All the World's a Classroom

Literature Meets Design: Melissa Chan of Literary Book Gifts

Literature Meets Design: Melissa Chan of Literary Book Gifts

What happens when literature meets art history meets design? I think, the wearables at Literary Book Gifts! Meet Melissa Chan, the creative mind behind Literary Book Gifts, and the story of how it came about. If you’re one who likes to play up your bookishness and “wear your books,” check out her shop and use the code included below!Literary Book Gifts

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your passion and interest, and what occupies your mind each day?


My name is Melissa Chan and I am from Toronto, Ontario. As you can probably tell from the store, I love literature and design! Ever since I took an art history course, the world of fine art has always been fascinating as well, this influences a lot of my style decisions and design choices.

Each day I am thinking of new designs to do, but often I redesigning previous designs, just to get them perfect.


2. How did you start Literary Book Gifts? Where did the idea come from?


Although I started Literary Book Gifts this year, many of the designs had been swirling around my head for a little while before then. Finally I decided to try to put together a t-shirt design which, as it turns out, is not as easy as I thought. It took me a while to get a handle on the graphics editing software. And even after that it took me even longer make a design that looked any good. One of the first designs I made was for Moby Dick and I think I did it about 5 or 6 times before I was reasonably happy with it.

After a lot of deliberation, I picked out some high quality shirts (I always try to go for as much cotton as possible) and threw up a website. It was not a very exciting launch, but that is how Literary Book Gifts was started.

I love the feeling of nostalgia you get from seeing old illustrations and book covers so one day I decided I would make shirts that look like that.


3. From your designs and products, it looks like you love the classics. What makes them awesome to you?


I do love classics! I think greatest stories to this day are the classics. I’ve never encountered more intricate and epic stories than Les Miserables or War and Peace. And I think a lot of other people would agree that there is no comparison to their favorite Jane Austen or Charles Dickens story.


4. Fun reasons to “wear” books!

Wearing books makes for a great conversation starter! My personal favorite reason to wear books is because it is a helpful everyday reminder that our life is a story, just like the ones we read in these books.



Check out Melissa’s designs and shop at Literary Book Gifts! You can use the promo code JOSEPHINEELIA20 for 20% off anything in the store, no minimum, and can be used unlimited times.


**I don’t receive anything from this coverage, just spreading the word on something interesting!

Best Books of 2018: Part 1

Best Books of 2018: Part 1

This is the first installment of the best books I’ve read in 2018. Educated and Evicted were particularly fantastic!
If you follow this blog, recently, I posted my reading list on Understanding Poverty, which has been the subject I’m trying to delve into this year. Some of the books on that list also make an appearance here.

To see all of the books I’ve read in 2018, check out this page:

1. Educated: A Memoir

Educated is hands-down my favorite read in 2018 so far. It makes everybody’s best-of lists because it is just that fantastic. Westover tells her story of growing up in a fanatical, survivalist family who doesn’t believe in going to school, going to the doctor, or being registered in any government system. She finds a way to get out of her home and be in school for the first time at seventeen, and as she discovers education, she grows into her own self and her own thoughts. The most marvelous aspect of this memoir is her deep reflections on what is happening at every significant moment in her personal evolution. The tension between family loyalty and being able to think for her own is lucidly portrayed. It does two things for me. One, it makes me more appreciative of my own journey of education and the privilege to think. Two, it gives me a bit more understanding on the people and environment Westover grew up around. Simply said, it’s a marvelous and riveting memoir, deeply insightful and beautifully written.


2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It deals with the deep struggle for housing for the poorest of the poor in America. One of the biggest points of the book is that eviction is not only caused by poverty, but it also causes poverty. Matthew Desmond wrote out his research brilliantly in a very engaging narrative nonfiction form. He followed the lives of several families and individuals for an extended amount of time and recorded their challenges every step of the way.


3. $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

This book was what sparked my quest into the topic of poverty. I got it through a Kindle sale a few years ago because the title was very intriguing. Imagine, I got it for $1.99, the same amount some people live on for a day. $2.00 a Day also follows the lives of a few people, but also covers some policy background that has historically impacted–for better or for worse–the lives of the poorest in America. Several common themes emerge from this book and Evicted, especially on how people cope at this level of poverty.


4. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbilly Elegy has been credited as one of the explainers of the protectionist movement that arises from those who feel left behind by globalization, modern economy, and society. I don’t think J.D. Vance set out to play this role–he was really just telling the story of his upbringing–but he certainly opened the eyes of many to a specific culture and community that doesn’t really get represented much in most media. I can’t really do it justice in this summary, other than to say, it’s an important read.


5. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Greg Boyle’s work with Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in Los Angeles that provides gang members with jobs and support, is simply incredible. But this book, and Boyle’s message, stands out to me in that he doesn’t focus much on how to help the poor. His main message is to be with the poor. He calls it kinship. I reflect on his key message in this essay:

Kinship: A Better Model for Altruism


6. Janesville: An American Story

I used to pass by Janesville a lot on the way to visit my siblings in Madison, WI, but I had no idea what that town went through. This book tells the stories of several families as they experience the downward slip from the middle class to poverty after GM closed its biggest manufacturing plant in Janesville. The narrative is poignant because it tells what real people go through as a result of macro economic shifts in the world and corporate business decisions. I also think these kinds of ethnographic works should be the textbooks of anyone interested in policies–especially the policy makers–as they depict what happens on the ground. They can show where federal or state-level supports are needed, which programs work and which don’t, and what are the unintended consequences of certain initiatives.


7. Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World

Of all contemporary Christian writers, Tim Keller is the one I respect the most. He is even-toned, nuanced, balanced, and incredibly well-read. What I love most of all is his cultural sensibilities: he understands the different narratives and values of different cultures, and is able to assess them vis-a-vis biblical values. To be more precise, he is not a preacher of Western culture, which I find quite common in American Christianity. Instead, he has the sensibilities to even examine his own culture and see the parts that are not entirely biblical.

These strengths are reflected in this book, where he proposes points to consider to the secular audience as they consider Christianity. If you happen to have been burned by Christian books before, this is a good one to try again, because even if you are skeptical, you will be intellectually nourished.


8. Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America

Amidst a plethora of angry and loud voices in today’s politics, John Lewis’ voice in Across That Bridge is refreshingly calm, full of wisdom, and enlightening. Lewis is someone who has fought for civil rights for decades, has been beaten, jailed, and threatened multiple times, and has continued to serve the public to this day. So the import of his words and counsel is deeply felt in this book. I picked this book up after listening to his interview with Krista Tippett on the spiritual aspect of the Civil Rights Movement. And boy, I did not realize how deep it was. The philosophy of nonviolence and their commitment to it is more than just a means to make social change. They were going for changes in the spiritual nature of society at the time.

For young people who want to make an impact in the world, for those who feel called by activism, this book is like sitting at the feet of your favorite grandfather, receiving wisdom-filled advice on how to move forward from the one person who has gone through it all.


Favorite Books Lists

2021: Best Books of 2021 Part 1

2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.

2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.

2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.

2016Best Books of 2016 Part 1Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015Best Books of 2015 Part 1Best Books of 2015 Part 2.


*Amazon Product and Bookshop links on this blog are affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!


Reading Interview Episode 4: Anthony Bosman

Reading Interview Episode 4: Anthony Bosman

Welcome to the Reading Interview Series, where I chat with bookworms, avid readers and learners, to unpack their reading habits and philosophy. Anthony Bosman is my guest in this episode, a mathematician, professor, and a self-proclaimed, unashamed geek!


Physicist Alan Lightman wrote a meditation on science and spirituality.


“For me, there is room for both a spiritual universe and a physical universe, just as there is room for both religion and science. Each universe has its own power. Each has its own beauty, and mystery. A Presbyterian minister recently said to me that science and religion share a sense of wonder. I agree.”


This quote kept popping into my mind during this conversation with Anthony Bosman, a mathematician and assistant professor at Andrews University. He’s very passionate about his field, as you’ll hear in this interview. So naturally we talked about math quite a bit. If math gives you an uneasy feeling, hang in there for a few minutes and we’ll eventually get to his reading life and how that influences his teaching and life philosophy. Please enjoy this conversation with Anthony Bosman.


Connect with Anthony:



Mentioned Books, Authors, Podcasts, and Links
Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott
Flatterland by Ian Stewart
Political Tribes by Amy Chua
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal




*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

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