Welcome back, friends. It’s Sarah’s birth month, so she got to choose our topic: BOOKS! It’s a good one!

Question 1: Name 3 books throughout your life that have shaped who you are today? 

Birthday Sarah starts us off.

SARAH’S FIRST BOOK: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the really old, darker, less happily-ever-after versions of so many stories we know and love. Did we say darker? How about WAY darker? Like, Snow White has a lot of hearts being cut out of animals. Some stories have people gouging out eyes. 

  • Sarah regales us with a retelling of a family favorite: “Little One Eye, Little Two Eyes, Little Three Eyes,” a classic Cinderella-type story, where “Cinderella” is named for how many eyes she has (spoiler: It’s two). Her stepmother and stepsisters have either fewer or more eyes than that, and they treat Little Two Eyes really badly. A wise woman tries to help out and somehow makes it worse. (You’re gonna need this palate cleanser.) But then along comes a knight to make it all better. And then Sarah hits us with the coolest part of this story: Sarah might be a Grimm on her mom’s side!

BRYN’S FIRST BOOK: Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The first book in a 9-book series of the author’s experiences growing up as a little girl in the “big woods” of Wisconsin in 1871. Bryn read it as a child, and has come back to it throughout her life. She has a favorite memory of her mother reading it to her and her brother by firelight one night during a power outage. 

SARAH’S SECOND BOOK: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. An 1813  novel that follows Elizabeth Bennett and her sister Jane, who are of marriageable age, and must navigate suitors, social engagements, family and societal pressures. The novel delves into manners and etiquette of English society, the importance of marrying for love rather than money or social prestige, and overall has such delightful depictions of characters that captured Sarah’s teenage imagination. 

BRYN’S SECOND BOOK: The Passion, by Jeannette Winterson, a fairy tale set in an historical place and time. It’s the fantastical, magical, often dark story of Henri (a French soldier and Napoleon’s chef during the Napoleonic Wars) and Villanelle, the heart-broken red-haired daughter of a Venetian boatman, who has webbed feet and is a free thinker who lives in the moment.

  • What’s a villanelle? The book started to mirror the poetic form in some ways, like unlocking a secret
  • This was Bryn’s first introduction to gender fluidity 

SARAH’S THIRD BOOK: Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zahn. After seeing the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time in 1991, Sarah this newly published first book of the Thrawn trilogy at her local library and FREAKED out. It’s set 5 years after Return of the Jedi and features Leia and Han as a married couple, starting a family (twins are coming!), working for the Republic and Luke is planning a Jedi Training Academy, while what’s left of the Imperials are slowly amassing under Grand Admiral Thrawn. He uses his knowledge of Leia, Luke and the leaders of the New Republic against them in an epic struggle for power.

  • A book that continued the story of a movie blew Sarah’s mind. It unlocked her imagination in a new way. And her knowledge of all those stories and love of those books has connected her with many Star Wars friends with the rise of social media. 

BRYN’S THIRD BOOK: Still Life with Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins, in which an exiled princess and a libertarian anarchist, who are both redheads, meet and sort of fall in love. Bryn didn’t want to choose this book as her third pick, but she did anyway because of her husband’s wisdom.

  • Bryn read it while temping at offices in Orange County (she also read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams during that time, but didn’t love it.)
  • Felt sort of dangerous and bold and funny and true at the time to naive 21-year-old Bryn
    • Books or art or music sometimes show you something you’ve never seen or known or understood before, and they allow you to imagine something that’s possible that you hadn’t ever imagined before
    • You don’t know how a book is impacting you while you’re reading it
    • Bryn’s learning from this: This book is one of those for me. It’s OK to move on from a book that affected you deeply.
  • Extra homework: Ralph Nader
  • Bryn cheated and included an HONORABLE MENTION book: The Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katsen

Question 2: What we want to learn about/deep dive?

Sarah asked, “How did the printing press change history?”

  • Global news network created thanks to quicker, cheaper printing that was accessible to middle class
  • New information technology adopted by previously silenced voices, those willing to take risks 
  • Revolution! Martin Luther becomes the first religious leader to use printing to his advantage.He’s the world’s first best-selling author! 1518-1525 his writings accounted for ⅓ of all books sold in Germany. 
  • Scientific Revolution: With printed formulas and mathematical tables in hand, scientists could trust the fidelity of existing data and devote more energy to breaking new ground.

Bryn looked a little into the future (and the present) of books, especially print books

  • After watching the documentary,  The Booksellers, a film about the rare book business, but also about the future of books, Bryn did a small amount of research to look into the state of print books. When e-book readers first became viable, she remembered hearing the media wonder if paper books were dead.
  • Spoiler: They’re not!
    • Book statistics: U.S. book industry statistics and facts
    • Print book sales figures have improved over the last five years and unit sales now amount to over 650 million per year. Print also remains the most popular book format among U.S. consumers, with more than 65 percent of adults having read a print book in the last twelve months.
    • Publishers Weekly: Print Book Sales Rose 8.2% in 2020
    • E-books statistics
    • Audiobooks: 2019 more than $1 Billion in audiobook sales

Question 3: What are you excited about regarding books?

Sarah is all about audiobooks! 

Wayward English major Bryn is excited to become a reader of books again. She might start with Loki, Where Mischief Lies, by Mackenzi Lee, thanks to Sarah’s recommendation.

Final Thoughts

Sarah brings us home: When creating our show notes, both Bryn and I were writing so much more about the books that shaped us, rather than the history of books. When we were discussing our focus for this episode, Bryn texted something profound: “Books are so personal.”

So I think that is the perfect way to think of it. Any other two people in the world could have a completely different discussion than we did. So we want to know: what are your top 1-3 books that have shaped you? Please write us and we will share in our NEW segment, Totally Talk To Us.

Thanks to those of you who have written to us, either on Instagram or the Skywalking Through Neverland Facebook Group, with your feedback on our first two episodes: @iamstarwarstime, Peter Heitman and Cadien Clark. We love hearing your thoughts!

About Totally Tell Me Everything

Two friends, one fun topic, three burning questions = lots of fun conversation! Each month we pick a topic and ask each other three questions about it – we learn about the subject, our past and each other. So come sit by us and we’ll totally tell you everything!

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