Now, this wasn’t originally my topic for this month’s Thoughtful Thursday feature but with the launch of UK Bookshop.org, which I am now an affiliate of, I wanted to do a small bonus post!
When Amazon first entered the bookselling scene back in 1995, when it labelled itself as ‘Earth’s Biggest Bookstore’, no one could have foreseen what the company would become and how it would dominate the retail sphere. Even with the launch of its eReader, the Kindle, in November 2007 people weren’t convinced that this would dramatically change the book landscape despite the fact it remained sold out until April 2008. Fast forward to today and it can’t be denied that the significant rise of online retailers have had a huge detrimental effect on smaller, independent, booksellers.
This point of this post isn’t to demonise Amazon or similar sites; I understand they are needed as they make books affordable and more accessible for some people and it’s important to recognise that not everyone is in a position where they can go out and support local bookshops, or can afford to.
With the pandemic, it is even more vital to support independent bookshops. Buying from indie booksellers not only puts money straight back into the book industry but it also helps support the booksellers themselves. Which, especially right now, can keep the shop from closing completely and help the booksellers support themselves, their families, and their employees. Even with this second lockdown in the UK, a lot of indies are offering safe ways to deliver or collect items too!
For a lot of places an independent bookshop is a lifeline within a community. Many indies offer more than just being a place to buy books; they may also host book clubs for adults and children; offer tuition or have a study space or have a cafe too. Even if an independent bookshop offers all of these additions, some of them or none of them, something that all indies can offer is expert book advice and someone to have a chat with (providing they’re not completely rushed off their feet). Booksellers are passionate about books and have dedicated themselves to sharing this passion with others.
Unfortunately for me, there isn’t an independent bookshop close to where I live. Any that we did have relatively close have all closed down in recent years. This is why I was thrilled to see the launch of bookshop.org in the UK. If you buy books through this site 10% of your total order will go to an earnings pool which is then evenly distributed to all participating independent bookshops every six months. Additionally, for bookshops that sell through the sites ‘Bookshop’ programme, they get 30% of your total order when you order through their links.
Of course, it is always best to support indies directly, which the site also helps you do. If you’re like me and don’t have one close to you or are not sure of any, then you can use the ‘Find a bookstore’ option. This will help you find a bookshop near you or you can just browse the bookshops and go to their websites and order from there too!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I, like many other book bloggers, have become an affiliate of bookshop.org. In addition to putting links on my posts, you may have noticed that I have a new tab on my site labelled ‘Rosie Recommends’. All of the lists you will find there are one that I have created using bookshop.org (a feature that I love). So, if you want to support indie bookshops but not sure what to buy, you can head there! Just a heads up, if you do place an order using any of my links I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you!
Do you have a local bookshop that you adore and want to recommend? Let me know in the comments so I can check them out!
Generally, I’m very much a mood reader but I will also be mindful of ARC publication dates at the same time. I try to read two, quite different books, at the same time but I always go by what I feel like reading otherwise it could end up feeling like a chore. Although, traditionally, summer is the time for ‘beach reads’, I’ve found that I’ve never quite done that myself. Instead, I find that October, or Autumn in general, is the time of year that I do more seasonal reading.
Autumn is my favourite season, I love that it is getting colder, that there’s more rain and that the days are getting shorter. To me, there’s nothing better than a cool, rainy day and being wrapped up in a giant fluffy blanket with a book and a hot drink. At the beginning of Autumn, in October, I will lean more towards the Gothic reads, or those which are darker or more haunting than my typical reads. Whilst, as I mentioned in my Top Five Friday post this month, I don’t like Halloween I still find myself drawn to more spooky novels, but not necessarily traditional horror novels, as the days grow darker and colder.
There’s just something about getting cosy with a novel that has the ability to unsettle you, or allows you insight into the darker side of the human mind and imagination, that I adore. Maybe it’s because you can’t escape the Halloween atmosphere in October regardless of whether you like it or not. Maybe it’s because there’s a sense of security of being inside and wrapped up in a huge blanket that makes you feel safe in exploring something darker. Or, maybe, it’s just because so many great dark or spooky reads come out around this time of year.
As we move through Autumn and onto the cusp of Winter, I find myself reaching for more fantasy novels, YA or otherwise. Unlike Halloween, I love Christmas (although, I may not love Christmas music being on 24/7). It just feels like a more magical time of year with all of the lights and it’s for this reason that I love reading fantasy novels during this season. I loved fantasy growing up and wanting to be in a world with dragons and unicorns, and potentially have one as a pet (because who wouldn’t want dragons at their beck and call?). This love of fantasy changed as I got older, which will need to be the subject or a whole other post entirely, but that love of being in a different world has stayed.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t read dark reads or fantasy novels at other times of the year. Nor does it mean I only exclusively read these genres at this time of year but I find myself more in the mood for these kinds of reads as this time of year. Whereas in the Spring and Summer, I don’t feel inclined to read a particular genre…
What does Autumn get you in the mood to read? Do you think you’re a seasonal reader? Let me know in the comments!
Before you can don your graduation gown and leave with an expensive piece of paper certifying that you have graduated in English Literature, you have one final hurdle… The dissertation. Now, as anticlimactic as this may be, I actually enjoyed doing my dissertation. It was stressful at times, but overall I loved doing the research and working on my own project. I even managed to submit my dissertation five days early too.
As my Top Five Friday was all about how to survive your Literature degree, I thought I would share how I approached my dissertation to help any final year Literature students who may be worried about the year ahead. This is a bit of a long one, so grab a coffee or a tea and get cozy!
Creating a concept
Personally, I found this the most difficult part of the entire process. I had so many bits of ideas but nothing concrete to write about for 10,000 words. I spoke to my personal tutor and she said that for a dissertation proposal you just need to be general in terms of time period and texts so they know who to assign as your dissertation advisor.
Once I was assigned my dissertation advisor, it was much easier to come up with an idea talking through my proposal and interests with someone who could guide me. I ultimately came up with the title of The Impact of Gender, Setting and Time on Psychological Survival in Dystopian Societies. Since then I’ve thought of more ideas that I could have done which would probably be more interesting, but that’s the best I could do at the time.
Finding a work space
Before my placement year I would do all of my work at my desk in my room. It was just comfortable and quiet, although I can’t say that I was the most productive all the time because of it! As I’d been working in London I got used to doing a ‘9-5’ as it were. So, I thought it would be best to try a similar approach when it came to my dissertation.
At first I did think about going to the library, which had a lot of different places where you could work either in quiet or total silence. However, it was always busy and you could spend ages looking for the right spot to work, only to find you’ve wasted quite a bit of time.
So, instead, I decided to use my department’s common room. The room was barely used outside of small networking events and presentations, so it was the perfect place to go. It was quiet as not many people would be in there (there were many times when I was the only one) and if you had friends with you, you could quietly chat every now and then without people getting too annoyed with you.
Setting up a routine to get me out of the house and into a different working location really helped me be productive when it came to writing and editing. There was also the odd occasion where I got free food too, which is always a bonus!
Organising my research
Research is probably the most important part of the dissertation process, if you don’t do enough research or if you don’t do good research then you will struggle when it comes to actually writing your dissertation. Now, when it comes to research, I split my focus into three main sections:
Quotes from the book and analysis
Supporting and conflicting arguments from critics/journals
Quotes from theorists
In my Introduction to Dissertation lecture, we were all told of the importance of properly organising our notes and ensuring that it was all done in a way that made sense to us. Now, I did a placement year before my final year of university and during that time I discovered that I loved spreadsheets.
So, that’s what I did. I compiled all of my research onto a hefty spreadsheet. I separated each of the three areas onto a different sheet and then had columns identifying what book the quote related to; what theme it was related to; any comments or analysis I had; the strength and weaknesses of the theory or critic and what chapter of my dissertation it would be best in.
By doing it on a spreadsheet I was able to easily filter all of the information I wanted on a particular text or theme, which was really useful for when it came to actually writing the dissertation. I wouldn’t have to spend ages flicking through notes until I found what I was looking for.
And, of course, it was all colour coded.
Drafting the dissertation
My first draft, for any chapter, would always be incredibly rough. I always find the actual writing process difficult to begin, and it’s always much easier to edit than write. I also find it much easier to write things with pen and paper when I’m trying to organise my thoughts. So, in order to make this work for me, I had a thick A4 notebook with dividers where I would write my first drafts.
Now, when I say first drafts, I mean the very bare bones of a draft. It would mainly be my own ideas with random “[use x reference here]” or “[full analysis of x book quote looking at x theme]”. This way I found that my writing, and my thoughts, weren’t interrupted to look for the quote that I was looking for as I knew I could always come back to it later.
When it came to typing up my scrawlings, I would edit as I went along and add in all of the bits that I skipped over whilst handwriting it. For me, this made the writing process far less daunting as it was broken up into chunks. In the end I lost track of the amount of drafts per chapter that I had written and edited.
One of the biggest fears of all university students is losing all of their dissertation through some kind of technical error. As great as technology is, sometimes errors do occur or it fails us (although, this is not common). In an attempt to combat this I wrote each chapter on a separate word document, saved those documents to google drive, emailed them to myself (and to my parents) and saved them on an external hard drive. You may think this is going overboard but trust me, you can never have too many copies of your dissertation in safe places!
Now, as part of your dissertation you may need to write a self-reflection in order to explain how your dissertation and research developed. If you do need to do this then it’s important not to save all of it until the end. Of course, you can’t write this until you have completely finished (or mostly finished) your dissertation but it is important you maintain awareness of this aspect throughout the dissertation process.
What was recommended to us, which I found extremely helpful, and also a great way to organise my thoughts better, was to keep a dissertation journal. It didn’t have to be anything formal but the idea was that whenever you were forming a new idea or argument, or found that your research was taking you in a different direction or you just wanted to express difficulties you were having or something you felt proud of. Having a journal as something to refer back to really helps by the time you come to start writing your self-reflection, as too much would have happened to remember!
Remember to have fun!
Okay, so I know I sound like I’m repeating myself from my last university post but this is important. Yes, your dissertation is important and it may feel overwhelming when you first undertake this. But your dissertation is your chance to research books and a topic that you’re passionate about!
This went on for way longer than I expected it to, so if you made it to the very end I really appreciate it! I hope this was helpful and, if you’re undertaking your dissertation this year – good luck!
Do you have any tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments!
Firstly, welcome to my first Thoughtful Thursday post! I’m hoping for this to be a monthly feature where I just share my thoughts on books I’ve read, books I haven’t or just bookish things in general. So, for this Thoughtful Thursday, it’s also a bit of a Throwback Thursday (if that’s a thing in book blogging)!
Back in February (which feels like a lifetime ago at this point) I attended the Japan Now event at the British Library. I have always loved Japan and that love has only increased in recent years, especially after visiting Tokyo for the first time in 2018. Since then I have been doing even more to learn about the culture from trying to teach myself the language (emphasis on the word ‘trying’) to reading translated works by Japanese authors.
Whilst I love Haruki Murakami’s writing and his novels, I wanted to branch out and find some more Japanese authors that he has, arguably, paved the way in the West for. During my search I received a newsletter from the British Library which advertised the Japan Now event and I immediately bought my ticket to attend.
The entire event was fascinating and the organisers made a great choice in the guests that were invited. Whilst most of the guests were writers (either of novels or poetry) and their translators, there was also filmmaker Naoko Nobutomo and photographer Tomoko Sawada. This was a nice addition to the day and allowed for further exploration in the Japanese culture and different mediums.
Not only did this event enlighten me on many different authors and novels (many of which have become quick favourites of mine since), but I also learnt a lot regarding literature in Japan. One of the most interesting things was the fact that genre doesn’t exist in the same way as it does in Western literature. This sounds like a much more freeing way to write, instead of being confined to tropes and conventions of a particular genre. Of course, you don’t need to follow them in order for your book to be considered of that genre, but it is likely to still be there in the writer’s subconscious.
What also stood out was the working relationships between authors and translators. Hiromi Itō was there with her translator, Jeffrey Angles. Now, Itō’s work has a strong feminist voice and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics that women experience. So, it was fascinating to hear Itō speak of how Angles has truly managed to capture her voice in his translations and she can still see herself in it. Watching them perform ‘Killing Kanoko’ together was incredible, the mix of English and Japanese and how they would seamlessly trade between each other as if they were of one mind has stuck with me ever since. They were also both very kind at the book signing too!
Tomihiko Morimi was there with the translator of his The Night is Short, Walk On Girl, Emily Balistrieri. The enthusiasm that Balistrieri showed when talking about Morimi’s work was so infectious. It was really nice to hear how much he appreciated and understood Morimi’s writing and it was clear it was more than just a job for him but a genuine passion too, which I believe is vital for being able to breathe life into a translation. Balistrieri complemented Morimi well, as Morimi was very humble regarding his accomplishments and how beloved his writing is whereas Balistrieri was more than willing to speak of how brilliant his work is, something that I believe is definitely deserved after reading both Penguin Highway and The Night is Short, Walk On Girl.
I’m thrilled that I was able to attend this event and got to have a brief chat with most of the authors and translators there. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for more events like this as not only is it eye-opening to a different culture of Literature, but, it also introduces me to some amazing authors and novels that I may not have found otherwise.
Huge thanks to the British Library, the Japan Foundation and everyone else involved in planning and working this event!