What We Are Reading

After discovering new shows to watch with our latest article What We Are Watching, check out what the Writer’s Block Board is currently reading. Close Netflix and dive into a book with our recommendations!


Vivian

I’m currently reading two books, which I almost always do as I switch between an ebook and a physical book. Right now, those two books are Throttled by Lauren Asher and All The Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace. This is a perfect representation of my favourite combination to read: a high-fantasy novel set in an entirely different universe with mystical creatures and magic, in combination with a… how to put this, Wattpad-level romance novel with a dark-haired, broody main male character. Judge me all you want, but it’s a good combination.

Throttled tells the story of an enemies-to-lovers romance between Formula 1 driver Noah Slade and his new teammate’s sister Maya. There’s a lot of sexual tension and that’s about as far as I am right now. 

All the Stars and Teeth is set in a fantasy universe where the future king or queen has to prove themselves by showing a mastery of soul magic. The only daughter of the King, Amora, has no other aspirations but to become the next High Animancer and thus the Queen of the Kingdom, Visidia. However, she fails and chooses to escape from the kingdom, making a deal with the dashing pirate Bastian. 
Exciting stuff, eh? 🙂 


Elisa

I always have at least two books on my Goodreads’ Currently Reading list, because I can never stick to one read. Right now, those two books are Skyward, by Brandon Sanderson and Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. 

Great Expectations is a required read for my January course. For those who may not know the plot of the classic, it follows a young man named Pip from childhood to adulthood as he comes in possession of a large fortune, leaves his small village and enters London’s high society.
Usually when something is required of me, I will most likely hate the whole experience. This is not completely true for Dickens, as I am still enjoying the novel. I am simply focusing on different aspects of the book than I normally would for a leisure read. 

My second read, which I have actually just finished today, is Skyward. This is the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series. I was hesitant to read it because it is a Young Adult Science-Fiction novel, which is usually not my favorite genre. Still, lots of people had recommended it to me and I know Sanderson is a great author, so I finally decided to pick it up.
The novel is set on a planet called Detritus, where a population known as the Defiants are stranded. Our protagonist Spensa wants to become a pilot to help defend her planet from the Krell, an alien race which is constantly attacking the Defiants. However, branded as the daughter of a deserter, being accepted into Flight school is almost impossible for her.
I don’t want to say much more about the plot because I knew absolutely nothing about it before diving into it and I think that really heightened my enjoyment of the story. It’s an action packed book, with talking spaceships and a main character who will annoy you to death at the beginning yet will love at the end. I am definitely going to pick up the sequel as soon as possible—I can’t wait to know where the story goes from here. 


Reinier

In a little secret Santa we did with the board this Christmas our editor in chief Laiana gifted me Paulo Coelho’s classic, The Alchemist, it being one of her favourite books. Seeing the book upon unwrapping it, my co-final editor Emilia immediately exclaimed that she hates that book! So, I knew that this was going to be an interesting read.
Now that I am done with it, I can safely say that I am decisively pacing up and down between those two camps. At times, it touched a nerve and spurred on a moment of inner-reflection, and at other times, I was ready to throw it down in frustration.
So let’s start with the positives; I enjoyed the simplicity of its style and story. Shaping a book about life and how to live it as a straightforward parable gives it a kind of enduring quality, like a myth, that would have been undone by complexity. As much as rich, colourful and complicated sentences can add nuance and beauty to a narrative, so can they take away from the simple, bare realities of the day to day.
Narratively, the moments that spoke to me the most in sheepherder Santiago’s journey to find his treasure, were little fragments, descriptions of characters the boy meets along the way, no more than a page long. For instance, when Santiago finds himself penniless and alone in Tanger he comes across a crystal merchant for whom he ends up working for several years. In a moment of lament the merchant tells the boy that he had always dreamt of going to Mecca, but that he eventually concluded that this dream is worth more to him as it is: just a dream. This sentiment intrigued me, the way it probes at deeper questions of what dreams can mean for us, how we can value them beyond goals to achieve.

But this is not the message of the novel; quite contrary to it, actually. And that’s where my struggles with The Alchemist begin. At the heart of the novel lies the pursuit of the boy’s dream. What is impressed upon you again and again is that you must follow your dreams at any cost, and that if you do so, the universe will bend to your will to make it happen. Now, we might all need the message “go and do what you love, silly” from time to time, sure. But, isn’t there a point where the pursuit of happiness becomes no more than a myopic enterprise, a self-obsession? At times, the lesson of The Alchemist’s titular alchemist struck me as an exercise in selfishness, one that claims that those who put their own desires first in life will get it their way–which is hardly always the case, but more to the point, is that even a desirable way to look at the world? Give me the glass merchant instead, who knows that some dreams are more valuable as dreams than pursuits.

Anyway, there is plenty more to say on The Alchemist, on religion, interconnectedness, the ways of the desert, patriarchy, a talking sun, you name it. This was just a little appetizer. You might not like it – you might love it, either way one thing seems pretty certain, it’ll give you plenty to talk about.


Emilia

Like the good Rory Gilmore I am, I always read more than one book at a time. Recently, I have been reading 3 books. I switch back and forth between them depending on what I need to read at the moment. I believe I have been doing that ever since I heard Rory explain her method to her mom. (LMAO, I have no personality) 

The book I am reading the most lately is Joan Didion’s The White Album. Because of her recent passing, I decided I was in desperate need of reading one of her most famous work once and for all. The first time I encountered Joan was when I read Blue Nights, and although that was the occasion where I found out I would be obsessed with her style forever, The White Album is letting me appreciate the depths and heights of her style in a brand new manner. Perhaps it is the variety of essays— including the descriptions of Californian shenanigans, religious troubles, biographies, and reviews of books and movies— or that just as Joan mentions, she’s struggling to find a narrative throughout the book.  All I know is that her style is as noticeable and stark as ever. I am in awe by the way she manages to capture the 60s and 70s so finely. While reading it, I have been listening to a playlist I created when I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids years ago. I am 99% sure Joan would have listened to the same thing. It is a mix of The Doors, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, etc — a total vibe while reading the book. 

When I feel I need to read something more structured, I start reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. The damn book is about 864 pages, but I had to read it. I have been putting off this one for years because of its length, but I just had to. When I am on my deathbed, I need to be able to say, “well, at least, I read Anna Karenina”. It’s a necessity. So, I am granting my own self’s deathbed wishes. I am around 100 pages so far, so I cannot say much about it yet, other than that it’s soooo juicy. There are so many characters, conflicting themes, relationships, etc— all occurring around the aristocratic circles of Saint Petersburg. Better than Gossip Girl if you ask me. 

When I need to leave all the drama of the 1800s and 60s behind, I decide to read the classic Tao Te Ching by Lao Tse. I read this book when I was 15, and although I am very sceptical of any philosophy or religion, Taoism has always resonated with me. Not enough to make me read it for a second time though. However, recently someone mentioned to me that there is a connection between Taoism and anarchism and that the Tao Te Ching is the first anarchist book ever. I never saw the connections, so I am trying to understand them now. Either way, even if you don’t believe in anything related to Taoism, it is a great book of poetry written in 600 B.C.E. How often do you get to read anything that old?


Marijne

The idea of an English literature degree is that you read and study literature, obviously. So, that’s what I’d mainly been reading for a couple of years now. In my free time however, because we read so many classics or ‘heavy’ literature books I kind of wanted a distraction from them every now and again and I would indulge myself in more futile, young-adult fantasy novels for example. However, over the holidays I picked up a book that has surprisingly restored my enthusiasm for ‘heavy’ literature. 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World (2019) by the Turkish author Elif Shafak was a book that I found on my

roommate’s bookshelf that she recommended to me. Shafak is one of the most widely read authors of Turkey, known for addressing themes such as the rights of minorities in her stories. Additionally, 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2019. 
10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World is narrated by the protagonist Tequila Leila, a prostitute working in Istanbul (spoiler alert) at her time of death. While she is dying she recalls several memories and sensations that left a mark or impression in her life. During her final breaths, she recalls her love for her friends; their tragic backstories, the nicknames they have for each other, and bonds they created due to all of them being social outcasts. The novel elaborates what it’s like for women to have little agency in a patriarchal world, while simultaneously focusing very little on the experiences of men, thus taking away their agency in a sense. This contradiction is what makes it so interesting because it evokes deep-rooted feelings of empathy and understanding in its readers, while at the same time exposes them to a less ‘Western’ representation of a patriarchal society. 


Olivia

During Christmas I received many books as a gift, but the one I ended up choosing to read first was “Modern Love”.

Over the first wave of COVID (in 2020), I binge watched the amazon series based off the New York Times column and I completely fell in love with the idea behind it and when I found out there was a book with several of the non fiction stories, I immediately felt the need to buy it.

For those who have no idea of what I’m talking about, the column is almost 20 years old and the newspaper describes it as “a weekly column about relationships, feelings, betrayals and revelations”.
The book consists of a few stories selected by Daniel Jones, the editor of the NYT column, and includes all different types of love stories. From soppily romantic, to stable and even some hilarious platonic stories, this book makes you experience all types of emotions and think about your own relationships from a different perspective. 
I am sure everyone will relate or at least see themselves in at least one of the real life stories that are being told in the book, so if you are looking for a light and fun read this is the right choice for you.


Laiana

Over the last year, I have found it challenging to actually finish a book – I would always start it and then drop whatever I was reading about halfway through unless they were compulsory for my course. During this holiday break, however, I was able to start reading again without worrying about whatever school assignment was coming up, and so I decided to start with some light, easy-going book that wouldn’t really require all that much brainpower – after all, I wanted to take the university break as an opportunity to let my brain power off and recharge after all my exams. Therefore, I picked up a crime/mystery book I had at home that was gifted to me a few years ago that I hadn’t yet read: The Mystery of the Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah. 

The story of the book follows the Belgian detective Hercules Poirot, who is a character created by Agatha Christie and whom Sophie Hannah successfully brings back to life. The plot unravels the mystery of four letters that were sent to four different individuals accusing them of the murder of Mr Barnabas Pandy, whose death had earlier been officially stated as an accident. As Poirot checks into the four indviduals’ alibi, he learns of their relationship, or lack thereof, with the deceased, and uses their words and actions in order to discover if Barnabas Pandy was actually murdered. Of course, there is a plot twist. 

As I enjoyed reading The Mystery of the Three Quarters, I decided to pick up some books by Agatha Christie and continue following the story of the detective. I now have the books Murder on the Orient Express, which I binge-read and finished in about a day, and I’m about to start on Death in the Clouds. I did thoroughly enjoy the former and I also enjoy Agatha Christie’s writing, so I’m excited to read the latter.

Besides the murder mystery books, I have on my reading list Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, and Fazendo Meu Filme1 by Paula Pimenta, which I received as a Christmas gift. I also want to read The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I plan on finally finishing Circe, also by Madeline Miller, which I started and never finished. All in all, I hope this year I manage to start and finish the books I pick up to read. 

1 Shooting My Life’s Script by Brazilian author Paula Pimenta, which I’m reading the Portuguese version.


Julia

So, after finishing another incredible book – Normal People by Sally Rooney, I felt the need to read something entertaining and humorous. I also thought that starting a year with an amusing book will be a jolt of good energy for the upcoming year. So, I looked at my bookshelf and I remembered that I’ve recently purchased The Fran Lebowitz Reader, obviously written by Fran Lebowitz. The book consists of two bestsellers: Metropolitan Life, published in 1978 and Social Studies, published in 1981. It’s a combination of entertaining stories about the life of New York City and urban life in general, but mostly it is a book about the author’s opinions about the world. It’s a book which I wanted to read for a long time, however it wasn’t available almost anywhere, and believe me, I tried looking everywhere I could. And then Netflix came to my rescue. Fran Lebowitz together with Martin Scorsese created a miniseries called “Pretend It’s a City”, where Fran Lebowitz not only gives the viewers a tour around New York City, but also reflects on how the city works, how it looks and how it looked like. While the series became more and more popular, some publishers decided to bring back to print Fran Lebowitz’s books and I found it, here in Amsterdam. It’s a set of hilarious anecdotes, with a pinch of sarcasm and a very realistic approach to life and everyday matters. While reading this set of essays, I assure you’ll laugh out loud, you will also feel the need to share some of the author’s thoughts on every social media story you have access to, and for sure you can disagree or agree with some of the Fran Lebowitz’s strong statement, but the entertainment is guaranteed. 


Anne

Currently what I’m reading is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011). This is a sci-fi adventure story set in the dystopian future of 2044, where cities have fallen and the only thing keeping people somewhat sane and busy is Virtual-Reality (VR). The protagonist, Wade Watts or Parzival in VR, lives in a slum with his aunt and her good-for-nothing boyfriend. He still attends school, but as the world has been destroyed, school has moved to VR. This VR world is called the OASIS, where everyone can do what they want and be who they want to be. The creator of the VR world, James Halliday, had passed away and left an easter egg inside of the game for players to find and take over the game for themselves. This has been going on for 5 years, as no one seems to be able to find it. Until one day Wade cracks the code. Together with his friends he tries to solve the riddles to find the easter egg in the game, with copious amounts of ‘80s and ‘90s films, songs, series and games. 

But of course the story doesn’t come without an enemy. The Sixers. These people are those with an in-game-name with 606. It’s a big enterprise trying to find the hidden pieces to be able to take control over the whole OASIS, and make money off of it, at the cost of the players. 

Even though I’ve read this story multiple times, it’s still one of my favourites. I’m reading it once again because I’ve recently bought the sequel and wanted to freshen up my memory before starting it. Fun fact! This book has also been made into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg in 2018. But don’t just watch the movie, it’s been changed from the book to keep the ones who’ve read it in for a treat. The riddles and answers have been changed, to spice it up!

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