Tag: Classics

Mar 24

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Audio Books, Classics 9

Salutations, Bookworms!

I’m going to tell you a story about a rabbit. When I was in high school, my friend Kim (Hi, Kim! I don’t think you read my blog, but hi anyway! Your baby is cute!) had a pet rabbit named Benjamin. He was an awfully cute rabbit, but I’ll tell you something. Rabbit fur is JUST LIKE cat fur. As far as my personal histamines are concerned, anyway. Much as I wanted to snuggle that bunny, he made my eyes itchy and I got all sneezy. That right there is what happens when I tell a story about a rabbit. This is one of the reasons I do not write books. Luckily, other people write books. Other people like Richard Adams. That’s right guys! I finally read Watership Down!

watershipdownIn case it wasn’t already clear, Watership Down is a story about rabbits. A rabbit adventure tale, if you will. The whole story apparently came about as Richard Adams told stories to his daughters whenever they were in the car. In this book’s introduction, Adams makes no bones about the fact that he did not intend this novel to be any sort of allegory. It made me laugh because I can’t help but think that this happens a lot. Once a book is out there and in the hands of critics and academics it takes on a life of its own. But I digress. Back to the bunnies! This book follows a band of rabbits on a journey from their human threatened warren across the English countryside in search of a safe new home.

I started this book knowing it was about rabbits, but that was about it. I was a pretty blank slate as far as plots went. I actually sort of thought that it was going to involve rabbits on a submarine. Sadly, there were no teeny tiny sailor suits involved in this book, though despite my love of cuteness, it’s probably for the best. I was not expecting to be so flipping STRESSED by the plight of these rabbits, though. Being a rabbit is rough! They’re terrified of all the things all the time because there are dogs and cats and foxes and weasels and humans. This band of rabbits just keeps getting into scrape after scrape and the suspense killed me. How does one make a book about fluffy bunnies suspenseful?! Frith only knows!

Be honest with me here, Bookworms. How freaking CUTE would a rabbit look wearing a sailor suit? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, a sailor suit will be donated to a rabbit in need. That’s a lie. The money will go straight into my greedy greedy pockets.*

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Mar 21

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Audio Books, Classics 14

Greetings Bookworms,

I’ve got a seemingly endless list of well known classics that I’ve been planning to read forever and I finally got around to tackling one. Yaaaaay Katie! I like to congratulate myself sometimes. High five, me! Yeah, so, A Clockwork Orange happened. It doesn’t seem like the sort of book that I can say I “read.” It’s more the sort of book that happened to me. Via my earholes. This was probably a wise decision, given the adventurous language. I might have gotten frustrated with the slang had I not the appropriate inflections to guide me. Audio books, FTW!

aclockworkorangeYou know how everyone is always lamenting teens these days? It’s the favorite past time of everyone over the age of 25. They’re either too soft or turning vicious. But, uh, the fifteen year old protagonist of A Clockwork OrangeIt’s a whole new nightmarish level of horrifying. Little Alex and his gang of “droogs” go around beating the crap out of people, thieving, raping, and pillaging. It’s… Intense. When Alex inevitably gets caught, he’s sent to prison learning to do little more than become a more efficient criminal. Toward the end of his sentence, Alex signs up for a rehabilitation program, the methods of which are nearly as horrifying as Alex’s pre-prison activities. I’m not going to sugar coat it. This book is a pretty traumatic read. It’s a creepy parable about good and evil and human freedom… And slang. So much slang.

Before you ask, nope. I never have seen the Stanley Kubrik film. I’m not sure that I will now that I know the source material because there are things I simply don’t need to see on screen. The intro to this audio book ranted about several things, among them the movie adaptation, and the fact that the American version of the novel was published without the last chapter. The British version did have it, as did the version I listened to. I’ve got to say I think the final chapter added a new level of brain food to the book. If you’re going to pick it up, try to get a version with the chapter included. Should you read this book? Probably. I mean, if you want to be well versed in all the things. Still, if you’re going to read it, go in knowing that it’s not for the faint of heart, okay?

Talk to me Bookworms! Who has seen this movie? Read the book? Was anyone else traumatized by it?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 16

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Classics, Coming of Age 13

Howdy Bookworms!

You know those lists? The ones that float around on the internet that tell you which books you ought to have read already and how you suck at life for not meeting an arbitrary milestone? Perhaps you just kind of ignore the smug implications of such lists. I wish I could. List bullies. Anyway. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one of the books that often pops up on said lists, and I finally got around to reading it. Finally. It sat on my Kindle unread for like 2 years. Oops.

icapturethecastleI Capture the Castle is written from the perspective of a 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. In 1934, she and her family have fallen on hard times. Her father, once a respected novelist, has the world’s worst writer’s block and as a result, the family is destitute. Ironically, they reside in an actual castle in the English countryside. It’s a dilapidated, leaky affair, but it’s got a moat! Broke, but not without eccentricities, the Mortmain clan’s adventures are recorded in Cassandra’s journals.

I fully expected to love this book. I mean, come on. A ruined castle with a moat full of quirky Brits and a dog named Heloise? You can understand where I’d be under that impression. Unfortunately, I had some issues with it. More specifically, I had some issues with the female characters. Just… Hear me out. (This is probably kind of spoilery, so read at your own risk.)

First, Topaz. She’s married to Cassandra’s father and models for artists. She’s a pretty great character, all artsy and glamorous even while half-starving in those crumbling walls. The problem? She has bounced from starving artist to starving artist seeing herself as a muse of sorts… And she FULLY EXPECTS TO BE ABUSED. Physically, emotionally, whatever. She just assumes it’s part of the deal. Because artsy types can’t help it?! Mortmain isn’t a monster or anything, but she’s almost disappointed by his lack of vitriolic mood swings. Unhealthy, yo.

Second on the list is Cassandra’s beautiful sister, Rose. Girl’s a gold digger, hardcore. Unfortunately, she’d expected by society and her family to marry for love and nothing more. Love is all well and good when you’re not literally starving in a moldering castle. It’s not like she had a whole heck of a lot of options. Frivilous and flighty, I didn’t much care for Rose, but I couldn’t fault her for making a cash grab. Homegirl’s gotta eat.

Finally. Cassandra. I know you’re 17. But come on. Let’s talk about poor romantic decisions, shall we? Who should one get hung up on? The fellow who is completely unavailable for very good reasons, OR the extraordinarily handsome fellow whose kind generosity in the face of poverty is equaled only by his adoration of you? WTF, Cassandra? Get a grip girl. And make it a grip on Stephen. Swoon.

Good news and bad news, I guess. I can now check another box off on my next judgmental internet quiz, but I didn’t love it. Ah well. Not every book works for everyone. Talk to me Bookworms. How many of you have read I Capture the CastleDid you love it? Hate it? Or are you with me in Ambivalent-ville?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’m considering installing a moat in my yard, so, you could help me live the dream.*

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Jun 16

How The Grapes of Wrath Made Me Crazy Grateful

Classics 14

Salutations Bookworms,

Today’s post is 15 years in the making. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher allowed everyone in the class to choose between three different books as our final read for the year. The options were The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (which is obviously what I chose, because teen angst), A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I remember listening to the class discussions of the two books I didn’t choose and thinking I needed to get my mits on The Grapes of Wrath. I bought myself a copy that summer and I started it but got distracted. At some point after (or during?) college, I decided the time had come. Of course, by then, I couldn’t find my dang book. To this day I can’t locate it, which is a bummer because it was lovely and had deckle edges. Sigh. Fast forward an upsetting number of years and enter Scribd. Guess what book popped up in my audio book queue?! That’s right! The Grapes of Wrath, y’all!

thegrapesofwrathI’ve got to hand it to audio. Heavily accented language is just better this way. Plus there were harmonica breaks. HARMONICA. I always have a hard time reviewing classics because there are so many people who are so much smarter than me who have said all the brilliant things there are to say on the subject. Instead of writing a review, I thought I’d list some of the things I’m going to try harder to be thankful for after reading about the plight of the Joad family.

1. My house is in no danger of being deliberately pushed off its foundation by a tractor.

2. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me on a road trip is bad traffic.

3. Fried dough is a treat at the fair, not my only form of sustenance.

4. I have always had access to indoor plumbing.

5. None of my employers have ever cut my wages in half.

6. I will never have to give birth in an abandoned box car.

7. I’ve never had to go hungry.

8. I’ve never had to go hungry while good food was destroyed in pursuit of profit.

9. I’ve never had someone actively prevent me from growing my own food on unused land in an effort to keep from starving.

10. Seriously,  you guys, if I’m hungry it’s probably because I’m on a diet because I have access to all the food and I don’t want to buy new pants. Pants I can totally afford because I get paid more than 25 cents an hour.

The Grapes of Wrath is a classic for a reason and it hit me like a punch in the gut. If you ever need inspiration to count your blessings, put yourself in the Joad Family’s shoes for a spell. I mean shoes metaphorically, of course, because the Joads probably couldn’t afford shoes.  This book, you guys. I can’t even.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What is the book that has made you the most grateful for what you’ve got?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. If you don’t make a purchase through a link on this site, don’t sweat it. I’m not going to starve to death without your patronage.*

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Jul 01

That’s Classic! (A Top Ten Tuesday List)

Classics, Top Ten Tuesday 38

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

It’s time to get listy with it, and the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have provided me with a topic near and dear to my heart… Classic books that rock! I haven’t been in a super classics-y mood of late, but there are a good many that I have loved. Ready or not, here they come!

TTTclassics

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (review)– Charlotte, you’re the only Brontë for me! I probably shouldn’t say that, as I haven’t read any of Anne’s work, but Wuthering Heights (review) was not my favorite (sorrynotsorry, EMILY.) I seriously doubt anything could live up to my adoration of Jane Eyre.

2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo– I know a LOT of people do not enjoy this book. Frankly, I’m shocked that I liked it as much as I did. It may just have been the timing or the fact that I had the musical playing on repeat in my head the whole time (or the fun of pointing out inconsistencies from the book to the musical… That helped, being an insufferable know-it-all.) Given its sheer enormity I’m not sure it’s one I’d tackle again any time soon, but I really did like it!

3. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy- Oh Tess! This book, you guys. Tess had such a rough go of it, the poor girl. The quintessential victim of circumstance, our Tess.

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4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott-The March girls have had my heart since I was 11 years old. I still don’t know what a pickled lime is, and I’m curious… Does anybody know where I may procure pickled limes?

5. Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen- Northanger Abbey (review) runs a very close second place in the contest of my favorite Austen, but Pride and Prejudice wins out because it’s one of the books I was assigned to read in high school that I actually lurved. Nobody really expects to enjoy their homework, it felt like my dirty little secret. It was so soapy, and that Lydia! Scandalous.

6. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain- (which I intentionally list below Jane Austen because Twain was a notorious Austen hater, and I like to think I’m needling his ghost by doing so.) This was assigned reading my junior year of high school and I loved it. I was particularly drawn in by the segment about the family feud.

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (review)- Mmmm I love a good dystopia. I won’t claim there aren’t days I wouldn’t love to have access to some SOMA, but I am pretty pleased not to be subject to government mandated orgies…

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8. 1984 by George Orwell- Yep, two dystopias in a one list. Don’t judge me, yo!

9. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald- Another school assignment that turned out well! I find it a little disconcerting that at the age of 31 I have a desperate hankering for a BFF necklace. Thanks a lot, Modcloth. (It’s HERE, you know you want to look.)

10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (review)- Francie Nolan, oh, how I love thee! I don’t know how I made it so many years before finally reading this book, but I’m SO GLAD that I did! I know I’d read excerpts from this book in school (the Christmas tree throwing incident, anyone?), but I didn’t appreciate the wonderfulness of the book until I read the whole thing. READ IT!!!

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Bookworms, how many of you get down with the classics? What are some of your favorites?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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May 30

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: The Fellowship of the Worms goes Classic

Book Club, Classics 30

Cheerio, Bookworms! smarty-mcwordypants-199x300

It’s that time again. The Fellowship of the Worms is now in session! This month’s selection was Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of Northanger Abbey and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, on your own blog. A linky list will be provided at the end of this post for anybody who has reviewed Northanger Abbey on their own blog, even if it has nothing to do with the following discussion questions. Don’t be shy, please link up!

1. When tackling a classic, there’s always a bit of difficulty (at least for me) adapting to the language. Did any of you struggle with Ms. Austen’s flowery and polite prose?  I didn’t actually READ this novel, I listened to an audio version on a road trip. I think that was a wise choice, because the narrator was fantastic. There were a few points where I thought to myself, “Dang. The inflection helps a ton. I probably would have fallen asleep trying to read that sentence.” (I should mention I do most of my reading before bed… Though I will admit that classics tend to conk me out much faster than contemporary works.) I especially enjoyed the narrator’s inflection and found myself laughing aloud more than I would have expected… And yelling, actually. Because JOHN THORPE.

 2. And since it wouldn’t be the Fellowship of the Worms if I didn’t insight violence, how much did you want to northangerabbeypunch John Thorpe? I was so thoroughly irritated with John Thorpe I can’t even tell you. I wanted to punch him SO SO SO much! Acting like he owned Catherine, cancelling plans on her behalf, being a money-grubbing jerk weasel. Ugh. Horrible. And always hating on novels and talking about his stupid horses. Because, you know. His horses are better than your horses. His carriage is better too. Oh, and did he mention his horses?

3. The prevailing opinion of the time by the presumed literary elite was that novels were silly and not worth reading. Does this attitude surprise you at all? It really does surprise me that novels used to be considered inferior reading. I mean, I know a few non-fiction snobs who refuse to read fiction, but they’re few and far between. Most people I meet who prefer non-fiction aren’t jerks about it. Of course, book snobbery is TOTALLY still a thing. There are the highbrow literary fiction folks who turn a stink eye toward YA and Romance (and I have to admit I occasionally fall into the snobby category. I’m working on it, though.) so I suppose things haven’t really changed all THAT much, except that now SOME novels are considered worthy.

4. Money, money, money. Was anybody else appalled by the fact that these people were SOOOO fixated on money? I saw Isabella’s true colors a mile away. I mean, her brother was obviously a gold digger  from the first, but General Tilney surprised me. I mean, he CAST CATHERINE OUT. How unimaginably rude! And all because her fortune wasn’t what the wicked Thorpe had initially rumored and THEN denied? Seriously. Catherine was a catch. A bit of a ninny, maybe, but I suppose that was rather prized at the time. I know class snobbery certainly hasn’t disappeared, but I’d like to think people are better about it now… Maybe I should meet some rich people and test the theory. Wait! Is this why I don’t know rich people?! Now I’m giving myself a complex…

5. Ah Catherine and her runaway imagination. In what ways did you find Northanger Abbey parodied gothic novels? Anybody have an inclination to check out the The Mysteries of Udolpho? Catherine’s expectations upon arriving at Northanger Abbey cracked me up. She was like “Where are the secret passageways? We need more ghosts here!” It was like she expected foreboding musical accompaniment in her explorations. DUN DUN DUN! I was terribly amused by her assessment of General Tilney. Though it was proven false that he murdered his wife, he clearly was a bit of a turd. Just not a murderous turd. Part of me wants to read The Mysteries of Udolpho just so I can say that I did, but who am I kidding? The odds are incredibly slim.

Alright Bookworms, it’s your turn! What did you think of Northanger AbbeyPlease link up below if you’ve written a review of Northanger Abbey somewhere on the interwebz or if you’ve chosen to answer The Fellowship questions! Don’t be shy, y’all!

[inlinkz_linkup id=407325]

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Jan 14

Wilkie in Winter: Woman in White Kickoff

Classics 25

Brrrrrrrr Bookworms,

Is anybody else tired of winter yet? I sure as heck am, but luckily, I have some reading challenges going on to keep my mind off of things. I enjoy reading classics. They make me feel like I’m filling in gaps left by my education. Now that I’ve been blogging a while, though, I find that classics take me longer to read and digest than contemporary reads, especially when they’re both classic AND ginormous. Sometimes I need a little motivation, you know? I’ve decided to join in with The Estella Society and Fig and Thistle in their readalong of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

wilkieinwinter-1024x1024 (1)

This sumbitch has been sitting on my kindle forever (it’s one of the freebie downloads you can get because it’s old school) but I haven’t gotten around to reading it. It weighs in (at least according to my kindle) at 658 pages. It’s been taunting me because everybody raves about how great it is, but I continue to be a lazy-saurus-rex and avoid it. Seriously you guys, this challenge has already made me smarter. Before I saw the graphic for Wilkie in Winter, I TOTALLY thought “Wilkie” was a lady name. Seeing the hirsute gentleman in the photo there set me straight. What other misconceptions could I be having?! This is why I need to read ALL THE BOOKS.

Have any of you read The Woman in White? Have you words of encouragement?  

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Oct 17

I Vant to Suck Your Blooood! (Dracula by Bram Stoker)

Classics, Frightening, Vampires 45

Greetings, Bookworms!

That’s right kids. In honor of my Halloweenie reading binge I finally got around to Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’ve had this book waiting around on my Kindle since I got a Kindle… 3 years ago. It was the very first book I downloaded, and it’s just been sitting there gathering digital dust while I read a zillion other things. I am proud to say that I conquered the grand-daddy of all vampire lore!

dracula

Dracula is written in an epistolary format, meaning that it is composed completely of letters, journal entries, and newspaper clippings. (I don’t mean to insult anyone’s intelligence by defining “epistolary format,” but since I had to look it up for myself a while back, I figured I’d be nice and throw y’all a bone. Nobody likes to have to google things!)

Our hero Jonathan is sent on a business trip to Transylvania in order to instruct a wealthy gentleman (Count Dracula) on how to go about purchasing property in England. Unfortunately for Jonathan, the Count hadn’t planned on allowing his guest to leave the castle in possession of his vital fluids. Nevertheless, Jonathan manages to escape while his love Mina makes the trip to help him recover from his ordeal in a foreign hospital.

While Mina is away, her BFF Lucy has some wild times. At the age of 19, Lucy receives three marriage proposals in a single day. (Weird social convention alert: it used to be normal to propose to acquaintances on the regular, and 19 was “old” to have never received an offer of marriage. According to Lucy, at least.) Anywho, she has these three suitors, but only one of them sets her heart aflame. She lets the other two down gently enough that they’re still pretty devoted to her… Her fellows are in close proximity when Lucy comes down with a mysterious ailment. One of the suitors she spurned happened to be a doctor, so he recruits his former professor Dr. Van Helsing to come and treat Lucy.

After some sleepwalking and nightmares and the usual dastardly vampirey tricks, Lucy is in pretty dire straits. Events occur… Garlic, crucifixes, holy water… You know. The usual. Of course, it wasn’t the usual before this book was released. I had to keep reminding myself of how groundbreaking this novel was because this is the SOURCE of the lore. It’s all become so mainstream that it’s easy to forget how inventive Stoker was.

I was pleasantly surprised with the beginning of the book- I had expected it to be drier, but I had no trouble following it. I enjoyed the use

Some might argue Dracula is tragically misunderstood... (Image Source)

Some might argue Dracula is simply misunderstood… (Image Source)

of journal entries and letters in advancing the narrative. I loved the psychic connection Dracula was able to have with his victims, but toward the end, I found things dragging a bit. Mina spent an awful lot of time under hypnosis telling Van Helsing that all her Dracula brain could interpret was darkness and the sound of waves. I’m sure Stoker was trying to build the tension by giving the characters so much time to travel, worry, and be frightened before their final showdown with the Count, but for me? It didn’t build tension, just my desire to sleep. Don’t worry though, I muddled through. I don’t want to spoil things, but I put the proverbial nail in the coffin of this book. (I’m sorry, but I cannot stop myself from making terrible jokes. There’s a chance my mind is being controlled by the vampire formerly known as Dave Coulier.)

I always love when I get add a classic to the list of books I’ve read. I was pleased with Dracula on the whole, and found it a perfect edition to my Halloweenie reading list. What about you, bookworms? Have any of you read Dracula? Did you feel like you’d already heard it all before since the lore has become ubiquitous, or were you able to focus on Stoker’s ingenuity?

 

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Oct 15

Required Reading That Wasn't a Chore: Top Ten Tuesday Edition

Classics, Top Ten Tuesday 72

Hey Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday and I’m about to get my list on. The lovely ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have come up with a wonderful topic this week. We’re discussing the top ten books we were forced to read. My take on this? I’m dishing up some books I read in school that I actually LIKED. I KNOW! Crazy right? Are you ready to have your minds blown?

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In High School…

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain- The curriculum at my high school focused our Junior year on American literature. After starting off the year slowly and writing a lot of papers on symbolism of books I didn’t enjoy (cough cough, Moby DickThe  Scarlet Letter… cough) we were assigned good old Huck Finn. Up to this point I hadn’t really expected to enjoy any of my assigned reading. Mark Twain seemed to be the cure for that attitude. Weirdly, of all the amazing stuff that goes on in this book, the vignette that had me most enthralled was when Huck and Jim had to deal with the feuding families, Hatfield and McCoy style. (Apparently I’m a sucker for a blood feud, because freshman year I totally loved Romeo and Juliet. Of course, the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes movie had come out the year before, so I’ve never trusted that my adoration of the book wasn’t based in part on the movie. Seriously though. That movie’s Mercutio? I love that guy.)

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- We were assigned to read Pride and Prejudice in the spring of my senior year, senior year having been devoted to British literature. Apparently we ignored all other English speaking countries’ literary canons (sorry Canada, Australia, etc… I found you eventually, don’t you worry!) I was not expecting to enjoy this book either, because I was 17 and content to dislike everything in the whole wide world. After struggling a bit to acclimate to the language I realized Pride and Prejudice was every bit as soapy and scandalous as the dramas I liked watching on TV. That Lydia. Whew. If that girl lived now, she’d so be on reality TV.

I hadn't even seen this face yet! (Image Source)

I hadn’t even seen this face yet! (Image Source)

3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck– We read this one junior year, right after we finished the dreaded Moby Dick. The whole class liked it much better, likely due in large part to the relative modernity of the piece. Unfortunately someone vocalized that it was better because it was shorter, causing my English teacher to leave Great Illustrated Classics versions of Moby Dick on our desks the next day. It was kind of a dick move, but he was retiring that year and was probably sick of his students hating on Moby Dick. It was probably his favorite book or something. I don’t know. Of Mice and Men was awesome on its own merits though. Who didn’t cry when George told Lennie to think about the bunnies?!

4. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde- Back to Brit Lit for a moment. The spring of my senior year was such a treat. I am pretty sure my teacher that year intentionally saved the fun stuff for last because she knew we’d be taking the AP exam and wanted to be nice. We actually read this play aloud as a class. I’d never laughed so hard in school. I tried to avoid reading any lines (which is pretty weird of me, considering I was totally the lead in the Fall Play that year… Being a crappy actress apparently doesn’t mean much in a high school environment?) The premise is just SO ridiculous and cheeky and utterly charming that one can’t help but fall for it. Oh that Bunbury…

5. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald– A junior year classic. I can’t describe to you how thrilling it was to read book after assigned book that wasn’t a complete chore! Gatsby was, of course, enthralling. Daisy and her moneyed voice, Gatsby and his hopeless obsession, the booze, the drama, the TWENTIES! What more could a high school kid want to read about?!

I still haven't seen this movie, but I'll take a glass of champagne. Thanks, Leo. (Image Source)

I still haven’t seen this movie, but I’ll take a glass of champagne. Thanks, Leo. (Image Source)

In College…

A little preface here. When I got to college I majored in Communications. I KNOW. But I was 18 and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Still don’t. Anywho, I decided to fill up my electives with classes that I knew would assign novels as “homework.” It was a crafty way of boosting my GPA and getting to do stuff I liked to do anyway. Plus it got me a double minor. Women’s Studies and History. Boom. 

6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- I don’t know if it’s possible to rave ENOUGH about The Handmaid’s Tale, but dang it if I won’t try. I’ve talked about it on this blog endlessly, but if you haven’t read it yet, for reals. Why the heck not?! This was assigned in the first Women in Literature class I took and I fell HARD for the Atwood.

7. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich– We read this in one of my Women’s Studies classes. I don’t read much in the way of non fiction, but this book was so amazing. It focused on traditional women’s jobs- particularly those on the low end of the pay scale- to see just how hard it would be to get by in that situation. Barbara Ehrenreich went undercover and got jobs at Walmart, waitressing, and working with a maid service. Her descriptions of the working conditions and the pay are enough to get any feminist’s hackles up. A fantastic read, I highly recommend it!

nickel and dimed

8. Sula by Toni Morrison– This was the first Morrison I ever read. Talk about intense! The depth of the friendship between the female characters… The betrayals… Sula and her sultry ways shattering gender norms. It’s not a light read (though for Morrison, it’s not bad) but it’s a great introduction to an amazing writer.

9. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan– Thanks to another Women in Literature class, I got hooked on books about China. This addiction began with The Kitchen God’s Wife. Oh Amy Tan! This woman can make foods I’d never ever try sound delectable. The heartwrenching way she describes the plight of Chinese women! Oh yeah. And that Chinese-Japanese war? Me and my Western focused education totally didn’t even know that happened.

10. Summer by Edith Wharton– Why yes, this was more assigned reading for a Women in Literature class. Don’t judge. I was gaming the system and my profs had impeccable taste! Summer was my first taste of a classic novel with a really juicy scandal (that wasn’t all destroyed by my having to write essays on the symbolism of red rose bushes… Still looking at you, Scarlet Letter…It made me realize just how “royally” (pun completely intended) screwed an unmarried pregnant women was not too long ago… First I got all mad at that jerk Harney. Then I got all creeped out by Mr. Royall… Then I realized that Mr. Royall was trying to save Charity and wasn’t just going to jump her bones… And then all was well… Ish. I mean, as well as it could be under the circumstances.

What about you, Bookworms? What are your favorite books that were assigned reading? What surprised you with its awesomeness? Tell me about it!

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Sep 24

Banned Books Week 2013: Top Ten Tuesday Goes Rogue!

Banned Books, Classics, Coming of Age, Dystopian, Memoirs, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 49

Howdy Bookworms!

Today is Tuesday and you know how much I love lists. I normally link up with the fantastic ladies at The Broke and the Bookish and participate in their weekly topics, but this week I’m going rogue. In honor of Banned Books Week, I’ve decided to forgo The Broke and Bookish topic this week (although they’re talking about sequels, so I encourage you to take a trip over there and check it out!) Instead, I’m going to continue my celebration of Banned Books Week and list some of my favorite banned books! Ready?!

toptentuesday

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This book has been challenged for its realistic depictions of slavery and the South during the Civil War. There are absolutely elements in this book I can see making people uncomfortable- the attitudes of the characters toward black people are ugly to say the least. HOWEVER, I think it’s important to preserve that history. Understanding how such a hideous institution could have ever been considered acceptable is critical to keeping it from happening again. Sweeping an embarrassing past under the rug doesn’t do anything for anyone. PLUS, this book tells an amazing story. It would be tragic to lose that!

2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Ironic much? The book about the dangers of burning books is banned? Apparently at some point a school in California took offense with the language and issued a version to their students with all the “hells” and “damns” blocked out. Because, really?

3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book is often challenged for a myriad of reasons. Profanity, race depiction, and homosexuality only scratch the surface. Whatever, Book Banners. The Color Purple is all kinds of awesome whether you like it or not!

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It's not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you're just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

The color purple is totally a metaphor. It’s not like they talk about purple stuff all the time. So, if you’re just like a purple enthusiast? This might disappoint you.

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The objections to Brave New World are fairly predictable. I mean, okay, so there might be rampant drug usage, casual sex, and the occasional orgy. The thing is, none of those activities are made to sound appealing in the slightest. It’s the ultimate cautionary tale. It’s the stuff dystopian nightmares are made of.

5. Forever by Judy Blume. Oh Judy Blume. How do I love thee? I’ve written before about my unabashed adoration for Are You There God? It’s Me Margaretbut Forever has had it’s share of challenges, too. It’s not surprising, really, this book is about teenagers who have S-E-X. Facts are facts, though. The average person loses his or her virginity at 17. It’s not realistic to pretend that teens in all their hormone riddled glory are all going to remain abstinent. It’s also silly to assume that every kid who reads this sort of book is going to go out and find someone to get naked with. What I love about Forever is that it’s a very realistic story of first love. They talk about the scary stuff- STDs, birth control, emotional investment. It also depicts heartbreak. Honestly, I think this book is more likely to talk teens OUT of having sex than it is to talk them INTO it. 

forever

6. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. On the off chance you didn’t read my rant on the subject yesterday, please go have a look. Click here!

7. The Giver by Lois Lowry. Seriously, what is there to object to in this one? For heaven’s sake, they all take pills so there’s no sex, no sexual desires, no random make-out sessions- nada. It’s set in a dystopian society in which things are so tightly controlled that even color is forbidden. It’s like Pleasantville. It’s a fabulous book (better than all its sequels) and its a great challenging read for the middle school set.

8. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Yes, yes. Sexual assault, casual profanity, alcoholism. I know. But really, it’s all about overcoming adversity. It has the added benefit of convincing teenagers that they don’t have it so bad. This realization may be fleeting and replaced quickly by more pressing teenage concerns, but learning to think about things from someone else’s perspective is a part of growing up. If a book can help with that? Heck yes, kids should be reading it!

glass castle

9. 1984 by George Orwell. Whaaat? A totalitarian dystopian society raising a ruckus? Why that’s unheard of! Kidding, of course. This book touches on issues of privacy, censorship, sexual repression… It’s sort of the opposite of Brave New World, but terrifying in its own way. I can see why it might freak people out, but censoring a book about censorship? Bad form!

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck and Jim’s trick down the mighty Mississippi has landed on the banned books list a time or three. Critics cite racist overtones and language as their major objections. Language complaints cause would-be readers to miss out on one of the greatest classics in American literature, and that would be a travesty. Long live Huck Finn!

Have any of your favorites ended up on a banned list? Any of your beloved tomes being challenged? Tell me about it, Bookworms. Let’s get our rebellion on!

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