Love YA? Try These Classic Alternatives to Your Favorite Novels

Happy Friday everyone!

My week off has flown by, and tomorrow I travel to NYC for one of the biggest tradeshows in the software industry. I’ll be much too busy with work to blog, so to leave you on a high note until I get back in October, I’ve created another vlog!

In this video, I take a look at a few insanely popular YA novels and recommend some classic alternatives. Given that the vast majority of book bloggers focus primarily on young-adult fiction, I wanted to encourage them to read outside their comfort zone.

Many readers may think that the Western canon is full of boring tales written by dead white people, and although I can’t deny its lack of diversity, I can speak for its merit. There are tons of reasons why we read these literary classics in school: the themes are timeless and the writing is superb.

If you’re a huge fan of YA like I am, then I highly recommend that you challenge yourself with these older novels. Sure, you might have to look up a tough piece of vocabulary or review the SparkNotes to get a better understanding, but it doesn’t hurt to exercise your brain every now and then! In fact, I believe that you’ll appreciate your reading experience more when you do.

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The Latest in Literary News!

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I’ve been busy lately. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that I’m going through a stressful transition, so apologies for missing blog opportunities like Top Ten Tuesday!

I’m currently reading Sisterhood Everlasting, the 2011 sequel to the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. In the meantime before I post my review, I thought that I would pop in to share some tidbits of literary news that I’ve come across:

Image via Amazon

1.    Mindy Kaling’s second memoir Why Not Me? will be published on September 29, and is currently available for pre-order. I loved listening to the audiobook of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? so I’m sure that I’ll scoop this book up as well. It’s unfortunate that her show, “The Mindy Project,” was recently canceled, because I believe that Kaling is an under-appreciated comedic voice. She seems like such a sweet person, and I wish her success with her upcoming book!

Image via Rotten Tomatoes

2.     Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd” was released in limited theaters on May 1. Although I was not a fan of Thomas Hardy’s poetry or writing of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, this looks like a beautiful film. I can’t resist period dramas, especially those that star the exquisite Carey Mulligan. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 83%, so perhaps I should give Hardy another shot before seeing this adaptation!

Image via Monkeys Fighting Robots

3.     Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic Brave New World is coming to the small screen with a TV series on Syfy. The network is collaborating with Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Television. No word yet on its release, but the bar will be set awfully high for one of my favorite books of all time.

Are you as excited as I am about these three new and upcoming releases? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Top Ten All-Time Favorite Books Since I Started Blogging

Image hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I created Book Club Babe in July 2011, and it’s crazy to think that three and a half years have flown by since then. Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, the oh-so-fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, has bloggers discussing their all-time favorite books in the past three years, and I thought to extend that timeframe a bit longer to celebrate all of the amazing stories that I have read since I started blogging.

Divided into their respective categories, here are my all-time favorite books since founding Book Club Babe!

  

Comedy

  1. Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011)
  2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014)
  3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (2014)

 

Young Adult

  1. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman (2011)
  2. Every Day by David Levithan (2013)

 

Historical Fiction

  1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2011)
  2. The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (2012)

  

Classics

  1. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1921)
  2. 1984 by George Orwell (1949)
  3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

To explain today’s post, I have to use my fellow book blogger Wanton Creation’s intro, since he put it so perfectly:

“Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke And The Bookish. I haven’t participated in these before, but today’s one looked quite fun so I figured why not?”

Why not indeed? Let’s get started!

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

  1. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman
  3. Demian – Hermann Hesse
  4. 1984 – George Orwell
  5. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  6. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. The Stranger – Albert Camus
  9. Fight Club –  Chuck Palahniuk
  10. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Reviewing this list, I realized some things. As much as I love The Lord of the Rings, I find that I do not recommend it often, since it’s truly an acquired taste that unless you’re giddy for fantasy, you won’t stomach well.

I also noticed how much I enjoy pushing classic dystopian and existential literature (also known as books to piss you off and shake things up!) onto those who have jumped onto The Hunger Games bandwagon. Orwell, Huxley, and Bradbury are my Holy Trinity of oppressive governments!

Lastly, Never Let Me Go will continue to be my top recommendation, for these reasons:

  • It’s a perfect blend of romance, tragedy, science fiction, and other genres–thus, appealing to a wide audience.
  • I can’t say much without giving away the plot, so the mystery gets people intrigued.
  • Ishiguro is a literary genius, and I would recommend anything he writes. 
  • It’s just what the world needs, given the over-saturation of Stephenie Meyer, E.L. James, and Nicholas Sparks. ESPECIALLY Nicholas Sparks. In fact, my loathing of him deserves its own blog post in the near future. So be on the look-out!

I would have included some ancient Greek and Shakespearean plays, but I don’t consider them “books,” so do a bit of searching, and I’m sure you’ll find some great choices.

So what would your top recommendations be? Would you veto any of mine? Sound off in the comments!

Dance like Big Brother’s Not Watching You: A Tribute to Dystopian Novels

I’m currently at a conference predominately catered toward analysts and engineers in the government sphere, which has got me thinking about some great novels about what can happen when governments grow too corrupt, using technology for devious purposes. This dystopian theme has garnered more popularity in the past few years, thanks to the rise of young adult thrillers like The Hunger Games, so I thought I would share some tidbits about the novels that make you want to wear an aluminum hat.

The Classics

1984 by George Orwell (1949): The king of dystopia, Orwell paints the bleak picture of a totalitarian state that not only watches your every move, but also sabotages your mind with double-think. The intensity of this story quickly made it one of my favorites of all time!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932): This is an excellent portrayal of genetic engineering gone totally wrong, complete with drug-induced complacency. Read with caution, as it also contains more disturbing themes than the other two classics.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1950): A haunting commentary of society’s attention-deficiency and willingness to sacrifice literature and civil rights for mind-numbing entertainment. Its brevity proves that good things can come in small packages.

The Genre Re-Definers

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985): One of the most well-renowned feminist writers, Atwood illustrates an alternate dystopia where the feminist movement of the 1970s backfired, creating a twisted world where women are reproductive slaves. Given current politics in America, this story’s just as relevant almost 30 years later.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005): I’m hesitant to label this novel as science-fiction, or even describe its main premise for fear of spoiling the reading experience, but I will say that never have I seen an author blur the lines between genres as Ishiguro. A heartbreaking tale that transcends past, present, and future.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (1988): I don’t normally include graphic novels, but this one epitomizes dystopia to the max. Based on the history of Guy Fawkes’ Day, it depicts the ultimate narrative of revolution. The V mask is a must-have for anarchists everywhere.

The Newcomers

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008): After flipping channels between reality TV and war footage, Collins wrote the bestselling trilogy of the ancient Greek-esque punishment for rebellion. Arguably too brutal for children, but it’s an apt critique of society’s desensitization of violence.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005): One of my favorite YA series, it demonstrates how our obsession with beauty and perfection often hides uglier interiors. Add an element of romance, and you’ve got the next silver screen contender.

Matched by Ally Condie (2010): Again, what’s a YA trilogy without a love triangle? Lit nerds will love its influence from poetry, and Twihards suffering withdrawals will soon have new boys to swoon over when Disney brings the adaptation to a theater near you.

So there you have it! My recommendations for those wanting to dive into dystopia! What other novels would you add to the list?

A Dystopian Timeline

I ran across this awesome infographic on Goodreads and wanted to share it with you. It shows the various trends and popularity in dystopian literature from the Great Depression to today. While I personally feel that romance has weakened the power of the genre, I will support any book like The Hunger Games that can get people interested in classics like 1984 or Brave New World. In fact, if a student of mine is a fan of Katniss and Peeta, I immediately steer her in the direction of Bernard and Lenina.

Teachers should use young adult fiction as an opportunity to broaden teens’ reading habits. Love Twilight? Read Wuthering Heights. Obsessed with Percy Jackson? Try Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I admit that I can be a literary elitist at times, and these teaching moments will not only encourage kids to keep reading, it will get them to read better books, in my opinion. You shouldn’t talk about Harry Potter on the SAT essay, but why not discuss witchcraft in Macbeth?

Anyway, what are your thoughts of this dystopian uprising? How do you think the genre will change in the decades to come? Let me know!

Image via Goodreads

Philip Pullman Fights For Libraries

Philip Pullman signing a copy of Lyra's Oxford...

Philip Pullman signing a copy of Lyra’s Oxford…Image via Wikipedia

The Telegraph today discussed the fight to save the Kensal Rise Library in north-west London. If the High Court chooses to save it, Philip Pullman, author of my favorite series of all time–the His Dark Materials trilogy,will visit the library tonight and hold a fund-raiser. He’ll also read from his latest bestseller, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Pullman stated:

Closing libraries is the behaviour of a debased culture. Libraries are not just a source of books. Many of us feel that they symbolise something more, that Britain is a civilised place. And when part of our civilisation is being destroyed, we have to stand up against the barbarians.

Libraries have been at risk of being closed in every country faced with budget cuts. Although I normally buy my books due to the lack of selection at my local libraries, whenever I’m looking for something new to read, I try to find it at the library first. This summer I borrowed Brave New World and The Age of Innocence, and now I would love to add them to my own book collection by purchasing them.

However, I know that many people don’t have the means to buy books, movies, or their own internet connection, and libraries are the perfect outlet for those in need. The digital divide has widened the rich-poor gap, and we need libraries to combat this issue. I donate the books I don’t read anymore to libraries, so someone else might have the opportunity to read them too.

To show you how important libraries are, the book I’m currently reading–The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins–was on the library wait-list over 100 people long! I decided to purchase the trilogy and give up my spot on the wait-list, so another person who might need it more could read it for free.

I’ve always loved Pullman’s passion and honesty, and I applaud his actions to save British libraries. I hope American authors will do the same here!