#BOOKSTOUR: Tour Manhattan’s Independent Bookstores!

A good bookstore is a sanctuary – it’s the smell of paper, crowds around tables of bestsellers and staff recommendations, the feeling of being surrounded by stories and like-minded bookworms. There’s just something so special about a tiny spot (or a big one!), where the staff knows their stuff and the walls are lined with beautiful books, and maybe you find a quiet corner or a comfy chair to tuck in to and curl up with a new story. There’s nothing like a good bookstore, and certainly nothing like going home with a bag full of new things to read.

New York City – and Manhattan especially – is delightfully filled with bookstores, and considering how hard it is for indie bookstores to stay open against the corporate competition these days, Manhattan has done surprisingly well at keeping the culture thriving. I set out with Phoebe Lett of the New York Times and Olivia from RainyDaysCoffeeandBooks to tour the best of Manhattans indie bookshops, all the way from the upper east side to Chelsea on the west side.

Eight stops. One Day. Here we go!

Rizzoli, 1133 Broadway
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Our first stop was Rizzoli on the East side. Rizzoli was quiet at 10am, and so beautiful that black and white floor spoke to my minimalist heart, and the store was just so elegant all around. It has a great selection of fiction and non, but I think the strength here was the Art and Architecture sections. There were so many beautiful books to look at! Plus, the staff was so sweet and helpful. This is a great stop for your lunch break!

Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th st
Books of Wonder bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Independent Muse Monthly

Books of Wonder bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Independent Muse Monthly

Books of Wonder is a specialty children’s bookstore and a hotspot for the YA crowd – with author signings and readings for children of all ages (there was a super cute storytime for the youngins going on when we were there), Books of Wonder is definitely a place to hang out for a long time. While the selection is extensive, what I love most about Books of Wonder is the featured vintage and first editions along the back wall. I love old books and Books of Wonder has a fantastic selection of classics – everything from the Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter. It’s truly breathtaking.

The Strand, 828 Broadway

The Strand Independent Bookstore New York City Manhattan Union Square Muse Monthly books bookstore bookshop bookworm DSC01926

The Strand is Home. The Strand is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. The Strand is three floors of pure joy. Boasting 18 miles of books, the Strand has literally everything you could ever possibly want and more  – including rare, vintage, and first editions, the Strand is just….heaven. Just heaven. It doesn’t get better. I could just live and die here.

Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe, 126 Crosby St

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookwormHousing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm
(featuring Phoebe’s come-hither look)
Housing Works is another one of my personal favorites – it’s a beautiful bookshop specializing in (100% donated) secondhand books that doubles as a charity – along with the thrift shop next door, 100% of Housing Works profits go towards helping those living with HIV/AIDS and homelessness in New York City. Housing Works works to provide Heath services, job training, and housing resources for those who need it, and work tirelessly to advocate for these people. The bookstore & cafe hosts all kinds of events – readings, musical performances, parties, and even Literary Speed Dating for Queer Ladies – all to help raise funds for this wonderful cause.

McNally Jackson, 52 Prince St

McNally Jackson bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm McNally Jackson bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm
Right around the corner from HousingWorks is McNally Jackson – a two floor bookstore with a beautiful cafe attached – seriously, that ceiling. There are books hanging from the ceiling and lining the walls. It’s so beautiful. McNally Jackson has become a recent favorite for one reason – not only do they have a large fiction section, but it’s divided up into regions, so you can find American fiction alongside African, Asian, Indian, Australian, and more. To someone who loves books in translation, it’s such an amazing find. It’s a great spot to find something new! Pick up something just because it looks cool, grab yourself a coffee and a muffin, and dive in.

Bookbook, 266 Bleecker st

Bookbook bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Greenwhich Village Muse Monthly books bookworm Bookbook bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Greenwhich Village Muse Monthly books bookworm

Bookbook is (as you might be able to tell from the name) a super cutie-pie bookstore in Greenwich Village. It’s tiny and full of best sellers and classics – plus they have a sale table out in front, which is always a good thing to have. It’s such a small space but there’s lots to look at, and we had a lovely conversation about poetry with some fellow shop goers, and then Phoebe read Kipling to us from the floor. Beautiful.

Three Lives & Co, 154 West 10th Street

Three Lives and Company bookstore bookshop Manhattan New York City Independent bookstore Muse Monthly books bookworm Three Lives and Company bookstore bookshop Manhattan New York City Independent bookstore Muse Monthly books bookworm

Okay so Three Lives & Co is honestly gorgeous. It’s pretty much a closet, but it’s one of those bookstores you walk in to and it smells like books and it looks like your dream library, and so you can’t help but fall in love a little bit. It’s got a great selection of new releases and travel books, but what really caught my attention was the lack of a YA/Children’s section. Three Lives definitely strikes me as a shop for someone who might be a bit of a lit snob – you know, the tweed jacket with elbow patches type. Aka, me. Yeah, I’m that kind of nerd.

192 Books, 192 Tenth Ave

192 Books bookstore bookshop Independent bookstore New York City Manhattan Muse Monthly books bookworm 192 Books bookstore bookshop Independent bookstore New York City Manhattan Muse Monthly books bookworm

We arrived at 192 books just as the beautiful afternoon sun was starting to stream through those big windows, flooding the shop with light. It was an enchanting effect, and we took the opportunity for lots of photos. 192 Books is small, but the place is literally stacked floor-to-ceiling with awesome things to read. It’s the type of place you could spend some time digging through stacks and piles to find something different and exciting. The staff were delightful and all too happy to chat about their favorites. I definitely recommend coming here towards the end of the day, and then finding a coffee shop nearby with outdoor seating to tuck in with your new find.

It was an exhausting day, but one I would gladly do again – I’m such a bookstore junkie that this tour was a dream come true for me. I’ve found several new favorite stops, and I’m already dreaming about going back for a visit to spend some more time among the stacks.

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream – Review & Playlist

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream book review tea Muse Monthly bookworm subscription box
It is, primarily, a story of hubris.

The 100 Year Miracle begins with Dr. Rachel Bell, a member of a small research team who have set out to study the Artemia lucis, a small sea creature that glows a bright green during it’s mating period, which lasts for five days every 100 years, only around an island off the coast of Washington. Dr. Bell, however, betrays her research team to conduct a study of her own – investigating the mythical painkilling properties of these sea creatures in order to cure her chronic pain from a childhood accident.

The story has a very mystical quality – because of the nature of these sea creatures that anchor the story, the tone is set that we are witness to something strange and delicate, something otherworldly and mythical. And indeed, Dr. Bell’s research about these creatures involves Native American folklore surrounding them, which is what sets her on her quest. According to the stories she’s found, the people native to the island used the Artemia lucis as both painkiller and hallucinogen, and as a way to access the spirit road. It is clear that these creatures are not to be disturbed, however, Rachel’s quest leads her down a destructive path. When she meets Harry, a resident of the island who is also suffering from chronic pain, she begins to unlock the powers of the Artemia lucis despite the negative effects it begins to have on her and those around her.

However, Rachel’s obsession is, on one level, understandable. It’s a very human thing to want the pain to stop, especially if it’s a pain that’s been ailing you for the majority of your life. It’s very human to get greedy with it, to become to single-minded that we fail to see the chaos that is happening on the other side of our blinders. I’m sure that a lot of people with chronic illnesses – especially illnesses that effect who we are as people and take away parts of us that we value – would jump at the chance to find a painkiller that would make it stop, even if that painkiller comes with some pretty intense side effects. It’s a matter of the good outweighing the bad, or rather, it’s a matter of priority.

And maybe Rachel’s ego gets in the way a bit. Maybe she goes overboard, and certainly there are ethical issues involved with her research and the disturbing of the Artemia lucis’ mating season. But would any of us be any different, given the chance? It is so easy to access those darker parts of humanity – the parts that allow us want to play God, to be selfish to the point of destruction. It’s a thin line between ground-breaking discovery and dangerous obsession.

Ream does an incredible job of showing us something mythical being torn apart and analyzed, being overtaken by human egoism and destroyed. It’s important to look at nature in this way – as something not to be disturbed – and to recognize how our human greed can effect the lives around us.

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes – Review & Playlist

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes, Muse Monthly May

I think it’s a sign of a good crime novel that the story makes you very, very, intensely uncomfortable.

I will admit that crime and suspense is not my area of expertise. There are people – my mother is one – who eat up crime dramas and police procedurals. And of course, there are plenty out there to consume, but for some reason I tend to avoid things that are too Law & Order, as they seem to be all the same.

However, y’all know I cant resist a sociopath.

I love fucked up people doing fucked up things, I love reading stories about the build up before someone snaps, I especially love when said sociopath has intimate medical knowledge and is fascinated by dead bodies. That, to me, is setting up for an incredible story that will keep me on the edge of my seat. I am the person who cheers for the bad guy.

And Teo is all those things – he begins by saying his best friend is the cadaver they practice on in medical school, that he feels isolated from his peers until he meets Clarice. Of course, like any person who is unfamiliar with, well, people, Teo misconstrues Clarice’s flirtations and becomes obsessed with her to the point of kidnapping her with the intention of making her fall in love with him. Now, I’ll point out that for the first maybe third of the novel, I am all for this. I want to see Teo go crazy, I want to see him keep Clarice drugged and tied to the bed, I am all for him telling people that they’re dating, they’re engaged, I am all for him lying to both of their mothers and digging himself into a deep, chaotic hole that he’ll never be able to get out of. I just can’t wait for all of the madness to unfold, you know?

But I slowly stopped cheering for Teo and cheering for madness. I began to get panicked, to be worried for Clarice and wishing for someone to come along and save her, or better yet, for her to find her own way out somehow. And this is due to Montes’ masterful writing. Slowly Teo becomes more and more despicable, even for me. Slowly we start to see the depths of his depravity and the extent of his misogyny and homophobia, which transforms from slightly cringeworthy to throw-the-book-out-the-window very quickly. Frequently Teo comments on how disgusting Clarice is for wanting to kiss girls, how she is better at cleaning because she’s a woman, he calls her his ‘Lolita’ (which is a huge red flag), and it gets to the point where you can’t wait for this motherfucker to meet his end.

And…well, you’ll get there.

But the truth is, Perfect Days defied all my expectations. Not only was it expertly written and deliciously creepy, but the twists and turns are expertly navigated to tear up your emotions.

Just make sure no one is in the way when you throw the book across the room.

 

NYC Tea Tour! Muse Monthly & Bad Girl Good Tea Explore Manhattan’s Tea Houses

It’s no secret that I love tea, and I love Manhattan. I really do. But the thing about New York (and probably every city) is that it’s super easy to find coffee, but not so easy to find tea that isn’t Starbucks. Which is ridiculous, because for a city that prides itself on having an amazing, authentic food scene, you’d think there would be more places for tea. And so, the Muse Monthly Tea Tour was born – a quest to visit Manhattan’s best tea houses and shops and find some amazing places to stop for both cold and iced tea all over the island.

I was joined by Sam from Bad Girl Good Tea, an incredible small tea company out of Manhattan. I couldn’t imagine a better tour partner and we had a blast. It was exhausting, but super fun and we had a lot of laughs along the way.

Seven stops. One Day. Here we go!

Alice’s Tea Cup, 156 E 64th

Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea

Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Our first stop was Alice’s Tea Cup, which I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. There are three locations in Manhattan so there’s plenty of Alice themed goodness to go around. Alice’s is popular with moms and their daughters – Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise, for example, and is a great stop for brunch. The interior is cute and comfy – not completely Alice themed, but there was Alice art on the walls and their signature tea blends are Alice/fairy tale themed. Sam and I both had brunch and tea, which comes in a personal pot (just the way I like it). Sam enjoyed the Alice’s Blend and I had Sparrow’s Soul. Both delicious (but I thought hers was better). 

Radiance Tea House & Books, 208 E 50th
Radiance Tea House & Books: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea IMG_1172
Our second uptown stop was Radiance Tea House and Books. I will freely admit that one of my shortcomings as a tea drinker is more traditional, pure teas. I don’t know as much about traditional teas as I would like, and so I purposely scheduled in a few teahouses that catered to a more Japanese tea style. Radiance was the first of these, and it did not disappoint. Radiance is definitely more upscale – it’s in a part of town that has a lot of businesses and so it seemed like a nice spot for lunch, but it was also very quiet, which meant our giggling and texting felt a little out of place. However, our server was very kind and willing to suggest teas we might enjoy, and she even helped us style the photo to the right. I had a lovely oolong and Sam had a sweet green tea, both of which were lovely. Radiance is a beautiful spot to visit and stay for a while, especially if you’re a lover of traditional teas.

 

Thirstea, 280 E 10th St
Thirstea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Thirstea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Our third stop was Thirstea, the first of our East Village stops. There are a few cute little tea shops within a few blocks, so we got a nice little tour of the neighborhood. By the time we got here, it was nice and sunny out, which made it a perfect day for sitting out on the bench and enjoying our tea. We had a lovely chat with one of the owners about being a small business and thriving in a digital world vs having a brick-and-mortar location, about tea and the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life. We also did our first periscope here (which Sam was dreading, but I made her do anyway) – the sound is terrible but you can watch it here on Facebook
Thirstea isn’t exactly a place to sit down for tea like the other two were. It’s a little, brightly colored hole-in-the-wall with a few barstools inside, but not a lot of space. They have a wide selection of teas and a few original blends, as well as bubble teas and smoothies. But this was one of my favorite spots on our tour – not only was the shop itself adorable, but the man we talked to was so nice, and that’s what really made it for me. It’s one of those perfect New York places with good people and good atmosphere. It’s definitely a perfect place to visit on a warm summer day. 

Physical Graffitea, 96 St Mark’s Place
Physical Graffitea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
So I will admit that the East Village is not my neighborhood – I’m a SoHo girl, but I love the Village and it’s iconic culture. Physical Graffitea is a definite part of that. The location was first a vintage clothing store and is now a tea shop under the same management, and it definitely has that local New York charm. Stepping into Physical Graffitea is like stepping into the 1970s. It’s definitely the place you’d meet that cute hipster boy with his mustache and thick-rimmed glasses, or the singer-songwriter girl who plays acoustic guitar and dresses like Stevie Nicks. They had a huge selection of teas and plenty of friendly faces. At this point, we’d had too much tea so we didn’t drink anything, but I could definitely see myself bringing a book here and holing up for an afternoon. As a matter of fact, I might just do that. 

Tea Drunk, 123 E 7th St
Tea Drunk: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Tea Drunk was the second of my traditional tea spots. Tea Drunk is a beautiful, serene spot that offers tea classes as well as these pre-curated tea tasting menus for those (like us) who are new to the world of traditional teas. We had the green tea tasting  which featured three beautiful green teas that ranged from sweet and light to full and flavorful. It was a beautiful ceremony guided by a very knowledgeable tea master. We also got to hang with little tea friends – they’re made from   Yixing clay leftover from the creation of clay teapots and they “drink” the extra tea, meaning you pour your leftover tea over them and they absorb the water.  I had a lot of fun with my little elephant!  Yixing clay tea elephant: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea

Sanctuary T, 337 W Broadway
SanctuaryT: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea SanctuaryT: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Now, SantuaryT is definitely more my speed. It’s tucked on a nice corner in Soho and is a very swanky, modern tea house/bar/restaurant complete with gorgeous Australian servers and parmesan truffle friends. By the time we arrived here, it was sunset on a beautiful warm day. We took a table by the open storefront to people watch and had an incredible, relaxing time. I had a hot Soho chai which was delicious, and Sam had an iced matcha. This was maybe my favorite stop along the way. That might have had a little to do with how hot our server was. Tea and cute boys and a beautiful New York sunset – what more do you need?

 

Tea and Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Ave
Tea and Sympathy: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Tea and Sympathy: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Tea and Sympathy is hands down one of my favorite places in New York. My sister discovered this spot years ago and we’ve been coming here pretty frequently ever since. It sings to my little anglophile heart – owned by a British family, it’s the cutest little hole in the wall, decorated like your English grandma’s kitchen with food to match. Here you can get an incredible selection of teas in mismatched teaware as well as a full English breakfast or Sunday roast. The same family owns A Salt & Battery, the fish & chips shop next door, and a little shop inbetween that sells British food and gifts. It’s a beautiful little haven. 
By the time we got here, it was late at night and we were both exhausted, so of course we finished strong with some vanilla tea and cake. Because, duh. 

The Tea Tour, in my opinion, was a complete success. Not only did we have some amazing new teas and find some fantastic spots, but I made a new friend and had some really special conversation. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Good friends and good tea. Nothing better.

 

Check out our friends Bad Girl Good Tea!

Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue – Review & Playlist

Perfect Days by Alvaro Enrigue Riverhead books book review Muse Monthly

It’s like getting drunk with your Art History teacher.

Which, for me, is pretty much exactly what I want in life. You can’t deny that it would be amazing to split a bottle of wine with your former professor and chat about prostitutes that starred in your favorite paintings, corrupted popes, and the secrets of Spanish conquistadors. And then by the end of it, you’re shitfaced and thinking, ‘wait, is this all true?’ This is essentially the experience of reading Sudden Death – and it is quite the experience.

The novel is multi-layered: first, a story of a tennis match between Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo and famed artist Caravaggio (who is my absolute all time favorite, just as a side note) intersperced with the history of tennis as a developing sport; second, an intensely realistic and human history lesson spanning from Italy to Mexico; third, Enrigue’s email’s back and forth with his editor during the writing of this novel. What Enrigue does brilliantly with Sudden Death is blur the line between reality and fiction – you could, if you were that type of reader, read this along with a history textbook or your google search open, and fact check the shit outta this, but I don’t think you really need to. Did de Quevedo vs. Caravaggio really happen? Did Galileo keep score? Does it really matter?

What Enrigue has done is create a novel that reads more like a Samuel Beckett play, that creates this hyper-reality in which things are just a little bit weird and unbelievable, but not too much that the reader is aware of it. He breathes life into these historical names that we typically feel so far away from – and it’s a real, gritty, dirty life, tangible humanity, with all the bumps and brusies and vomit and sex that you could possibly want. At some points, you may ask yourself, ‘why is this so engrossing?’ The answer is, because it’s written with such skill and personality and humor that you can’t help but get caught up in it.

Sudden Death is a really unique novel. It’s an incredible reading experience that cannot be compared to anything else I’ve read before.

And I’m definitely sending a copy to my art history professor so we can grab drinks and talk about Caravaggio.

Owning It: On Anxiety & Entrepreneurship

Owning It: On Anixety & Entrepreneurship - Muse Monthly Blog, anxiety, business owner, girlboss, mental illness

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.

But it’s difficult to write about my anxiety when it colors every aspect of my life. It becomes very difficult to separate myself from it, it’s difficult to tell what is my personality and what is a symptom of anxiety. I’m not sure who I would be without it.

I’m going to try to start from the beginning.

Looking back, there are a lot of things that happened to me that were anxiety related that I didn’t have a name for at the time. I have vivid memories of being physically sick any time we had to go somewhere new, or anywhere I didn’t know anybody. I have a petrifying fear of being lost and left on my own. I transferred schools in high school and spent half my first day at the new school throwing up and crying in the bathroom (I promptly switched back to where I knew people). It’s just part of my life.

College was a low-point for me. What is typically a very exciting period in a person’s life – moving away from mom and dad, meeting new people, generally transitioning into ‘adulthood’ was actually a tragic four years for me. And it’s hard for me to explain because I still don’t know how or why it happened, but it was like my anxiety switch went from low to full blast all in one moment. I moved into a dorm room with my friend from high school thinking that I would feel safer. But something snapped. I went from someone who considered herself ‘outgoing’ to someone who refused to leave her room, someone who went home every weekend and cried on the way back, someone who stopped eating. I dressed myself up in high heels in the hopes that someone would notice me and start a conversation so that I wouldn’t have to. I lost fifteen pounds during the course of that first semester and made zero new friends. Instead, I failed all of my classes and was left feeling lost and broken. I was a shadow of myself, both physically and mentally. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

When I transferred back to a school closer to home, I knew what I needed to get back to myself – books. I cried and cried, I felt like a failure, but I knew that I needed a change. I sought comfort in literature and writing, and decided that instead of making friends or going out or trying to find a boyfriend, I would focus on writing and curling up with books in the library. I retreated into myself, because I did not know how to break out of the shell that had magically formed around me.

And I was okay for a while. I started to learn more about my anxiety and recognize what was part of that and what was something I could change. I lived my life. I found a job, I found another job, and then I weaseled my way into a job that I thought was going to be The Dream.

Turns out, not.

What was supposed to be my Dream Job ended up being the most stressful and terrible four months of my life. I went from feeling secure to feeling insecure, paranoid, and overwhelmed. I thought everyone hated me, I was sure I was going to get fired every day, and I never felt on top of things. In addition, I started to have physical symptoms as well – not only was it constant knots in my shoulders, but my legs would tense up to the point of cramping, until finally I started to feel like they would buckle underneath me at any moment. I was constantly feeling like I was going to throw up, and then I started having panic attacks – real panic attacks, crying, unable to breathe, the whole nine yards – while I was sitting at my desk.

All I wanted to do was curl up with my book and have the largest cup of tea possible.

And it was then that I knew I had to leave, and I started Muse Monthly shortly after.

But owning and operating a business is absolutely not a stress-free environment. It is not without weeks of constant heart palpitations, waking up in the middle of the night in a panic (stress dreams are super fun, you know), crying over finances, loosing track of things on my to-do list, and constantly feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I’m in haze all the time, with more and more things piling on top of my head, and the more it is, the more I just want to sleep through it. I feel shitty all the time, and I want it out, I want it gone, I want to take this dark and twisty storm inside my head and put it in a box and burn it. I don’t want to feel my heart doing a double-time inside my chest and worry I’m having a heart attack and I’m going to die at 27. And part of my brain will say, “you’re fine, it’s just anxiety”. And Anxiety will answer, “but what if it isn’t?”. And then Anxiety will laugh.

But the difference is, it doesn’t own me anymore. I used to feel so crushed under the weight of it, so completely like I was falling apart and I’d never feel stable again. For the first time in my life, I can use my anxiety as fuel to drive my business. I use this panicky, “I’m going to fail” energy and channel it into something useful for once. Because failure isn’t an option anymore, so instead of crying and vomiting about everything, I have to fucking do something about it. Which is not always as easy as it sounds. It’s actually kind of awful sometimes, and sometimes (read: like, yesterday), I think about shutting this bitch down and crawling into bed and never coming out. But at the same time, I love this work. I love Muse Monthly, and I know I’d never be happy at a regular job. I’m never bored, which is better than I ever could have asked for.

Of course, I also have an incredible support network – I have amazing friends, a beautiful and creative boyfriend, and a great group of other female entrepreneurs who are going through the same shit that I’m going through. I’ve accepted anxiety as part of my life, and I’m aware enough now to know what is an anxiety symptom and what is just me being stupid.

It isn’t easy, doing this and having this full-body, 24/7 mental illness bullshit. I wish I felt normal, but at the same time, I’m kind of glad I don’t. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my anxiety. I’m owning it like I own my business.

And I’m drinking a lot of tea, and getting lost in a lot of books. I’m surviving.

Children’s Books : The Ones That Stay With You

Children's Books: Muse Monthly's Children's Book recommendations

 

As it just so happens, my sister is pregnant. So of course, being the nerd that I am, I threw her a bookish baby shower. We decorated with books, asked for books in lieu of cards, and generally had a pretty nerdy time.

But more than that, what’s exciting about having a new baby in the family is the idea of sharing some of our family’s favorite stories with a new generation. Reading has always been a huge part of my family. My mother made it a point to read to me and my siblings every night, which resulted in all of us being bookworms (we also all dream of having the library from Beauty & The Beast).  It was instilled in us from a very early age that reading was important, reading made you smart, and reading a lot was what was going to get you ahead in life.

And it got me thinking about how a good chunk of my favorite stories are those I read when I was young. I find myself going back to them over and over again, wanting to return to those worlds that so captured my attention and my imagination in my childhood. I feel shaped by these stories, by Wonderland and Narnia, and I find them leaking into my writing and my relationship with other stories, even to the point where my senior thesis in college was about fantasy in children’s literature.

But the truth is, the stories we read as children do tend to stay with us more than others, whether it is simply because our minds are still being molded or because a child’s imagination is free from the burdens that are later placed on it. And we connect with the magic, we believe in talking mice and treehouses that can sail through time, we believe in trains that can and magic cauldrons of pasta. And maybe part of our adult selves do too.

Here are our favorite children’s stories. Please feel free to share some of yours!

 

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig

Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird & Helen Craig

A Winkle In Time by Madeline L'Engle

A Winkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Ramona The Pest by Beverly Cleary

Ramona The Pest by Beverly Cleary

Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab – Review & Playlist

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab: Muse Monthly book review Okay, so I have a confession to make. I have developed a huge crush on V. E. Schwab.
Not a joke. It’s a whole thing, and it’s all very high school.

(if you’re reading this V, um….I….uh….hi??)

And this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. If the writing is really good,and I mean really really good, I tend to fall in love with the writer a little bit. Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Safran Foer, and earlier, Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath (my dead girlfriend). I get posessive and defensive, I will gush about my writer crushes any opportunity I get, and V. E. Schwab has become the name I work into every conversation.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so completely drowned in a story to the point where I lift my eyes up from the pages and am disappointed in the world around me, disappointed to not be in London (which I am every day, frankly, but I’m talking about a very specific floral-scented London here), disappointed in the lack of magic, of pirate ships on the horizon, of the greyness of it all. It is, honestly, heartbreaking to be so consumed by a new fictional world and then to have to like, get off the fucking train and go to work and sit at a desk for eight hours a day, you know? But V got me, she really did. She created a world and characters that I felt such a kinship with (we’ll recall my spot-on cosplay on instagram here, call the casting director now). And you can see, I’m getting sentimental and not doing a proper review, because I fell in love a little bit and that means I can’t form proper thoughts. I have a lot of things I want to talk about and it just feels so overwhelming. Just gimme it. Gimme it all. Kell and his brooding, genderqueer Lila cutting bitches who get in her way, prince/privateer boy kisses (um, can we talk about the heart attack I had over this?), magical tournaments, all that shit. I want it.

And I find it infinitely frustrating that I can’t have it.

And I know I’m not alone in this. There’s a whole generation of readers still angry over a certain letter that was never delivered (ahem). And why are we still angry? Because we all still hold out hope that magic exists – but this is why we read, and why books like A Gathering of Shadows and its predecessor is necessary. It’s an immersive type of magic, a good book. Beautiful words and colourful, full characters are the magic we can cling to, and they is so vital to our survival in this grey world.

And, like, it helps that the writer is real cute.

…….
I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m gonna go hide now.

“I wish I had time to read!”

city of theives
You have no idea how often I hear “I wish I had time to read!” or “I never have time to read for pleasure anymore!”

Almost every time I tell people what I do, I hear something similar. And I always felt the same way, for a very long time I lamented not having time to read. I walked past my bookshelves full of unread novels and said to myself, ‘I really need to read that’ or ‘that’s been sitting on my shelf for ages, I should get around to it’. But it’s hard, when you’re working or going to school or busy with other things, to make time for your books.

You miss them, don’t you? They miss you too.

See, books are made to be read. They’re made to be enjoyed by you, to be taken in by you, to soak into your skin and become a part of your memory and your intellect. They need you just as much as you need them.

So, you need to give them some of your time.

It’s like a friendship – you need to text them just as much as they text you. Take time for your books, and they’ll give you all they have in return.

I like to read on the train during my commute. I get about an hour to myself, plug in my headphones, and get lost in my book.

I know a lot of people who take their lunch hour to read, who read on the subway, or for an hour before they go to bed. If you’re a student, you could take some time between classes or as a reward once you’ve finished your homework.

But it’s important to take time to yourself. It’s important to carve out an hour or two to relax and take time out from your daily life. You’ll re-energize yourself, exercise your brain, and if you’re lucky, get lost in a good story among the way!

Make time to read! You’ll be glad you did.