Literary Birthdays: Harry Potter!

Artwork by Mary GrandPre

Since today happens to be my posting day, and it also happens to be the birthday of our favorite (well, my favorite) fictional wizard as well as his creator, I had to do a quick post. According to all of the Harry Potter sites and J.K. Rowling herself, Harry was born in 1980. So, today he would be turning thirty-two years old! Hardly a boy wizard, eh? I know not everyone in the world is a fan of Harry, but if you simply can’t stand the kid or his books, just scroll past this post because I’m going to wax poetic for a moment.

Another Harry Potter milestone took place earlier this month. Since I didn’t make a post about it then, I figured I would mention it now. The 21st of July this year marked the five-year anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the septology, being released. I remember that night quite well. Anderson’s Book Shop, a rather impressive store in the western suburbs of Chicago, was hosting a street party for the midnight release. I spray-painted my hair hot pink and went to the party as Nymphadora Tonks, a character from the series. The evening was a ton of fun and — it seemed — in the blink of an eye, I was holding the orange-y tome that would mark the end of an era and the effective end of my childhood. I read the book in one and a half days.

Do any of you share a personal connection with the Harry Potter series? Whatever you may think about the books, I believe they ushered in a whole new era of reading for pleasure for my generation. Many kids said they were inspired to read other books because of their love for the Potter series. For me, Harry Potter will always have a sacred spot on my bookshelves. Happy Birthday Harry, and  — of course — J.K. Rowling!

— Jet Fuel Editor (and Potterhead), Mary Egan

Fun for Nerds: Pictures of Bookshelves

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For me, there is nothing more enjoyable than looking at pictures of other people’s bookshelves. I suppose it’s a special kind of voyeurism for nerds to look at how other people have arranged their bookshelves. Perhaps the nerdiest thing that I enjoy doing is arranging my own bookshelf, and a close second is examining how others have arranged and organized theirs. I think it has a lot to do with seeing what other people read and pining after their cozy reading corners.

Boing Boing, the all-around-fun blog dedicated a post to this nerdy pastime just last week. They termed it something that I would normally use in conversation or on my personal blog. But, for discretion (and so the site doesn’t get mistakenly blocked), I won’t use the term here. You can see what I’m talking about at this Boing Boing post.

In any case, and sketchy language aside, bookshelves are simply fun to look at. Through the Boing Boing post, I found pictures of Cory Doctorow’s bookshelves, Neil Gaiman’s bookshelves, and a whole feed for bookshelf pictures. If you’re as obsessed with this eye candy as I am, feel free to click any of these links. Or, you can simply click the cut and see some amazing pictures in this post.

Do you like to look at other people’s bookshelves? If so, what do you think is the appeal? Why are you interested and why is it so entertaining?

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

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A Literary Look into 2011

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Lots of websites that I follow have begun to post speculations or predictions about the year to come now that their 2010 retrospectives are finished. At The Daily Beast, they’ve posted a list of highly anticipated books that are coming out in 2011. I found the list interesting and there are a few books on here that I’ll at least be checking out or reading the back covers of.

There are many biographies included on the Daily Beast’s list, but the one that intrigues me the most and is most connected to the literary world is the biography of J.D. Salinger, J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski. It’s fairly well known that Salinger was a reclusive author, so I’d be interested to see what Slawenski has to say about him.

For fans of non-fiction writing, there is Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. I’ve enjoyed all of Sarah Vowell’s work so far and this book, which focuses on the state of Hawaii and the year 1898, promises to be just as interesting. Personally, I like that Vowell focuses on niche areas of American history and I’d love to hear what she has to say about Hawaii, still our newest state.

Personally, the book that I am most interested on this list is The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. Wallace, of course, committed suicide in 2008, so this book is being published posthumously. I assume that it’s complete enough or developed enough to be published, but the novel is still being billed as “unfinished.” I honestly can’t imagine what the novel will hold for readers.

If you’re interested, the full list of anticipated books with a 2011 release can be found here at The Daily Beast.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan