I love my Kindle like a small pet companion who never leaves my side… like an adorable text filled hedgehog. But there’s one kind of book that my Kindle will never be able to complete with: the epic coffee table book.
It’s no wonder Kramer was so enamored. A great coffee table book is like a passport to eyeball drunken wonderment. Here’s five I love so much, I say screw the coffee table and would happily tuck them into bed at night.
This Is Mars: What? This is? Holy shit. NASA’s Rover images are printed in high resolution in what amounts to page after page of astonishing space themed joy. ($64.99)
London Underground Maps: Art, Design and Cartography: The tube is the best networked transportation system in the world, so it’s no wonder it has a rich and beautiful history. But really, it all comes down to maps, people. So many amazing, beautiful maps. ($51.64)
The Wes Anderson Collection: My love of the Wes way is not undocumented here, but this book is a joy because it’s got so many interviews with the master mixed with hand drawn storyboards and doodles which are basically in existence to function as some kind of low level Zoloft for film nerds. ($39.99)
The Art of Movie Storyboards: While we’re on the topic of film, why not spend another minute diving into the amazing artistry of storyboards. There’s nothing quite like seeing a favorite movie through a simple black and white sketch. If you don’t love it, well, I don’t get it. ($30.46)
The Flower Recipe Book: This might strike you as an odd choice. I have literally never spoken of flowers here before. But is there anything more enchanting than a wonderful bouqet? Who doesn’t feel more glamorous whilst in the presence of a lovely collection of blooms? Suddenly, this once foreign, but admirable, concept is a possible skill I can acquire all thanks to this gorgeous guide. ($16.63)
After visiting Dublin for the first time, I was struck with an odd sense that I missed something. That I didn’t get whatever seeped into the pores of thousands of men and women throughout history who seemingly stopped by the River Liffey for a visit and found themselves living alongside it for decades. Perhaps it was my impression that the advertised activities cater to two types of tourists: college kids and AARP members. Or my irritating jet lag. Whatever it was, I was confused by my feelings for it. But I have sorted it out since.
Dublin is not for tourists. Sure, outsiders are welcome. But don’t come with a map in hand and an agenda to follow. You won’t enjoy yourself. Instead, embrace the pace. Breathe deep. Stop for a pint. Skip the tour. And forget the schedule. Weekending in Dublin is about escape. It’s about being in Dublin more than seeing it.
As such, it seems almost foolish to follow the traditional Geek Travel Guide format. Instead, this guide will take the form of the city and its famous river. It will flow from my memory to your mind. Think of me as your friend in the pub, sharing a pint and entrusting you with my greatest secrets for enjoying Dublin.
Start your day in Dublin on the river. It’s an incredible guide for the city, as it arches through the most iconic parts of town, it literally can be your savior should you get lost. The Bakehouse is a suitable place to start with two locations on the river, one in the newly renovated CHQ Building and the other on 6 Bachelors Walk. This adorable and bright little shop serves up amazing pastries, breads and soups. Forget takeaway. Just take a minute. Grab a seat, enjoy the light flavor combos (a raspberry lemonade cupcake for breakfast? Yes, please. ) and the company.
After you’ve filled your gut, walk along the river to the Temple Bar neighborhood and keep your eyes open for the Dublin Castle. You really can’t miss it - its’ a freaking castle in the middle of the city. It’s a charming and I feel, quite representative piece of history for Ireland. In other cities across the globe, castles go through so much trouble to keep the properties separated from the people. Guards, fences, sheer acreage, moats. Not in Ireland. The Dublin Castle is just there. Open to the public and free of fussiness. Don’t pay for the guided tours, instead, walk the grounds, which are beautiful but unpretentious.
By the time you’ve found the castle, you’ll be ready for another break. Remember, this isn’t about crossing items off a tourist checklist. So, take a minute and get a pot of tea and a biscuit from the Castle Cafe at Dublin Castle. Sit on the terrace for lovely views of the grounds and a bit of rare quiet in the Temple Bar.
Once you’re rested, head to the other side of the river to the Dublin Writer’s Museum. It can be easy to miss, but don’t fret. The nearby Parnell Square is a nice rest stop for a quick moment to admire the scenery. It’s also ridiculously easy to spot this modest house from the park. The Writer’s Museum is not for everyone. If you don’t know who Oscar Wilde is, don’t care what James Joyce wrote and aren’t particularly interested in Yeats - well, then skip it. But seeing as you’re reading Being Geek Chic, well, I’m assuming you’ll be in good company. It’s a small and quiet gallery with original manuscripts, letters and diaries. It’s easy to spend an hour there - or three. Just don’t rush through or you’ll miss the scraps humor from Wilde.
After perusing the museum, make your way to really any pub on the river with music. I loved The Ferryman Pub, just across the Liffey from the Dublin Convention Center. It’s heritage and history are abundant, the food is pub food, but that’s what you are looking for anyway. And the decor is like a freaking museum. I spent hours wandering the halls, gazing at old newspaper headlines and admiring long-since-extinct products from Dublin’s past. Plus, the pints were affordable at about 3 quid.
On your second day, wake up and head over to the Science Gallery on the Trinity College Campus. While all the other tourists are off to check out the Book of Kells, you’ll be enjoying a hot latte with a croissant at the cafe within this nifty exhibit. After chowing, head into the free gallery space for the latest exhibit. The museum specializes in the combination of art and science - a field all to often relegated to Neil DeGrasse Tyson YouTube videos - but deserving of much more attention. The Illusion exhibit runs through the fall and is a stunning compilation of audio and visual experiences that are meant to draw the mind of the viewer in. This is active art, friends.
Since you’re now near The Trinity Library and the Book of Kells, saunter on over to this historic little spot.
While the book itself is really fascinating, nerds will have more fun walking through the 1500 year-old Old Library, which houses some of the oldest texts from the world’s most famous philosophers, poets and general geniuses. And yes, the name really is Old Library. In addition to being historic, it’s also just beautiful. The wood is warm, the busts are gorgeous and the lighting is lovely. It’s certainly no place to plop on a leather chair and read a book, but you’ll want to.
At this point, you’ll be so thoroughly filled with literary inspiration that you’ll be longing for some new texts. And since Oscar Wilde is a native son, it’s only fitting that you visit The Gutter Bookshop. Named after a famous quote from the author, it’s a quiet and lovely little stop for picking up a new adventure or two.
Some might say that no trip to Ireland would be complete without a trip to the Guinness Storehouse. I can’t disagree. But for nerds, it’s not about the beer. It’s the incredible scientific process that combines water, hops, heat and time to create the famous beverage and the view you’ll get while drinking it that ultimately makes it worth the stop. And the hefty price tag. Every admission to the experience comes with entry to the rooftop bar and a pint of Guinness. I don’t love their beer, but I give them points for appealing to the scientist in my heart.
Don’t forget to check out all the Being Geek Chic Geek Travel Guides before you take your next trip!
Confession: I really, really love to read young adult fiction. I was the kid who showed up at the library every week with a totebag full of books to return and filled it right back up. Traveling was tough for me, because of the number of books I insisted on packing in my suitcase (thank goodness for e-readers!). By the time I was 15 or so, I had read and reread about 90% of the material in the young adult section of my local library. Half-Price Books is actually one of my favorite places in the world.
The thing is, I never really grew out of that phase. I was 20 when the last Harry Potter novel came out. And I thought for a quick minute, I’d be done reading “kids” books. But from there, I plowed straight on through to the Twilight series (yes, admittedly), then Percy Jackson, The Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus (big Rick Riordan fan), then Hunger Games, then Beautiful Creatures and now Divergent.
That feeling I felt as a kid, attending midnight book releases for Harry Potter at my local mall: the anxiety, the rush, the anticipation. Yeah, still feeling that ahead of the release of the next Heroes of Olympus book (Oct. 8) and the final installment of the Divergent trilogy (Oct. 22). I remember teetering on the edge about rushing out to buy the first Heroes of Olympus book after learning Riordan would write five, only one per year: Should I bother? I’ll be 27 or so when the series ends. Hell yes, I should bother. Now, my biggest dilemma is whether to pre-order a hard copy to ship on release date, or just download the Kindle version as soon as I wake up in the morning.
It helps that I’m a voracious re-reader of books I love and I can read pretty quickly. During finals in college, to retreat from the stress and soothe my brain, I would fall head first into the stack of my battered Harry Potter series and refuse to come up for air until I had plowed through them all.
Even now, on my subway commutes to work, while I’m surrounded by people in fancy suits flipping through the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, I’m feverishly re-reading Divergent and Insurgent for the third or fourth time since I checked them out from the library.
And you know what? I. Don’t. Care.
And, I’m not alone: both Buzzfeed and The Atlantic have devoted more and more space to not only adults with an obsession over current YA, but also pages to nostalgia: reaffirming their love for Bridge to Terabithia and The Baby Sitters Club. Last summer’s release of Tiger Eyes, the first Judy Blume novel optioned for film, filled us all with the urge to go running back to our parents’ houses to dig out our old copies of her books (oh wait, or was that just me?).
But YA books are awesome for a lot of reasons, not just the nostalgia factor.
* Unless you’re loaded, buying books can get expensive. So chances are, you’re supporting your local library to help feed your addiction.
* YA fiction is a great escape for stressed out people. Added bonus: you can feel way better about being able to tell people you spent the weekend reading, vs having to admit you spent the entire weekend watching Say Yes to the Dress.
* You’d be surprised how many other adults love YA Fiction too. Upon moving to Washington last year, I was immediately invited to join a friend’s YA book club because she already knew of my obsession. Liz and I reconnected a couple years ago at the Hunger Games midnight show. People who love the same authors, ship the same character pairings, and have extensive knowledge of a fictional universe usually just “click.”
* Speaking of which: midnight showings and movie adaptations. Love ‘em or love to hate ‘em. Instead of feeling old about the fact my friend and I attended the Hunger Games midnight premiere in PJs, we instead felt awesome about the fact we were the only people in the theater not working on homework while waiting for the film. Midnight showings for popular YA series have a great energy and are usually very fun. And yes, movie adaptations have a spectrum: the Good (Harry Potter, Hunger Games), the Bad (Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters), and the Ones Where You Wonder If The Director Even Read The Books (Beautiful Creatures, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief).
* And, beyond just being downright enjoyable, YA characters and plotlines have very real-life relevance for the 20-something or 30-something who refuses to let go:
On physical fitness: if Tris can survive Dauntless initiation, surely you can drag your butt to the gym today. Her pants wouldn’t fit over her newly developed leg muscles after 10 days; you can drop those spare 5 lbs this month.
On being dumped: Being a Bella is acceptable for about, a day or two. After that, buck up and take a page from Hermione’s book (ha, pun intended).
On friends: forging new friendships in your 20s is hard, so place value on the Grover Underwoods and Ron Weasleys on your life.
On office politics: let bullies who band together like Careers be their own downfall; use your brain to outwit the Foxfaces; find unexpected allies the Rues. There are no hard and fast rules, but cannibalism is frowned upon (… Oh wait)
On family strife: Dr Kane seemed pretty boring too, then he turned out to be an Egyptian magician. Who knows what you can learn about your parents’ hidden depths if you give them a chance?
On life in general: believe in the unbelievable: magic, wizardry, gods; fear the possibilities and consequences dystopian future.
So tell us, what YA series are you currently in love with?
Post by Emma Carew Grovum. She is a data journalist working at the Chronicle of Philanthropy in Washington, D.C. She previously worked as the Digital Editor for The Cooking Club of America and blogs at kitchendreamer.blogspot.com Emma loves Star Wars, pandas and all things Joss Whedon. Find her on twitter at @emmacarew.
Editor’s Note: You may remember Natalie from her post earlier this year about the books she loves to read over and over again. As school gets underway, I asked her to think of the books a teacher assigned that turned out to be personal favorites. Here’s her list.
All of us have had our share of bad book assignments for school. In my experience, the books assigned generally aren’t bad, but they just aren’t very good either. However, every once in a while, the exceptional book comes along. Suddenly, you don’t dread the thought of “read chapter 4 by Tuesday.” Reading assignments are finished before they’re due, and notes fill with details. I’ve had a handful of good books assigned by teachers; they have a variety of great qualities: funny, thought provoking, inspiring, exciting, and the like. The books listed below are from very different genres, but they are each enjoyable in different ways.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
A semi-autobiographical novel about a Native American teenager living on a reservation, this book doesn’t have a page that is boring to read. Fourteen year-old Junior tells the story of his family, friends, and school through an illustrated diary. The book leads the reader through life-changing situations with razor sharp wit and an excellent voice. You really feel like you are in Junior’s head. This book draws attention to important issues like poverty, bullying, and discrimination. It also reminds us not to forget the young people in our community, as they are just as affected by problems as everyone else.
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury gives a fascinating and sometimes horrifying vision of the future in a series of short stories. The stories start in the year 1999 and continue into 2026. They depict the experiences of humans fleeing a dystopian Earth and its ignorant population. They go to Mars to escape from the troubles plaguing them on their home planet. I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable and fun to read because of Bradbury’s beautiful writing and use of imagery, his understandable characters, and the stories’ lessons about respect and appreciation for the unknown. What I found especially great about this book was Bradbury’s use of an inter-planetary setting to explore issues that are still prevalent in our world today. The problems remain the same from Earth to Mars, and they also are unchanged from 1950 to the our world of 2013.
Liz’s Pick: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I thought this book was so salacious when it was assigned in my eighth grade English class and the adult themes in this book about shame, guilt and the female body are as relevant today as ever. I’m also a huge fan of the film adaptions - but the book is a short and easy read that always delivers.
So what books did your teacher assign that you actually loved?
Post by Natalie El-Hai. Natalie enjoys science and all things theater. She spends her free time reading and snuggling with her cats. She will be a sophomore at Southwest High School this fall.
Fantasize about ditching your 9-5 and chasing after a creative dream that doesn’t involve file cabinets, burnt coffee, and tedious meetings? Meet Roxie Lubanovic, a potter, Whovian, and co-owner of Frostbeard Studio, whose love of craft and all things geeky inspired her to turn her passion into a career.
Co-owned by Lubanovic and her adorable husband, Frostbeard Studio is a Minneapolis-based art studio of nerdy and folky things. Frostbeard specializes in book-inspired candles and geeky ceramics. Our favorites? The bookstore candle (yes, it smells like a bookstore!) and the Dumbledore’s office candle (cozy and woodsy, with a touch of lemon drop.)
Exactly how did Lubanovic build a thriving business of geeky wares? Dive into her interview with Being Geek Chic and find out! Be sure to follow Lubanovic’s Frostbeard on its various social channels: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Subscribe to the Frostbeard newsletter, too!
Q: What has led you to your passion? When did you decide to launch “Frostbeard?”
A: I knew I wasn’t cut out for a standard 9-5 desk job, and I knew I needed to have a creative profession. Then about two years ago I discovered Kickstarter and realized I could realistically get a kiln and a pottery studio set up without going into crazy amounts of debt, so I decided to go for it and launch a project. Before I knew it I was picking out paint colors and doing pottery full time.
Frostbeard started as an Etsy shop and I was selling at local craft fairs. Then I began making book-themed soy candles and things really took off. My husband, Tom, joined up with me this past spring and we’ve been expanding the business together. Recently we successfully completed yet another Kickstarter project making nerdy candles, and hope to move to a studio in Northeast Minneapolis this fall.
I started making Library scented candles simply because I wanted to own one and they didn’t seem to exist. I absolutely love that there are other nerds out there that enjoy what we make.
Q: When did you first realize you were “geeky?”
A: My older brother was a Class A geek, you could say, (he has his PhD from MIT) and was a big influence on me. He got me playing video games at an early age and reading all the Lord of the Rings, Douglas Adams and Harry Potter books.
In high school I don’t think I would have considered myself a geek. But then recently Nerd Culture suddenly became cool and I embraced it wholeheartedly by the time I graduated college. Now I find myself counting down until the new Doctor Who episode is out or the next Game of Thrones book is released.
Q: You can choose one superpower. What is it?
A: Apparition. Like teleporting, but you can take someone with you! Super cheap and easy travel, plus I could save people from a burning building if the opportunity arose.
Q: If you could take any fictional character out for a drink, whom would you choose and what would you drink?
A: I’m going to cheat and pick two. Sherlock Holmes, and I’d drink a Hot Toddy (they’re always sitting around the fire in those stories) and hope to get caught up in one of his mysterious cases.
And also Mr. Weasley. Because I’m dying to know what a legit Butterbeer tastes like, and he loves hearing about Muggle life.
Q: What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
A: Play less sports; read more books.
Emma Bauer is a Being Geek Chic Contributor. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic.
Follow her on twitter: @emmalynnbauer
I wanted to share a very important and very exciting project with you today. My friend, Jack El-Hai, and his publisher, Public Affairs Books, are releasing a new book tomorrow: The Nazi and the Psychiatrist.
If you love history, medical thrillers or have a fascination with World War 2, I can’t recommend this book enough. I had the pleasure of reading it in advance of producing this trailer for Jack and was impressed with the depth of research and dynamic storytelling within the book. I can also say that the book has already been optioned by Mythology Entertainment, the company behind Black Swan and Shutter Island. That should give you an idea of the intensity of the story.
So, could you do me a favor? Could you help us spread the word? We would be so grateful if:
1. You shared the trailer for the book on your social media accounts or blog.
2. You bought the book for yourself or a friend.
3. After reading it, you gave the book a review on your bookseller of choice’s website.
4. You simply shared this post with someone you know who may be interested.
You’re the best. xo, Liz