Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

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I don’t know where to begin with this book. Perhaps I should start with, it’s not for the faint of heart. It is intense. It is full of taboos. There is abuse. And so very much more. And there is the way the mind works to handle all this trauma. It is, in its strange way, about survival. Don’t be fooled by that kawaii cover.

The story opens with a young Natsuki, age 11, who is convinced that her stuffed hedgehog is an alien from Popinpobopia. She shares this with her cousin Yuu, who is also her boyfriend, when they meet in the mountains at a family gathering.

(Something happens at this gathering but I don’t want to unleash any spoilers). But after the first two chapters, we fast-forward to Natsuki at age 34. She’s married, but to someone who has a similar mindset, both of them feeling alienated from society, preferring to believe that they themselves are aliens.

“Everyone believed in the Factory. Everyone was brainwashed by the Factory and did as they were told. They all used their reproductive organs for the Factory and did their jobs for the sake of the Factory. My husband and I were people they’d failed to brainwash, and anyone who remained unbrainwashed had to keep up an act in order to avoid being eliminated by the Factory.”

Natsuki and her husband return to the mountains where Yuu is staying and the three of them decide to train to avoid becoming Earthlings, to come up with their own ideas for living on a planet that isn’t their own. And it descends into something shocking and bizarre, that, as I said, isn’t for the faint of heart.

“I want to use the form of the novel to conduct experiments,” Murata once said in an interview. And this is one extremely outrageous experimental story. Yet to be honest, is it really all that outlandish? The trauma that a young girl experiences from the various abuses she suffers, from people who ought to be her defenders, has led her to believe that she’s not of this earth. For who would want to be, if you were in her shoes? And that feeling of being alienated, not fitting into the norms of society, is something many of us can relate to, I reckon, although the three characters take it to such an extreme level.

Earthlings is an uncomfortable read, it’s dark and twisted. It’s not for everyone. I hesitate to say “read this” because I know some are likely to be put off by, well, many parts. But for me, it was something I couldn’t stop reading. It’s way out of the box and unconventional but well, this past year has been anything but ordinary. Maybe I just needed something extremely bizarre to kick off my 2021 reading. Whatever the reason, Earthlings is a book I’m definitely not going to forget.

Library Loot (January 6 to 12, 2021)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Happy Library Loot day! Add your link below or drop a comment with your latest library haul.

As with the start of every new year, I love to promise myself that I’ll read more classic lit. Also more non-fiction and books in translation (I did do a pretty good job with that last one, reading 26 translated books. See more stats in this post!). Also, a new month means I can borrow more Hoopla comics! 

 

thestranger

The Stranger – Albert Camus

Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.” First published in English in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.

onetowatch

My friend E recommended this one. 

One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale.

Sentient – Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Walta

When an attack kills the adults on a colony ship, the on-board A.I. VALERIE must help the ship’s children survive the perils of space. Can Valerie rise to the task?

Family Tree Vol 1 and 2 – Jeff Lemire and Phil Hester

When an eight-year-old girl literally begins to transform into a tree, her single Mom, troubled brother and possibly insane Grandfather embark on a bizarre, and heart-wrenching odyssey across the back roads of America desperately searching for a way to cure her horrifying transformation before it’s too late.
But the further they get from home, and the closer the girl gets to completely losing her humanity, the more external forces threaten to tear the family apart as fanatical cults, mercenaries and tabloid Paparazzi close in. determined to destroy the girl or use her for themselves.
A new genre-defying ongoing series FAMILY TREE will combine mystery, action and Cronenbergian body horror into an epic story about the lengths a mother will go to keep her children safe in the face of an increasingly unstable world and unspeakable horrors.

The kids’ loot:

Again, some of the books are part of the random books the librarian pops into the bag

librarybooks

What did you get from your library this week?

 

Looking forward to these 2021 reads #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021

The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient #3) – Helen Hoang

Act Your Age, Eve Brown – Talia Hibbert

Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez

Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

Winterkeep (Graceling Realm #4) – Kristin Cashore

On Fragile Waves – E. Lily Yu

Fireheart Tiger – Aliette de Bodard

Aftershocks – Nadia Owusu

The Tea Dragon Tapestry – Katie O’Neill


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

It’s Monday (January 4, 2021)

It’s the first Monday of 2021! Happy New Year!

How have the first days of 2021 been for you?

The boys are back at school this week. Virtual school that is. And it’s never easy to go back to routine after a two-week break! But we managed to get them back up early enough and ready for distance learning.

Currently…

Reading:

Good Morning, Midnight – Lily Brooks-Dalton

Watching:

Bridgerton. I love Eloise and Penelope!

Listening:

Eating and drinking:

Steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast. I made it yesterday and this was leftovers. I like mine sweetened with honey and full of raisins and cranberries.

Cooking:

Maybe some japchae this week (Korean sweet potato noodles cooked with lots of vegetables). I’ll maybe add some sliced beef too.

Last week:

I read:

I squeezed in a couple of last reads for 2020.

A Long Petal of the Sea – Isabel Allende

Pemmican Wars – Katherena Vermette

The Missing Marquess – Nancy Springer

Invisible Kingdom Vol 1 – G Willow Wilson

Lumberjanes Vol 14 – Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh

I posted:

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

How I read in 2020

I’ve done these year-end summaries for a few years now, you can check out what I was up to in 201920182017201620152014, and 2013.

2020 total: 207

2019 total: 244

2018 total: 226
2017’s total: 216
2016’s total: 234
2015’s total: 286
2014’s total: 217
2013’s total: 223
2012’s total: 227
2011’s total: 171 

My reading has taken me to many countries:

Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, the UK, Vietnam, to many made up lands, outer space, and more!

I ended up DNF-ing 8 books. No regrets there.

Last year I read about an equal number of writers who are new-to-me and writers whose books I’ve previously read.

I read fewer physical books compared to 2019 (7% only – last year it was 44%). And pretty much all of these have been borrowed from the library. The reduction in physical books read is due to the closing of the libraries because of the virus. The library has been offering no-contact pickups for a few months now but I have been using that more for kids books.

I seem to have continued to read more diversely, with a slightly larger difference than in 2019, when 46% of the books I read were by minority writers.

Genre

I used to do a genre pie-chart but realised that quite a few of the books I read don’t really fall into just one genre. So here is a more general overview of the different genres/media I read.

19 books of non-fiction,

84 comics (some of which are non-fiction actually),

4 short story collections

22 books that belong in children’s/Middle-grade/YA sections

20 works of speculative fiction

14 romance novels

5 crime/mystery novels

5 horror novels

3 classics

1 play

2 books of poems

And the rest I guess I’m just labelling as generally “fiction” but may include stuff like literary fiction, contemporary fiction and all those other xx fiction categories.

Books in Translation

I did have a mini goal last year of reading at least one book in translation a month. And I surpassed that by reading a total of 26 translated works. These books were translated into English from:

Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, Japanese, Korean, Persian, and Spanish

Publication Date

The oldest book I read (by publication date) was The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, first published in 1859. Coming in a close second was Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, first published in 1866. These were both audiobooks.

I read 5 books published in the 1900s

2000-2009: 23 books

2010-2014: 15 books

2015: 1 book

2016: 10 books

2017: 22 books

2018: 18 books

2019: 60 books

2020: 49 books

How did you read in 2020?

Library Loot (December 30 to January 5, 2021)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Oh boy, it’s almost 2021 (or maybe if you’re not reading this on Wednesday or Thursday, this is already 2021). Are you one for resolutions? In terms of reading, I want to continue reading diversely, across a variety of genres, more translated works, more international writers, more writers of colour. And to try to finish some of these challenges. And also continue to borrow from my library.

Claire has the link-up this week. 

A couple of holds came in for me. And the others are random books I picked up while browsing.

Girl Gone Viral – Alisha Rai

In Alisha Rai’s second novel in her Modern Love series, a live-tweet event goes viral for a camera-shy ex-model, shoving her into the spotlight—and into the arms of the bodyguard she’d been pining for.

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings [eyes emoji]

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for…

He’s got a [peach emoji] to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…

Earthlings – Sayaka Murata

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what.

Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

I watched the movie version on Netflix – it’s called Midnight Sky and stars George Clooney and Felicity Jones. It’s an interesting movie although I had some issues with it (won’t say more in case you plan on watching it). But it’s originally a book! So of course I had to go borrow it.

Good Morning, Midnight – Lily Brooks-Dalton

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives?

Invisible Kingdom Vol 1 – G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward

Hugo and World Fantasy Award-winning author G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, Wonder Woman) and Eisner winning artist Christian Ward (Black Bolt) team up for this epic new sci-fi saga!

In a distant galaxy, two women discover an inconceivable conspiracy between the world’s most dominant religion and an all-powerful mega corporation.

Suddenly the prey in a desperate interstellar chase, they’re faced with a life-or-death decision: reveal the truth or risk plunging their worlds into anarchy.

Lumberjanes Vol 14 – Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh

The Lumberjanes find a treasure map that leads to them to a buried prize…which comes to life and threatens to drain all the magic from the woods around them. That definitely sounds like the opposite of what they wanted!

X MARKS THE SPOT…FOR TROUBLE!

Ripley found a treasure map! The Roanoke scouts are eager to hunt down what they hope might be some kind of mystical hoard of gems and jewels, rad dinosaur bones, or maybe even more treasure maps (that you have to piece together to find an EVEN BIGGER prize, obviously)! What they end up finding is scattered pieces of an ancient Greek statue of a woman, who, when assembled, comes back to life as a vindictive ex-goddess!n. And she’s looking to satisfy her hunger after thousands of years frozen in stone by draining any nearby magical resource…starting with the ‘Janes!

What did you get from your library this week?

It’s Monday (December 28, 2020)

It’s the last “Monday” post of 2020!

If you celebrate it, how was your Christmas? We had a nice quiet one at home. The kids were thrilled with their presents.

We had a big Christmas Eve dinner.  I made ham, sweet potato casserole, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, smashed potatoes.

I also made a Bûche de Noël.

Currently…

Reading:

Watching:

Away on Netflix

Listening: 

Eating:

I had toast and tea for breakfast

Cooking:

Maybe some scallops risotto for dinner today.

Last week:

I read:

I posted:

Reading Challenges 2021

Library Loot (December 23 to 29)

Books I Hope Santa Brings #TopTenTuesday

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

Reading Challenges 2021

I love joining reading challenges, but I’m usually not very good about finishing them. However, I’ve discovered that keeping track of them on Storygraph makes it easier. So I’m joining a few and let’s see how I do over the year. I’ve picked a few challenges that will help me diversify my reading. 

 

Books in Translation Reading Challenge

  • Conversationalist level (4-6 books)

The Stranger by Albert Camus (translated from the French)

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura (translated from the Japanese)

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (translated from the Japanese)

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai (translated from the Japanese)

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (translated from the Japanese)

 

Back to the Classics Challenge

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899

2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971 – The Stranger by Albert Camus

3. A classic by a woman author.

4. A classic in translation.

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.

6. A classic by a new-to-you author.

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author. 

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird).
 
9. A children’s classic. 
 
10. A humorous or satirical classic.

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction).

12. A classic play. 
 
 
  1. Read a book you’ve been intimidated to read (The Stranger by Albert Camus)
  2. Read a nonfiction book about anti-racism
  3. Read a non-European novel in translation (Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi)
  4. Read an LGBTQ+ history book
  5. Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author
  6. Read a fanfic
  7. Read a fat-positive romance (One to Watch – Kate Stayman-London)
  8. Read a romance by a trans or nonbinary author 
  9. Read a middle grade mystery
  10. Read an SFF anthology edited by a person of color
  11. Read a food memoir by an author of color
  12. Read a work of investigative nonfiction by an author of color
  13. Read a book with a cover you don’t like
  14. Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada
  15. Read a memoir by a Latinx author
  16. Read an own voices book about disability
  17. Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain (Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender)
  18. Read a book by/about a non-Western world leader
  19. Read a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist
  20. Read a book of nature poems
  21. Read a children’s book that centers a disabled character but not their disability
  22. Read a book set in the Midwest
  23. Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness
  24. Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die

 

Reading Women Challenge 2021

A Book Longlisted for the JCB Prize

An Author from Eastern Europe

A Book About Incarceration

A Cookbook by a Woman of Color

A Book with a Protagonist Older than 50 (Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton)

A Book by a South American Author in Translation

Reread a Favorite Book

A Memoir by an Indigenous, First Nations, Native, or Aboriginal Woman

A Book by a Neurodivergent Author

A Crime Novel or Thriller in Translation

A Book About the Natural World

A Young Adult Novel by a Latinx Author

A Poetry Collection by a Black Woman

A Book with a Biracial Protagonist

A Muslim Middle Grade Novel

A Book Featuring a Queer Love Story

About a Woman in Politics

A Book with a Rural Setting (Earthlings by Sayaka Murata)

A Book with a Cover Designed by a Woman (Gimme Everything You Got – Iva-Marie Palmer)

A Book by an Arab Author in Translation

A Book by a Trans Author (Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender)

A Fantasy Novel by an Asian Author

A Nonfiction Book Focused on Social Justice

A Short Story Collection by a Caribbean Author

Bonus

  • A Book by Alexis Wright

  • A Book by Tsitsi Dangarembga

  • A Book by Leila Aboulela

  • A Book by Yoko Ogawa

Library Loot (December 23 to 29)

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

 

Happy Wednesday! And, if you celebrate it, happy day before Christmas Eve. Are you all ready for Christmas?

Something a bit unusual this week, or maybe I should say more like, heading back to my pre-pandemic Library Loot posts… there are actual physical library books for the kids this week. 

Earlier this month, their school’s library started lending out library books again. The kids have to go place a hold online and parents have to drive by on Wednesday after school to pick up the books. I figured that since we were already doing that, I would finally give the city’s library’s contactless pick-up a go too. 

I put some books on hold, and then realised that the website had an option to add on a few more random books that the librarians would pick out. The general choices included picture books, beginning readers, chapter books etc for the kids. I didn’t pick out any books for myself but I’m now wondering if there’s an option to have random adult books put into the pile too. 

At any rate, the librarian’s picks were great for the kids. With the exception of one that they had read already. 

And here’s what I got this week. 

Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What would you change if you could go back in time?

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In
Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?

Pemmican Wars – Katherena Vermette

Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Métis girl adjusting to a new home and school, is struggling with loneliness while separated from her mother. Then an ordinary day in Mr. Bee’s history class turns extraordinary, and Echo’s life will never be the same. During Mr. Bee’s lecture, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place—a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie—and back again to the present. In the following weeks, Echo slips back and forth in time. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.

Pemmican Wars is the first graphic novel in a new series, A Girl Called Echo, by Governor General Award–winning writer, and author of Highwater Press’ The Seven Teaching Stories, Katherena Vermette

Gimme Everything You Got – Iva-Marie Palmer

A feminist, sex-positive, and hilarious rom-com about a girl in 1970s Chicago trying everything she can to score—on and off the soccer field.

It’s 1979—the age of roller skates and feathered bangs, of Charlie’s Angels and Saturday Night Fever—and Susan Klintock is a junior in high school with a lot of sexual fantasies…but not a lot of sexual experience. No boy, at least none she knows, has ever been worth taking a shot on.

That is, until Bobby McMann arrives.

Bobby is foxy, he’s charming—and he’s also the coach of the brand-new girls’ soccer team at school and totally, 100 percent, completely off limits. But Susan decides she’s going to try out for the team to get close to him anyway. And over the course of an eventful season, she discovers that what she wants might not be what she first expected when Bobby McMann walked in the door—and that figuring out who she is means taking risks, both on and off the pitch.

 


Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay – Phoebe Robinson (audiobook)

Robinson’s latest essay collection is a call to arms. She tackles a wide range of topics, such as giving feminism a tough-love talk in hopes it can become more intersectional; telling society’s beauty standards to kick rocks; and demanding that toxic masculinity close its mouth and legs (enough with the manspreading already!), and get out of the way so true progress can happen.

The kids’ loot:

What did you get from your library this week?

 

Books I Hope Santa Brings #TopTenTuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is:

Books I Hope Santa Brings

Harry Potter (Minalima edition).

I’ve become a collector of the Minalima editions of classic books, and have all of them so far, except this Harry Potter one. In case you’ve not heard of Minalima, they make these beautiful versions with interactive parts and they are such works of art.

Howl’s Moving Castle (Folio edition)

Isn’t that a beautiful cover? I’ve never owned a Folio before…

The Terry Pratchett Discworld hardcovers (Orion Publishing)

I own a couple of these and would love to add more!

The Vintage Classics Virginia Woolf series

So far I only own one of these but I really like the covers of this series!

Penguin Clothbound Classics 

These are just so beautiful!


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.