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  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , margaret mitchell, , , , ,   

    6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles 

    Have you ever written a book? It’s very, very hard. Writers have to come up with thousands of perfect words and arrange them just so to create a thrilling and original narrative that also expresses their worldview via memorable and compelling characters. Doing all that requires a set of long-form expression skills, which is quite the opposite of coming up with a title—or encapsulating the entire novel into a handful of well-chosen words. A lot of writers can’t make a book and then also come up with a great title—the latter could and maybe should be up to editors and the marketing department. Here are some beloved classic novels whose authors nearly cursed with a terrible title. 

    Where the Wild Horses Are, by Maurice Sendak
    Where the Wild Things Are is a universally beloved childhood favorite. That’s probably because it’s a lot of fun, but also a little bit scary, and Maurice Sendak never coddles or placates the reader. The friendly monsters called “Wild Things” are so well and mysteriously named that its perplexing that Sendak only called the book what he did to solve a problem. He’d initially planned to write Where the Wild Horses Are. Except that when he sat down to illustrate, he had a really hard time drawing horses. Horses became “Things” and the book’s name changed, too.  

    Tomorrow is Another Day, by Margaret Mitchell
    Let’s get real: Gone with the Wind is a powerful, epic tale of war, love, self-respect, proto-feminism, and believing in onself…but it’s also a bit of a soap opera. As such, Margaret Mitchell nearly stuck her Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel with a number of soapy titles, such as Tote the Weary Load, Bugles Sang True, and Not in Our Stars. Still, the book almost went to print under the name Tomorrow is Another Day…even though that’s a total spoiler for the book’s moving final line. Ultimately Mitchell found the best title from “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae,” a poem by 19th century French poet Ernest Dowson. 

    Something That Happened, by John Steinbeck
    John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is history’s second-best Great Depression novel, second only to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of WrathAs such, it’s a sad tale about desperate men doing desperate things, and Steinbeck reportedly wanted to make sure that the novel didn’t judge the characters one way or the other for the book’s violent conclusion. He tried to express that by going full objective journalism for the title, which is so nonjudgmental that it’s kind of hilarious. He changed his mind when he found some words that said the same thing, that humans are victims of fate, only more poetically. They were in a poem, in fact: Robert Burns’ “Of Mice and Men.” 

    The Last Man in Europe, by George Orwell
    Up until a few months before publication, Orwell was going to call, his novel about a future dystopian totalitarian state in which Big Brother was always watching The Last Man in Europe. At virtually the last minute, Orwell’s publishers asked him to come up something more commercial than what sounds like a book about the last human alive after a zombie apocalypse. His solution: the blunt, ominous far-off futuristic year in which the scary book took place: 1984.  

    Trimalchio in West Egg, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested many high-fallutin’ titles for what ultimately became The Great Gatsby, his book about the rise and fall of the personification of the American Dream in the Jazz Age. Under the Red, White, and Blue was a little too on the nose, as was Gold-Hatted Gatsby. The High-Bounding Lover was just a little-too-1920s. Fitzgerald also really wanted to call his book Trimalchio in West Egg. The latter part reflects the book’s setting; the first part is a literary reference to Trimalchio, a character who enjoys life in obscene excess in the 1st century Roman book The Satyricon. 

    Panasonic, by Don DeLillo
    DeLillo’s meditation on modern life and its many pollutants was titled Panasonic reportedly up to the last round of galleys. But then the Matsushita Corporation, which controlled the trademark of the well-known consumer electronics company, wouldn’t grant permission. So White Noise it was.

    What working titles of classic books are you glad were ultimately revised?

    The post 6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 2:00 pm on 2017/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: a thousand acres, ana of california, andi teran, , , , dorian an imitation, going bovine, , , , , , maya lang, , , page to page, , the sixteenth of june, , will self,   

    5 Books You Didn’t Know Were Remakes 

    Many standup comedians have made the amusing joke/observation that us creative humans in the Western world don’t hesitate to remake movies or songs but we never remake books. The most famous variation on the gag—after expressing that sentiment, the comedian mentions that they’re writing a word-for-word remake of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The thing is, authors remake other authors’ material all the time. It’s just that in the world of books they’re called “adaptations” or “re-imaginings.” Here are some books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works.

    A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley is a remake of Shakespeare’s King Lear
    One of big reasons why Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest author, or playwright, of all time, is because his stories and characters continue to resonate through the centuries. The Bard wrote his stuff 400 years ago, and it’s still solid, because his themes are universal and his characters are relatable. Once in a while, an author will use one of Shakespeare’s plays as a jumping-off point—they just need to update the language. And the settings. And the plots. And into prose from dialogue. Perhaps the best example of Shakespeare 2.0 is Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres. Because a king deciding which daughter to bequeath his kingdom to is a little irrelevant to the modern United States, Smiley made it about three daughters up to inherit their aging father’s farm. Smiley won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.

    Going Bovine by Libba Bray is a remake of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote
    Miguel de Cervantes’ epic comedy Don Quixote is about a man with both mental illness and delusions of grandeur—it’s pretty modern and sophisticated for having been published four centuries ago. But hey, funny is funny, and comedy is eternal. Libba Bray deftly reworked the vast, complicated classic into a digestible modern tale set in high school. A regular guy named Cameron contracts Mad Cow Disease, as one does, and suffers from all kinds of delightful hallucinations.

    The Sixteenth of June by Maya Lang is a remake of James Joyce’s Ulysses
    James Joyce’s crowning achievement is Ulysses, an astonishingly detailed, hyper-realistic look at a single day in Dublin, Ireland—June 16, 1904. Commemorations of that day are now known as Bloomsday, after one the book’s many, many characters, Leo Bloom. Almost as real as Joyce’s physical descriptions are the richly rendered characters. “A day in the life” is a repeatable formula, but difficult to do well. Author Maya Lang pulls it off with The Sixteenth of June. It’s a cutting, insightful, emotional look at the good people of Philadelphia on June 16, 2004. A couple of people even throw a Bloomsday party! (Of course, if you want to get technical, Ulysses itself is a remake of the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey.)

    Ana of California by Andi Teran is a remake of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables
    You can’t improve on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s moving story of plucky, idiosyncratic red-headed orphan Anne Shirley charming the once crusty townsfolk of Avonlea. You can only re-create it in another time and place. At its core, Anne of Green Gables is a story about how hard it is to a new place, and fit in while maintaining your identity and integrity, and Andi Teran maintains all of Montgomery’s themes in her Anne reimagining, Ana of California. And she does it quite well, telling the tale of a teenage orphan named Ana Cortez who leaves the foster care system and East L.A. for a farm work program in Northern California.

    Dorian by Will Self is a remake of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
    What if Oscar Wilde were Bret Easton Ellis? Then he’d write Dorian. Of course, Will Self already wrote this book in 2002. Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray story of a fresh-faced man and his grotesquely aging portrait called out and satirized the superficial. Self logically adapted the novel to take place in the equally hollow and image-conscious world of the 1980s London art scene.

    What are your favorite literary remakes?

    The post 5 Books You Didn’t Know Were Remakes appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 8:30 pm on 2017/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: teen books, , ,   

    50 of the Most Essential High School Stories 

    High school is a near-universal experience to which we can all relate. It’s also a complicated, messy time in life in which one grows from the end of childhood to the cusp of adulthood, so there’s a lot of feelings to unpack. The result is that hundreds of books have been written about high school…but these are the 50 most essential, the ones who really get it right and have something to say.

    Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
    Rainbow Rowell’s first YA novel is set in Omaha, Nebraska, in the mid-1980s, where neither really fit in: Eleanor is a misfit redhead, and Park is half-Korean. Their romance blossoms over the pop culture they love, specifically comic books and mix tapes. Rowell adroitly addresses the deep psychological baggage both have, never dismissing it as mere “teenage” drama.

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    So much of high school is about hanging out with friends: there’s a lot of time to kill, and maybe you don’t want to go home, so you just sort of drive around and do stuff. This is where Chbosky’s book shines—those quiet moments of sitting around and making profound connections with your friends. It’s about putting yourself out there, not to be popular, but to make just one or two friendships that will matter and last.

    Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Lewis
    This is a book about the deep love between a boy and a girl…and it’s not a romance. Greg wants only to stay completely neutral in high school, and avoid anyone getting mad at him; he just wants to make films with his best friend, Earl. He’s forced to address reality, emotions, and his own hidden humanity when a childhood friend develops cancer, and he becomes her official companion in her haunting final days.

    Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
    It’s not the class discussions and classes about high school that socialize us, it’s the activities. Those clubs where kids are free to find their tribe, or tribes, and bounce around with little to no consequence or commitment? They’re where we find people like us at a time when we might feel awkward and alone. This is particularly true with drama club, a beacon to so many teens outside the mainstream who want to make art. Telgemeier’s graphic novel encapsulates all that, plus the nostalgic backstage feelings that bond kids and actors for life.

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
    There are seven Harry Potter novels, of course, but this is the one packed with the most excruciatingly relatable teenage problems and growing pains. Harry, Ron, and Hermione start acting like moody adolescents and as they wade into the dating pool, and Harry and Ron realize for the first time that Hermione is a girl. And then there’s the Yule Ball. While Hermione goes with a Quidditch star, Harry and Ron can’t get the dates they want and end up sulking on the sidelines. It’s a whole new take on our favorite magical trio.

    The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
    Who knows teens better than a teen knows teens? Amazingly, S.E. Hinton was just 19 years old when she wrote this sad, violent, humanity-steeped story about the roughneck gang-like Greasers and the preppy, jerky Socs they have to deal with at school. It feels intense and realistic, like a more richly imaginedWest Side Story set against the rural backdrop of small-town Oklaoma.

    Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan
    John Green and David Levithan joined forces on this, the alternating stories of two boys named Will Grayson. Eventually their stories merge, following a wild night starring the two Wills and one’s best friend, Tiny, who stages a musical about his own life and is dating the other Will Grayson, a shy kid struggling with his sexuality.

    Carrie, by Stephen King
    Stephen King brilliantly takes those feelings of being unsure about the insane, random, rapid changes our bodies go through in adolescence, and renders them terrifying. Carrie is about a young woman discovering her own self, trying to put parental control aside, and dealing with weird body stuff. She’s doused with blood by the end, of course, and a body count ensues, but hey, that’s just a metaphor for adolescence.

    Ghost World, by Daniel Clowes
    Plenty of artistic projects have given us a view of high school from the outsider’s perspective—perhaps because writers are often outsiders, and you write what you know. But Daniel Clowes’ sad, quiet, darkly hilarious Ghost World, and its main character Enid Coleslaw, offer a special kind of otherness: a sophisticated alienation. Enid is far wiser, funnier, and brutally critical of the world around her than her peers, and the reader can tell she’s been withering on the vine trapped in high school. Then she graduates into a world in which she’s still alienated, but even more anonymous.

    Blankets, by Craig Thompson
    A lot of high school kids have a super-religious phase, as spirituality offers a lot of answers—or at least comfort—in a very tumultuous time. Craig Thompson’s beautiful, heartbreaking graphic novel is about a devoutly religious teen’s difficulties in balancing his spiritual life with a budding long-distance romance, and his ever-increasing spiritual doubts.

    DC Trip, by Sara Benincasa
    The big “educational” overnight trip to Philadelphia, Colonial Williamsburg, or Washington, D.C., is a watershed moment on the level of prom to millions of high school kids each year. It gives them a chance to cut loose and feel free and independent for the first time without parental supervision; because, let’s be honest, the chaperones are merely ceremonial. Or, as is demonstrated in Benincasa’s hilarious look at a class trip to D.C., the teachers along for the ride are too busy sowing their wild oats, too.

    Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
    A teenage girl keeps living the same day over and over—a seemingly typical day of high school drama and boredom, except that she dies at the end, and has to keep living the day over and over until she gets it “right,” from repairing familial relationships to making amends for the girl whose life she and her clique make miserable. It’s Groundhog Day with higher stakes, and, you know, terrifying.

    The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness
    While some kids in his seemingly normal high school are after a very important object of great power called the “Immortal Crux,” Mikey just wants to graduate, get with the girl he likes, and deal with his family’s problems. This book explores how a supernatural YA book might read if retold from the perspective of some random Hufflepuff.

    The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
    The Pigman is among the first ever “young adult” novels, in that it’s literature both about and for those in between people called teenagers. Themes that would come to define YA are present in The Pigman, too: teens questioning the grownup world, their values and struggle to create their own identity without killing their hearts. The action of the book concerns two high schoolers, John and Lorraine, who take turns reporting their experiences with a misunderstood old man named Mr. Pignati.

    The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Even more dreamy and sad than Sofia Coppola’s 2000 film adaptation, Eugenides’ first novel is brainy, beguiling, and mysterious. Set in tony Grosse Pointe, Michigan, in the 1970s, it’s the rare period piece that isn’t really about the period or at all nostalgic. It’s told from the point of view of several teenage boys trying to understand why their classmates, the five Lisbon sisters, all took their own lives.

    All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven
    So many YA novels are about escape, because being a teenager is about escaping: escaping high school, escaping the hometown, escaping family, escaping problems. In All the Bright Places, even Violent and Theodore’s not-so-cute meet-cute involves escape: It happens in the school bell tower, where both are poised to commit suicide. Instead, an unlikely and profound friendship/romance develops out of a need for human connection, both with each other and the world at large.

    Boy Proof, by Cecil Castelluci
    Victoria loves science fiction, particularly a movie called Terminal Earth. She models her life after the film’s protagonist, Egg, to the degree that she adopts the name. She’s also the kind of girl who wears a homemade cloak to school and doesn’t care that she’s going to get teased for it. She’s doing her own thing, and she doesn’t want to do it any other way. So much so that when a new boy moves to town who actually likes and understands Egg and where she’s coming from…she just might crack.

    Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley
    Lies We Tell Ourselves is set in a just-segregated high school in 1959 Virginia, in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. This remarkable, character-driven drama (and love story), set against a volatile historical backdrop, follows an African American honors student attending a previously all-white school, who’s assigned to work on a school project with the daughter of the town’s leading segregationist.

    Avalon High, by Meg Cabot
    Harry Potter inspired a whole mini-genre of books set in a high school for “special” kids: demigods, vampires, monsters. So whatever happened to good old-fashioned allegory? It’s alive and well in books like the Avalon High series. It’s set in a Maryland high school full of teen archetypes and stereotypes, except each character correlates to someone from the English legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

    The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, by Susin Nielsen
    The diary format works so well for high school stories because it feels immediate, intimate, and authentic. That approach is needed for the gut-punch of Henry K. Larsen. It’s so many different books: a kid-at-a-new-school book, a survivor book, an issues book. Henry is forced to move and go to a new school after his brother is so mercilessly teased that he unleashes his anger and pain with a school shooting.

    The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
    Being in high school is an almost constant conflict between seeking out the comfort of fitting in, and the difficulty of finding and being one’s true self. Robert Cormier’s classic novel is about that, but within the strict confines of a Catholic school. Jerry is a new student who refuses to fall in line with the school’s methods for keeping order, in which the entire student body is complicit. Jerry must exhibit bravery beyond his years to stand up to the mob.

    Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
    Sixteen-year-old Simon is a closeted gay teenager happily disappearing into the theater department…until he leaves his email account open on a school computer, and wisecracking classmate Martin discovers a romantic thread of emails between Simon and a boy known only as “Blue.” Martin blackmails Simon into helping him get closer to a girl he likes, and Simon contemplates what coming out might mean.

    Forever, by Judy Blume
    Queen Judy, mistress of the middle-grade novel, was not a one-trick pony. She wrote respectful, realistic literature for kids of almost every age. Forever is one of her classics, dealing with the sensitive, agonizing subjects of young love…and sex. Katherine meets Michael, falls in love, and embarks on a sexual relationship with him, in a story that evokes all the excitement and tenderness of a budding relationship.

    Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Green has a gift for writing about the teenage experience in incredibly relatable ways. Throughout his work, Green is most adept at describing the sparkling, tingly feelings of teenage crushes bordering on love. In this semi-autobiographical novel, a guy trades his regular life for one at boarding school. He finds the crackling existence he wanted, due in no small part to the enchanting but deeply troubled Alaska Young.

    Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
    There are so many great romantic comedy movie tropes here, scaled down into high-school life. A high school senior named Anna is about to make things official with a nice guy, until she’s sent to boarding school in Paris. Things in Paris are, of course, marvelous, and she meets a delightful French boy named Etienne—only he’s taken. That’s just one of the many romantic entanglements in this fun and frothy take on high school heart-stuff.

    Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
    High school life isn’t that much different for British kids, unless you count the grade names. Georgia leads a proudly messy life, as she and her best friend Jas spy on boys they like and try to compete with older, more provocative girls for attention and affection. A charming novel that captures the intensity of high school–era relationships, from those indelible best friend connections to “true love.”

    Boy Meets Boy, by David Levithan
    Levithan’s novel is about a time much like our own, only more progressive in terms of issues of sexual identity. It’s set in a small New Jersey town where homosexual, bisexual, and transgender teens have been completely normalized.  This is the setup for a sweet, romantic connection between Paul, a high-school sophomore, and Noah, the handsome, green-eyed new kid in town who’s a little reluctant to fall in love since he last got burned.

    Hey Nostradamus!, by Douglas Coupland
    With modern classics like Generation X and Girlfriend in a Coma, Coupland has given voice to the disaffected and those going through the motions of a hollow modern existence. In Hey, Nostradamus, he writes about high school students who feel the same way, and the desperate measures they take to change things. The story is told in tandem by four disparate characters, including a secretly pregnant and married girl, on what will ultimately be the most tragic day of all of their lives.

    Carry the Sky, by Kate Gray
    A book about high school doesn’t have to be about the kids, you know. There are lots of teachers working in those classrooms, and to hear stories from their points of view is fascinating. Carry the Sky is about a fancy boarding school in 1983 Delaware, where physics teacher Jack and rowing coach Taylor work. The teachers are linked by personal tragedies, but must overcome or put their overwhelming grief to the side in order to help their ill-equipped students deal with the terrible things happening in their lives.

    Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld
    What is it about boarding schools that make them so interesting to those of us who didn’t attend them? Is it simply that they seem an exotic walled world, or are they a merely an esteemed-if-classist relic of the past somehow surviving into today? Set at an elite East Coast prep school, Prep follows Lee, a Midwestern scholarship student and audience surrogate who must navigate the intricate politics and social system of the old school and its old money, all the while pulling further and further away from her parents.

    Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl
    Pessl’s debut is presented like a syllabus, each chapter title alluding to a classic work. The plot: deadpan genius Blue van Meer, the perennial new kid in town owing to her father’s peripatetic ways, has all the advanced knowledge and study skills necessary to succeed at a prestigious private school, but lacks the pro-level social skills necessary to launch herself socially. But when she catches the eye of a charismatic, beautiful teacher—one we learn, in the book’s earliest pages, will not survive—her life radically changes.

    Moonhead and the Music Machine, by Andrew Rae
    In this graphic novel‚ Joey Moonhead has an actual moon for a head; when he loses interest or attention, it floats away. As can be expected, Joey Moonhead is heavily teased, but he at least wins a friend in Ghost Boy, so named because he’s “invisible” at school, concealed under a white, ghostlike sheet. And if all goes well, Joey just might rock the talent show and win the school over by playing an awesome instrument of his own invention.

    Acceptance, by Susan Coll
    High school isn’t all cliques, romantic drama, and finding one’s true identity—it’s also about the stress and anticipation of what comes next. Acceptance is an amusing look at those high school kids who are already overachieving and burning out before they’ve even left home. Focusing on three juniors and their college admissions counselor, the book follows their trudge through SAT prep courses, AP classes, AP exams, college essay writing…

    What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen
    Mclean Sweet is a teenager who wants to be somebody new, so she creates a new identity every time she has to move to a new town for her father’s work. As many do in high school, she has tried on a few different personas and goes all in each time, be her new style goth, peppy preppy, or student government go-getter. What Happened to Goodbye finds her moving to yet another new place and testing out her most risky personality choice yet: her real one.

    Firecracker, by David Iserson
    In this very funny novel by Iserson, a writer for New Girl and Saturday Night Live, entitled rich girl Astrid is a little too smart and conniving for her own good. She gets kicked out of school after being betrayed by somebody, and she’s determined to find out who did it, even with the newfound distractions of public school and a potential love interest.

    A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
    Knowles semi-fictionalized his experiences attending Exeter to create this classic, tragic coming-of-age tale about boys in a Northeastern boarding school during World War II. Narrator Gene is roommates with his good-hearted but ill-fated friend, Finny, of whom he is also supremely jealous. They take part in a tree-jumping club, which leads to Finny breaking his leg. Bad things continue to happen to Finny, for which Gene feels both guilt and, for the first time in his life, the emptiness of loss. Readers will grow up a little alongside Gene.

    Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
    As a direct challenge to and comment on his school’s elite sports program, varsity jacket–coveting T.J. Jones puts together his own ragtag, super-inclusive swim team. Never mind that only one of them can even swim very well, and that they don’t actually have a swimming pool at their school. Like the characters themselves, Whale Talk has a lot of heart.

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Fourteen-year-old Arnold Spirit, Jr., lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state. He’s witty and a gifted artist, but suffers from a stutter, a lisp, and, subsequently, a good deal of bullying, both physical and verbal. He decides to break out of his life as a target by using his smarts to gain entrance to a predominantly wealthy, white school off the reservation, which changes his life in more ways than anticipated.

    Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
    At a high school party the summer before her freshman year, Melinda is raped, calls the police, but runs away before telling them—or the other kids—why she made the call. From that point forth, Melinda is an outcast, a victim of the shocking cruelty her classmates are capable of. This book is a demonstration of how even high school politics can override decency and justice.

    Every Day, by David Levithan
    Each morning, a conscious being known only as A wakes up in a new body, and must live the life of whoever’s body it is. A abides by a policy of doing no harm, until they wake up in the body of a teenager named Justin, and instantly fall in love with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. A keeps switching bodies, of course, and plotting how they can somehow find themselves together with Rhiannon again. It’s a wildly imaginative, experimental novel about the transcendent power of love.

    Election, by Tom Perrotta
    This cutting satire of high-school archetypes, stereotypes, and politics centers on a student-body election. Running for office are Tracy Flick, driven overachiever, and Paul Warren, popular football hero persuaded by a teacher to run simply to stop Tracy Flick. Messing things up for everybody is Tammy, Paul’s rebellious, outspoken sister, who decides to run, too. Perrotta clearly cribbed from the zaniness of the 1992 Clinton-Bush-Perot presidential election.

    To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han
    This book has been presented and marketed as a romantic coming-of-age comic novel, but it’s actually a horror novel. It’s about a girl overcome by undying, all-encompassing crushes that feel like love. Lara Jean Song processes these feelings by writing long, intricate, intimate love letters to the objects of her affection, keeping them in a hatbox instead of sending them. So what’s so bad about that? Somebody takes the letters and mails them, leaving her to deal with the fallout.

    Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
    Everyone remembers the “weird kid” in high school (or maybe they were the weird kid), the one who didn’t care about fitting in, like everyone else seemed to. What makes them so special, anyway? Are they faking it? Not Stargirl, as she chooses to call herself, at least for awhile. She’s a charming eccentric who’s already got it all figured out, and she likes the quirky clothes she wears, playing the ukulele for strangers, and carting around a pet rat. It’s when she starts worrying about what other people think that the trouble begins.

    Literally, by Lucy Keating
    Literally is a meta, mind-bending book about a practically-perfect-in-every-way girl named Annabelle whose life gets a little confusing when she finds out acclaimed YA author Lucy Keating—as in the author of Literally, the book we’re talking about right now—is writing a book centered on Annabelle. It would seem everything Annabelle knows about her life is wrong, as she’s merely the creation of an author, and may not quite have the free will she thinks she does in this novel that’s stranger than fiction.

    The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
    The Hate U Give is both a literal look at the tough issues some teens face at an age when they should be sheltered from life and death concerns, and an exploration of being torn between powerful and opposite forces. Starr is 16 and lives in a rough neighborhood, but attends a private, predominantly white school far, far away in the suburbs. Her standing in both worlds is threatened after she witnesses a police officer shoot her childhood friend.

    Lock & Key, by Sarah Dessen
    Ruby feels awkward and out of place, but she has a right: she’s a fish-out-of-water several times over. After being abandoned by her mother, she’s sent to live with the rich sister she barely knows, and to navigate a new world. She must learn the fine art of self-reliance while also accepting help when it’s needed.

    Dare Me, by Megan Abbott
    Here’s a book that’s sympathetic to the cheerleaders and mean girls. Dare Me both humanizes and subverts the typical way cheerleaders are written in teen stories, in which they’re almost always the villains, ruling the school with fear and bullying. That seems to have worked just fine for varsity cheerleaders Addy and Beth in the past, until a new coach divides, conquers, and unites them again, even as the police get involved in some very bad, bad things.

    Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    A high school boy named Clay comes home one day to find a package on his porch filled his cassettes made by a girl named Hannah—an acquaintance and former crush object who recently took her own life. The tapes detail exactly how Hannah arrived at the decision to commit suicide. Clay comes to understand a girl he knew only on a superficial level much more deeply, albeit far too late.

    Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Tyler was average in every way, and he was fine with it. Until he does something not-so-average: graffitis the school, gets busted, and has to spend the summer doing physical labor to pay his debt. By the fall, he’s buff and earning attention from girls for the first time. But, while Tyler seems to be becoming a man, he may not be quite ready.

    Slave Day, by Rob Thomas
    Before bringing series like Veronica Mars and iZombie to television, Thomas was a YA author. Slave Day is set in Texas’s Robert E. Lee High school, and centers on a very loaded school activity in which students and faculty auction themselves off as “slaves” to raise money for a dance. Things threaten to come to a head between those who are angered by the practice and those who insist it’s good clean fun.

    The post 50 of the Most Essential High School Stories appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 2:00 pm on 2017/08/07 Permalink
    Tags: alison lurie, casey lewis, , , dorm room essentials cookbook, , ethan trex, , , foreign affairs, free stuff guide for everyone, gina meyers, goodnight dorm room: all the advice I wish i got before going to college, harlan cohen, keith riegert, kingsley amix, knack dorm living, , , , on beauty, peter sander, , samuel kaplan, school daze, scott dikkers, , streeter seidell, the big u, the college humor guide to college, the idiot, the naked roommate, the pretty good jim's journal treasury, , , , wonder boys,   

    These 20 Books Are Absolute Dorm Room Essentials 

    So you’re headed off to college in the fall. Congratulations! It’s going to be both a lot of work and a tremendous karmic shift! You’ll be on your own, and also living in a very small dormitory room with a person who is, in all likelihood, a complete stranger. Regardless, books are both an escape and an olive branch—the books you’ll need to best understand, appreciate, and enhance the college-going experience.

    The Pretty Good Jim’s Journal Treasury, by Scott Dikkers
    Everyone who went to college remembers it as an exciting time of self-discovery, new friendships, and working really, really hard. We tend to forget about all of the downtime and boredom of college—class is only a few hours a day, after all. This is where the droll comic strip collection by Scott Dikkers, a founder of The Onion, traffics—a guy named Jim does all the boring, mundane stuff one does in college. Much of Dikkers’ “Jim’s Journal” (which ran in lots of college newspapers in the ’90s) concerned the protagonist’s low-stakes experience with higher education.

    Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis
    Countless authors, past and present, have also been college professors and academics. And as the old adage goes, you write what you know. The result is the subgenre of the campus novel, which details the unique experience of being in college, either for a few years or forever, including its unique politics, quirks, challenges, and maddening hypocrisies. Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, published in 1954, is among the first major campus novels, and it’s a rightful classic of the genre, detailing the wryly humorous life of an academic who becomes a lecturer at an English university despite not really wanting the job.

    The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
    There are certain things in Donna Tartt’s breakout novel that are universal college experiences: arguing with professors to allow you to take their classes, finding your tribe of like-minded individuals, and looking up to the most charismatic students on campus.

    White Noise, by Don DeLillo
    Don DeLillo’s classic novel is told through the eyes of a contented professor and patriarch of a large, blended, technology-addicted family who leads a small northeastern college’s Hitler Studies program. While the themes of the novel deal with the omnipresence of chemicals in our food, air, and bodies, DeLillo also nails the day-to-day of college life, as well as how it feels to live in a university town, particularly how it’s both charmingly unchanging and always exciting due to the constant influx and outflux of new students and teachers.

    Free Stuff Guide for Everyone, by Peter Sander
    Almost everyone in college is poor. Tuition, books, and living expenses cost a lot of money, and 18-year-olds don’t have much of that, because they lack earning power due to being 18, not-yet-college-educated, and having to spend the majority of their time going to class and studying. To make it through with your health and happiness intact, you’re going to have to get a little scrappy and a little shameless and seek out deals and bargains wherever you can. A book like this one will clue you in to all sorts of free and discounted necessary items.

    Goodnight Dorm Room: All the Advice I Wish I Got Before Going to College, by Samuel Kaplan and Keith Riegert
    Not a parody of Goodnight, Moon, likely because the book Goodnight, Moon is larger than the average dorm room. Rather, this is a swift and funny advice guide to everything “they” won’t tell you about going to college. And it’s important stuff, too, from how to exploit the goodwill of TAs who want you to succeed, to what stuff you should definitely and not definitely bring with you to fill out your tiny, tiny dorm room.

    Dorm Room Essentials Cookbook, by Gina Meyers
    Man or woman cannot survive on cafeteria food and ramen alone. Also, most college dorms don’t allow hotplates. But you’ve gotta eat, and eat well, so you’ve got to get creative. This cookbook shows you how to use the tools at hand and affordable ingredients to prepare all kinds of snacks, meals, and desserts.

    Knack Dorm Living: Get the Room—and the Experience—You Want at College, by Casey Lewis
    That dorm room is small, but this book just might be a good investment of both limited space and money. Written by Lewis when she was a seen-it-all-in-college, done-it-all-in-college college senior, it’s full of easy-to-follow and crucial tips on what to take to college, what to buy when you get there, and how to effectively and efficiently organize what little time, space, and money you’ve got.

    The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, by Harlan Cohen
    Not only are dorm rooms small, but they have to be shared with another person, who could not only be a stranger, but also literally quite strange. (Hence the title.) Cohen’s book offers pre-emptive advice on all sorts of challenges a naive, inexperienced-to-the-ways-of-the-world college freshman may experience, such as the times when it’s okay to shoot for a C, how to find a campus job, and how to navigate both long-term relationships and more “temporary” ones.

    The College Humor Guide to College, by Ethan Trex and Streeter Seidell
    Nobody these days does college humor better than, uh, College Humor. The comedy website publishes all manner of silly videos and ridiculous articles about the absurd notion of being a young person alive in the world, feeling their way around with almost zero preparation. In many ways, this droll parody of college prep books feels a lot more realistic than the real ones do. This is a good one to have in college if only as a way to share it with others and knowingly laugh at the relatable parts.

    A guidebook about the city where the college is located
    For many, college is the first time to be out there on one’s own. It’s tempting and perfectly acceptable to just kick around campus and the surrounding neighborhoods—there’s certainly plenty for freshmen to do and explore. Or, you can mingle with the townies and check out a bit more of the area that surrounds the college. Getting out there and trying new things is what college is all about, but with a safety net, which is what a guidebook about that college town totally is. It’s a guidebook to fun and adventure!

    Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
    College isn’t all partying and making new BFFs. At least not for everybody. This marvelous novel by the author of Eleanor & Park is about the difficult segue from teenhood to college life. It’s about a University of Nebraska freshman named Cath with social anxiety disorder, which precludes a social butterfly life and encourages her to stay at home writing fan fiction about a boy wizard…until she realizes that college is the best place to exercise and hone her writing skills.

    On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
    Having a Zadie Smith book on your dorm room’s sole shelf is a great conversation starter, and it’s a clue to others about how cool you are, because you’ve read Zadie Smith. The novel itself is an enlightening look at college—it touches on sexual, identity, and class issues, as well as how professors aren’t always the sage geniuses one would assume they are. It’s also a college-level text, as On Beauty was inspired by the structure and some of the plot points of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.

    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
    It’s set in Pittsburgh, as is usually the case with Chabon’s novels, which is a beautiful and perfect college town. That’s just one of the blessings protagonist Grady Tripp takes for granted. He’s essentially a lost college freshman, but all grown up: He’s an established writer and college professor, he smokes too much marijuana, is having relationship trouble, he’s got writer’s block so bad he can’t finish his next book, and he’s just a little bit jealous of the young talent coming up behind him. Chabon’s prose is crackling, and he’s a great place to start in the world of “grown-up” fiction.

    Joe College, by Tom Perrotta
    Ah, the joys of working your way through college. In this dark and yet surprisingly optimistic book from the author of Election and The Leftovers, a Yale student named Danny doesn’t get to go on a debauched Spring Break trip with his friends: He’s stuck driving his dad’s lunch truck in New Jersey. That’s a plot device to get the reader into Danny’s head, where lots of college issues humorously and dramatically wrestle for attention.

    Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie
    Time for the semester abroad! Well, at least it is for the two American professors at the heart of this charming, Pulitzer Prize winning campus novel-meets-fish-out-water tale. Vinnie leaves his Ivy League environs to study playground rhymes and winds up in a family tree-tracing project. Fred, meanwhile, abandons his studies of English poetry to pal around with an esteemed actress.

    The Idiot, by Elif Batuman
    This almost stream-of-consciousness novel is told from the point-of-view of a Turkish-American freshman from New Jersey who is extremely happy to be away from her dull home life and attending the glorious Harvard University. This one shows how overwhelming college and all of its assorted social and academic entanglements can be. But, you know, in a good way.

    The Big U, by Neal Stephenson
    No matter how complicated and overwhelming college life gets, it could always be worse. This first novel from sci-fi icon Neal Stephenson demonstrates that. It’s about a Remote Sensing professor named Bud who works at American Megaversity, an eight-tower complex which pretty much makes the college a bubbled world unto itself. Hey, that’s like real college, only real college has way fewer electromagnetic weapons and radioactive rats.

    A second copy of what you’re currently reading
    Talk about an icebreaker. “Hey, what’s that you’re reading,” a roommate, hallmate, classmate, or random person in “the Quad” asks. You tell them, you show them, you lend them your copy because it’s so good. Boom, friends for life.

    A copy of your favorite book from childhood
    For when you’re homesick.

    What books should every college student read?

    The post These 20 Books Are Absolute Dorm Room Essentials appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 3:00 pm on 2017/07/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , reasons i've reread, , ,   

    5 Reasons I’ve Read “The Goldfinch” So Many Times 

    The rare Pulitzer Prize-winner that was also a smash commercial hit, Donna Tartt’s 2013 opus The Goldfinch is one for the ages. Almost a young adult novel for full-on adults, it’s the coming-of-age story of teenager Theo Decker, and how he’s basically alone in the world. (There’s a reason his charming degenerate friend Boris calls him “Potter.”) It starts with a terrorist attack at an art museum, and involves his safekeeping of the stolen masterpiece The Goldfinch by Dutch master Carol Fabritius. That secret, and the painting itself, follow Theo through profound grief, being shuttled around from home to home, and into adulthood. The Goldfinch is a perfect, dense, and extremely rich novel. It’s worth reading, of course, but it’s also worth re-reading. Here are some reasons why…or at least my reasons why.

    It’s a masterclass in fiction writing

    Writers should read as much as they can. Reading good books inspire writers to up their game, and if they’re read carefully and with a very critical eye, they can teach actual technical elements of writing. The Goldfinch is the kind of book that should be read by people who want to know how to write, and by writers who want to know how to write better. I don’t know how many times over the past three years when, struck by a case of writer’s block, or merely stuck somewhere in novel writing, I turned to The Goldfinch to absorb how proper fiction writing ought to be done. Particularly when it came to pacing—I would worry that some scenes that I really enjoyed writing went on for far too long, or didn’t advance the plot of my book in a meaningful way. Should I “kill my darlings,” as many literary icons have recommended? Or, should I take a lesson from The Goldfinch…and, you know, don’t? There are many, many scenes in this gargantuan novel that don’t actively or obviously move things along. But that’s okay. Not every book has to be tightly structured. It’s just fine, and extraordinarily pleasant, in the case of The Goldfinch, to just have long scenes devoted to setting, character building, or even quiet moments. Those parts do move things forward, in their own way, along with just allowing the reader to spend a little more time in the precious world of the book.

    Donna Tartt’s description of places

    Not only does Tartt fearlessly world-build, and create dozens of indelible characters, but her sense of place is positively delicious. The Goldfinch takes place primarily in two places. Young (and later older) Theo bops around various neighborhoods in New York City, and he has a long spell in Las Vegas. Both of these cities have been well-covered and romanticized throughout books and pop culture, but Tartt describes them like nobody else. For example, New York isn’t presented as per usual as a gritty, exciting, ever-changing entity. Instead, The Goldfinch longs for a dying New York, the one of Upper East Side old-money families, boarding school kids, and respected artisans (like furniture restorer Hobie) quietly plying their trade in the small shops they’ve occupied for decades. As for Las Vegas, the book rarely sees the famous Strip, but focuses instead on the empty houses and empty days of life in the sprawling exurbs in the desert outside of Sin City. These are places not recently or often covered in literature, and Tartt makes them both feel extremely real.

    Because the audiobook version is just as good

    Truth be told, the first time I “read” The Goldfinch, I didn’t technically “read it.” I did what a lot of people do when they say they read a book in that I listened to the audiobook version. But I loved the novel so much that I wanted to absorb it again, in a different way, and I totally got to because of the method by which I’d consumed it the first time. This is highly recommended when finding a book you love. No matter the order in which you do it—reading first, audiobook second, or in my case, audiobook first, reading second—you notice new things and get to experience the book with different parts of your brain. It also helps that The Goldfinch audiobook is an exceptional work of radio theater and performance. Reader David Pittu gives a stunning performance, concocting singular, separate voices for every character (and there are a lot of them in The Goldfinch) along with fully-fleshed out characterizations behind them.

    My wife told me I should

    Book recommendations are a powerful thing, and giving them to someone you care about is an act of true love. It’s flattering to be asked for suggestions on what to read next, and one that many of us take very seriously; matching up person to title. It’s pretty intimate. Conversely, to be recommended books without asking by someone you care about is akin to them saying “I love you and also this book so much that I want you to be together.” My wife got into The Goldfinch (and subsequently Tartt’s other novels, The Secret History and The Little Friend, which are also amazing, of course) and she got me into The Goldfinch. She said to read it, and I trust her implicitly, because she’s smart and she knows me well. Her book and music recommendations for me have never been wrong. When your partner tells you to read something, just do it.

    Because there’s stuff I missed

    I’m not the first person to define a classic novel as one that you can return to over and over again and find a new layer, or nuance, or something you missed every time. The Goldfinch is a classic novel. It’s also a very, very long novel—nearly 800 pages—so there’s a lot going on. Great works of art are impossible to absorb all at once, and therein lies the delight. You don’t have to read classic novels over and over again to get them into your system, you get to come back to them, hopefully at different stages of life, and ascertain more and more delights.

    How many times have you read The Goldfinch?

    The post 5 Reasons I’ve Read “The Goldfinch” So Many Times appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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