sábado, 23 de abril de 2016

Dewey's 24-hour Readathon: April 2016

End of Event Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 13. It was 3 am here and I was extremely sleepy. I was not feeling very well either, so I decided it was best to go to sleep for a while. I woke up at 9.30 and continued readathoning.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Any kind of comic or graphic novel because they give you a fast sense of accomplishment. I really like Locke & Key and you can easily read the whole thing during a readathon. There are as many comics as readers, so it depends on what you like. I have a comics shelf on goodreads and you can write or comment if you're interested in specific recs. 

I also like to read short, fast-paced books, or books that grab you and don't let you go until you're done: whodunnits (try Agatha Christie), YA (John Green's Paper Towns), fantasy (Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study), scifi (Ernest Cline's Ready Player One), or romance (Sarah MacLean's A Rogue by Any Other Name). 

Keep in mind that audiobooks might become your best friends! I'm getting into the habit of listening to books I've already read and know quite well during the readathon, so I can get on with my chores and do social media updates at the same time I keep on reading. I use Librivox for this, but you can try your library or Audible! 

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

I'd actually like to see more official support to book bloggers on traditional blogging platforms. While I love the diversity of social media used by readathoners and appreciate the huge communities on Twitter and Goodreads, I kind of feel that straight-up bloggers were a bit left out this time. But maybe it was just my perception and not at all true! Also, I feel a bit of a jerk complaining without offering solutions, but I really don't know what could be done. 

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Hosts were all extremely well coordinated.

5. How many books did you read?
4 books

6. What were the names of the books you read?
1. Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - mainly Stan Lee & Jack Kirby - 2 stars
2. The Slow Regard of Silent Things - Patrick Rothfuss - 4 stars
3. La Casa - Paco Roca - 5 stars
4. Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare - 3 stars to this audio edition

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
La Casa by Paco Roca, an autobiographical comic by a Spanish author about losing your parents and coping with it. The art was excellent and the story was carefully told. The only problem I had is that it was very emotive and it left me on a state of book hangover not conducive to readathoning. I didn't want to start a new book after finishing it.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It's an omnibus of almost 500 pages that collects the first 20 stories of the Avengers, from 1963 to 1965. I really enjoy having read it, because I've learned quite a lot about the origins of the Marvel Universe and their superheroes and supervillains. On the other hand, most of the stories were boring (too simplistic and childish) and some were downright offensive. Sadly, some of these traits are still present in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (that is, the new Marvel superhero blockbusters that fill our screens and that I unabashedly enjoy in spite of their problems).

9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Unless life throws a curveball, 100% likely. I'll be a reader and a cheerleader, and I might help managing the GR group. I'm actually thinking of readathoning over there next time.

Local time: 18:31


Hour 23 

Local time: 12:00

Hours spent reading: 10

Books finished: 3
1. Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - mainly Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (comic, started before the readathon) - 2 stars
2. The Slow Regard of Silent Things - Patrick Rothfuss - 4 stars
3. La Casa - Paco Roca - 5 stars

Currently reading: 
1. Romeo & Juliet - William Shakespeare (on audio)
Fun fact: they're filming the movie adaptation of Still Star-Crossed on my city. I went to have a look at the filming locations yesterday and it's quite cool!

Eaten: Greek yoghurt with cinnamon apple jelly, a cup of caramel macchiato, ham & tomato on baguette

I've been incubating an ugly cold. Whenever I fly, I get a sore throat and a headache, and I'm feeling a bit under the weather. But not so bad that I can't read! I've finished two books in two hours. The problem is that I don't know what to read now. La Casa is one of those books that leave you with a book hangover. Nothing I pick seems to work! Maybe nonfiction?


Mid Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? 

I'm about to finish Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It is SO BAD you guys. But I'm learning a lot about the Avengers and their lore.

2. How many books have you read so far? 

A grand total of... 0. But I'm reading three at the same time, so what can you expect.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I really, really want to finish The Slow Regard of Silent Things. I'm halfway through and I'm loving it.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
My interruptions were all at the start of the readathon, so I just started later. But they were nice interruptions: I bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in months and decided to grab lunch with him, then went to visit the book fair, and then got a phone call from my grandma (she's the sweetest).

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
The diversity of readathoners and ways to readathon. We truly make Dewey's Readathon ours! No rules is a great rule.


Hour 10 Challenge - Character Road Trip

I'd travel with Hermione from Harry Potter, because she's a girl after my own heart and she has the best traveling tips, like carrying a bottomless bag.

We'd start from Hogwarts, of course, which is near Loch Ness, our first stop. There, Hermione and I would share our knowledge about magical creatures and cryptozoology to compare notes about Nessy. Then, we'd continue to Edinburgh, where I'd take her to The Elephant House for a good capuccino with a dash of meta, and we'd tour the city because it's such a cool place. We'd finish in Hay-On-Wye with its many bookshops, where, as bookworms, we would buy books to our heart's content.


Hour 10 

Local time: 23:00

Hours spent reading: 4

Books finished: 0

Currently reading: 
1. Romeo & Juliet - William Shakespeare (on audio)
2. The Slow Regard of Silent Things - Patrick Rothfuss
3. Avengers Epic Collection: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - mainly Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (comic, started before the readathon)

Eaten: Indian English breakfast tea, artisanal fruit gums as a snack, grilled cheese and pesto sandwich and olives for lunch

Hello everyone! This year I'm winging the readathon, which is very unlike me. I'm also starting 5 hours late. On my way to the Book Fair (happy Book Day to all of you, by the way!) I met a friend I hadn't seen in months and we grabbed lunch & coffee together. Unexpected but pleasant! And I got new books :)

My opening meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Spain! Just arrived from France, which is one of the reasons I haven't planned at all.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
For the first time ever I haven't planned a stack. I'll be reading what I find appealing, so I don't know yet. I'm gonna start with a Romeo and Juliet audiobook since I need to do laundry and unpack my luggage.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Artisanal fruit gums. Not the healthiest, but yum.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm a 26-year-old PhD student just arrived from a quarter spent in France, love plants, reading, traveling and baking.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
I'm not sure if this is my 6th readathon maybe? Lost count. But this is my first unplanned and unprepared readathon. Let's see how it goes!

martes, 5 de abril de 2016

Book Review: A Rogue by Any Other Name (The Rules of Scoundrels #1) - Sarah MacLean

A decade ago, the young Marquess of Bourne lost his fortune in a game of cards. Now, he ruthlessly runs London's most successful gaming hell, and will do whatever it takes to regain his land and his inheritance. Even marrying the boring Lady Penelope Marbury.

I read this for Katie’s Reluctant Romantic Challenge that ran during February. While it wasn’t my first romance novel, every romance story I had read until this was very tame when it came to the bedroom scenes. Sex was usually of the fade-to-black kind and the focus was solely on the emotional journey of the main characters. A Rogue by Any OtherName is a completely different kind of novel – romantic, yes, but very physical. What one would call steamy in the romance slang. And now that I’ve encountered one of the aspects that raise more prejudice in “serious readers”, I can safely say that my preconceptions have been smashed.

It’s true that the aim of erotic scenes in romance novels is to titillate, but as it is romance and not erotica, they must serve to advance the plot and the relationship between the hero and the heroine. So there is a huge emotional component to these scenes, and it is tricky to build a rapport with the reader. It is obvious that writing successful romantic sex scenes requires skill. They are well written, and I can't stress how different from my expectations they are. I know I shouldn’t sound surprised, but I’m still fighting against my literary snobbishness. The sex was tasteful and the language was not at all ridiculous. And I have to admit that I didn't expect to understand and recognize the feelings of the characters so much.

I usually favor cerebral reads that make me think, that turn my worldview upside down and help me learn. However, romance is all about the feelings. Romance authors, or at least Sarah MacLean, can convey so much more than I thought possible just through words. A Rogue by Any Other Name made me feel what the characters were feeling! Aside from surprising me, it increased my empathy and my awareness of how different people experience love differently. It enabled me to analyze what I thought I knew about love. It was basically empowering, and it knocked my socks off, since I was expecting just mindless fun.

It was also my first Regency romance, and I wasn’t prepared for the tropes. Apparently, there are some stations through which the characters must go to obtain their happy ending, and the hero and heroine must conform in some way or other to a certain set of stereotypes. Penelope isn’t a damsel in distress nor goes by fainting in every corner, and I'd say that she has much more agency than so-called kick-ass female characters. However, the dynamics between the hero and the heroine are problematic. There is a power imbalance between Penelope and Bourne: he sequesters her and makes her spend the night with her to sully her reputation, effectively making her ineliglible for a proper marriage, thus branding her as his. He doesn’t rape her, but exploits her innocence and unworldliness. This made me understandably angry, yet I couldn't bring myself to not root for them to end up together. Developing a believable romance in these circumstances is not easy, but MacLean does it and does it well, and then she justifies it with a very compelling narrative (spoiler: he loved her all along, as the childhood letters point out). It's still problematic, but I have to admit that I enjoyed reading it. 

Verdict: 4/5. I just wish my next romance novel would let go of these tropes so that I don't have my conscience nagging me over how much I'm enjoying such a problematic relationship.

Disclaimer: since most romance seems to be about heterosexual couples, I've used heternormative designations. But please, recommend me diverse romance!

domingo, 3 de abril de 2016

March in Mini-Review

February and March flew by and my time here in France is coming to an end. By the end of April I'll be back home. I have mixed feelings about this.

I didn't intend to be silent for so long, but I spent a good deal of the time outside. I've travelled, been a tourist, met new people, and done things out of my comfort zone. I had quite a lot of fun, way more than I had expected when I first arrived here. In February I read a lot. In March, less so. I also went through a lot of shit for my PhD. Many things have happened over the last two months that have had me contemplating whether I wanted to quit. And I don't, because I truly love research, but I'm not happy where I am. Unfortunately, transferring doesn't seem to be an option. My next two years are going to require a lot of ploughing and resilience, but I hope that the next step in this career will be a happier one. This is not how I envisaged my PhD, but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And while I don't mean this as an excuse (I don't have to, since this blog is something that I do primarily for myself), I wanted to write about this, to process it and as an explanation of that silence. The kind of bullshit that has happened to me is the kind of problem that makes me read less, be less me. It leaves me exhausted.

Here's hoping that reflecting about this is going to help me come back to my reading self. In the meantime, here are some Elektra comics from the early 2000s with extremely awful soft-porn covers! Sorry for the covers, really. But some of the stories are even decent.

12. Elektra: The Scorpio Key - Brian Michael Bendis & Chuck Austen (2002)

What is it about? The Scorpio Key tells how Nick Fury hires Elektra to get the powerful McGuffin Key for him from the hands of awful poilitical leader/dictator of Iraq, Saddam. Um what.

Why did I read it? Long story short: I used to read capes and tights comics way back when, fell out of the loop and found it too sprawling to re-enter. Now, armed with a Marvel Unlimited subscription and Comic Book Herald's Complete Marvel Reading Order Guide, I'm rediscovering the campy world that is Earth-616. Also, it's Elektra! My first love of Marvel women who kick ass, because I idealized Frank Miller's Elektra and made up stories for her.

What did I think? I found the story extremely distasteful, especially considering that it was written around the time when the actual war of the US against Iraq was being promoted by Bush as a necessity. This read as terrible propaganda. And misrepresented Iraqi people, separating them in victims in need of a white American savior, or brutal fundamentalists. And then, as befits the Marvel Knights era, the treatment of Elektra is very sad. What could we do with a cool ninja assassin? Treat her as less because she is a woman. Let's tell the story from the POV of a male and let every male say how much ass she kicks. That will surely show how cool she is. And let's treat her characteristic outfit as a sexual tease, instead of an empowering outfit (albeit useless, in my opinion, but I guess Elektra has her reasons). To all of that, add insult to injury: Nick Fury manipulates Elektra by using a negotiator built upon the image of Matt Murdock, with whom she had a romantic relationship before her untimely death.

What did I think of the art? I'm not a fan of Chuck Austen's art. The cel-shaded look of early 2000s is not good-looking, and definitely too static for an action comic, which is what this story tries to be. 

Verdict: 1/5. If you can get past the terrible art, awful agenda, and extreme racism, the story is still not good. The dialogue is stilted and boring, the development of the plot relies on action scenes that haven't been built up enough to justify them. It's hard to care what happens to the people fighting.

13. Elektra, Vol.1: Introspect - Greg Rucka & Carlo Pagulayan (2002)

What is it about? Introspect explores what constitutes the identity of Elektra and what happens when someone takes away her assassin self.

Why did I read it? Aside from being the following volume in Elektra during the Marvel Knights era, this is the kind of story that interests me in superhero comics, because the hero(ine) is thrown into situations where they can't resort to their usual easy way out. What will they do? What impact will it have on their personality and on their character? 

What did I think? I have two big problems with this. Elektra gets a lot of flak for being an assassin. She is a monster because she kills, or so Rucka says. But previous arcs have shown us that Elektra kills when she has to and tries to be as compassive as she can without risking her life while leading a successful career as an assassin for hire. She is not a murderer, she is a mercenary. And she only takes works when she believes in the outcome. Her life is fraught with morally dubious choices, but it isn't quite right to pin her down as a monster, because she is clearly not one. Presenting Elektra in this light is a complete misunderstanding of the character, and that bugs me. 

And I can't quite keep out of my mind that she is getting this reformation arc because she is a woman. It seems that being an assassin is more reprehensible because she is female, and Marvel women can only be saints or whores. This feeling is reinforced because she is abducted by a white man who knows better, who wants to break her, enlighten her poor lost soul, and lead her to a new life of selflessness. A man whose fiancée had died to give him plausible motivation. A man who takes Elektra's agency because he is convinced he is morally superior and thus capable of saving Elketra. Deadpool would never get an arc like this one, for example. So let me say something: women can be as soulless as men, they can be evil, good, complex, selfish, selfless, whatever. Women have the whole range of personality traits because they are human. So can we please have a female assassin who is not shamed because she is a female assassin?

What did I think of the art? I actually love Pagulayan's Elektra, and the action sequences make sense and are beautiful to look at.

Verdict: 2/5. A Marvel comic to make one think, but with several problems that don't let me truly enjoy this to its fullest.

14. Elektra, Vol.2: Everything Old is New Again - Greg Rucka, Carlo Pagulayan & Carlos Meglia (2003)

What is it about? After being confronted with the choice to change or die, Elektra chooses to amend her murderous ways. But I say, what kind of choice is it, to change or die?

Why did I read it? It's the continuation of Introspect. I just needed to know how this arc ended. 

What did I think? The story itself addressed the concerns I had about white men acting as saviors of Elektra and of 'lost women' at large. Some characters actually talk about this several times throughout the trade - this made me very happy, since Rucka is acknowledging that this arc might be problematic. The ending fits in nicely with this interpretation - let Elektra be herself. Yet it comes off as unbelievable, since Elektra has been a different person in every issue: cold-hearted, just, weak, strong, needy. Who is Elektra? After 22 issues I'm still not sure, but it would be great if someone wrote a good run for this fantastic assassin because she deserves it.

What did I think of the art? I really really like Carlo Pagulayan's Elektra: dynamic, not white, not sexualized, awesome hair. The switch to Carlos Meglia's style is jarring, but I do like his cartoonish style, which weirdly fits the middle issues of this story. It's a hit or miss, and it was a hit for me.

Verdict: 3/5. The best Elektra story I've read. This is a bit sad, when one thinks of it, but it's an amzing conclusion to the arc Rucka started in Introspect.

15. Some of the Best from Tor.com: 2014 - VV.AA., edited by Ellen Datlow & Carl Engle-Laird (2015)

What is it about? A selection of the best short speculative fiction (sci-fi & fantasy) published in Tor.com during 2014.

Why did I read it? I enjoy speculative fiction, but it can get same-y. Tor.com always publishes diverse and different fiction. Through them I've known some of my favorite current spec fic authors: Veronica Schanoes, Angela Slatter, Ken Liu. A free anthology by them? Sign me up!

What did I think? You can read all my detailed status updates and my favorite stories here. My top three were: Veronica Schanoes' Among the Thorns, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen's Where the Trains Turn, and Ken Liu's Reborn.

Verdict: 4/5. This anthology, as any other short story collection out there, is a mixed bag. A 3-star rating would be just, since it includes stories I hated or disliked and stories I enjoyed and loved. However, there is a discrepancy between what would be the average rating and what I feel this collection deserves. I really, really liked this. It honestly felt like a 4-star book, which I guess means the good stories outweigh the bad ones: there is great fantasy and sci-fi here. It's diverse, imaginative, and represents a wide range of women and men and everything in between. And it has been terrible for the state of my TBR pile, which is always a good sign!

miércoles, 17 de febrero de 2016

BBAW: Book Bloggers Have the Best Recs

This is part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (#BBAW), which is an event created to acknowledge the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Be it a good book or bad, bloggers recommend books every day of the year. Sometimes we take their advice and it’s great! Today, tell us all about the book or books you’ve read because of a book blogger and be sure to sure to spread the blame around.

I'm quite slow when it comes to actually reading the books I buy or add to my wishlist. But my wishlist hasn't stopped growing ever since I started book blogging. It's awesome, although my bank account doesn't quite agree.

And I'm also terrible at keeping track of whom has recommended a particular book. But I know for sure I have to blame:

Thanks to all of you for your fantastic recommendations. Even if I forgot to mention you here, your enthusiasm has changed my reading life.

martes, 16 de febrero de 2016

BBAW: Interview Day

This is part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (#BBAW), which is an event created to acknowledge the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Still one day behind: increased workload + different time zones is not a good combo. But that's okay because you still get to meet Amber! She's one of the sweetest book bloggers I've ever met and I'm very happy that we got paired for BBAW. She wants to be a writer and is named after a book character. And we both studied in Salamanca! How cool is that? Small world indeed.

Mindful Musings

Let Amber introduce herself...

I taught middle school English for 2 years (that's what my degree is in), but now I work at a pregnancy help center as their Development Manager. I've always loved books. I would love to be a writer some day if I can get up the courage to do it. 

I live in Michigan, USA. I'm married to a microbiologist who is currently getting his PhD in virology. I plan on going back to school for a Masters in Written Communication this fall. And I wish I was smart enough to understand math and science.

Me: What are your favorite genres?

Amber: I love many genres, everything from Star Wars books to mythology to Jane Austen. I review mostly YA novels but like to throw in adult fiction every now and then. 

Me: Why did you start blogging? How did you start your blogging partnership?

Amber: I started blogging for a couple reasons. My friend Natalie had been blogging at Mindful Musings for quite awhile and I loved hearing her talk about it. It sounded like so much fun, and I thought it was so cool that she would get ARCs from authors (I didn't know much about the process at the time). When she went to get her PhD, she knew she wouldn't be able to keep up with school and the blog so she asked me if I was interested in taking it over (for the most part. She still posts every now and then). I was so honored and excited when she asked me! She is the one who showed me the ropes, got me connected, and let me become a part of this community. 

The other reason I started was that my education was in teaching English. But when I got into the workforce, I had middle school students (13 and 14 year olds). I wasn't in a very good district, and the job just kind of ate me alive. I had to quit after two years because I couldn't handle it any more. But I loved books and missed talking about them and discussing them with friends. Natalie asked me to blog with her just a few months after I stopped teaching. It gave me a creative "Englishy" outlet while I tried to figure out what my new dream would be. 

Me: How does your experience sharing a blog differ from solo book blogging?

Amber: I think the main difference between solo blogging and team blogging would be that I didn't have to create all of my contacts on my own. Natalie already had followers and a network of people that read her posts. I didn't have to start from scratch, which I think was a huge confidence booster at a time that I really really needed one. I manage the blog mostly on my own now just because Natalie doesn't have the time. But I think when she finishes her PhD, we might blog together more often. 

Me: What got you fascinated with reading?

Amber: I was read to from a young age. I am actually named after a book character (Amberle from The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks), and I've always loved diving into a story and living there for awhile. Books are a way to travel to places where anything is possible. As a kind with a big imagination, books were my place of creativity and escape. Characters came to life and were my friends and enemies. I guess I got this fascination from my parents, but by the time my brother came along, I was reading to him constantly whether he wanted it or not! 

Me: How many languages do you speak/read in?

Sadly, English is pretty much it. I can speak/read enough Spanish to have a conversation and get by in a Spanish speaking country on my own, but I can't say I've ever done much "fun" reading in any other language than English. Hopefully someday I will learn enough to be able to enjoy books by Hispanic authors in their native language. 

Me: What was your favorite book as a kid?

That is a very difficult question (sorry to have sprung it on you first!). I loved kids books like Go, Dog Go! and anything by Dr. Seuss. Tacky the Penguin was my brother's favorite book and I read it to him so many times that I literally had it memorized as a kid... and could still probably recite a book portion of it! I was also a huge Nancy Drew fan. My grandma had a ton of old Nancy Drew novels that she would send me, and I'm pretty sure that I read just about every Nancy Drew book at my public library growing up. I wanted to be a detective at that point in my life, and the thrill of crime drama and mysteries (on TV and in books) never left!

Me: What genre do you find yourself reading most recently?

Hmmm... I read a lot of YA fiction for the blog, mostly because I really like it and enjoy the imaginative side of YA lit. I've read a few Ann Aguirre books (adult sci-fi and paranormal lit) recently and a few James Patterson novels for fun. I just finished my ARC copy of The Passenger by Lisa Lutz and loved it! I guess I still read crime and mystery books! 

As you can see, Amber is quite cool herself, so you can expect her blog to be the same! She has a unique feature called Wine about Wednesday where she pairs the book she's currently reading with a beverage. Her reviews are in-depth and read as if a friend was telling you about the latest book she's read and loved. Read her review of Laura Tisdall's Echoes to see what I mean!

So I suggest you go to her blog and take this chance to get to know an awesome blogger. Or meet her on twitter!

lunes, 15 de febrero de 2016

BBAW: Introduce yourself

This is part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (#BBAW), which is an event created to acknowledge the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

An unexpected surge of work has turned this week into a tough blogging week, but I just can't miss BBAW!

Better late than never, here go the five books that say the most about me. It was very difficult to choose, except for number one on my list:

1. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
This was a case of reading the right book at the right time - the story of Lyra and Will weaves fantasy, mythology, folklore and religion in a tale of romance and adventure. It was one of the first books to make me cry. It opened my eyes to what life and literature could be, and changed me, plain and simple. It will always have a place in my heart. Years later I read it aloud to my partner, and that experience only increased the love I feel for this trilogy.
Bonus: The Ocean at the End of the Lane recaptured this experience.

2. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
One of my favorite classics. I enjoy reading classics and they constitute a good portion of my reading diet. But some times you have to read against the odds: difficult language, racial and social prejudices, or misogyny come to mind. Jane Eyre is the first book that showed me classics can be feminist, too, and Jane was one of my first heroines.

3. If On A Winter's Night A Traveller - Italo Calvino
I'm one of the weird book nerds who can actually choose a favorite book. So I thought I'd include it here because at least it tells you something about me - I haven't read enough to really have it tough to choose just one. I should keep on reading! But really, I fell in love with Calvino's masterpiece because it's a love letter to reading and readers, and because he uses postmodern devices to great effect. I like books, and books that comment on literature and do it wittily make my knees weak.

4. Watchmen - Alan Moore
I read comics. Often. And not only the lauded graphic novels, memoirs and non-fiction, which I enjoy quite a lot, but also cape and tights, from Marvel no less. I've probably had more discussions about superheroes than about the Brontës. They do have their problems, and Alan Moore, being his intelligent and experienced self, uses a comic with superheroes to tell you about these problems and to make a critique of society in less than 500 pages.

5. Good Evening, Mrs. Craven - Mollie Panter-Downes
Short stories are bite-sized pieces of literature. I admire the craft to write a successful short story - it's more difficult than writing a novel. This collection is about the Home Front during World War 2, one of my favorite historical periods. In my free time, I explore the history and literature of the anglophone world, mostly the UK, and WW2 was a very interesting period indeed. And this was published by Persephone Books, and indie press charged with publishing forgotten literature usually written by overlooked women. This is my niche: women, literature and the price of war on the individual.

What books would make your list?