Belated Book-Related News

Another week has gone by, and now it’s finally starting to feel like fall here in California. I know that I’m spoiled living in the Golden State, so I won’t complain too much, but I always get so upset when I have to put away the shorts and bring out the sweaters.

Autumn and I don’t get along very well. Even though it doesn’t snow where I live, I absolutely loathe being cold. Especially when I have to get out of my cozy, warm bed! I hate layering clothes, dealing with dry skin, and smelling or tasting anything pumpkin-flavored.

You can keep your stupid lattes, Starbucks!

Thus, I’m trying to remind myself of what I do enjoy about this time of year: drinking hot cocoa, dressing up for Halloween parties, eating so much delicious food at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and having extra time to spend with family and friends during the holidays.

That, and awesome movies based on books! We’ve got tons to choose from, so here’s a list to remind you:

  • Romeo and Juliet, Oct. 11 – Ed Westwick as Tybalt? I am so there!
  • Kill Your Darlings, Oct. 18 – Daniel Radcliffe plays Beat poet Allen Ginsberg–yet another British actor who pulls off an American accent!
  • Ender’s Game, Nov. 1 – Despite all the controversy surrounding author Orson Scott Card’s homophobia, I hope this movie is just as great as the book.
  • The Book Thief, Nov. 8 – Didn’t read this bestseller, but so many readers are looking forward to seeing this WWII tale on screen.
  • Great Expectations, Nov. 8 – If anyone could get me to enjoy this story, it’s Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Nov. 22 –  You already know about how I feel about the end of this trilogy, and now we’re just one movie closer to it. Sigh.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,  Dec.13 – People may wonder why another trilogy was warranted for this book, but I’m just ecstatic for even more time in Middle Earth!

What else is going on this fall? Well, by now you’ve probably heard that Canadian short story writer Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature! As an 82-year-old who was first published at 37, she’s an inspiration to writers everywhere!

And I’d say she’s lived a pretty full life so far! Congrats!

I would love to read more of her work in the future (Alison over at Hardcovers and Heroines found a great list of short stories of Munro’s which you can read for free!), and I highly recommend “How I Met My Husband,” which is part of her collection Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You.

And speaking of reading (which is pretty much all I speak of on this blog!), The Huffington Post conducted a survey of 1,000 American adults and found that 41% had not read a single book of fiction this past year! How utterly sad!

To combat this, HuffPo released a list yesterday of some of the benefits of reading: it decreases stress, keeps your brain sharp, helps you sleep, and eases depression! Good, because it looks like I need to read to overcome my depression after reading those poll results!

I’m currently 100 pages into my 14th book of the year, Awaken by Meg Cabot, so be on the lookout for my review in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens!

Even Google honored Dickens’ b-day!

Today is the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’ birth (lived 1812-1870), so I thought I’d offer my opinion of the man synonymous with Victorian literature. But first, some random facts I learned about him via his Wikipedia page:

  • He was the second of eight children, and then had ten children with his wife Catherine.
  • He had a near photographic memory.
  • He was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash of 1865, in which the first seven train carriages fell off a broken bridge. Dickens was in the last first-class carriage, and his experiences helping the wounded left him traumatized.
  • Five years to the day of that accident, Dickens died. His last words were allegedly, “Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”
  • He stated in his will to not erect any monuments for him, but a life-size bronze statue can be found in Philadelphia.

Now I have a love/hate relationship with Dickens’ work. I think that A Christmas Carol is so overrated that I refuse to read it. I also loathe Great Expectations with a bloody passion after my freshman “English teacher”/debate coach completely ruined the novel with ridiculous assignments. However, I read Hard Times, and although it was pretty dull, I appreciate it as a honest look into the Industrial Revolution.

And, of course, my favorite novel of his will always be A Tale of Two Cities. It probably has one of the best first lines in literature:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

I’ll write a full review of A Tale of Two Cities for the next Masterpiece Monday, but it’s an exquisite story of love and turmoil during the French Revolution. Yes, due to serially writing his installments, Dickens is known for rambling about very little for a very, very long time, but I would say that the last five chapters of A Tale of Two Cities was one of the most rewarding reading experiences–so worth the struggle to get that far.

The Washington Post put it aptly: “We live in the age of TLDR — “Too long, didn’t read [but] When Victorian readers slummed it and put down their Seneca and Marcus Aurelius and whatever else it was they were expected to be reading, they picked up Charles Dickens in the grocery-store checkout aisle. If only we were so lucky.”

So while I may not love Dickens enough to attend UCSC’s week-long summer event “The Dickens Universe” (which I’ve heard is positively delightful, so click here for more info if it tickles your fancy), I do respect the author for shining a spotlight on the working class and giving us some of literature’s most memorable characters, such as Oliver Twist and Miss Havisham.

As for my own reading update, I just finished Book One of Tender is the Night, and because the book’s taking longer than normal to finish, I’ll probably post a mini-review sometime this week. Stay tuned!

Top 5 Books I Hated in High School

Winfrey as Sofia in The Color Purple

Feel free to send me to Australia, Oprah, to make up for your horrible movie!

Yesterday, I discussed a list of the 10 books you should have read in high school, but I’ll admit that not all required reading back then was magnificent. Even some of the most respected authors in the canon drove me nuts. Now I don’t regret reading these because I now know what kind of books/authors to avoid (and because my grades depended on it), but I hope that I can save you from my teenage pain and misery.

Here’s my top 5 literary happiness-killers:

  1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. First off, this sucker is LONG. Getting paid by the word was a horrible idea back then. Not that I’m against long books (if reading the last two Harry Potter books in 12 hours each is any consolation), but this one sucked fun out of life like a Dementor. My teacher freshman year was my horrendous debate coach who eventually got fired for not getting his credential. He spent the year playing movies and making us do stupid projects, like build replicas of the Globe Theatre. Great Expectations was accompanied by a huge packet of busy work, like vocab lists and summaries; everyone else knew that he would pass everybody whether we completed it or not, but me being the nerdy student that I am, tried to take it seriously. They were right, of course, and now if you talk about any character named “Pip-” and you don’t end it with “-pin,” I might strangle you. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: Orphan boy meets crazy old lady, who secretly leaves him a fortune so he can impress a rich girl, but he loses both her and his money–making Great Expectations a Great Disappointment.
  2. Beloved by Toni Morrison. Overall, I think Morrison is overrated, and this book is definitely not beloved by me even though it won a Pulitzer. I’m not a fan of ghost stories, and a slavery ghost story is a whole new bag of depressing. I didn’t like any of the characters, and all the voodoo was making me crazy. And as if the novel was bad enough, I had to watch the movie with Oprah Winfrey. Good thing she realized she’s better at giving away cars and getting celebrities to jump on couches than she is at acting. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: Escaped slave kills her daughter to avoid recapture, but suffers from the haunting of her daughter’s reincarnated spirit.
  3. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner. Honestly, I don’t really remember what this book was about, because of Faulkner committing my #1 literary sin: STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS. If an author does this, I will probably loathe him/her, no matter how deep the thoughts. It’s called a period, use it! Faulkner’s run-ons made me just want to run away, very far away. I remember pretending to know what’s going on and bs-ing my way through an essay, then promising myself that I would never read Faulkner again. If you’re a fan of his, sorry, but you’re probably too busy scratching whatever first comes to mind into your hipster diary to care about me anyway. ONE SENTENCE PLOT (ASSISTED BY WIKIPEDIA): Black farmer accused of murdering white man “is exonerated through the efforts of black and white teenagers and a spinster from a long-established Southern family.”
  4. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Again, another novel which did not leave a big impression on me. It just seemed like one big compare/contrast story between Stark and Burden. Politicians aren’t very exciting in real life, and they aren’t any different in this story. And unlike other political allegories like Orwell’s Animal Farm, the history it’s based on is just as boring. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: The rise and fall of a southern governor, as told by his right-hand man…yawn.
  5. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. Having also read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, I know that this book wasn’t just a one-time suck fest from Hardy. I also know that most high school students haven’t read these last 3 novels on my list, but my AP Lit teacher (who was so awesome that she deserves her own blog post someday) branched out and offered us some unique reading. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. Hardy has an amazing knack of being dark and dreary, without being interesting. Another forgettable text. ONE SENTENCE PLOT: Exotic, mysterious fallen woman commits suicide after long off-and-on love affair.
So there you have it! There’s so many excellent books out there, and there’s no reason why you should waste your time with these. Trust me, you’re not missing much! But if you disagree with my list or would like to add to it, feel free to comment!
PS: I finished Catching Fire, the 2nd book of The Hunger Games trilogy, last night, so come back tomorrow for its review!