10 Books to Read Over the Summer

book beach

If you are like me (which if you’re in the English department you more than likely are) you love reading. One might even say in a thick tone of condescension that you are obsessed with reading, like has been done to me.

What people like this don’t understand is that one of the primary beauties of life is that there will never come a day when the fountain of books will run dry. And one of the primary beauties of summer is that it is often the best time to catch up on all of those books you couldn’t read during the spring.

Sure, doing stuff is cool too, but… Books > Other Stuff

Oh, the irony that the English department would keep you and I from our reading.

Yet now that the season of hours and hours of outdoor reading is here, this humble English office blogger is here to provide you 10 personally-loved book titles for reading this summer.

I enjoy diversity, so I won’t be that blogger that only lists one or two genres, mistakenly convinced that everyone reads the same stuff I do. Hopefully, I’ll have enough range (and enough uniqueness) that even if our tastes are so far removed from each other you’ll be able to take at least one book away with you to add to your book bucket list.

Also, there is no particular reason to my order. They’re all amazing, guys. I swear.


Uno 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

book list 1 1Q84

You may have heard of Haruki Murakami, the famous Japanese author, but in case you haven’t, Murakami has a style that is enchantingly strange. He is known to write what I would like to call hard-boiled, dream-esque fiction. The strangeness that he is able to achieve in the midst of an often mundane setting as well as beautifully simple language is extremely enviable.

This novel, though admittedly quite lengthy (but as a fellow lover of books, surely you’re not deterred!), is my favorite novel by him. I have read a number of his works, and while I have not read a novel of his I have not been enraptured by, 1Q84 succeeds in a way more profound than the others. It is hard to put into words what exactly I love so much about this novel, yet his skill at achieving something borderline indescribable is much of Murakami’s appeal. If pressed, however, to force the reasons I love it so much into crude words, I suppose I’d say, without giving any of its content away, that I was put under a spell not unlike seeing a painting you are so taken with and being saddened yet gladdened by its being unattainable in description.

Did I beat around the bush in my answer? Why yes, yes I did. Just read it. Try to describe it afterward. I triple-dog dare you.


DosThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

book list winter king

I don’t about you, but I have always been attracted to Arthurian legends. It has a general magic to it that one, I think, would have to try no to see. And of all of the novels I have read of Arthur and his knights, none, not even the enchanting lyricism of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, have surpassed Cornwell’s trilogy in my personal enjoyment.

Yes, I said trilogy. The Winter King is the first book of a trilogy collectively called The Warlord Chronicles. But for the sake of this blog, I will only include the first of the three in this list.

The Winter King hangs up some of the fantastical elements of other versions of the Arthurian legend and focuses on a more gritty character of the story. It doesn’t mean there’s no fantasy element in it, however. You could compare it to George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire in this respect.

Cornwell tells his version of the story from the perspective of a character known as Derfel. The characters take on different shades than are typically seen. Lancelot is not the great warrior everyone knows him to be, Nimue is more fleshed out than ever before, and Arthur becomes more a character in his own right than a boring eye of the storm with interesting characters circling him like usual.

If you’re into Arthurian legends, you will find nothing better than The Winter King. This novel joined with Tolkien’s The Hobbit became my gateway drug into literature. It’s quite possible I owe a debt of gratitude to this novel for my place in the English department today.


TresPhantastes by George MacDonald

book list phantastes

Phantastes is a “faerie romance” written in the middle of the 19th century. I was led to this enchanting tale through my utter love and adoration of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Lewis in particular considered MacDonald to be more or less his literary master, providing much influence for Lewis’s own works.

Phantastes tells the story of Anodos (cool name, huh? #meaning), who eventually finds himself in the dream-like world of faerie. (I think I like fantasy, guys. Don’t tell any millennials. They wouldn’t understand.)

His journey through this strange land is one led by his desire to find his ideal embodiment of womanly beauty. I won’t give anything away, but I’ll just place #morals right here.

The world of this novel can only be described as enchanting. And while I can admit MacDonald’s writing style is not one of lyrical superiority, the journey is breath-taking. One chapter in particular is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Also, fun fact: Lewis Carroll (You know, the guy who wrote–yeah, that.); well he was the apprentice to George MacDonald who in fact pushed Lewis Carroll to publish Alice in Wonderland. Yep. It’s alright to say “Thank you, George MacDonald.”

Fun fact #2: MacDonald had a most luxurious beard. Just saying.


CuatroBrideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

book list brideshead revisited

Credit where credit is due and all of that, I have to say it was Dr. Hale’s class on British literature that introduced me to this novel. Thank you, Dr. Hale.

Brideshead Revisited is, if you ask me, a story of nostalgia. It has other themes too: love, religion, family, but it’s the effect of it being a memory within the novel that makes it so appealing to me.

Of course, the writing itself is superb. Simple but lyrical, no one can deny it’s written well. Yet, much like a Dickens novel, it is the characters that give the story weight. The characters have a depth that is always a delight to see. I’m a sucker for character depth and character development, both of which you see a lot of.

It’s a traditional-style novel in an nontraditional time (1945), which again calls to mind a certain nostalgia, ironically preferring to make a point in its tradition. As a lover of classic British works, dating all the way back to Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, this more traditional voice appealed to me.

I like solidity in the midst of chaos, and like a statue in the constantly shifting tide of the 20th century, Waugh refused to conform to a chaotic lyrical style. So if you’re looking for experimentation, I admit you won’t find it here. But if you have a taste, like myself, for beautifully-written traditional works, this is the novel for you.


CincoTree and Leaf by J. R. R. Tolkien

book list tree and leaf

It would’ve been far too easy for me to list The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or The Silmarillion for my Tolkien choice in this list. And let’s be honest, I needed a Tolkien book in here somewhere.

I chose Tree and Leaf 1) because the works listed above are, I believe, self-evident as need-to-read books to those who haven’t read them and 2) because it’s more than worth reading in context of a certain literary understanding. That understanding is seeing myth and faerie in the proper light.

It’s very eye-opening, and if you’re already a lover of Tolkien, it is instrumental in getting a better grasp on the world he created. The essay On Fairy-Stories, included in this collection, particularly provides a well-articulated argument against the condescension against fantasy and fairy stories in the literary and general world.

I’ve already mentioned my adoration for The Hobbit as my literary gateway drug, so if you haven’t read that yet… Shame.

I jest, guys. I jest. But do I? You should get on that.



seisMidnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

book list midnight children

Again, credit where it’s due. You rock, Dr. Hale

Salman Rushdie is a great source of controversy, as you’ve probably heard. Say what you will, but controversy attracts like a magnet the curious. Everyone likes to know what all the hubbub is about. The work of his that is so controversial, earning him a fatwa calling for his death is however, The Satanic Verses, not Midnight’s Children.

I read Midnight’s Children for class, and in that regard it took me a while to fall love with it. But when I did, I fell hard. After I had finished it, being drawn to understanding the controversy surrounding The Satanic Verses, I read that as well. Both novels are great and well-written, but out of the two, Midnight’s Children had the greater appeal for me.

It’s a great source of oddity which I always lean toward, but more than that, it is a great source of knowledge in trying to understand India. Gaining knowledge from entertainment is the best of both worlds after all!

I wrote my final paper that semester on Midnight’s Children, connecting it to my great love of myth. In doing that, poring over the text and studying it, my attachment grew. It is a phenomenal story, weaving fantasy and historical reality into a wonderful tale both engaging and informative about 20th-century India.

There’s mind-reading, knees of supernatural strength (yep. Not a typo), witches, and so much more. If that doesn’t draw you in, I don’t know, you might have issues.


SieteOn Writing by Stephen King

book list on writing

I will be the first to admit that I have read next to nothing of Stephen King’s work. Besides this book, zip. With that said, On Writing is grade A for anyone looking to improve their writing or looking to get a better idea of what to expect and work toward.

There are few surviving writers, if any, that have been as successful as Stephen King. His experience would be extremely beneficial for anyone hoping to be published.

What I find enjoyable about this book is that King doesn’t just give a bunch of advice on what to do when writing. I mean, he does that obviously. But he does more.

He gives his own journey from a kid who simply wanted to tell stories to an insanely successful and popular novelist. He shows you the timeline of how he got to where he did, providing a road map for any other’s hoping to traverse similar ground.

You don’t have to be a Stephen King fanboy or fangirl to get a lot from this book, speaking from personal experience. It’s filled to the brim with good writing advice, something I’m sure others besides myself are hungry for.


OchoLooking for Alaska by John Green

book list looking for alaska

This novel is the king of John Green novels, my friends. I cannot accept any other opinion in this matter.

Okay, I’ve only read this John Green novel, but I stand by my decision!

It’s a story that’s impossible not to fall in love with. Cupid’s always waiting to pierce someone with a love dart every time this novel is opened. It is one of the few, and perhaps the only young adult novel I would recommend without wanting to throw up in my mouth.

It’s a relatable story for anyone, filled with incredible characters and witty dialogue. It’ll make you laugh and, if you have a soul, make you cry. I’ve been hard-pressed to find characters better realized than those in this novel.


NueveThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

book list dragon tattoo

Lisbeth Salander, who is, you guessed it, the girl with the dragon tattoo, is one of the most sympathetic and beloved characters of any novel ever written. It’s hard not to love her. And the relationship between her and the other protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, is pure gold.

The first novel of the series is more contained than the rest, allowing it to essentially stand on its own. It leaves you wanting more though, and then you’re thankful you have more novels.

The mystery, which is the focus of the plot in this novel is great, but again it’s the characters that lift it to the height its reached. The style is hard-boiled, making it in tune with the overall melancholy of the novel.

If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to treat yo’ self.


DiezThe Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis

book list discarded image

C. S. Lewis is, without a doubt, my main man. I have read more than 20 of his works and have never failed to fall in love with his uniquely intelligent visions. Among all of the works I could have included here, though, I’ve chosen an academic work of his.

It seems fitting I would make two of the more academic works in this list Lewis and Tolkien. Their fantasy is so often in the forefront that I believe their contributions to academia are often undervalued.

The Discarded Image is a short book written with the effort of helping those interested in medieval works to get a better handle on the mentality behind them–their perceptions of the world, of heaven, of fairies, of angels.

All of this provides a better understanding of the authors we love so much and why they wrote what they did and how they did. Many authors are included in this book for discussion including but not limited to Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Dante, Sir Thomas Malory, John Milton, and John Donne.

It’s a great road map for anyone interested in medieval and renaissance literature. With the wit and style Lewis is loved for, he makes attaining the mindset of the old classics accessible to anyone eager to learn.


Well! Hopefully you’ve found at least one book from my list to add to your own. And the summer still has a ways to go, so if you’re awesome level is over 9,000 you should definitely read them all. I hope you have a great rest of the summer! And remember: Reading > Sleep.


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Our Favorite Talisman Posts & More

So the Talisman has certainly made a huge splash since its recent re-creation as a dynamic student life publication. Their website states their aim:

“Established in 2015, WKUTalisman.com aims to be a smart and humorous voice in the campus conversation.”

The results have been just that. We at FirstFloorCherry have laughed, cried, and stalked our fellow uber-creative English majors and are here to share our top posts on the web from this last year. Then we’d like to plug a little job opportunity or two.


Page’s pick:

Bowling Green Places That are Too Cool for Me by Rachel Doyel (junior Literature major)

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This post spoke right to Page. From the social anxieties, to the atmosphere of her favorite places, to the laughable absurdity of cool-ness. Thanks Rachel!


Ben’s pick:

The Best Cold Treats in Bowling Green by Emily Jones

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This post really encouraged Ben’s love of foodie posts. Also, Ben knows summer is coming and he will be referencing this post for places to find cold, refreshing goodies.


Collin’s Pick:

Ways to Avoid Writer’s Block During NaNoWriMo by Cameron Moreno

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Collin likes writing and hearing about how other people write so that he can keep on writing.

Cheesy allusion high alert:  If you write and find the WKU Talisman as refreshing as a cold treat, but fear it may be a little too cool for you, you should use your skills at overcoming writer’s block and apply anyway! Everyone’s writing steps up a level when they join a great team and challenge themselves.

There is also the Herald for those you you who have an interest in getting your name in print. Check out WKU Student Publications for more opportunities– just get your name out there!

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The Ashen Egg is Here!

In case you missed the email, the 2017 volume of The Ashen Egg has arrived! This year’s volume features essays by Hatim Alamri, Logan Anderson, Jessica Barksdale, Joshua Daniel, Elon Justice, Allison Millay, Megan Skaggs, and Phoebe Zimmerer.

Go pick up your copy in the English office (CH 135) today!

ashen egg 2017


The Ashen Egg publishes essays on literature, rhetoric, linguistics, film, and popular culture. Manuscripts generally range from 750 to 3000 words, though exceptions may be made for submissions of stellar quality. Though many submissions are research papers, they also welcome close readings and textual analysis. Submissions are accepted any time up through May 31.

See the Call for Papers and the Submission Cover Sheet.


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Conference Opportunity in Atlanta


Wondering how to top off your undergraduate experience with one last hoorah? Maybe you should look into SAMLA.

SAMLA is an Undergraduate Research Forum, a track of programming dedicated to hosting panels comprised of undergraduate presentations, at SAMLA 89. Undergraduates will present traditional papers in the standard format with the added benefit of an informed response from a senior SAMLA member serving as session respondent. They  hosted ten concurrent undergraduate sessions at last year’s conference in Jacksonville, and want to expand their undergraduate track to include even more sessions at this year’s conference in Atlanta.

SAMLA 89 will be held November 3–5, 2017 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta. This year’s conference theme is High Art/Low Art: Borders and Boundaries in Popular Culture. Participants are encouraged, but not required, to address the conference theme.

All 2017 undergraduates will be eligible to participate in the Undergraduate Research Forum in November.

The deadline to submit is September 8th. 

The Undergraduate Research Forum General Call for Papers Form is available here—this form is for the use of individual undergraduate students submitting paper proposals.

Undergraduates participating at SAMLA 89 will have their membership fee waived and will have their registration fee reduced to $40. Registered undergraduates are allowed – and encouraged! – to participate in all conference activities.

Participants in the Undergraduate Research Forum will also be eligible for the Undergraduate Essay Prize. The Undergraduate Essay Prize will include a $100 honorarium, complimentary registration for the SAMLA 90 conference in Birmingham, and publication of the winning paper in SAMLA News.

Much more information regarding SAMLA 89 is available on the SAMLA website.

Follow FirstFloorCherry for more conference news!

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Pulitzer Winners Announced

In case you don’t know what to read this weekend while you loaf in your hammock, we are here to share that 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winners have been announced.

From reporting to feature writing to all our most well-known genres, the list of winners covers several types of writing we English majors may end up creating ourselves.


Not sure what the Pulitzer Prize actually is?

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the US. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of Hungarian-born American Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher. The award is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories.

Here are a few select winners:


The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Image result for The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.


Olio, by Tyehimba Jess (Wave Books)

Image result for Olio, by Tyehimba Jess (Wave Books)

For a distinctive work that melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.

General Nonfiction

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond (Crown)

Image result for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond (Crown)

For a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty.

Find your inspiration for that next paper or simply the how to spend a few hours this weekend on the list of Pulitzer Prize winners. Don’t forget to check out finalists too!

Happy (happy?) weekend reading FirstFloorCherrians!

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Submission Opportunity


Do you have a concern or passion for nature? Do you have a review on the industrial system? Chances are, if you do, it shows through in at least one or two of your written works. If this is the case, you could win $200 dollars and a shiny new line on your resume by submitting to win the Allen Miller Memorial Award for Writing on the Environment.

This award is established to ensure that writing on the environment will be honored at Western Kentucky University, and it will keep alive the memory of Alan Miller and his outstanding contributions to WKU.

Last year, when I heard about this award, I thought “I haven’t written about the environment lately” and shrugged it off. Finally, after further encouragement just before the deadline, I looked through my works and did in fact find that one of my papers met the (somewhat loose) criteria for submission. I submitted, and I won!

Now, I hope to be your encouragement to look through your archives and find out if anything you’ve written meets any one of these criteria in some way:

  • Emphasizes environmental issues
  • Exposes the presence of human beings and their role/impact in nature
  • Supports agrarianism—promoting rural societies, the support of agricultural groups, and the significance of the farmer
  • Addresses the current state of the environment and how it can be improved, be it locally, nationally, or globally
  • Discusses the relationships that exist in conservation and spirituality in the human/non-human world
  • Offers a criticism of pro-industrial development and the damage of nature
  • Promotes strategies in maintaining environmental sustainability

View the full flyer for more.

Found something that works? Great! Submit it in CH 135 before or on April 14, 2017.

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Choosing Courses Just Got Easier

Registration is coming April 10th and that means waking up very early to get the classes we want. Unless we want to make some big decisions while still half asleep, we have to decide now which classes to take in the fall.

Don’t worry, research on the matter doesn’t have to be as intimidating as Henry Hardin:

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For instance, we at First Floor Cherry have discovered that there is a brand new class available in the fall taught by Dr. Jerod Hollyfield. The course, called Postcolonial Studies, promises to be worthwhile. From the syllabus:

“Given WKU’s focus on international reach and the increased importance of understanding the globalized economy and culture, a Postcolonial Studies course is a vital addition to our department’s already dynamic curriculum. Postcolonial Studies is an ideal framework to understanding many of the issues that are most pressing in the world today from the Israeli/Palestine conflict and War on Terror to immigration and Puerto Rican statehood. One of the primary teaching challenges I’ve faced in recent years is the rising popularity of internet literary theory, those “ism” words that are often part of cultural conversations but usually misused and misunderstood. Courses like this new offering will open opportunities for students to really grapple with these complicated concepts and apply them to their own identities.”

Whether you want to sharpen your cultural awareness in Postcolonial Studies or pick up that needed survey course, the English department has you covered.

Stop by CH 135 to pick up the Selected English Department Course Descriptions booklet or view a copy now. Selected, of course, means that not all classes are included in the booklet, but if you want additional information on an upper-level course before taking the plunge, chances are it’s in there.

Good luck with registration FirstFloorCherry-ans!



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Come to the PW Club Meeting!

pw_clubThe second monthly meeting of the Professional Writing Club will take place next week on Tuesday, March 28th at 4:30 p.m. in Cherry Hall 124.

Come and get some pointers on how to prepare for job searches, from the very beginning search all the way through to the interview process.  You can also learn how to make that resume immaculate, which is a huge bonus.


(So this is a win-win if you ask me.)


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Spring means Goldenrod!

Goldenrod– more than an allergy-inducing plant or the state flower of Kentucky– is also the English Club’s yearly poetry festival. Goldenrod is a chance for you to show off your stuff and to learn from other poets.

Goldenrod 2016 Finalists

2016 Finalists

All students are welcome to submit their own original works of poetry. The top ten poets participate in a private workshop with a visiting poet, who also gives a reading during the Festival.

Last year’s poet was Gary McDowell, who we conducted a full-length interview with.

The year before that, the visiting poet was Silas House who was present via Skype.

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Students may submit up to five poems of no more than 150 lines before March 31, 2017. After submissions are turned in, the English club will narrow the poems down to ten finalists. The poems will then be submitted to a guest poet for final judging. The guest poet provides all ten finalists with a workshop and focuses specifically on their submitted works.

Senior Sara Ann Alexander has been a finalist twice and has this to say:

“It helped me get through the ‘imposter syndrome.’ First, getting to hear from artists who are experts in a craft I admire– a craft I love to read, write, and study– was immense. Knowing I was afforded the opportunity  because of the selection from a jury of my peers, who I somehow resonated with about such personal topics, also helped me connect to my WKU writing community.”

The main event will take place on April 17, 2017, with more details forthcoming.

The Goldenrod Poetry Festival is hosted by the English Club and questions can be directed to their email.

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Free Screening and Q/A Session for “An Uncommon Grace”

We all love movies. It’s ingrained in our very nature as Americans–nay, humans. So when one finds out that there is an opportunity for a free screening of a movie, one wouldn’t typically ask too many questions before they’re there, enjoying the show.

Or is that just me? Either way.

An Uncommon Grace is a movie currently airing on the Hallmark channel. It was recently filmed in the nearby rural counties we all know and love, Hart and Barren. See this film at a free public screening next week at the Historic Plaza Theatre.


The public screening will be on Saturday, March 25, at 4 p.m. But anyone who’s serious about life should come beforehand for the discussion and Q/A panel at 2 p.m. with some of those involved in the making of the film. It will be hosted by WKU’s very own Amy Bingham DeCesare!

We all need a break from our classwork. Yes, even the week after Spring Break. Is a week really enough?

There are not many ways you can go wrong with choosing to enjoy your Saturday night at the Historic Plaza Theatre.

Watch a trailer for the film here.

Follow First Floor Cherry for more info on upcoming film events!

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