Sep 07

Confession Friday: I Have a Penguin Problem

Children's Fiction, Personal 15

I have a penguin problem. When I was in the 3rd grade, I made a penguin habitat out of a shoebox and a white mold-a-rama penguin from the Brookfield Zoo. Ever since then I’ve been a crazy penguin lady. Penguin jewelry, penguin trinkets, penguin teapots, an entire drawer full of penguin pajamas…

Halloween 2006. Yes. I’m a “grown up.”

The Penguin Tree. It is GLORIOUS.

This is my wedding cake, complete with penguin topper. That’s COMMITMENT right there.

It should come as no surprise that I count Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater among my favorite books. I do NOT approve of the blasphemy that was the recent Jim Carrey debacle of a movie. Okay, I guess I can’t really DISAPPROVE of penguins being adorable in a movie, but as an adaptation of a book, it was abominable.

I first read Mr. Popper’s Penguins when I was… I don’t really remember. Somewhere between 9 and 11 I’m guessing. We’ll say 10. Obviously, I loved it. I’ve since read it a few more times over the years and it never ceases to amuse me. When I was a kid, I loved the idea of turning my house into a giant skating rink for penguins to play around in. Who wouldn’t love to have a house full of penguins?! (This was before I thought about the grossness of bird poop in one’s dwelling…) Penguins doing circus tricks and forming a travelling show? I would have spent my allowance on that ticket!

It’s award-winning, y’all!

When I read this as an adult, I am not immune to its whimsy, but there are a few things that make me giggle. The bit that stands out to me the most though is Mrs. Popper. This book was written in 1938, so you’d expect the mother figure in a children’s story to be a homemaker. Poor Mrs. Popper, all she ever does is complain about what a mess Mr. Popper (a house painter by trade) makes in the house. It takes some SERIOUS penguin charm to get her to be on board with a pack of antarctic birds hanging out in her house. In the winter. With the windows wide open.

The Mrs. Popper moment that is (probably unintentionally) hilarious to me is at the end. The Poppers realize that it isn’t a good idea to keep a flock of penguins living in their home, so they agree to send them off to pioneer a new penguin colony at the North Pole. (Because if you didn’t know, penguins are a South Pole thing. And they hang out on some islands too. But they most certainly do not live at the North Pole naturally. Which is why I sometimes get annoyed at holiday items that show penguins and polar bears together, because that just doesn’t happen in nature. Of course, then I remember that penguins don’t really wear hats and scarves either, but that doesn’t make it any less adorable, and I get over it. Also, polar bears are ruthless savages that would EAT penguins, which is not a good thing.)

Anyway, at the end of the book, Mr. Popper is devastated that he’s got to let his beloved penguins go… Until the arctic expedition captain pipes up and offers Mr. Popper the opportunity to hop aboard the ship and join the penguin pilgrimage. Wait- this is where it gets funny. Mr. Popper turns to Mrs. Popper and his children and goes, “Hey are you guys cool if I’m not home for supper… or at all… for the next year or two?” And his kids are all like “Yeah that’s cool, take care of the penguins.”

But Mrs. Popper’s reaction is priceless. Mrs. Popper says something to the effect of “I’ll miss you, but it’ll be really nice to not have to clean up after your messy self for the next two years. I think we’ve got enough in the bank. Later!” Sigh. Whimsy goes with everything.

So bookworms, do any of you have silly animal obsessions or oddball collections? (If anyone says “jars of urine,” I’m seriously going to rethink this question segment…)


Sep 06

I'm A Spy. Shhhhh… Don't Tell.

Personal 2

Hello Bookworms! I am going to be out of the blogosphere for the next week and a half or so. I’m going to be super busy doing things I cannot tell you about. Yet. (Please feel free to assume that I’m a spy and that I’m saving the world and such.)

BUT! I wanted to let you know I have not forsaken you! I have posts ready for your enjoyment that will pop up while I am indisposed. However, I probably won’t be responding to comments or checking in overly frequently.

So, if you leave me a note and I don’t acknowledge it, it’s not because I do not LOVE you. It’s because I am not going to be attached at the hip to computerized devices with full keyboards.

Rest assured I am still reading voraciously.


Sep 05

Gardens in Literature: Secret, Forgotten, and Red

Classics, Historical Fiction, Mystery 12

Good day, Bookworms! As you probably recall from an earlier post, I enjoy flowers and gardening nearly as much as I enjoy reading. Today we’re going to discuss a trio of books concerning gardens. Are you excited yet? I’ll take that collective groan as an enthusiastic “Yes!”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a classic that’s been enjoyed by children for generations. Sadly, I was not one of those children. I wasted an awful lot of quality childhood reading time on RL Stein and Christopher Pike. So, at the age of 29, I finally got around to The Secret Garden. Better late than never right? At the beginning, I felt really badly for Mary being orphaned in India, but her parents sounded like douchebags so it doesn’t seem like too big a loss. She literally barely knew them anyway. Plus, when she came to England she got to hang out with Dickon, the wild mystical younger brother of the house’s maid. Later she discovers the young master of the house, a mewling wretch named Colin who has been tucked away in back rooms and not told of her presence.

Luckily, the three little misfits discover a garden hidden on the property that once belonged to Colin’s mother. The children gradually nurse the garden back to health, and in the bargain, sickly “I’m going to die any minute” Colin manages to get over his hypochondria and walk. There’s never anything wrong with Dickon (except that he seems to have a little Dr. Doolittle vibe about him, but that’s eccentric, not annoying), but Mary and Colin are a hot mess of brattitude when they start out. It’s a romantic notion that obnoxious children can spend a few hours in a garden and  get their problems ironed out. Realistically, Mary and Colin probably would have needed intensive therapy to get over the neglect and drama that made up their early childhoods, but doctor’s offices aren’t as pretty as GARDENS, now are they?!

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is our second foliage filled selection. A young Australian girl named Cassandra spent most of her childhood living with her grandmother (thanks to an unstable mother). Upon her beloved grandmother’s death, Cassandra inherits a cottage in England, but is given no explanation. Cassandra has never been to England, and to her knowledge, neither had her grandmother. As far as Cassandra knew, her grandmother was a native born Aussie. Cassandra sets out on a journey uncovering the secrets of the cottage and learns the truth about her grandmother’s mysterious beginnings as a foundling on a ship’s dock. Unfortunately, Cassandra’s grandmother Nell never fully uncovered the truth about her past and her biological family, but Cassandra has better luck. What we end up with is a story within a story within a story. Frances Hodgson Burnett even makes a cameo! This appeals to historical fiction buffs AND mystery mavens.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman is the final selection in our trio. Alice Hoffman writes with a sort of magical realism, so there’s always a mysticism and other worldliness about her novels. The Red Garden tells the story of a small American town from European settlement to present day. We follow the lives of a myriad of characters who pass through the town, and it centers particularly on one patch of land where the earth is quite red. Hence the name of the novel. The magical elements makes this book a hoot. (Yeah, I just said “hoot” like my grandma.) We see a woman making friends with a bear (and not being eaten!) Johnny Appleseed makes an appaerance as a barefooted hippie-like character who leaves more than one kind of seed in town before he leaves (if you know what I’m saying… cough.) We see a teenage boy become a recluse, friendships dissolve, and a lot of ladies growing tomatoes. It’s a good time, I recommend it!

How do my Bookworms feel about gardens?


Sep 04

I Want To Join The Night Circus

Fantasy 13

Good Morning, Bookworms! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday weekend! In case anyone reads this who is not in the USA, this weekend was Labor Day, where Americans celebrate ye olde working stiffs. Once a year we all pay tribute to the laws that keep children out of factories and give us weekends. Huzzah! Now, as much as we may honor those who work for a living, there isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t thought at some point, “dang it all, I want to run away and join the circus!” (Maybe it’s not the circus for everyone, but if people are willing to applaud looking cool in a tutu and doing poorly executed cartwheels, I’m a shoe-in for the acrobat job…)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern takes you on a magical journey through an enchanted circus. This book falls into the magical realism category, but don’t be discouraged if fantasy isn’t your thing. This book has plenty to offer.

The Night Circus begins with two mysterious old magicians. They each choose a young pupil to begin training for an epic battle of magical wits to prove with of the two old men is the better magician. Why not just battle each other one on one? I don’t know, I supposed they have  a penchant for ruining young lives. Besides, when you’re ageless (which these two appear to be) you have to find ways to amuse yourselves, and hand-to-hand combat gets old after a couple hundred years.

It is determined that the “arena” for this magical battle will be a circus. What better way to disguise from the world that you’re having a magical war than to invite the public in to watch. Seriously. You expect to see the unbelievable at a circus, but if you’re just walking down the street, you’d be pretty suspicious of the elaborate display of bouncing clouds. This isn’t just any circus though. It’s a circus that arrives in towns without notice and is only open at night. It’s all spooky and mystical and delightful that way.

Anyhow, eventually the two magic pupils realize who they are competing against, which sucks for them,  because they’ve fallen in love. The only way the “battle” ends is for one of the magicians to die. As you can imagine, years or putting together spells and holding up elaborate illusions wears one  out, so the couple faces a real dilemma. They can’t keep up the competition indefinitely. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it’s a bit of Romeo and Juliet with a dash of Tuck Everlasting and a pinch of Harry Potter.

What I liked best about this book was Morgenstern’s imagery. I could see the black and white striped tents appearing unannounced in a field. I could visualize the exquisite clock that was the circus’s centerpiece. I could smell the food, taste the caramels, appreciate the wonder that the circus provided its patrons. This book is great escapist literature- I recommend it if you want to take a hiatus from real life.

So Bookworms, if you were to run away from reality, where would you go? Anybody joining me in the mediocre circus?


Aug 31

Confession Friday: It's About To Get Mushy

Children's Fiction, Personal, Young Adult Fiction 18

Hello, Bookworms! Today I thought we’d branch out a little bit and discuss the man I married. Why? Well, he keeps pointing out clever and odd things that he does, which is a not-so-subtle hint that he wants to be famous on my blog. I tried to tell him that he probably doesn’t want the entire internet to know about his terrible jokes and made up songs, but he refused to listen. Plus, it’s still about reading, so it’s totally appropriate.

Jim is a pretty good sport about the amount I read- most of the time. Every once in a while he’ll claim “husband neglect.” This usually occurs after he’s FINALLY put down his iPad and exhausted his amusement at playing with the security cameras he hooked up. (He’s a part MacGyver, part crazy paranoid guy, and 100% nerd.) It’s at this point I lovingly tell him to “bite me.”

This was our engagement photo. Highly functional relationship!

Jim is NOT a bookworm. He doesn’t understand the allure of spending hours reading literature when one can go to Wikipedia and almost immediately know the major characters and the ending. I know, it’s tragic. However, he’s not entirely opposed to having ME read things that he would theoretically LIKE to read and having me explain them to him. Case in point, Slaughterhouse Five. He seriously tried to get me to read every book that Sawyer was reading during LOST because it might provide him with clues. I refused any more of his suggestions after the Vonnegut incident. (Click here for more on THAT debacle.)

Books have always been a weird sort of background character in our relationship. I met Jim in college. He was my audio lab monitor, and I was (still am, really) technologically challenged. After a few months of putting up with me stalking him (most CHARMINGLY, I assure you), he asked me out on a date. After a few months of dating, he graduated and moved back to his hometown- 70 miles from where I was. I know, I know, that’s hardly a “long distance” relationship, but if you can’t see one another daily, it’s a long enough a distance to completely suck.

He hates having his picture taken. He either makes weird faces or tries to attack a camera with a camera of his own. It matters not, because I make these antlers look awesome.

Luckily, by this point in time we both had cell phones (It was 2003, okay? They weren’t completely ubiquitous yet!) and had free night and weekend minutes. But, let’s face it. There’s only so much you can tell someone you talk to every day. So… (This is where it gets schmoopy, fair warning.)

Ladies, in case you were wondering, THIS is how you know a guy is butt-crazy in love with you:

1. He agrees to listen to you read Harry Potter aloud. (The whole series available at the time, 5 books.)

2. Over the phone.

3. Using weird voices for different characters and a terrible British accent. (My Umbridge is LEGENDARY.)

4. Just so you can spend more time “together.”

And they lived happily ever after. Once they got over the shock of having married such weirdos.


Aug 30

Badass & Biblical: The Red Tent

Historical Fiction, Religion, Women's Studies 25

Yesterday I wrote about Pope Joan, and I’m feeling theme-y, so let’s continue with the historical fiction/women in religion vein, shall we? The Red Tent by Anita Diamant tells the story of Dinah. Who is Dinah? Yes, that is the name of Alice in Wonderland’s cat, but more importantly, Dinah was in the Bible. I grew up Catholic, so it’s with great shame that I admit that the bulk of my knowledge about Dinah’s family history I learned from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “It’s all there in chapter 39 of Geeeenesis”… (We saw it in Chicago with Donnie Osmond playing Joseph when I was like 11. Then my mom played the soundtrack in the car constantly until the cassette was eaten. Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius, yo.)

The woman on the cover reminds me of the Statue of Liberty for some reason. I have issues.

Striking a chord yet? Jacob is the patriarch of a ginormous family that includes 2 wives, 2 handmaidens (women who bear children when the wives cannot), 12 sons, and one daughter. Dinah is that daughter. The Red Tent is told from Dinah’s point of view. We get to experience the cameraderie of the “red tent” (literally where all the women in the compound hang out to menstruate) and learn of the women’s relationships in the polygamist family. Since Dinah is the only female child, she’s allowed to spend time in the red tent long before she’s “of age” and is adored by her various mothers.

In the bible, Dinah only gets a couple of lines of recognition. Her lines go something like this.. She marries (or is forcibly taken as a wife- the Biblical text is unclear) Prince Shechem who does not worship the God of Abraham and her family (as you may predict) FLIPS OUT.

Shechem tries to make amends by offering Dinah’s family a bride price fit for royalty (isn’t it wonderful to see women bought and sold like chattel? Of course, her brothers DID sell Joseph into slavery out of jealousy, so…) Shechem also agrees to be circumcised (and volunteers his men for the same treatment.) Unfortunately, this isn’t enough  to placate her brothers, so while all the men of Hamor are distracted by the pain of their newly shorn genitals, Dinah’s brothers show up and slaughter all the men in town. How civilized of them!

In this version of her story, she falls madly in love with Shechem and is absolutely devastated by her brothers’ murderous rampage. We follow her through the aftermath, and the trials that follow. She leads a heck of a life!

This book is wonderful. Historical fiction at its best. Is there a woman out there who hasn’t wished during an especially bad bought of cramps that she could just retire from society for a few days? Who wouldn’t want a metaphorical Red Tent? The one in this book had a lot of wine in it! So my worms, take a chance and read Dinah’s story. You won’t be sorry!

Have you ever felt like a footnote in your family? Did your brother have a famous musical written about him that you weren’t even IN?! Let’s talk about it!


Aug 29

Pope Joan: More Than Myth?

Historical Fiction, Religion, Women's Studies 13

I was a women’s studies minor in college, and as our final project, we had to write a research paper on… anything to do with being a woman. Pretty broad topic, right? I had just finished reading The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown and I was completely obsessed with the idea that women may have been written out of important roles in the Bible. I set about writing my research paper on the subject. My results were inconclusive and random. It’s a fascinating subject-but it’s unbelievably frustrating to try and research anything to do with the Bible. I don’t even know how old the Old Testament is-several thousand years? There is no way to corroborate facts or compare accounts or even find reliable primary resources from that long ago. My grand dreams of unearthing some previously overlooked tidbit to piece together the absolute truth of religion and humanity ended with a wimper.

There’s a silver lining, though! My women’s studies professor, Dr. Stacey Robertson (who is awesome and writes books and can be found here) presented each graduating senior with a book. Because I had been so enthused about my research project, despite turning up no spectacular insights, she presented me with Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross.

Pope Joan! Joan of Arc! If you want your daughter to be noted in the annals of Christian history, you’d better name her Joan!

Pope Joan is based on a legend widely accepted during the middle ages that a woman disguised as a man somehow rose through the religious ranks and became Pope. You are taken on Joan’s journey from her poverty stricken childhood to the halls of Rome. At a young age she demonstrates a particular aptitude for learning and is taken under the wing of a rogue tutor in spite of the commonly held belief that girls should not be educated. We follow Joan through school, through a Viking battle (seriously- marauding Vikings!), through her stay in a monastery, and all the way to her work as a priest/physician in Rome.

Joan is eventually elected as Pope, and is only exposed as a woman when she gives birth during a procession through the streets. You read that correctly. She takes a lover, gets pregnant, and OOPS gives birth in the middle of the street. The birth also kills her (so ladies, don’t get any ideas.) It makes for enthralling historical fiction, but could it be true?

The middle ages are nearly as bad as biblical times for digging up reliable resources, so historians mostly dismiss the story of Pope Joan as a legend. What historians agree on, however, is that for centuries the Vatican and much of the population BELIEVED the story to be true. Supposedly, there was even a special chair used during medieval papal coronation proceedings with a keyhole shape in the seat used to check the newly elected Pope’s genitalia. (Lest they suffer another embarrassing birthing episode mid-parade.) If you watch The Borgias on Showtime, you’ll have seen this chair in action. You’ll also have heard Jeremy Irons bellow “LECHERY” a lot, which is awesome.

Personally, I think it would have been entirely possible for a woman to have lived as a man in a monastery. People in the dark ages didn’t exactly bathe often, and bulky brown robes don’t accentuate one’s figure. I think a woman who wanted to learn may have seen a life as a monk as her only option. Convents at this time were hit or miss on allowing the education of their sisters, so taking the male route through religious education would have been a more secure plan. While I have no doubt that there were women who did fly under the radar and join monasteries and the like, I don’t think there ever was ACTUALLY a female Pope. The giving birth during a public procession bit smacks of “cautionary tale.”

But hey- this is historical fiction! That’s what makes it so much fun- taking history and making it pop! I love this book- I feel like it writes women back into a religious tradition that has largely written them out. I know this review sounds kind of controversial, but seriously give this book a chance. You won’t be sorry! What about you, bookworms? Do you think it’s possible that there was ever a female pope? I’m open to theories!


Aug 28

My Mom: A Bookworm with a Bad Memory and a Credit Card

Personal 17

My mom is a bookworm. A bookworm with a bad memory. And a credit card.

I obtained at least a third of my book collection by “shopping” in my mom’s bookshelves. She an I had an agreement. If I was able to find multiples of any given title, I got to keep the spare. It doesn’t sound like this sort of thing would happen very often, but I would routinely leave my parents’ house with a shopping bag full of extraneous books- the spoils of my mother’s overzealous bargain hunting.

My mom has been a reader for as long as I can remember. She’s on a first name basis with the librarians and always has a long list of titles she’s waiting to check out. It got to the point where they would call her if there was a new release out they thought she’d like.

As the years went by, our little Chicago suburb grew from a motley patchwork of strip malls amongst fields and farmland to a size where it could support a large bookstore. This gave my mom the flexibility to buy books as well as borrow them, all within a mile of her house. She’s also a sucker for a bargain. Remember Borders? I think my mom bought every bestseller in their 3 for the price of 2 section for years. She bought so frequently that she’d forget which ones she already had and would buy them again. This is how I came to possess such a large swath of Oprah’s Book Club selections. (I have never personally purchased anything written by Anita Shreve, though I’ve read a decent chunk of her catalog.)

I stacked the “doubles” from my mom until the pile threatened to topple. This is NOT all of them, unless my dad is reading this. Dad, this is all of them, plus a couple I threw in just to make my blog more dramatic, K?

I’m not sure my dad ever knew the extent of my mom’s dual purchasing, but he sure as heck noticed the stacks and stacks of books piled on the floor when nothing else would fit into the overstuffed bookshelves. Christmas of 2010 when my parents purchased a Kindle for me, my dad stealthily ordered a second one for my mom. This hasn’t stopped her library habit, but now she buys her books online (much to the relief of the overworked bookshelves.)

I was having a conversation with my mom the other day about how I’d started a blog. It went something like this:

ME: Yeah I started a blog about books and it’s been fun so far.

MOM: I’ve been reading it and I’m so impressed a the number of books we’ve both read! We must have similar taste!

ME: Mom. Seriously?

MOM: What?

ME: You know why right?

MOM: What are you talking about?

ME: Do you have any idea how many books I got from you because you’d purchased multiple copies of the same thing?!

MOM: Hahahahahhaahahahaha

ME: I’m not even kidding.

MOM: Well I guess it’s a good thing I have a Kindle now. They don’t let you buy the same book twice. A warning pops up saying that you’ve already downloaded that book.

ME: Sigh. You know this from more than one experience, don’t you?

MOM: Hahahahahaa! Yes!

Ladies and Gentlemen, my mom. Responsible for my love of reading, though luckily, NOT my memory.


Aug 27

Zombie Apocalypse

Dystopian 25

Dystopian fiction is one of my favorite genres. Nothing makes me feel better about my life than reading about some completely jacked up alternate future. What better way to celebrate my dedication to the dark side than to turn the spotlight on the apocalypse scenario of the moment: ZOMBIES!

Full disclosure- I generally don’t like horror movies, books, or television shows. Psycho killers, demons, and ghosts frighten me more than zombies. I suppose I can just look at a zombie apocalypse as a far fetched scenario. I mean, even the crazy people on the Doomsday Preppers show never admit to be prepping for a zombie apocalypse. It’s always something more urbane, like a financial collapse or nuclear war. Plus, psycho killers are REAL. And demons MIGHT be real. And ghosts are PROBABLY real in some form or another. I don’t like the idea of dead people, demons, or interloping psycho killers watching me shower, so I try to avoid reading about them.

It seems like zombies are everywhere these days, and I am not immune to their festering charms! The Walking Dead on AMC is absolutely addictive. Sadly, the show runs in short seasons- what’s a girl to do when the zombie show goes on hiatus? Read zombie novels, of course! (I have not read the graphic novels the Walking Dead TV series is based on. I haven’t taken the leap into graphic novels… Yet.)

Zombie Katie! allows you to upload your face and zombie it up. I suck at photoshop type things, so this is what I made. Why am I still undead? I have a head wound!

World War Z by Max Brooks was my first foray into the zombie-lore in book form and it was infectious! The book is presented as a series of articles written by a journalist after the worst of the zombie attacks are over. The stories are poignant, concise, and super creepy! They begin with the first reports of zombies, and continue through the entire “war.”

We see the military’s failures, the learning curve that comes with fighting an unknown threat. The way the public reacts is very realistic. At first people are disbelieving- I mean who would believe the dead have risen and are trying to devour humanity? Then they panic, because, HOLY CRAP! THE DEAD HAVE RISEN AND ARE TRYING TO DEVOUR HUMANITY!

Luckily, Max Brooks’s zombies have some weaknesses. They can’t climb, for one thing. Also, they freeze solid in the winter. The military eventually develops body armor that can protect against bites, and if you’re a good enough shot and have  a ton of ammo, you can climb a tree and pick them off, brain by zombiefied brain.

World War Z added so many scenarios I hadn’t thought of. It explored the psychological implications of surviving such an event. Some people would actually go all catatonic, THINK they were zombies, and join the hoard. Post apocalyptic depression can be pretty crippling, too. How does one come to terms with having to see their loved ones eaten alive? Or having to exterminate the zombie versions of their families? It was a great, well rounded look at a topic that can be super campy and cheesy.

A lot of zombie movies end with the island scenario. The rag tag band of survivors go in search of an island where the zombies won’t be able to reach them. This book blew a hole in that theory. Think about it. If zombies are dead, the don’t need to breathe. What’s to keep them from shuffling their way across the bottom of the ocean to eat the survivors on the islands? Do you feel claustrophobic yet? There is nowhere to hide!

This monkey terrified me as a child, and it now lives on my bookcase. You can’t hide from him either! And he looks sort of like a Zombie cymbal monkey. So it’s appropriate!

For the truly insatiable, check out this post on real life Zombie Apocalypse scenarios. I will warn you that the images are not for the faint of heart, but it’s definitely a cool piece. (*Sponsored by*)


Aug 24

The Greatest Sleep Aids Disguised as Books

Classics, Pretentious 20

Confession Friday: I fell asleep reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. A lot. The thing is, this is a REALLY good book. It’s just that Tolstoy gets caught up in long diatribes about Russian politics. Okay, it’s not JUST that. The prose is very challenging (even in an English translation, because Lord knows I am pathetically monolingual). I read somewhere that when your brain gets tired of processing complex thoughts, you get sleepy. Apparently I am incapable of processing complex thoughts about Russian politics.

Even the woman on the cover looks like she needs a nap…

Luckily for Tolstoy, he had a phenomenal premise to his book. Anna is stuck in an unhappy marriage, has an affair, gets pregnant as a result of this affair, hides out with her lover and traipses around Europe for a while, but pines away for the son she left in Russia. Her story has a tragic end, and it’s a great critique of the lack of options women had during that period (1870’s approximately). Eventually I did make it through the whole thing, but I sure as heck struggled to keep my eyes open sometimes.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest instead of popping that Ambien, keep a Tolstoy novel on the nightstand. You’ll be cured of insomnia, and you might learn something before you crash. Just a suggestion.

Oh, you’ve already read Anna Karenina and still can’t sleep? Why don’t you try The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera? I think this is one of those books people claim to love because it makes them sound smart, but nobody actually likes it. I have an excellent memory for plots and I just had to google this to even remember what it was about. It was about a man who was in love with one woman but also kept a mistress, and it’s incredibly philosophically poignant… According to the internet. All I remember is that they named their dog after Anna Karenina (coincidence?) and suffered hardships at the hands of the government. Or something. You’ll have to forgive me, because I was trying so hard not to fall asleep. It’s not even a long book! It’s just like “oooh philosophical stuff, let’s make you feel stupid, Katie.” And I was like, “Yeah? Well, I’m going to finish you, you awful book, just to spite you!” And then I fell asleep.

Never judge a book by its cover! Sometimes awful books have floating hats on them!

You’re STILL AWAKE? You have got to be kidding me. Alright. Time to bust out the great white whale. Yes, I’m talking about Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I was required to read this in high school. I know it’s a classic. I’m sure part of my disdain for this novel comes from the fact that I was forced to read it. However, I think this was my first experience with falling asleep while reading. You know what part was cool? The part where they talked about Queequeg being an awesomely tattooed cannibal harpoonist. You know what part wasn’t cool? Everything else! I love to read, but I’m glad I no longer have to write papers dissecting the symbolism of every passage, especially when said passages made me soporific. Maybe it’s the description of the rhythmic rocking of the waves that lulls one to slumber. Maybe it’s the challenging nature of the prose. Maybe I’m a cretin who bashes classic literature because I’m too dumb to get it. Who knows?

The only book I ever used Cliffs Notes on… Because I kept falling asleep.

If you can stay awake through all of these, you’re either a super genius or you REALLY need that Ambien. Go ahead. Take it. I promise to keep an eye on you so you don’t sleep drive yourself to Vegas and blow all your money on roulette while wearing one shoe and a feathered tiara. I’m concerned about your well being, see?