The Book is the Destination

I’ve discovered my newest favorite thing to do when I travel: Read a book that takes place in the destination. Forget travel guides totally and just bring a book (actually don’t forget the travel guides… this idea makes my Type A tendencies very, very nervous).

As literary lovers, we have the vivid imaginations that bring fictional worlds to live in our mind. I was lucky to travel for a week to Dublin where my company is headquartered. Dublin has a rich literary history, between James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and W. B. Yeats, just to name a few. (In fact, we stayed right across from Oscar Wilde’s house and his rather flamboyant statue!)

oscar wilde statue

I decided to go another route, and be trendy and take my cue from this recent Academy Awards series. As a native New Yorker, I was fortunate to pick up Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, which takes place in both Ireland and New York City.

I started reading it on the flight there, getting hyped about my visit. The historical aspect added another layer of interest. I could walk around the city and try to imagine what it was like in the Post-World War II era of Ireland.

Even coming back to New York, since the book also took place here, I tried to picture what it was like for Eilis Lacey, the young woman who braves the Atlantic by herself like so many immigrants did.

It was fascinating and made me notice things much more. I think this is a literary strategy I will keep in mind for whenever I travel!

How to find books about where you’re visiting?

Pretty simple—you can look up the famous authors who lived in your destination. For Japan, Haruki Murakami is often considered the Japanese contemporary author. Of course, you could go for a natively written form, like haiku of early Japanese poets like Matsuo Bashō.

trinity college library

Trinity College’s library! This would be a great place to find a book, if we were allowed to touch them…

You might have a hard time finding a book that takes place in a particular tiny village, but broadening the scope to gain knowledge about the general culture as I did with Brooklyn is equally valuable. Goodreads is another great source for this. Their lists can be as granular as they are numerous. Their whole cultural section can be found here.

And you don’t have to leave your genre either. If you’re really into thrilling action books with a mystery and visiting Italy, well, Dan Brown’s books are pretty perfect.

As for my city, well, there are countless books that take place in New York. It’d be harder to find a book that doesn’t take place here, I think! It’s worth taking the time and keeping your inner bookworm happy as you travel.

What do you think? Have you ever picked up a fiction book about the place you were traveling to?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at her website.

Reads on the Subway: Winter 2016 Edition

Last summer, I totally creeped on people on the subway to see what they were reading. Like I said in August, I love people watching and seeing what my fellow bookworms are enjoying is one of my favorite things.


The subway is a perfect spot for reading. You’re removed from most of the distractions from the world, can tune out everyone and everything (well, except the crazy guy talking to himself, or the ‘musicians’ who say “GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMAN” and start to sing/hassle you for money).

Seriously, aside from all that, it’s one of my favorite places to read! And people watch. Let’s check out what New York’s been reading underground this past winter.

1.Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
On the 4/5/6 line, a woman with dark and short twisted hair and a nose stud was reading this. Her hands had a bow tattoo on one of her fingers as she turned the pages of this thriller. Following in the wake of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, Jessica Knoll’s novel follows a successful woman who left a secret buried in her past that could destroy everything she holds dear.

2. The Charge by Brendon Burchard
It’s not all fiction. The Charge is a self-help book about learning to activate the ten motivators that make us most human. A young man with black slick hair, scruffy face, black jacket, jeans was reading this. He had a chevron print reusable coffee mug and had headphones in.

3. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman
This book met its perfect match in a ginger man in his 30s, wearing a Columbia ski jacket and black beanie, with a gruff air of “manliness.” This book, was written by the Parks and Recreation actor who portrays Ron Swanson, the epitome of Murica, mustaches, and everything manly.

4. En Nødvendig Død by Jan Mehlum
An elegant woman with silver hair in a ponytail and pearl earrings was reading this novel. Quite a novelty in itself for my people-watching, the book is part of a Norwegian mystery-thriller series about a lawyer who has to solve grim cases.

5. Room by Emma Donoghue
This book’s movie adaptation scored an Oscar nomination this year. A curvy young woman with long strawberry blonde hair, wearing a magenta puffer jacket and tweed skirt was reading this. Room is about a boy who’s entire world is his Ma and the Room they’ve always been in. And what happens when they get out.

6. The Patriot Threat by Steve Berry
An older man with grey hair, a trim beard, and thick rimmed black glasses was reading this provocative political thriller. With shades of the Da Vinci Code, this book is about Cotton Malone, a retired member of an elite intelligence division, who is tasked with tracking down a rogue North Korean who stole top secret files of the National Treasury.

7. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
One of the most anticipated books of last year, Harper Lee’s novel about Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult, was being read by a young woman in a green camouflage jacket and fuzzy blue scarf with curly blonde hair and beaded bracelets.

8. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
Another legal thriller for our list! What is it about winter and suspenseful, grisly novels? This book, about a lawyer who takes the cases others won’t go near, was being read by a woman in burgundy corduroy pants, wearing a silver ring with a red gem, a snakeskin black bag, and long gray hair.

9. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
A young businessman in black slacks and a black coat was reading one of my absolute favorite novels! This darkly witty novel is about an angel and a demon who’ve gotten pretty comfortable on earth, and decide maybe it’s a good idea to prevent the prophesied apocalypse.

I love seeing if books match their owners. They say that pets often resemble their owners, or maybe it’s the other way around, and it’s interesting to see which books are clearly being read by their demographic. Of course, my favorite is when people defy the genres predicted for them!

Til next time, I’ll keep my eyes open on the subways for more real life sightings of bookworms.

(photo courtesy of Matteo Merzi)

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at her website.

Happy 2 Years!

A lot can happen in two years.

I moved to New York City. I made new friends and kept in touch with old ones. I started working at a job that I love, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I finished a draft of my novel.

And this whole time, BiblioSmiles has been growing with me.

Two years ago when I shared my first post here, I wouldn’t have imagined that this blog would take off to where it is right now, featuring work from about 40 contributors, all with their own unique stories to share.

My “must read” list has grown exponentially since people started sharing their book reviews and essays. I’m always so happy to hear about what people are reading and loving.

Today I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has written a post, read a post, commented, or shared a link on social media. And since it’s so close to Valentine’s Day, I’ll say this, too: I love you, bookworms.




Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Turn to Books

[Editor’s note: I’m so pleased to welcome a fellow SUNY Purchase alum, Zach, to BiblioSmiles!  Let him know your thoughts -and share your own stories- in the comments below.]

More than the books themselves, I always remember the time I spent with them. This is not an insult to the stories the authors have drafted, edited, edited again and then published for me to enjoy. I see it as a compliment, maybe even the highest praise I could give to a story.


I remember the first and only time I read Dangling Man by Saul Bellow was in the midst of a howling New York hurricane. Mom told us to keep stapling garbage bags to the walls to prevent our possessions from getting damaged by the oncoming rain. I was supposed to go back to college to start my senior year but due to weather and the threat of death by commute, I was being held hostage in my childhood home, constantly checking my cell phone to see if my sort-of girlfriend was enjoying her first day back at college in North Carolina. She’s not my girlfriend in the way that we broke up because we both agreed that long distance relationships never work, but she’s sort of my girlfriend in the way that we keep calling and saying that we love each other.

So it’s just like every college relationship out there.

I sent her several texts, sounding more and more desperate for human contact.

12:05 AM text to Kelsi
“Hurricane’s in full swing here but don’t worry! We’re all safe! Miss you!”

12:10 AM text to Kelsi
“I’ve been reading Dangling Man so I might be up later if you wanna call!”

12:20 AM text to Kelsi
“Not that you have to call. Just if you wanted to. Hope you’re enjoying being back at school!”

The wonderful thing about books is that they will always talk back to you.

At the beginning of the night, I had no intention of reading. But my parents put me in charge of checking the walls every 45 minutes for rain damage, and if Kelsi was at a party, then she was never going to call and the world was asleep or far away from where I was and I all I wanted was someone to relate to. Enter Saul Bellow and his madcap narration of Joseph, who is left stranded in Chicago without a purpose or a person he can relate to.

In short, I fell in love. I had found someone who understood what it felt like to feel trapped in your life at the exact moment the walls started to cave inside myself. I clung to the pages for dear life.

I remember how when I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I was walking through the hallways of my elementary school, looking at all the muggles who had no idea what I was about to become. The hallway was empty save for myself who was running late to class, because when your eyes have transported you to Hogwarts, it’s hard to get your body to return to PS 29.

One day in fifth grade, I had a fever of 101 and stayed home. Missing the schedule of my school day, I decided to sit in a corner of my room and read the entirety of The Zack Files series by Dan Greenburg. I made it through book #16, Evil Queen Tut and the Great Ant Pyramids, before falling asleep.

Sixth grade was the year my friend Amr and I began competitively sneak-reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy throughout all our classes. We designed book covers that looked like our textbooks in order to give ourselves just a few more extra minutes in Middle Earth.


My first time sitting through Grand Jury Duty for a week was made less mind-numbing thanks to Dave Eggers and his magnum opus to quarter-life strife, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The tedious proceedings of justice rendered less monotonous with Dave Eggers in my lap.

My mother lent me Paul Auster’s The Red Notebook one day at home in Brooklyn and now I make sure it’s with me wherever I go.

There was one copy of E.L. Doctorow’s classic Ragtime at Midwood High School’s library, and I spent periods one through five devouring it. Looking up from the tattered pages and out at the bookshelves and pimpled high schoolers, I began to understand that there were life experiences I had yet to participate in.


While working on a documentary in Florida, I escaped the stench of the state with Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle. When I met him two months later, I thanked him for helping me escape Florida. He told me it was his pleasure.

I read a collection of short stories from Raymond Carver on the night my friends abandoned me for a dorm party and the next morning I was the only one to wake up without regrets.

The day I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I stared out my first floor bedroom window at Purchase College and admired life as a whole. I saw the sun shining bright, painting the day in orange hues. I saw a guy and a girl walking to lunch and I wondered if they were in love or if they were friends or if they would enjoy reading a book today.

When my life gets strange or weird or seemingly out of control, I look for a book to sink into. I’m never sure if I would remember those moments were it not for the books I read then and I’m not even sure if my life would have ended up the way it is were it not for books. One of my favorite moments that happens every single time I read a book is that moment when you finish a sentence and turn your eyes upwards and outwards to the surrounding world ahead of you. Books are the floating piece of wood for when your plane has crashed into the ocean and you need something to help get you back to the shores of life.

When you have the time, spend it with books. They’ll always reward you for the effort spent.

Zach Lennon-Simon is a writer, filmmaker, and YouTuber originally from Brooklyn, NY. He enjoys books, sci-fi shows, beer, pizza, and the attempts of the New York Mets to achieve greatness. Check out his YouTube channel, Zach Vlogs.

Reads on the Subway

I love people watching. Imagine the sort of lives people are living, what they go home to at night, what haunts their dreams, and what their favorite ice cream flavor must be. Being a huge nerd, one of my favorite things is to see what books people are reading out in public.

gabriele reading kitchens of the great midwest

My recent subway read–ah, totally fantastic (and a huge difference from the subways of New York)!

And, since doomsayers keep saying that print is dead, it’s a personal victory to see people reading, especially in a world flooded with Candy Crush, the latest Kardashian dramas, and cute kitten videos. I totally try to creep on the literary lovers I see and spy what book they’re reading. It’s a lot harder than it seems. And as much as I love kindles and e-readers, it foils my attempts at spying.

But! On that note, here’s a fun fact. The most popular genre of e-books are romance novels, probably because people can’t then tell that you’re reading a book about steamy cowboys stealing your heart on the rodeo.

I’m going to get real brash soon and just start asking people what they’re reading. This is either a good idea or a terrible one. But fortune favors the bold right? …But then again, curiosity killed the cat? But satisfaction brought him back! Guess we’ll just have to see if people are as ready to gush about their reads as I am.

Anyways, here’s what I’ve seen the denizens of New York reading underground so far this summer.

1. Zeno’s Conscience by Italo Svevo
A bearded, glasses-wearing hipster in black skinny jeans was reading this ferociously funny and strange book on the downtown R. It was published in 1923, and is about a neurotic Italian businessman who begins to write his confessions for his psychiatrist. His misadventures run the gauntlet from attempting to stop smoking to an affair with a shrill and insufferable aspiring singer.

2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
A woman in a blue print sundress, listening to her iPod nano was reading this book that takes place in 1922 England. It’s about Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, who become forced to take in lodgers, and how one very odd couple upturns their lives.

3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A blonde girl in a white sundress was reading this apocalyptic future novel. I’ve seen two others reading it too! It’s an amazing read, and I’ve reviewed it here.

4. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
This book is about a small band of Wall Street critics who realize that the stock market has been rigged to benefit insiders. They decide to walk away from their hoards of wealth to expose the truth to all. A Millennial man in a button-up shirt, navy pants, with a navy tweed bow-tie and teal oxfords with aqua-blue laces was reading this one.

5. Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
A woman in a floral sundress with strapped sandals was reading this. She had a constellations of stars tattooed on her foot. Girl in a Band came out this year and is a memoir by Sonic Youth founding member, Kim Gordon, about being one of the coolest girls in the post-punk New York scene.

6. Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
What’s with all the Wall Street books being read? This book is about the largest takeover in Wall Street history, a frenzy of financial cowboys changing the way the world of business worked forever. A tall, tan man in a gray hoodie, shorts, and wearing a backpack and Beats headphones was reading this. I need to start talking to these people, clearly, and gleaning their business-savvy knowledge.

7. Pegasus by Robin McKinley
A college-age girl on the Uptown R in black skinny jeans and black low-strap sandals was reading this. Her brown hair was half-up and she wore a gold long necklace with square crosses. One reviewer on Goodreads called this “My Little Pony” for smart girls, so take that as you will. Pegasus is about Princess Sylviianel, who is ceremonially bound to her own Pegasus, Ebon on her twelfth birthday. For a thousand years humans and pegasi have coexisted in peace, bridging their differences through magicians and shaman. But Sylvi and Ebon can understand each other. Their friendship threatens the tenuous balance between the humans and pegasi, and could undo a millennium of harmony.

So many interesting books! This has been such a fascinating experiment, to see the range of books that people are reading. I think I’m going to continue to creep on fellow readers and record what books they’re into. Maybe I’ll learn something new… Or just continue to add to the endless to-read list we all have. But let us know in the comments if you’ve seen any books out in the wild. What are they?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at her website.

Tomorrow is National Readathon Day!


If you’re looking to do some good in the new year, and you’re currently trying to tackle a big “Must Read” pile, then you’re in luck! For the first year ever, January 24th will be National Readathon Day, a fundraising effort put together by the National Book Foundation, Penguin Random House, Goodreads, and Mashable.

Did you know that 40% of adults in the United States are at basic or below-level reading proficiency? Without access to books and reading programs, these numbers could potentially keep growing.  And shouldn’t all children have access to books and quality programming? National Readathon Day has been created in an effort to “expand the audience for literature.”

Until January 26th, you can open a fundraising page here on FirstGiving and help raise money for the National Book Foundation. The funds raised will go towards programs like BookUp, an educational after-school program that has provided children with 25,000 free books since its inception in 2007.

And what about the Readathon part of National Readathon Day?

You can get involved by joining readers across America in a marathon reading session on Saturday, January 24. From Noon – 4 PM in our respective time zones, we will sit and read a book in our own home, library, school or bookstore.

Whether you choose to read one book, or ping-pong between two, I hope you bunker down and get some pages read! An afternoon dedicated to reading! What can be better than that?

Be sure to use the hashtag #timetoread to share your National Readathon Day experience. I’d love to hear what book you choose to read, or how you pledge to help spread the goodness of reading in your community.

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.


Bookworm Interview: Alyson Lopez

Want to get to know more about the BiblioSmiles contributors? Read below to find out all about Alyson


Q: Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less:

My name is Alyson, and I don’t have a middle name or a nickname. I’m about to embark on my last semester of grad school and I’m a first year middle school science teacher. I’m a total science nerd, because duh. I love fashion from growing up in New York City and I’m always making ambitious plans, usually influenced by the book I’m reading, and it usually involves traveling.

But really, almost nothing makes me happier though than a good story that I can completely lose myself in, no matter the medium (photography, books, movies, blogs, TV shows, etc.) I enjoy living in a bubble with my head in the clouds.

Q: What books did you love as a child?

The entire Magic Tree House series started my love for reading and books. After that I devoured every fantasy story I could get my hands on. Elantris and The Inheritance Cycle were teenage favorites.

Q: What kinds of books do you love now?

I used to browse the fantasy/fiction section of Barnes and Noble, flipping through books until I found something I liked but then I found YA from a little quote on Tumblr that introduced me to John Green and Looking for Alaska. I’m sure some readers know the quote I’m talking about. I didn’t realize YA was the genre I loved until I started to really look at the books I loved and the ones I was starting to pick up.

I’m also trying to reconnect with my roots because I feel pretty white-washed. I’m Puerto Rican and Dominican but barely speak Spanish and as the years go on I lose touch with more and more of my roots. So aside from YA I also love stories I can relate to (let’s face it I’m not a teenager anymore); authors like Junot Diaz, and Raquel Cepeda seem to really understand that weird identity of being Dominican but growing up in NY, unlike our parents who don’t get it because they’re straight from the island.

So all in all, identity stuff and romance.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to sit down and read?

The train or Barnes and Noble. When living at home my commutes have always been long (1.5 hours for middle school, 1 hour for high school, 2 hours for summer classes in college). I like having having a long stretch of time disconnected from the rest of the world when I’m able to just get sucked into a story. If I don’t have as book I’ll just sleep on the train, and that’s way more boring.

Q: Do you set any goals for yourself as a reader?

I just want to read more. I read 27 books in 2014! Definitely a record for me.

Q: Have you ever met any of your favorite authors? What was that like?

No, but at BookCon this past year I saw John Green in the TFIOS panel and I pretty much died. I’m really bad about taking advantage of living in NYC when it comes to meeting authors. I’ve had lots of opportunities but never acted on them.

Q: How do you mark your place in a book?

Any which way. For a while after my best friend and I traveled to LA as my college graduation gift to myself I used used a bookmark from The Last Bookstore. But honestly I dog-ear my pages, or use what I can find, or sometimes I just try to memorize the last page I was up to. I’m pretty lax about it.

Q: What books are you on your “must read” list?

To Goodreads!
There’s like 40 books on my Goodreads “to read” list. So I’m not gonna go through all of that.

I’m into Gayle Forman right now, so since I finished If I Stay and Where She Went, I’m due to read Just One Day, Just One Year, and Sisters in Sanity.

I’m also slated to read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown for a book club I’m in.

Q: Here’s a famous question: if you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Where would you go, and what would they order for dinner?

Junot Diaz or Raquel Cepeda. They’re both living, and I would just love to talk to them about how they found their identity and became comfortable finding that balance between the culture you’re from and the culture you live in now. I’d love to go to the Heights for some Dominican food and order the whole menu for us to share. Haha.

Q: What’s your favorite post you’ve written for BiblioSmiles? What’s your favorite post that someone else has written?

Let’s face it, I’m terrible at writing posts, but I’m pretty good at Instagram! I really liked the photo showing my fork as a bookmark on Thanksgiving. I laughed at myself for that. I really love the Anatomy of a Bookshelf posts, and hope to include my own sometime soon!

Alyson Lopez is a middle school science teacher who enjoys reading YA, dressing up, pretending to be an adult, and the finer things in life, like watching TV in bed with no pants on. She’s finishing up grad school this May and cannot wait to be done with being a student. It blows.