Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween readers! The book’o’lantern tradition continues here at Required Reading. Only this year it is…a Jackaby-lantern, based on the covers of Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter.

Collage of Jackaby pumpkin


This is my fourth year of book themed pumpkins, so here’s a collage of some of my previous efforts:



Here are some spooky or supernatural reads for the season. Happy Halloween!

Cover image of Jackaby by William Ritter Jackaby by William Ritter

Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Gideon by Alex Gordon

Serpentine by Cindy Pon


Literary Tourism: Part 2

This is part two of a post about the literary sights I visited while I was in Europe for the month of July. You can read Part 1 here. On Tuesday I’ll be posting mini-reviews of my vacation reads, after which your regularly scheduled book reviews will resume.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAShakespeare’s Birthplace

This cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon was purchased by Shakespeare’s father, who was a glovemaker by trade. Actors stationed in the gardens performed sonnets and soliloquies by request, from memory. Because the birthplace has been a tourist destination for over 200 years, many bookish visitors have gone before you. In the 1800s, it was customary for visitors to sign the window of the room where Shakespeare was born. (We just signed the guestbook). Photos are allowed in the house provided you don’t use flash. Advance tickets didn’t seem to be essential, but you can get your tickets cheaper by buying online.

Website: http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/home.html

IMG_2324The Book of Kells

This famous gospel is on display at Trinity College, Dublin. The exhibit itself was good, but the best part of this visit was the Old Library Long Room, which houses 200 000 of the library’s oldest books, and is an education centre for librarians training in book preservation and repair. The room is lined with marble bust of famous writers, including Milton and Shakespeare.  If you won’t be making it to Dublin any time soon, or aren’t satisfied with seeing the one page of the book on display that day, there is an app available on iTunes for $12.99. Advance tickets aren’t necessary. No photos are permitted in the exhibit, but non-flash photography is allowed in the Long Room.

Website: http://www.tcd.ie/Library/bookofkells/

GE DIGITAL CAMERAThe World of Beatrix Potter

This indoor exhibit in Bowness-on-Windermere is a walk-through attraction with beautiful life-size dioramas of scenes from the works of Beatrix Potter. There is also a small garden, and an exhibit at the end about the life of the author. Overall, this attraction, while beautiful, was geared more towards children than adult fans, however the gift shop here offered a much greater selection of Beatrix Potter merchandise than the shop at Hill Top Farm. Advance tickets are not necessary. Non-flash photography is permitted.

Website: http://www.peterrabbit.com/en


Located in Near Sawry on the west side of Lake Windermere, Hill Top Farm was the home of Beatrix Potter, a working farm purchased with proceeds from the sales of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. I would caution anyone coming from the east side of the lake and planning to follow the National Trust trail up to the farm that the signage is quite poor and difficult to follow. Save yourself a hassle and take the bus! Staff members from the National Trust are located around the house, and are extremely knowledgeable about Potter’s life, and the furnishings of the house. Make sure to look for the copies of Potter’s books scattered around the house; they are left open to pages that depict recognizable aspects of the house or furniture. This attraction is likely to appeal more to Potter’s adult fans than to children. Advance tickets are not available; tickets are purchased on a timed entry system on the day  of admission. No photography is allowed inside the house, but the garden is fair game. Access to the grounds is limited, as the property is still a working farm.

That’s it for my literary travels. See you back here on Tuesday, when it is back to the books themselves.


Literary Tourism: Part 1

If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that I spent the month of July in Europe, mostly in the UK, but also Amsterdam, Dublin, and Paris. While I was away, my good friend Amelia provided guest posts, with reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why, Incarceron, Unwind, and Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Before we get back to your regularly scheduled book reviews, I’m going to share a few photos of the more literary sights I visited while I was away.


The first and most serious literary sight we visited was Anne Frank House, and the statue of Anne Frank at nearby Westerkerk in Amsterdam. The House includes the secret annex above her father’s warehouse where Anne and her family hid during the German occupation, as well as a large museum dedicated to her story. All the furnishings were removed from the annex after Anne and her family were betrayed, leaving it eerily empty. Anne’s original diary, and the notebooks she used once it was full, are part of the display, as well as her famous collages of contemporary pop culture, which are partially preserved behind plexiglass.  It has been a number of years since I last read her story, but I picked up a copy from the Anne Frank House book shop, and I’m looking forward to revisiting it soon. The line was quite long, so if you’re planning on visiting, I recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of your visit. There no photos permitted inside the House.

Website: http://www.annefrank.org/

GE DIGITAL CAMERAHarry Potter Studio Tour

On our first full day in London, we hit up the biggest “literary” sight of our trip, checking out the newly opened Harry Potter Studio Tour, which features a huge range of exhibits from the sets of the adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s famous novels. The tour includes two giant warehouses and a back lot. Since the studio is located outside of London in Leavesden, we traveled out there on a tour bus, which allowed us four hours for our visit. While four hours is enough time, you have to move quickly to take everything in! Our tour guide told us that the day before we visited, one man spent no less than eleven hours there. If you’re a big Harry Potter fan, I don’t think it would be a stretch to spend 6 to 8 hours going through the exhibit at a more leisurely pace. And of course, at the end of your visit, there is a giant shop filled with every manner of Harry Potter paraphernalia imaginable, including various editions of the books. If seeing original sets, props, and costumes from all eight films tickles your fancy, I can’t recommend this enough; it was one of the nerdy highlights of the trip. This sight is new and popular, so booking ahead is definitely recommended. Photos are permitted everywhere except the green screen area, and the opening film.

Website: http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/

IMG_2134The British Library 

If old books are your thing, the Treasures of the British Library exhibition has the benefit of being both fascinating and free. We were able to see Shakespeare’s first folio, an 11th Century copy of Beowulf, and copies of the Magna Carta. For the more pop culture minded, the display also includes original Beatles lyrics. If you visit after September 30, you will also likely see the Lindisfarne Gospels, which were unfortunately out on loan to another exhibit when we visited. However, the display includes a large variety of other beautiful Bibles.  If you wont be making it to the British Library anytime soon, they also have an app on iTunes for $3.99. Admission is free, no tickets needed. Photography is not permitted inside the exhibit, but the public areas are fair game.

Website: http://www.bl.uk/

20130715-201852.jpgThe Regency Tea Room at The Jane Austen Centre

On one of our day tours out of London, we had a stop in the city of Bath. Instead of visiting the Roman Baths for which the city is named, we opted to walk up to The Jane Austen Centre. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to both get lunch and take in the exhibit before we had to return to the tour bus, so we opted to have tea in the Centre’s Regency Tea Room and check out the gift shop. We had a lovely light lunch of finger sandwiches, tea, and cake. The gift shop is full of amazing things for Austen fans, and to make matters worse, they have an online shop with worldwide shipping! I’m still tempted to buy one of these. The city of Bath in general was quite lovely, and I would definitely like to spend some more time there if I have a chance to return to the UK.

Website: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/

Check back on Thursday for Part 2, including Shakespeare’s Birthplace, The Book of Kells, The World of Beatrix Potter, and Hill Top Farm.


Welcome Back

I just spent a couple weeks in Canada celebrating the holidays with friends and family, eating too much, consuming far too much coffee, and spending too much time at the movie theatre (The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Les Mis). I did practically no reading at all, though I did acquire a few new books! As a result, we’ll be kicking off the new year with posts on my favourite fiction reads of 2012 on January 8, and my favourite nonfiction reads on January 10. On Sunday the 13th, I’ll be posting about the reading/blogging challenges I’ll be participating in this year. New reviews should resume next Tuesday, if I can just decide what I should read first…Happy new reading year to you all!

*Updated with links to the mentioned posted on January 13th, 2012.