My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here is the second half of my top ten books that will become (I hope) modern classics!

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5.) A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Published in 1959)

While on the surface this story seems like just a coming of age tale, it’s actually much  more.  A Separate Peace is credited with helping further the naturalism literary movement, which basically stated that one’s environment, family, and social conditions all come into play in shaping who you are and what you do.  The main character of the novel, Gene, treads down an enormous introspective path of trying to figure out who he is and why he’s led the life he has.  The story is told via flashback as he dwells on events from his teen years at Devon, a prep school.   The story seems to be solely a journey of self discovery, yet deep within the writing are thoughts on war and youth.

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4.) The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (Published in 2008-2010)

I’ve only recently read these books (literally I just read them over the course of 24hrs this past weekend) but I’m still reeling from their amazing-ness.  The three books in the series are PACKED with heavy themes that while directed at teens, sure do hit at home.  The ideas of governmental control, survival of the fittest, independence, unrequited love, power, sacrifice, interdependence, etc are all present here.  It’s stunning how much is jam-packed into these three novels without seeming overwhelming.  The plot is incredibly gripping, due in large part to the hauntingly realistic and relatable characters.  As we watch our own country fight multiple wars and deal with political infighting, this series hits close to home.

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 3.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Published in 2006)

It seems like the most simplistic plot: a man and his son walking down a road in a post-apocalyptic world.  However, it’s much deeper than that.  The Road is truly a character driven novel, with little detail and no tangents to get in the way.  It is a story about relationships: with family, with emotion, with strangers, with our environment, and with ourselves.  McCarthy creates a frightening land where cannibalism is commonplace and hope is scarce, yet the man and his son persevere.  The themes of survivorship and family shine throughout, and the reader is given new hope for a better tomorrow despite the despair of the present.

2.) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (Published in 1996)Cover Image 

Frank McCourt’s autobiographical memoir is a rough read in terms of subject matter, but is written so beautifully and elegantly that you look past all the depressing pieces and just see hope.  Telling the story of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, McCourt sadly but humorously covers every detail of the poor streets of Limerick, from the row of dilapidated houses that he and his siblings were forced to live in, to the various odd jobs he took to earn money for his mother.  This book will always be relevent because even though McCourt and his family faced hardship after hardship, he never lost sight of his hopes and dreams, making this a must-read for adolescents of today and in the future.

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1.) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Published in 1958)

This novel easily makes it into the top five books I’ve ever read.  Set in Africa during times of colonization and religious missionary influence, a local village leader named Okonkwo experiences a fall from power as he refuses to accept any of the influence of the colonials.  An important lesson I learned from this novel is one of perspective.  Just because one thinks what he/she is doing is correct doesn’t always correlate to what is correct for the other party.  This also plays into the theme of the power of change.  Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, and change for the sake of one set of ideals to match your own is often narrow-minded and intractable.  There is a reason why the world is full of individuals with different ideas, personalities, and beliefs.  It is when we begin changing this to make everyone the same that we become some form of a real life dystopian society.

Well readers, what are your thoughts?  What books do you think I’ve missed??  Let me know in the comments below!  Until next time…happy reading!

#10 A Review of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Cover ImageDo you ever wonder what a postapocalyptic world would be like?  What would people turn into without a set “society?”  Cormac McCarthy sets out to discover the answers to those and many other questions in his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Road
 
The Road follows a nameless father and son as they travel across a destroyed United States.  They are traveling to the west coast in the hopes of  finding other survivors and also as an escape from the winters of the northeast.  The Road follows their journey through this new barren world and their experiences in it.
 
While the plot of The Road is simple, the novel is anything but.  It explores complex questions and digs deep into the souls of mankind.  McCarthy has a beautiful eloquence in his writing.  This wasteland that he has created is so realistic that I honestly could close my eyes and see it.  You are never told how the world came to be, but it doesn’t matter.  He takes the trivial things out of his writing and writes a book about relationships.  Relationships between family, relationships between strangers, and relationships between memories.  The father/son relationship is beautiful.  There is true dedication in the love that the father has for his son.  Once the reader is given the history of how the father came to be with the son alone you just want to give him a hug and say thank you to him.  His dedication to his son in this new world is so touching. 
 

Reading the novel was both a sad and exhilarating experience.  It was sad in the sense that people were so frightened of each other that they didn’t speak to them nor did they even look at them.  The world has lost its friendliness and humanity is a thing of the past.  However, the book also had exhilarating moments that literally had me on the edge of my seat while reading it.  At one point in the novel the boy and his father are trapped in a meeting with cannibals.  It was one of the saddest and most interesting parts of the book.  My heart was racing during the entire experience. 

 
When I set out reading this book I honestly thought it would be rough for me to get through, as the plot seemed so sad.  McCarthy has taken a simple story and written one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I read a LOT of books and am constantly changing my favorites, but there are books that never move from my list.  I can safely tell you that The Road has become one of these never-changing books. 
 
5 out of 5 Stars
 

This is my third completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge

 
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2007)
Paperback 304 pages
ISBN: 9780307387899

New Year; New Challenges

January 1, 2011.  It’s the official beginning of my new challenge!!  I have 365 days to read 100 books.  I’m partaking in two reading challenges this year (that I’ve signed up for so far) so 11 of those books are the Jane Austen mystery series and 20 of them will be historical fiction novels. I’m excited that I’m mixing it up this year and doing some reading challenges as well.  I think it will help keep me motivated throughout the year. 

I’m really looking forward to some of the titles that I’ve decided to read this year.  I have a very eclectic group to read so far.  Some of the titles include:

  1. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (It’s the 200 year anniversary of the book this year!)
  3. Little Children by Tom Perrotta
  4. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
  5. V For Vendetta by Alan Moore
  6. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  7. You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs
  8. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  10. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson
  11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  12. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  13. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  14. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

I have a much bigger list than this, but I’m really looking forward to the specific books above!

So now that my new challenge has begun I would like to encourage you guys to do your own challenges.  You don’t have to read 100 books like I do, but you can do something similar to Todd and try for between 25 and 50.  You are always welcome to post on the blog thoughts about your own reading challenges or about specific books.

If you decide to do a challenge: Good Luck and Happy Reading!

The Weekly Roundup – Week 3

Last week was a so-so week.  There were days I was totally driven to read and others I was so damn lazy.   

I headed over to Barnes and Noble on Wednesday picked up some new books. (YAY!)  I got The Road, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (reviewed here), and Boardwalk EmpireI finished writing reviews for the books I completed the prior week and got my head back into books.  I completed A Reliable Wife and had my mind BLOWN.  (See my review here for what I mean)

Thursday I read some more of Fifth Avenue 5 A.M.  The book is taking me a while to read because it’s discussing the way Breakfast at Tiffany’s changed women’s views of themselves, and what they could accomplish with their sexuality.  It also gives historical information on how the book came to be and how it was turned into a film.  There are multitudes of facts, thoughts, and ideas discussed that so I’m trying to take my time reading it to fully appreciate it.  It makes many references to the novel version of Tiffany’s so I decided to take a pause with this book and read Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I figured what better time than now?

Friday Todd and I went to a wedding for our friends Dave and Kate.  Had a great time with all of Todd’s co-workers – it was an all around good evening.  We came home from the wedding and passed out early, as Todd had to head to Atlantic City the following day for a bachelor party.

Saturday got up early and got a ton accomplished before Todd left for AC.  I got two loads of laundry done, read some Breakfast at Tiffany’s, made brownies, and then pasta salad all by 11:30am. My aunts drove my grandma up that afternoon from New Jersey to have lunch and hang out together.  It was nice seeing them and I always enjoy seeing gram.  Adam came over that night and we just hung out, read, and watched some TV.  (Adam and I LOVE watching Law and Order Los Angeles together – we’re addicted) 

Sunday I wrote my blog reviews for A Reliable Wife and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and then started reading my next book Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister

Week end I was up to 74 completed books.  This leaves 26 books before December 31st.  I have to read a little over 4 books a week for the next 6 weeks to make it to 100!  I need to read almost two books every two days to complete the challenge for 2010.  OY OY!

I’m off now to go crawl in bed and read some more.  It’s going to be a busy 6 weeks!! Wish me luck!

Happy Reading!!