Author Spotlight: Henry James

Henry James is one of my Top 5 favorite authors. It’s impossible to order them by preference but the other four are Fyodor Dostoevsky, William Makepeace Thackeray, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Virginia Woolf.

Why his Henry James one of my favorite authors? Well, first of all I really gravitate towards intricate writing styles, as they just feel closer to how I think (and write, as you may have noticed). Every one of Henry James’ novels also include strong though flawed female characters that I find relatable and interesting in their complexities. He often deals with questions of female independence versus traditional society expectations which still feel modern, though they are obviously set in the 1800s in his writing. I’d recommend any of his novels for these reasons.

The 8 novels recommended below are some of Henry James’ most famous, and I loved every single one of them. He was an extremely prolific writer and some of his well-known novels, as well as numerous novellas are not included in this list (not to mention nonfiction works and plays). I did not review Princess Casamassima and The American for example, as I have yet to read them. Something to look forward to.

Brief Biography

Henry James was born in America in 1843 in a wealthy New York City family. His father, Henry James Sr., was a well-known theologian and philosopher. The author traveled with his family and later alone extensively throughout Europe, staying for a prolong period as a young boy in France and becoming fluent in French. He struggled to find an audience for his writing until 1869, when he began to publish his works in serialized form for a primarily middle class female audience. Remaining mostly in Europe and bouncing between London and Paris, he continued to publish feverishly and met famous literary and political figures. Of particular influence on him were writers Emile Zola, George Eliot and Ivan Turgenev. He never married, declaring himself a bachelor, and died in 1916 at age 72 in London.

The_Europeans_CoverThe Europeans

Published: 1878
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“There were several ways of understanding her: there was what she said, and there was what she meant, and there was something between the two, that was neither.”

The Europeans revolves around the arrival in a stiff American family of two very bohemian European cousins, The Baroness Eugenia Munster and her brother, Felix Young. Enraptured by these new arrivals, their young American relatives, Clifford, Charlotte and Gertrude are tempted to throw their puritanical upbringing to the wind. Hilarity ensues.



Washington_Square_CoverWashington Square

Published: 1880
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“Catherine, who was extremely modest, had no desire to shine, and on most social occasions, as they are called, you would have found her lurking in the background.”

Instead of the nosy and middling mother in Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, Henry James offers an equally stiff and unyielding father. Dr. Sloper fails to see the many attractive qualities of his daughter Catherine and unremittingly attempts to intercede between her and her suitor Morris Townsend in this tragicomedy of parental misdirection.




The Portrait Of A Lady

Published: 1881
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“Sometimes she went so far as to wish that she should find herself in a difficult position, so that she might have the pleasure of being as heroic as the occasion demanded.”

Isabel Archer has money, beauty, freedom and a mind of her own. She travels to Europe to see the sights and soon finds herself surrounded by pressing suitors fighting for her hand. Her spirit of independence is tried over and over again by the masculine world as it tries to seize her and tame her. Will she be able to escape traditional society expectations?


The_Bostonians_CoverThe Bostonians

Published: 1886
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“It was the usual things of life that filled her with silent rage; which was natural enough inasmuch as, to her vision, almost everything that was usual was iniquitous.”

The Bostonians is set amid broiling political activism on women’s rights. The two diametrically opposed characters of Olive Chancellor and Basil Ransom struggle for the charming Verena’s affection and allegiance in this setting. Olive represents principle and independence while Basil represents tradition and subordination. Who will Verena ultimately choose?


What_Maisie_Knew_CoverWhat Maisie Knew

Published: 1897
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“She had a new feeling, the feeling of danger; on which a new remedy rose to meet it, the idea of an inner self or, in other words, of concealment.”

This is one of Henry James’ less typical novels. The main character is a child – Maisie – who observes and muses over the actions of the many irresponsible adults around her. Her parents – Beale and Ida Frange – are divorced and soon married to equally immoral and/or frivolous people. Amid the murkiness of a confused childhood, Henry James intersperses rays of humor to lighten the mood.


The_Wings_Of_The_Dove_CoverThe Wings Of The Dove

Published: 1902
Amazon Kindle (Free, 2 Volumes)
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“She found herself, for the first moment, looking at the mysterious portrait through tears. Perhaps it was her tears that made it just then so strange and fair … the face of a young woman, all splendidly drawn, down to the hands, and splendidly dressed … And she was dead, dead, dead.”

To what ends will beautiful and impoverished Kate Croy and charming journalist Merton Densher go in order to realize their engagement? An sickly American heiress – Milly Theale – becomes the target of their scheme, as they wrestle between their love and their morals.



The_Ambassadors_CoverThe Ambassadors

Published: 1903
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“Strether had never smoked, and he felt as if he flaunted at his friend that this had been only because of a reason. The reason, it now began to appear even to himself, was that he had never had a lady to smoke with.”

Bumbling middle-aged Lambert Strether is sent to Europe by his fiancée to rescue her son Chad Newsome from the clutches of fallen Parisian society. It soon is clear that Lambert is only too taken with the freedom of Paris and its ladies himself. Will Mrs. Newsome lose both son and husband to the continent?



The_Golden_Bowl_CoverThe Golden Bowl

Published: 1904
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“The golden bowl – as it was to have been.’ And Maggie dwelt musingly on this obscured figure. ‘The bowl with all our happiness in it. The bowl without the crack.”

The Golden Bowl represents Prince Amerigo and heiress Maggie Verver’s apparently perfect engagement. She brings money to the table, and he his noble title. In comes the flaw in the Golden Bowl, however, in the shape of Maggie’s friend Charlotte Stant. Unbeknownst to Maggie, Charlotte has had a past tryst with Amerigo. Who of the characters will notice the fatal flaw in this love triangle first?


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How To Create A Morning Routine That You’ll Be Excited To Wake Up For

I’ve woken up at 5AM more or less consistently for a little over a year now, in order to have about two and a half hours to myself before getting ready for work. I use this time to build habits that help with my anxiety (yoga, meditation, journaling, prayer) and to do things I might not have time for during the rest of the day (exercise and reading).

Having quiet, leisurely time to myself in the morning has the biggest impact on my day – I always feel more centered and focused when I actually follow my entire morning routine and don’t snooze through it.

Inevitably it’s impossible to be perfectly consistent with a habit 100% of the time. During my recent two-week vacation to Milan to visit my family, I haven’t practiced my morning routine at all, in fact. I decided to take some time now that I have this new blog and new tasks and goals that come along with it, to redesign my morning routine and remotivate myself to follow it.

Here is my strategy for how to create a morning routine for yourself, and look out for a post on my redesigned morning routine next week!

Creating a MORNING ROUTINEYou'll Be Excited To Wake Up For.jpgHow To Create A Morning Routine That You’ll Be Excited To Wake Up For

1. Pick One Thing That Will Really Get You Out Of Bed

This is my #1 morning routine trick. If I don’t have something more than just habits that are good for me to look forward to, half of the time I won’t be able to get out of bed. If you decide to start your morning routine with exercise, and you hate to exercise, chances are that snooze button will look VERY tempting.

I choose to front-load my morning routine with two things that really motivate me to get up and going – a delicious cup of rooibos tea with milk and sugar and a good 10 minutes of snuggles with my bunny Sammy. This way when my alarm rings, I know I’m getting up for something that always feels special and rewarding.

What you pick can be anything that you’ll REALLY look forward to, whether it’s a particular morning drink, a certain breakfast, a guilty online social media habit, a 10 minute walk or time with a loved one.

2. Determine Your Goals And What It Will Take To Accomplish Them

Any kind of success is built through a small series of actions, so even if you only dedicate 10 or 20 minutes each morning to a particular habit, over a year of time it’ll make a huge difference in your abilities at it.

Maybe your goal is to read more, to take better care of yourself or to feel more relaxed, to be more in shape or flexible, or to develop a talent you haven’t had time to practice. Here are some suggestions of elements that done in 10 to 20 minute sections can really help you build towards a better version of yourself through a morning routine. You can pick as many as you’d like or have time for, or come up with others of your own.

Keeping A Gratitude Journal
Taking Time For A Side Hustle
Reading A Book
Walking Outdoors
Prepping Food For Your Day
Using A Face Mask Or Doing Your Nails
Practicing An Instrument
Learning A New Language
Taking An Online Course
Bullet Journalling

3. Define How Much Time You’ll Need For Your Routine

I spend two and a half hours on my routine, and in order to have that much time to dedicate to it, I’ve progressively moved my alarm time to 5AM. This means I go to bed no later than 9:30PM or 10PM at night. Right now I’m single and thankful for all this time I have to focus on myself.

However, having such an early wake-up time and bedtime may not work for everyone’s schedule, and you definitely don’t need over 2 hours for a morning routine that will have a huge impact on your day. I’m sure that in a different phase of my life, however, I may have to seriously rethink my routine into a shorter framework.

Make sure you’re realistic in defining what you want to accomplish in the morning and how much time you’ll really need to do so. I think starting with at least a half hour to one hour of time to yourself is ideal, but even 10 minutes to meditate are better than nothing.

4. Get Started.

It may take a few weeks to get into your new routine and you may have to progressively move your wake-up and bedtime 5 to 10 minutes per day until you’ve carved out enough time for yourself in the mornings.

If you end up skipping a few days – or few weeks – don’t get discouraged. ANY extra time you dedicate to yourself in the mornings will help you start off your day on a positive note. Please don’t judge yourself if you’re not always consistent at it – I always try not to 🙂 Just get back to it the next day!


6 Stories Of Escape And Redemption – From High-Profile Kidnapping Memoirs To Tales Of Escape From Polygamist Cults



Escape By Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer

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This is a first person account of Carolyn Jessop’s experience growing up as a polygamist in the FLDS and being married to a man three times her age. Her stories of abuse and torment as the fourth wife of Meryl Jessop and as the mother of their eight children, are equal parts enlightening and heartbreaking. The recounting of her harrowing escape from the sect and of the life she has built for herself since, will truly inspire you.

My Story By Elizabeth A. Smart And Chris Stewart

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I just finished Elizabeth Smart’s memoir about her kidnapping at the hands of a duo of religious fanatic wannabes by the names of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. Even more dramatic than the account of how Elizabeth was taken from her bed as an 14-year-old innocent Mormon girl in the middle of the night, are the levels of abuse she experienced at the hands of her captors. Through nine traumatic months, Elizabeth demonstrated incredible strength and presence of mind, keeping her hope for salvation and herself alive through her faith.


Favorite Wife: Escape From Polygamy By Susan Ray Schmidt

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The polygamist sect that Susan Ray Schmidt was brought up in was, if possible, even more extreme than the FLDS. At only fifteen, Susan is informed by church elder Verlan LeBaron that he has had a revelation informing him that she is to become his sixth wife. Before Susan’s eventual escape many years later, the story first takes her through pregnancies, privations, jealousies, poverty, breaks within the church’s leadership and even a move from Mexico to Nicaragua. This story would be unbelievable if it weren’t that it actually happened. Of interest, Verlan’s first wife Irene also wrote her own memoir, Shattered Dreams.

Finding Me: A Decade Of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings By Michelle Knight With Michelle Burford

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Everyone remembers the day when three girls were saved from years of captivity in Cleveland at the hands of the monster Ariel Castro. This is Michelle Knight’s account of her experiences during that decade. It is one of the more horrific kidnapping memoirs I’ve read, with graphic details of the torture Michelle suffered through. Not for the faint of heart, but filled with inspiring redemption in Michelle’s success in turning her life around and becoming a symbol of resilience after her ordeal.


Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier By Tom Kizzia

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At first Papa Pilgrim (Robert Hale=, his wife and their fifteen children seem the epitome of a hard-working, pious Christian family. Tom Kizzia soon starts to separate fact from fiction, though, as he figures out that Papa Pilgrim is essentially a sociopath whose primary intention in moving his large family to Alaska is to be able to continue to emotionally and sexually abuse his children in isolation. Amid battles with government authorities, increasingly erratic behavior on the part of Hale and a courageous testimony from his first-born daughter Elishaba, you’ll be hoping Hale gets what is coming to him.

A Stolen Life: A Memoir By Jaycee Duggard

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Like Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Duggard was kidnapped when she was only 11 years old. Like Michelle Knight, her captivity lasted for many years – 18 in fact. Jaycee’s experience at the hands of her captor Phillip Garrido differs however in that her memoir is heavily based on the journals she was allowed to keep throughout her captivity, as well as by the fact that Jaycee gave birth to two innocent children as a result of her sexual abuse. Her daughters were already 11 and 15 respectively when they were all finally freed.

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Links I Loved This Week- 08/12/2016

Copy of Links I Love.jpg

  • I really liked Grace’s August reading suggestions on The Stripe – she’s on a definite Liane Moriarty kick, and so has been everyone else. I guess it’s time to check out what all the fuss is about.
  • This post on how to stop chasing happiness with 17 alternative tips on how to live your best possible life really hit home, especially this part – “trying to be happy is like trying to get to sleep; the harder you try, the less likely it is to happen”. We’ve all been there, right?
  • Mesmerized by this video of tango dancing on an open-air water fountain in Bordeux, France. It’s from May but I just found it, so that counts.
  • I’ve finally been validated in my OCDness by a Princeton University study that proved clutter makes it harder to focus. Here is some OCD porn courtesy of a Verily magazine post on organization-themed instagram accounts.
  • A list of 15 documentaries to watch on Netflix from Camille Styles. I’ve seen three out of fifteen on the list (Twinsters, Fist Position and The September Issue) which were all great, so I’m assuming their other picks are definitely worth watching as well.
  • This incredible hypnotic video of a book being made with an old fashioned printing press.
  • I loved these art prints picturing regular women going about their regular business, titled What Do Women Do When No One Is Watching.
  • And lastly a hilarious rabbit doppleganger list – because, rabbits.

6 Unforgettable Medical Memoirs – Stories Of Resilience And Renewed Hope


My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor

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Imagine if you had been trained for years on the exact inner workings of your brain, only to experience the most devastating medical problem that a human brain can face -a stroke – first-hand. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who experienced a stroke at only 37 years old. As she can feel her brain lose its function on that fateful morning, Bolte Taylor focuses on all the pertinent medical knowledge she can about what is happening to her to try marshall her brain to call for help. Her story of recovery is unlike any other, as she’s intimately knowledgable of the biology of what she’s experienced.



Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius

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At only age 12, Martin Pistorius was hit by a mysterious degenerative disease that left him unable to speak, eat and move. His family, believing him to be barely conscious, installed him in various institutions for the disabled during the subsequent 14 years. But only 4 years after his initial decline, at age 16, Martin reawakens, trapped inside his unresponsive body. This is the incredible story of Martin’s efforts to reconnect with the world around him and to demonstrate to others that he’s still present. You’ll be amazed at the progress he has made by the end of the book.


OnMyOwnTwoFeetBookCoverOn My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life by Amy Purdy 

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Amy was only a young woman of nineteen when bacterial meningitis led to the partial amputation of both her legs. Her harrowing illness led to a slow recovery that initially seemed to be within the norm – like any person would after such a traumatic change, Amy struggled with her image, her moods, and with finding the right prosthetics. Her incredible spirit showed through, however, in her ability to go further than most of us would ever dream in her place. Believe it or not, she is now a Paralympic snowboarder and former Dancing With The Stars contestant. This is her story.



BrainOnFireBookCoverùBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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At 24 years old and starting her career as a reporter for the New York Post, Susannah Cahalan had her whole life ahead of her. Previously extremely healthy, Susannah started out of nowhere to hallucinate and experience boughts of amnesia. This is the story of her downward spiral into ‘madness’, being diagnosed as insane and potentially schizophrenic. If it hadn’t been for a miraculous last-minute diagnosis of her mysterious but curable disorder, Susannah may still be locked up in a mental institution, having forfeited her personality and her ability to have her story heard. This book was scary, beautifully written and luckily with a happy ending.


UnmeasuredStrengthBookCoverUnmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning

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On the morning of 9/11, Lauren Manning was standing at the foot of one of the World Trade Center towers, when a flood of flames from the impact of an airliner above burned her over 80% of her body. On a day when so many perished, Lauren was given the chance to survive, though she had to resort to every ounce of her inner strength to get through the 10 years of recovery and the mental anguish that resulted from her injuries. An inspiring story of patience in the face of incredible pain, true love and the power of faith.




51sXaN3ereLA Quiet Room: A Journey Out Of The Torment Of Madness by Lori Schiller

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Unlike Susan Calahan, Lori Schiller actually suffered from full-blown schizophrenia since about 17 years of age. She spent years of her life between suicide attempts, bouncing from one medical institution to the other, battling drug addictions and being closed in ‘Quiet Rooms’ to decompress and for her own safety. Her story is hard to read, as the voices in her head, which she faithfully relates to the reader, are profane, hateful and unremitting. Lori was ultimately able to escape her demons in part through the advent of new more effective medication, which has allowed her to experience a relatively normal from middle age onwards.


Do you have a favorite medical memoir to recommend?

Here are a few of the past book lists you can find on my blog:

Six Unbelievable Books About Scientology

Let The Games Begin! Books About The Olympics

August 2016 Book Releases To Look Forward To

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National Book Lovers Day And The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense In Milan

I’m in Milan for a few weeks visiting my family and I almost forgot it was National Books Lovers Day today!

The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense – a beautiful historical library in Milan – is currently closed through the 16th of August, but I had the chance of visiting it last Saturday before it closed and it was absolutely breathtaking.

I thought National Book Lovers Day was a perfect day to share images of this special library and memories of my visit.



The Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense is a public library founded by Maria Theresa of Austria, which opened in 1786 in the Palazzo Di Brera, a beautiful city palace constructed by the Jesuits in the 17th Century.

The various halls of the library are elaborately decorated and it has that unmissable, comforting old-book smell. Aside from the towering, wooden, two-story bookcases, the most stunning aspect of each of the library’s rooms were their vaulted and often painted ceilings, and decadent chandeliers.


Currently, the library is one of 47 Italian state libraries and houses over 800,000 volumes, including historical and literary works like the manuscripts and correspondence of famed italian writer Alessandro Manzoni of the Promessi Sposi.


If you’re ever in Milan, make sure to check it out after spending a couple hours at the Pinacoteca Di Brera art museum, which is located in the same building.

What beautiful historic libraries have you visited around the world?

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