Literary Mixtape | Far from the Madding Crowd

Do you ever want a modern soundtrack to literary fiction? Yes? Me too. That’s the point of this feature. Whereas some people imagine cinematic montages in their head, I create a soundtrack.

Okay, so I actually do both, but I prefer to share my soundtrack.
Madding Crowd

While Far from the Madding Crowd is not my favorite Thomas Hardy novel (that’s Return of the Native), it is my second favorite. The recent movie adaptation was excellent too, although I do recommend giving the book a chance.

As an alternative for a review, synopsis, or anything of the like, I decided to create a soundtrack for the book. Please note that quite a bit of this is intended to be playful and irreverent. I’m rarely serious and this post is no exception. Because really, do I believe that Far from the Madding Crowd should lead off with Nirvana’s About a Girl? No, but I like it all the same.

01. About a Girl / Nirvana

“You overrate my capacity of love. I don’t possess half the warmth of nature you believe me to have. An unprotected childhood in a cold world has beaten gentleness out of me.”

02. Love Sick / Bob Dylan

“Love is an utterly bygone, sorry, worn-out, miserable thing with me- for him or anyone else.”

03. Stevie Nicks / Fleetwood Mac

“They spoke very little of their mutual feelings: pretty phrases and warm attentions being probably unnecessary between such tried friends.”

04. Take on Me / A-Ha

“Don’t take on about her, Gabriel. What difference does it make whose sweetheart she is, since she can’t be yours?’

‘That’s the very thing I say to myself,’ said Gabriel.”

05. In Chains / Shaman’s Harvest

“Sometimes I shrink from your knowing what I have felt for you, and sometimes I am distressed that all of it you will never know.”

06. New Romantics / Taylor Swift

“Well, what I mean is that I shouldn’t mind being a bride at a wedding, if I could be one without having a husband. But since a woman can’t show off in that way by herself, I shan’t marry — at least yet.”

07. Shovels and Dirt / Strumbellas

“A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.”

08. Pining / Parker Millsap

“I shall do one thing in this life – one thing certain – that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die.”

09. The Sound of Silence / James Blake

“Silence has sometimes a remarkable power of showing itself as the disembodied sould of feeling wandering without its carcase, and it is then more impressive than speech. In the same way to say a little is often to tell more than to say.”

10. (Insert Song Here). It is possible I will have a brilliant idea for an appropriate song for this quote, but so far…one big nope.

“I have felt lately, more and more, that my present way of living is bad in every respect.”

Your job, if you feel up to it (and no pressure, obviously, or I might die listening to the sound of crickets), is to think of something for #10. Otherwise just enjoy my small contribution to the lost art of the mixtape, with a classic literature twist.


All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Wonderful ThingsWayvonna Quinn was born in the back of a stranger’s car while her parents hitchhiked across Texas. Eight years later, her circumstances have improved. Barely.

Now living in a dilapidated farmhouse, Wavy’s trying to parent her infant brother. Her father runs a meth lab on the property and her mother barely functions. To say her life is difficult is an understatement. She is poor, abused, and afraid.

Then she meets Kellen. Kellen changes her life, they take care of each other—and care for each other, in a world that doesn’t want them. Aside from Wavy’s brother, Kellen is the only wonderful thing in her life. But when tragedy upends and exposes Wavy’s family, her life looks ugly to the outside.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (I received my review copy from the publisher) is an unexpectedly touching novel. Filled with tragedy and told effortlessly from multiple narrators, Bryn Greenwood’s novel is one that will stick with me for a long time. It’s a story that challenges the way you view the world. How and when is love appropriate? Are certain lines, if crossed, a forgivable offense? Can a 14 year old, who is an adult in nearly every way possible, be capable of adult feelings?

As Wavy falls in love with Kellen, a man who is much too old for her, the novel needs to be read with empathy and understanding. Greenwood does not romanticize the relationship; she is not sentimental about Wavy and Kellen. Instead she presents their brutal, hard-won existence with an honest, straightforward appeal that is, well, very appealing. I sincerely hope readers give this one a chance. It’s not an easy book to read, but it is worth it.

PS: Lolita it is not. Thankfully.


Year of Wonders // Six Degrees of Separation

I’ll begin this post with an odd confession. The word ‘degrees’ always looks misspelled to me. So the entire time I compose this post, my eyes are drawn back to the title, looking at that right-but-doesn’t-look-it word. Silly distractions aside, the idea behind this exercise is to connect books in any way that’s meaningful to you, from the profound to the inane. Although Kevin Bacon is typically behind the six degrees game, books are just a bit more fun.
Six Degrees Year of Wonders

This month we’re beginning with Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a historical fiction novel that I have not read, and while I may read it, it’s certainly not in my upcoming stack. For my first link, I am going with a simple, superficial connection: title.

Wonder Boys is a wonderful (I can’t help myself) book by Michael Chabon and it’s quite a bit of fun (ranks up among my favorite college/campus novels). It was made into a so-so movie with a stellar soundtrack. On the campus novel note, Straight Man by Richard Russo is another favorite of mine. There’s a particularly memorable part involving possible seduction with peach pits.

Another food used for seduction? Sandwiches. In Patricia Park’s Re Jane, Jane falls for Ed over illicitly consumed late night…sandwiches. It’s a good retelling of the classic novel, as is Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. Jane Steele features a determined, strong, if slightly unhinged heroine. It’s great fun to read, as is Tom Perrotta’s Election (though not of the same caliber as Jane Steele). Election’s Tracy Flick, over-achiever with a dark side and an over the top determination to succeed, is the link between these.

The last link is a personal one, and it’s hard to describe. I wanted to like Election, but I just didn’t love it in the much the same way I wanted to like Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story, but did not. Both books evoked the same sort mild regret, yet oddly satisfied feeling when I read them. A tenuous, intangible link, but it exists nonetheless.

This month’s six degrees went from the plague in 17th century England to the world inside of an odd, modern marriage. Considering joining in? Visit booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

Lists, Personal

The List // August


It’s been a rough summer, not terrible, by any means, but…long? I don’t know. Let’s start with what I can’t control. It’s hot. I don’t have air conditioning. I’m carrying 10 pounds too many and I feel like I’m constantly overheating. When I left work today it was 97 degrees.

My face just made an involuntary cringe.

Next up… We refinanced our home in June in the hope of getting quite a few house projects done. First up? Finishing the basement (to escape some of the heat). We painted. We cleaned. We bought carpet. We had it installed Friday afternoon. Sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, a pipe broke in our basement (behind the drywall), flooding a large portion of our new carpet. It’s fixed now.

So the things I’ve been working on lately have not fallen into the “fun” category, but they certainly have to be completed. And I’m on a bit of a deadline to get my tasks done. The point of this post is to remind myself of what I want (and need) to do. If I publish it, it means I’ll be obligated to complete it, right? RIGHT.

(Side note: Did anyone else ever follow Young House Love in their heyday? I did, and I was always liked their Listy McListerson posts.)

  1. . I’m starting with an easy one (and a sanity savor). It’s cool and floating is one of the few ways I feel comfortable these days (and I have at least 12 weeks to go).
  2. Organize two closets. My closet is organized, actually, so this only applies to the closets of my kids. I need to pull clothes that don’t fit them and figure out the clothing situation for the new baby (I donated almost all of the infant clothes I had, because no more babies…(eyeroll)).
  3. Paint. I don’t even know where to start, but there are plenty of rooms that need it. So…make a plan and then execute.
  4. Monitor Craigslist like a stalker. I need to replace my dining room table, but I’m cheap.
  5. Read four books this month. One a week seems like an accomplishable task.
  6. Hem the curtains I bought a year ago. This one is just embarrassing.
  7. Exercise (beyond a brisk walk) twice a week.
  8. Create one literary mixtape. I’m building in blog writing to the list, because it might be the only way I fit it in.
  9. Finish watching Stranger Things. There aren’t even that many episodes. Does anyone else find it difficult to watch television (but enjoy it when you do)? I don’t sit still easily, so this is actually a tough one for me.
  10. Print some of my Instagram pictures (and create our family travel book). I like to make books that show where we’ve been. I need to catch up on our trips to the Outer Banks, Big Bend National Park, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Devils Tower, and Crater Lake. Someday my children will appreciate everywhere I make them go (and that I’ve documented it), right?
  11. Finish building my fauxdenza. I’m working on one like this one (from Yellow Brick Home).

So my August goals are totally doable, right? I think so. Feel free to point out what I don’t finish (I imagine I will post an update).

Also, to close out the post on a positive note and to make you feel old, 30 years ago today Kristy’s Great Idea was published (and The Babysitter’s Club was launched).

What’s on your to-do list?

(Image found here)


Books Made Me Do It


I do not often read the types of books that inspire me to do what the characters do. Does anyone really want to be living in a Stephen King novel? While I’d like to think I’d survive the superflu and kick anyone’s ass that got in my way, I probably wouldn’t. The odds would not be in my favor. Do I want to be stranded on Mars? No. Do I ever want to step foot on a space ship? Absolutely not (shrinks back in terror). But I do love reading about it.

Today’s list is things books inspired us to learn/do/be. My list will be a bit of a mixed bag and I do think it’s interesting how we can take inspiration from a fictional story. Not many of my ambitions come from a book, but I will do my best. I’m incredibly goal-oriented, type a, anxious, etc. I don’t really relax. It’s not my finest personality point, but I am your go to person for your next hiking challenge.

Own a lake house. This one is from Bag of Bones by Stephen King. I loved that lake house, even if it was haunted.

Be a good mother. Like Marmee in Little Women, I want to raise compassionate, aware children with excellent imaginations.

Find an epic rope swing (on a lake). Not inspired by any particular book, but this would be great and it really is one of my goals.

Be financially secure. Again, not inspired by a book, unless you consider the abject poverty featured in all those southern gothic novels a stark warning…  Meaning I don’t want to be out hunting squirrels as my source of protein. I don’t necessarily want to be wealthy, though I wouldn’t object (but I’m a librarian, so…nope), but I do really, really enjoy safety and security.

Hike the PCT (or at least a portion of it). Thanks to Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I can’t say I want my trip to be just like hers though…

Take an amazing road trip. Too many books to name, but John Green makes it seem fun. In the recent years, we’ve tried the road trip thing. Last year we drove out to Lake Tahoe, this year we drove to Texas. I think I’m too much of a planner for this type of thing, but an amazing, random road trip would be interesting.

Visit Scotland. Ahem, Outlander.

Be a Librarian. Thanks to a summer spent reading Insomnia by Stephen King, I discovered the existence of graduate school in library and information science.

More than anything else, I’m probably influenced in my food interests. If a book talks about cupcakes, I want a cupcake. If a book talks about curry, I want curry – same with pizza, gin, etc. You get the idea.

How do books influence you? For more inspiration, check here.

Photo found here.

%d bloggers like this: