you. Maybe you’ll feel motivated to kick that nasty habit, stop pretending you don’t know how to “read for pleasure” anymore because textbooks burned you out, and get your act together. Seriously…just get it together. Because, if you’re like me, you may soon be an unemployed, recent graduate, looking for ways to kill time in between all that job-hunting and stress eating. Books, friends. Books. We can spend time getting caught up in other peoples’ more exciting lives, actually gain a little knowledge, and maybe even get our hands on a little bit of peace of mind and calm.

Now that you’re ready to become a librarian and the world’s most influential leader in literary criticism, let’s discuss book choice.

It doesn’t really matter. Any kind of reading is the good kind.

Personally, I want to tackle the classics. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because everyone’s read them and I just want to be one of the cool kids. But that’s only about 80% of it.

I also think that the “classic” novels are classic for a reason, and not just because they’re old and wise. In general, I feel like it would be beneficial to read the works of writers who laid the backbone and set the pace for the next great writers. They’re the OGs, you know? You have to learn from the masters and then their students.

Now if you hate Jane Austen and Dostoyevsky and are about to say to me sternly “Yael, don’t you dare put that Hemingway anywhere near me,” be soothed: there are millions of books left out there to read. All kinds and all sizes, from all different kinds of countries and different kinds of people. You have a world of novels to choose from. So choose randomly, haphazardly, and without much forethought. Scratch that, without any forethought. And do it often. (A good analogy is to act like you would if you were at a grocery store in the ice cream aisle, and that for today only, all the ice cream had 0 calories and 0 grams of fat. I mean…just go to town. Take all of it. All. Of. It. Even the weird flavors.) Books are one of those world wonders that will enrich your life in so many ways you can’t even begin to realize. The lessons you learn, the relationships you make, the inspiration you’ll take, and the enjoyment you’ll get from reading a book is something you really can’t get elsewhere.

So go to your nearest library or book store, grab some books, smell them (seriously, just try it) and read them. Finish them. Even if you don’t like them very much, you’ll get something out of it. That’s what I’m going to do at least, and honestly if I can do it…I really think anyone can.

Oh, and also if anyone wants to start a book club, I’m interested. I’ll bring the snacks.

Sincerely,

Your-Book’s-New-BFFAEAE (that’s best friend forever and ever and ever)


Blind Date With a Book

While a blind date with another human being on Valentine’s Day is on par ideas-wise with tattooing your significant other’s name on your chest, a blind date with a book is not. This is what librarian and tumblr user alethiosaur, inspired by Worthington Libraries, sought to prove with her local library event, in which she paired browsing library-goers with titles unknown to them except for the few characteristics she listed on their sealed-up covers. Fortunately, she was able to avoid those overused dating site catchphrases, “I’m tired of all the games,” and “If you like moonlit walks on the beach”.

Here’s a few examples of what she came up with instead:

Recognize the titles above? How about these ones:

Happily, most of the books got hot dates with more than thirty readers.

We started with ~40 books. Two hours later, all but four had found homes with library patrons (sorry, FlushMixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerPersepolis, and The ThingsThey Carried, they don’t know what they’re missing).

See if you recognize any more of the books looking for love below. Which one would you choose, or what book would you set up a fellow reader with for a blind date? What would you tell him or her about it?

Have a love-filled Valentine’s Day! We hope it involves a book somehow, or at least a little recitation of our top ten love poems.


Celebrating 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice (and Darcy, mmmm)

“I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London.”

These are the words Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra 200 years ago, on January 29th, 1813. And the “darling child” she spoke of? None other than her firstborn novel, of course–Pride & Prejudice.

The novel was published just a day before, after many years of submissions to and rejections by various London publishers. Austen had completed the manuscript with its original title of “First Impressions” in 1797. From there, so many prospective publishers declined to even see the work that P&P underwent 14 years of heavy editing to become what it is today. At last, the editor Thomas Egerton bought the book for a meager £110, the equivalent of just $172 today.

Thankfully, as it is a truth universally acknowledged, Pride & Prejudice went on to become not only the “fashionable novel” of its time, but one of the most beloved (and borrowed) stories of English literature. 200 years on, it inspires everything from its explicit spin-offs (Death at Pemberley, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, etc), to the more subtly taken chick-lit and movie plots of today. And now, in the week of this milestone anniversary, a slew of articles dedicated to all things Austenesque. So feast your eyes on these literary nibbles, Darcy lovers:

12 Things You Didn’t Know About Pride & Prejudice

The 2 Problems in Pride & Prejudice, According to PD James

Making the case for the best Darcy: will it be Colin Firth, or Matthew Macfadyen?

The Real Face of Jane Austen

Here’s another interesting couple of tidbits I came across today… Ever wondered what Austen’s contemporaries and fellow authors thought of her self-confessed “light, and bright, and sparkling” novel? It seems that Charlotte Brontë was none too impressed, though surprisingly it was on account of the novel’s lack of a characteristic landscape more than anything else:

Charlotte Brontë, in a letter to [the critic] Lewes, wrote that Pride and Prejudice was a disappointment, “a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but … no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.”

Meanwhile, in 1937 the poet W.H. Auden cheekily mused that Austen was far too experienced for a gentlewoman of her time and social standing:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety
The economic basis of society.

So there you have it, a few juicy details surrounding by far the greatest romance plot in British literature. But if you’d like to learn more, there are plenty of eNotes study guides for, you know, all that important academic stuff:

Pride & Prejudice Study Guide

Jane Austen Biography

Historical Context of the Novel

Character Analysis of the Novel

and much more on enotes.com!

Be on the lookout for ways to celebrate the anniversary in your area. With this many Austenites around the globe, there has got to be a Meryton ball somewhere nearby.

How will you celebrate 200 years of P&P?


Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases of 2013

Though I’m still reeling to catch up on the great new releases of 2012, and though I already have a set list of books to tackle as my New Year’s resolution, I’m already salivating over the following sneak previews that come courtesy of The Millions. Apparently the first stage of overcoming literature fatigue is admitting that you will never catch up to all the amazing books out there. Maybe I’ll get around to these promising reads in 2016 or so. Til then, well hello Booker Prize winner of 2010…

What new releases are you looking forward to this year?

coverUmbrella by Will Self: Shortly before Umbrella came out in the UK last September, Will Self published an essay in The Guardian about how he’d gone modernist. “As I’ve grown older, and realised that there aren’t that many books left for me to write, so I’ve become determined that they should be the fictive equivalent of ripping the damn corset off altogether and chucking it on the fire.” Umbrella is the result of Self’s surge in ambition, and it won him some of the best reviews of his career, as well as his first Booker shortlisting. He lost out to Hilary Mantel in the end, but he won the moral victory in the group photo round by doing this.

coverScenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher: In his eighth novel, Scenes from Early Life, Philip Hensher “shows for the first time what [he] has largely concealed in the past: his heart,” writes Amanda Craig in The Independent.  Written in the form of a memoir, narrated in the voice of Hensher’s real-life husband Zaved Mahmood, the novel invites comparison with Gertrude Stein’sThe Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.  Described as a hybrid of fiction, history, and biography—and as both “clever” and “loving”—the inventive project here is distinctly intriguing.

coverMy Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak: When Maurice Sendak died last May he left one, final, unpublished book behind.  It is, according to a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, a beautiful, intensely serious elegy for Sendak’s beloved older brother Jack, who died in 1995.  The story, illustrated in watercolors, has Guy (a stand-in for Sendak), journeying down the gullet of a massive polar bear named Death- “Diving through time so vast—sweeping past paradise”- into an underworld where he and Jack have one last reunion. “To read this intensely private work,” writes Publisher’s Weekly, “is to look over the artist’s shoulder as he crafts his own afterworld, a place where he lies in silent embrace with those he loves forever.”

coverSee Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid: For See Now Then, her first novel in a decade, Jamaica Kincaid settles into a small town in Vermont, where she dissects the past, present and future of the crumbling marriage of Mrs. Sweet, mother of two children named Heracles and Persephone, a woman whose composer husband leaves her for a younger musician.  Kincaid is known as a writer who can see clean through the surface of things – and people – and this novel assures us that “Mrs. Sweet could see Mrs. Sweet very well.”

coverGive Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked by James Lasdun: English poet, novelist and short story writer James Lasdun’s new book is a short memoir about a long and harrowing experience at the hands of a former student who set out to destroy him and through online accusations of sexual harassment and theft. J.M. Coetzee has called it “a reminder, as if any were needed, of how easily, since the arrival of the Internet, our peace can be troubled and our good name besmirched.”

coverAll That Is by James Salter: Upon return from service as a naval officer in Okinawa, Philip Bowman becomes a book editor during the “golden age” of publishing.  The publisher’s blurb promises “Salter’s signature economy of prose” and a story about the “dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition.” In our interview with Salter in September, he told us it was “an intimate story about a life in New York publishing,” some 10 years in the making.  From John Irving: “A beautiful novel, with sufficient love, heartbreak, vengeance, identity confusion, longing, and euphoria of language to have satisfied Shakespeare.” Tim O’Brien: “Salter’s vivid, lucid prose does exquisite justice to his subject—the relentless struggle to make good on our own humanity.” April will not come soon enough.

coverYou Are One of Them by Elliott HoltYou Are One of Them is Pushcart Prize-winner Elliott Holt’s debut novel. You might be forgiven for thinking she’d already published a few books, as Holt has been a fixture of the literary Twittersphere for years. Holt’s debut is a literary suspense novel spanning years, as a young woman, raised in politically charged Washington D.C. of the 1980s, goes to Moscow to investigate the decades-old death of her childhood friend.

coverA Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel: A short story collection that includes the author’s New Yorker debut, “Atria”. If that piece is any indication, the book is more than a bit fabulist – the plot involves a girl who finds herself pregnant and worries she’ll give birth to an animal. The specter of parenthood, as the title suggests, appears in numerous guises, as does the reinvention that marked the protagonists of her novel (the genesis of which she wrote about in our own pages).


cover
His Wife Leaves Him by Stephen Dixon: Stephen Dixon, a writer known for rendering unbearable experiences, has built his 15th novel around a premise that is almost unbearably simple: A man named Martin is thinking about the loss of his wife, Gwen.  Dixon’s long and fruitful career includes more than 500 shorts stories, three O. Henry Prizes, two Pushcart Prizes and a pair of nominations for the National Book Award.  His Wife Leaves Him, according to its author, “is about a bunch of nouns: love, guilt, sickness, death, remorse, loss, family, matrimony, sex, children, parenting, aging, mistakes, incidents, minutiae, birth, music, jobs, affairs, memory, remembering, reminiscence, forgetting, repression, dreams, reverie, nightmares, meeting, dating, conceiving, imagining, delaying, loving.”

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff: Rakoff passed away last summer at the age of 47, shortly after completing this slender novel “written entirely in verse.” His previous books have been largely satirical, so this final work is a departure: stretching across the country and the twentieth century, the novel’s stories are linked by “acts of generosity or cruelty.” Ira Glass, who brought Rakoff to the airwaves for more than a decade, has described the book as “very funny and very sad, which is my favorite combination” (a fair descriptor of much of Rakoff’s radio work, likethis heartbreaking performance from the live episode of “This American Life” staged just a few months before his death.)

Blast, this Top Ten only made it halfway through the year! There’s just too much brewing to be able to discern what will be the true standouts. For the full list, arranged by release date, head over to The Millions immediately.


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