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  • Brian Boone 2:30 pm on 2018/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Classics, , ranking roald, , , the classics   

    A Definitive Ranking of the Children’s Books of Roald Dahl 

    When it comes to novels written for kids featuring characters who are kids, Roald Dahl ranks among the best of the best, sharing the status of all-time great with the likes of Beverly Clearly, Judy Blume, and J.K. Rowling. The British author (1916–1990) wrote enough classics to keep a fifth grader busy for months, specializing in tales of often absurd adventure peopled with appealing characters dealing with extraordinary circumstances in believable ways. Dahl knew his audience so very well, and gave them what they wanted without ever patronizing them: a mixture of heart, action, drama, scariness, humor, and, of course, the fantastical. Here then is our highly scientific ranking, of Roald Dahl’s many books for children, from least best (but still wonderful) to most wonderful of all. (We didn’t include any of those silly ones he wrote for grownups here.)

    The Magic Finger (1964)
    Sometimes it takes a writer a while to find their voice. That’s certainly the case with Dahl’s The Magic Finger. It’s a well-meaning if didactic morality tale that serves as a sweet taste of the fun that’s to come. It concerns the Greggs, a family of duck hunters, and the girl next door who simply won’t have that. Unfortunately for the family of hunters, the girl has a magic finger, and when she gets fed up after one of their hunting trips, it acts up and turns the Greggs into ducks themselves.

    George’s Marvelous Medicine (1981)
    A sharp kid named George tries to get revenge on his mean grandmother by replacing her medicine with a concoction of his own making, a mixture of toiletries, floor polish, horseradish, gin, pet meds, antifreeze, and brown paint. He gives it to his grandma, and instead of, you know, killing her, it makes her grow into a giant. George’s parents get so excited, they have him feed it to their chickens. Another medicine shrinks the grandmother into nothingness, and…yeah, kids, don’t try this at home.

    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972)
    Did you know that there’s a sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the best novels ever written (which not surprisingly ranks very high on this list; see below)? It’s not quite as indelible as its predecessor—which relies heavily on the elements of surprises and the wonder of discovery, which are hard to hit twice in one world—but it’s definitely a curiosity and worth a read to get just a little more Willy Wonka in your life. It’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in space, which is…pretty darn hard to resist, now that we think about it.

    The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985)
    Dahl always knew what kids wanted, from both life and books: candy. Lots and lots of candy. The story of Charlie and his Golden Ticket isn’t the only sweet tale Dahl ever wrote. This story is about a little boy who teams up with a giraffe and a pelican (the pelly) to start a window-cleaning company, which he parlays—along with some bouts of heroism—into a shot at running his own candy store. (And yes, the book itself is actually quite delicious.)

    Danny, the Champion of the World (1975)
    Probably Dahl’s most personal work is this tender and touching story of a boy and his widowed father that mixes in Dahl’s beloved “us vs. them” sensibility. Also, Dahl seems to have changed his tune about hunting, because the plot mostly concerns Danny and his dad hunting pheasants on land explicitly owned by someone who doesn’t allow it. There’s a lot of bird drugging and killing in this book, but also a lot of parental bonding, and it takes a fascinating look into life in a Roma caravan.

    The Twits (1980)
    Reportedly inspired by his deep hatred and mistrust of beards—Dahl would’ve despised Portland—The Twits is about one of those old couples who have been together so long they both hate each other and couldn’t live without each other. They’re gross, disgusting, ugly people filled with ugly thoughts and feelings who spend their time playing cruel pranks on each other and tormenting birds, until one day they’re finally outwitted by Muggle-Wump, a kind monkey and his family. It’s a gritty, almost Seussian fairy tale in which the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined, and all that’s supposed to happen does.

    The Enormous Crocodile (1978)
    While Dahl usually eschewed the traditional children’s book conceit of anthropomorphized animals to tell parables about human nature in favor of peopling his stories with people, he occasionally used animals, with all of their brutality and bluntness, to get his point across. Take The Enormous Crocodile, essentially a book about standing up to bullies and giving them a taste of their own medicine. The titular animal is a right nasty fellow, the kind of guy who eats children and brags about it. But his tormenting ways are about to be over, when the other animals conspire to trap him and then literally throw him into the sun. Yeah, that’s what you get, Enormous Crocodile!

    The Vicar of Nibbleswicke (1991)
    Has anything ever had a more British-sounding title than The Vicar of Nibbleswicke? Published in 1991, after Dahl’s death, the book had a noble purpose: to raise awareness and sympathy for people with dyslexia, and proceeds benefitted dyslexia-related charities. That said, the story itself is a sweet one, about a small-town reverend named Robert Lee who has a (fictional) kind of dyslexia that makes him say the most important word in every sentence backward, which leads to amusing comical misunderstandings. There’s a cure, however: walking backward.

    The Minpins (1991)
    This marks Dahl’s final published children’s book, going to print a few months after his death in November 1990. And it’s the book Dahl should have published long earlier, because it’s a straight-up fairy forest adventure we all knew he had in him. A proto-Spiderwick Chronicles, it’s about a little boy named Billy who is forbidden from hanging out in the Forest of Sin, which just so happens to be in the backyard, what with all of the Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers, Whangdoodles, and other Dahltastically named creatures said to live back there. Billy goes, of course, especially since the actual Devil tricks him into it, promising scores of wild strawberries. What boy can say no to forest adventures and wild strawberries? Or an alliance with the fantastical Minpins?

    The BFG (1982)
    This book is as friendly, gentle, and playful as its title character—“BFG” stands for “big friendly giant.” It’s about how the things we ought to fear at first sight are nothing to fear at all, and how everybody has a bit of humanity in them, as well as a story to tell. Sophie is an orphan who late one night spots a giant, and follows him to his giant cave. She fears she’ll be eaten, but the BFG explains that he’s, like, the only giant who doesn’t eat people. A fast, tender, and unlikely friendship develops, one that fuels a story turn nobody saw coming: Sophie and the BFG get the Queen on board for a huge plan to catch all the bad giants.

    Esio Trot (1990)
    It’s like a romantic comedy meets Three’s Company…for kids! A tenant of a normal-seeming contemporary apartment building, lonely old Mr. Hoppy, is in love with downstairs neighbor Mrs. Silver, but she’s too focused on her pet tortoise, Alfie, for romance. Alfie won’t grow, and Mrs. Silver doesn’t know why…so Mr. Hoppy buys a series of tortoises of increasingly larger size to make Mrs. Silver happy. And, because this is a romance, these bizarre, outsized gestures actually work. Take note, kids: If you love somebody, buy them turtles. (BTW: “Esio Trot” is an anagram of “tortoise.”)

    James and the Giant Peach (1961)
    Where would children’s literature, especially British literature, be without the gift of orphans? So many orphans! It’s a nice literary device that gets a kid away from the confines of home and safety and on to doing things like, well, traveling the world inside a giant peach. After rhinos eat his parents (it happens), James goes to live with his mean aunts, until a Jack and the Beanstalk–type situation emerges, producing a house-sized peach. James foils the aunts’ plans to make a buck off the thing (as adults do) and heads inside it, where he meets a bunch of friendly insects. One of them cuts the peach away, and the whole gang is off and running, inside the peach, on a fantastical adventure.

    Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970)
    A story so cool, stylish, and timeless it was adapted smoothly into a cool, stylish, and timeless Wes Anderson movie. We humans may have an affinity for foxes because while they look like a cross between our beloved dogs and cats, and they’re as clever and crafty as we like to think we are. None is more clever and charismatic than Mr. Fox himself, a family man who provides by stealing from local farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The farmers devise a plan to starve him out, but Mr. Fox, like you, young reader, is far too clever to just give up.

    Matilda (1988)
    This is perhaps the most definitive Roald Dahl novel in that it’s about a pure-hearted, special child whose gifts go unnoticed by the evil and wretchedly awful adults around her…until she rises up in rebellion. Matilda Wormwood uses her superpowers to take on wicked headmistress Miss Trunchbull (not to mention her horrible family), finding the parental love she so needs and wants from an unlikely source.

    The Witches (1983)
    Part of Dahl’s enormous, enduring appeal to children is that he doesn’t shield them from the world—he doesn’t sugar-coat its evils, but rather uses metaphors to help kids understand all the bad that’s out to get them, which they of course find irresistible. Of course, it helps when his protagonists are tough, brave kids who get things done. This is the kind of story Dahl excels at telling, and The Witches is a perfect example. With some obvious parallels to history and politics, it focuses on one boy’s attempts to take down a truly evil international syndicate of child-hating, child-killing witches. Unlike other kids vs. adults tales in the Dahl canon, however, The Witches has a shocking, unfair ending. Hey, sometimes life is like that, kids.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)
    Like Matilda, this one features a child in peril whose patience, perseverance, and steadfast commitment to being his true self serves allows him to get justice and rewards in the end. But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just a little bit better than Matilda because it’s such a feast for the brain. It’s one set piece after another when Charlie finally ditches his gray London life for the technicolor world of pure imagination of Willy Wonka’s mysterious, bizarre, and vaguely menacing chocolate factory. Both film adaptations do a good job visualizing the factory, but nothing can do it as well as the eye of a child’s mind.

    The post A Definitive Ranking of the Children’s Books of Roald Dahl appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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

    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.

     
  • Saskia Lacey 11:00 am on 2017/06/08 Permalink
    Tags: , Classics, , future classics   

    Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats 

    Here are fifty incredible literary works destined to become classics (in no particular order!). Many are Pulitzer Prize winners, but there are a few dark horses. If your favorite literary masterpiece has not been included, fret not, the comments section awaits! Tell us about any we’ve missed, any you disagree with, or any you think are spot on. And then add the ones you may not have gotten to yet to the top of your teeteringTo Be Read pile…

    The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace
    The last missive from one of our generation’s literary gods, The Pale King holds its ground among the author’s greatest works. Told from the perspective of an IRS agent, David Foster Wallace does the impossible: he shapes the seemingly drab work of accounting into something compelling, heartbreaking, and, of course, wonderfully comic.

    The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
    Peter Carey’s fictionalized account of a real man, Ned Kelly, paints the bank robber as a noble sort of scoundrel. Loved by the poor, but hated by the police, Ned Kelly, the Jesse James of Australia, writes to his daughter while hiding out from the law.

    Blonde, by Joyce Carol Oates
    From Norma Jeane Baker to Marilyn Bombshell Monroe, Joyce Carol Oates takes us from the icon’s girlhood to Hollywood stardom. Fictional, but achingly believable, Blonde gives us a new vision of the silver screen legend.

    Chronic City, by Jonathan Lethem
    Chronic City revolves around Chase Insteadman, a former child actor, and Perkus Tooth, a pop culture fanatic with a Marlon Brando obsession. The two unlikely friends bond through a series of stoned adventures, some of which land them among the uber rich of New York’s Upper East Side.

    Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
    A story of captives and captors in South America, Ann Patchett’s novel is defined by its swoon-worthy prose. The novel’s setting is a birthday party for a wealthy businessman. Roxane Coss, a gifted opera singer, is the highlight of the evening. The party sours when a pack of terrorists turn the celebration into a war zone.

    The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
    With just a pistol between them and the world’s (almost unspeakable) evils, father and son journey through a post-apocalyptic hellscape. McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is relentless, horrific, and impossible to turn away from.

    The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
    At a summer camp for the artistically gifted, six young people with “potential” forge lifelong friendships. After camp ends, each takes a different path. Some use their gifts to great success, their promised potential resulting in actual fame. The Interestings is about the joy, pain, comradery, and competition of creative friendships.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    A novel with an impossible history, House of Leaves was once just a stack of papers passed between friends. Now, years after its publication, the book is a horror classic. At the center of Danielewski’s novel is the house on Ash Tree Lane, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and full of strange secrets.

    Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
    King Henry VIII and the world are at odds. The King is determined to marry Anne Boleyn, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church. With Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel reinvents some of Britain’s most famous figures of history: Thomas Cromwell, and Henry VIII. Wolf Hall was winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

    The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates
    Across the city, girls from good families are disappearing. It’s the early 1900s and something is haunting Princeton, New Jersey. Joyce Carol Oates spins a marvelously gothic web with The Accursed, a novel populated by turn of the century greats like Grover Cleveland, Upton Sinclair, Woodrow Wilson, Jack London and Mark Twain.

    Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
    Powerfully funny, Olive Kitteridge is a novel-in-stories centered around a retired school teacher. Olive Kitteridge is a woman of big emotions. She is kind, ruthless, empathetic, and cruel. She is a total original. Strout’s collection of 13 narratives tells an epic story of a small New England town and its people.

    Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
    A tiger, a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a boy named Pi are the lone survivors of a shipwreck. In time, only the boy and the tiger remain. The two survive for months at sea before landing in Mexico. Pi is eager to tell his story, but will anyone believe him?

    The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Namesake cemented Jhumpa Lahiri’s status as a literary great. Her novel centers around Gogol Ganguli, a child of immigrants who struggles with questions of identity. Throughout The Namesake, Gogol vacillates between trying to fit in, and embracing his position as an outsider. 

    The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Madeleine Hanna is an English major with a passion for Jane Austen and George Eliot, two literary masters of the marriage plot. But Madeleine’s life is unlike the novels she adores. As a young woman in the 1980s, love has little to do with the courtship rituals of the Victorian novel.

    My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
    Elena and Lila are friends living in 1950s Italy. In their violent neighborhood, death is not a stranger. As the two friends grow and change, so does their environment. Elena reaches towards writing as an escape, while Lila’s ties to their neighborhood only become stronger. My Brilliant Friend is the first of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet.

    Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
    Purity, or Pip, is on the hunt. She has a murky past, a missing father, and a mother who refuses to answer questions. Her journey will take her to strange places—including a dubious internship in Bolivia—where she will meet unusual people. Among them is Andreas Wolf, a charismatic man with a dangerous history.

    Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
    Lydia was supposed to do what her Chinese American father never could: fit in. A young girl with a promising future, Lydia was bound to succeed. But everything changes when her body is found at the bottom of a lake. Celeste Ng’s story is one of a small town shaken by the death of a young girl and a family with secrets. Everything I never Told You is an astonishing new author’s debut novel.

    Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
    Joshua Ferris’ novel of corporate life is a familiar one. Told from the perspective of the collective—the first-person plural “We”—Then We Came to the End is filled with rumors, drama, competition, and workers gone rogue. Essentially, Ferris has created a realistic portrayal of the average, thoroughly dysfunctional, modern office.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    When an intimate moment is misinterpreted by a young girl, the consequences are tragic. Ian McEwan’s novel of two lovers separated by an imagined crime, explores the redemptive nature of storytelling.

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
    Michael Chabon’s novel of friendship and identity is a jubilant look at the Golden Age of comics. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, follows artist and magician Joe Kavalier and his comics-obsessed cousin, Sammy Clay, through New York during World War II.

    1Q84, by Haruki Murakami
    The world is not what it seems. Aomame tugs on the thread of reality, and finds it unravels. She should be in Tokyo in 1984, but instead she is in a disturbing and dreamlike parallel universe.

    A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
    A novel revered by music nerds, A Visit From the Goon Squad also happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. Egan’s work revolves around the lives of Bennie, a retired punk rocker, and Sasha, his pickpocket employee.

    White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
    For many, White Teeth was an introduction to literary wunderkind, Zadie Smith. The novel is a multicultural masterpiece that follows two London families, one willing to accept the status quo and another who will fight fate every step of the way.

    Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill
    In the aftermath of 9/11, an expat from London navigates a ruined New York. Alone in the city, he searches for connection in local cricket matches.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    Three children are raised in an English boarding school, hidden from the rest of the world. They are told that they are special, but the reasons behind their unusual status are unknown. As they grow older, their purpose becomes terrifyingly clear.

    The Human Stain, by Philip Roth
    A well-respected professor, Coleman Silk, is accused of racism. The truth is something very different. Silk has a secret burden he has carried with him all his life. The Human Stain won 2001’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

    Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson
    Named after a fictional town in Iowa, Gilead concerns itself with the life of an aging pastor. John Ames is a man who, even in his old age, retains an immovable Christian faith. In his seventies, Ames has a son, and grieving his lack of time, writes a letter to his son that takes a diary-like form. Gilead is winner of 2004’s Pulitzer Prize. 

    Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
    Jeffrey Eugenides epic novel centers around Calliope Stephanides. Calliope, later Cal, has been “born twice,” first as a girl, and later, as a boy. Middlesex revolves around Calliope’s transformation and the genetic secret kept by her Greek-American family. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex is a multigenerational tale of identity, family, reinvention, and humor.

    Look at Me, by Jennifer Egan
    An aging fashion model, Charlotte Swanson, gets in a horrific car accident. After a drastic surgery, she is unrecognizable. Charlotte “recovers” from her accident by throwing herself into drink and navigating her old New York haunts, newly anonymous. Charlotte’s story becomes entangled with that of another, younger Charlotte, who is involved with a dangerous stranger.

    The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
    Henry Townsend was once a slave, but at the beginning of Edward P. Jones’ novel, he is a dying slave owner. Henry has become a man who purchased his freedom only to enslave others. The Known World takes a searing look at the beginning of black “freedom” in America and its dangerous implications for both masters and slaves. 

    Invisible, by Paul Auster
    Adam Walker, a Columbia University undergrad with a love for poetry, is changed by a chance meeting with Rudolf Born, an intense man eager to become his patron. Adam’s dealings with Born quickly become complicated. When Born’s brutal nature finally reveals itself, Adam’s life is forever altered.

    The Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes
    Tony Webster’s middle age is comfortable, if a bit lonely. In his sixties, retired, and divorced, it seems that the rest of his life will follow a predictable course. But when visitors from his past upend Tony’s simple existence, he is forced to contend with memory, time, and the friendships and loves of his youth. 

    NW, by Zadie Smith
    Zadie Smith’s NW is the story of four Londoners who begin life in the same poor neighborhood. Each has grown up and reacted to their upbringing in a different way. Some find success, and others are left feeling perpetually displaced, unable to catch up with time. Zadie examines the joys and bitter disappointments of seeking a “traditional” path leading to marriage, children, and the inevitable attempts to escape from both. 

    The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
    Eleanor Catton’s novel takes place in 19th century New Zealand. Her cast of characters are drawn together by the country’s gold rush and a mysterious crime. Readers of The Luminaries will marvel as the novel’s mysteries slowly reveal themselves. Eleanor Catton’s novel is winner of the Man Booker Prize.

    The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
    A book with serious heft, reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is a commitment. Thankfully, the nearly 800-page novel, delivers in a big way. It is the story of a young man, Theo Decker, who loses his mother in a tragic accident. As a result of his mother’s death, Theo ends up living a strange life on Manhattan’s upper east side. Through it all is his obsession with Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch, a painting that reminds Theo of his lost mother.

    The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
    Chad Harbach’s novel follows Henry Skrimshander, an athlete whose destiny as a baseball great seems all but certain. But then, things go afoul. With one bad throw, Henry’s whole career hangs in the balance. The repercussions of the mistake are felt not only by Henry, but five others.

    The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood
    Winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Blind Assassin is a story of two sisters who couldn’t be more different. Iris Chase is sensible while her younger sister, Laura, has a wild streak. At the novel’s opening, an aged Iris reflects on her life and the death of her sister. Within this story is another, a science fiction novel penned by Laura. Through both fiction and nonfiction, the story of the two sisters takes shape.

    A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
    In 1976, there was an attempted assassination on Bob Marley. A Brief History of Seven Killings grows outward from this event, and covers the explosive history between Jamaica and the United States. Marlon James populates his novel with a diverse cast, which includes CIA agents, politicians, music journalists and drug dealers. 

    Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson
    Denis Johnson’s novel will break your heart. Its brutal setting is 1960s Vietnam. At the center of the novel is the story of a young CIA agent named William Sands. Tree of Smoke also features a protagonist from one of the author’s earlier novels, Bill Houston of Angels. Johnson’s novel is winner of 2007’s National Book Award.

    Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Haslett
    Adam Haslett investigates the fraught terrain of mental illness over the course of two generations. Imagine Me Gone focuses on the terror caused by depression and anxiety to those afflicted and those who live with them. Despite its dark material, the novel is filled with warmth and humor.

    The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
    A poor town called Dickens is exiled from California. Taken off the map, Dickens ceases to exist. To fight against anonymity, an African American man does the unthinkable. He revives segregation and slavery, putting himself and his town on center stage, with a Supreme Court trial. Paul Beatty’s satirical novel is a hilarious and essential read.

    Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
    Richard Russo’s novel is a Pulitzer Prize winner. His book follows Miles Roby, a burger joint employee of two decades living in Empire Falls. The city is a dying town run by a wealthy, all-powerful family. Roby’s journey is a simple but compelling one.

    American Woman, by Susan Choi
    Susan Choi’s American Woman centers around an underground political community. She focuses on several young radicals living in hiding, a dark and paranoid existence. Choi’s novel is a claustrophobic character study of how we act under extreme pressure.

    The Circle, by Dave Eggers
    Mae Holland can’t believe she gets to work at the Circle, a nearly omnipotent internet company based in California. Mae starts at the bottom of the corporate ladder, but climbs quickly, becoming more and more entrenched in the company’s culture. The Circle is a spellbinding look at a particular moment in our tech history. Eggers sharply assesses the addictive nature of social media, the cost of total e-connectivity, and the benefits and terrifying consequences of modern surveillance. 

    Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson
    Robert Granier, born at the end of the 19th century, witnesses the shaping of the American West. He is an orphan who gains a family, only to lose them in a fire. A quick and haunting read, Train Dreams is a novella of immense impact. 

    The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
    A biting satire narrated by Balman Halwai, an entrepreneur and self-styled “man of tomorrow,” The White Tiger is a vision of the modern Indian class system from the perspective of a man who starts at the bottom. 

    The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
    A young slave named Cora plots her escape from a cotton plantation. Her life is brutal beyond imagining. There is word of secret tunnels, a true underground railroad, but the journey is dangerous. As she travels towards what seems like an impossible freedom, Cora never feels safe; her hunters are always close behind.

    Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
    An immensely difficult but rewarding read, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is comprised of six stories. The style of each varies so greatly that the reader wouldn’t be surprised to learn each story was written by a different author. Cloud Atlas stretches across hundreds of years, transporting the reader from 19th century ships to alien gods of the future. 

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
    All Oscar wants is to find love. But being overweight, nerdy, and cursed, his chances don’t look good. Oscar and his Dominican family have been subject to the fukú, a supernatural curse, for as long as anyone can remember. If Oscar is to succeed in love and life, he must battle the unbeatable. 

    Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
    Walter and Patty Berglund haven’t yet learned how to live. A suburban couple with two children, in building their lives together the Berglunds may have compromised too much. Franzen’s novel follows Patty and Walter through their college years and beyond, where the figure of Walter’s charismatic best friend, Richard, looms large. While both Patty and Walter yearn for a different life, neither are quite willing to let go of the other.

    What books would you add to this list?

    The post Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:30 pm on 2017/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , Classics, , ,   

    The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books 

    Where once delirious theorizing about novels was the province of English professors and their students, safely locked away in the ivory tower of academia, in the modern age the democratizing force of the internet has made it everyone’s business to think way too hard about what they watch, read, or listen to, and then type up Tumblr posts about their new theory.

    Most of these theories are pure bosh, of course, and are quickly swept aside by the rising tide of the next day’s theories—and none of them can be “proved” anyway, at least not in any real sense. But some of these fan theories are a lot of fun—and some have more staying power than others. These five may not hold up in a court of literary law, but they will mess with your mind.

    Theory: There is no Mr. Hyde
    Book: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Did you ever notice that in Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we never get a glimpse of Mr. Hyde’s point of view? While most of the usual discussion about the story takes for granted that Mr. Hyde is literally a separate personality that Jekyll has unleashed—younger, different in appearance, and of a completely different, er, temperament—the fact is we only have Jekyll’s unreliable evidence to back this up. A lot of readers speculate that Hyde is just an excuse for Jekyll to go ham on some really unacceptable behavior he has always wanted to get into. Readers have been fooled because we take Jekyll’s words at face value, and Jekyll believes himself to be a good man who couldn’t possibly do such terrible things. But if Jekyll is unreliable—as he clearly is—then why take him at his word on that?

    Theory: Jane Austen’s novels are about sociopaths and Game Theory
    Book: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

    This one will really get at Austen fans: there’s a prevalent theory that you can use Austen’s novels (not just Pride and Prejudice) as a guidebook to Game Theory, because all of Austen’s characters are basically sociopaths who manipulate everyone around them like game pieces on a board. If you think about it, this is blood-chillingly obvious: Just about every major character in Austen’s stories is playing a cold-blooded game, breaking down their opponents’ weaknesses, deceiving them, and then using their mistakes against them, all to gain social ascendancy. Put in that light, Austen’s work is some Game of Thrones–level stuff.

    Theory: Jack Torrance wrote Apt Pupil
    Book: Different Seasons and The Shining, by Stephen King

    Over on Reddit last year, this theory popped up and took root due to its plausibility—especially when you consider how hard Stephen King has worked to connect his books into one sprawling multiverse. It boils down to a few simple facts: Jack Torrance in The Shining is a frustrated writer who has lost a teaching job because of a violent run-in with a student, and he’s working on a story featuring a character named Denker. Apt Pupil also features a character named Denker, who meets a student who’s a much worse version of the kid Jack attacked. There’s not much more to the theory, but the idea that Jack might have been writing Apt Pupil while going insane in the Overlook Hotel is so exciting we’d like to suggest King go back and revise his books slightly to make the connection overt.

    Theory: George is homosexual
    Book: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

    Of Mice and Men was published in 1937, way before homosexuality was something discussed freely in public, much less accepted in everyday life. There are some references to homosexuality in the book, but they serve to underscore how bad it would be to be outed back in those days. And there is some evidence that Steinbeck may have intended George to be gay. When he sees Curly’s wife, the only woman in the book and a woman who is clearly reveling in her sex appeal among the men working the ranch, George barely looks at her and doesn’t have much reaction. But when George spies Slim—or any other man—his descriptions become far more effusive. It’s subtle—but it adds an unexpected dimension to the story.

    Theory: Heathcliff is a werewolf
    Book: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

    Wuthering Heights is an amazing book, very dark, centering on a romantic duo that’s deeply polarizing. Heathcliff’s story is certainly tragic and deserving of sympathy, but he’s also a destructive, vengeful force, and a malevolent one, at that. When you consider how easy it is to imagine Brontë wrote an early supernatural romance and just made all the references super subtle for plausible deniability, however, it all changes. Cathy? Totally a vampire. And Heathcliff, a man repeatedly described as “savage,” a man who lives in a house with a pack of dogs, a man with “sharp cannibal teeth”? A werewolf. In fact, turning Wuthering Heights into the first-ever Twilight requires you to squint just a little bit.

    The post The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:30 pm on 2017/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , Classics, , ,   

    The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books 

    Where once delirious theorizing about novels was the province of English professors and their students, safely locked away in the ivory tower of academia, in the modern age the democratizing force of the internet has made it everyone’s business to think way too hard about what they watch, read, or listen to, and then type up Tumblr posts about their new theory.

    Most of these theories are pure bosh, of course, and are quickly swept aside by the rising tide of the next day’s theories—and none of them can be “proved” anyway, at least not in any real sense. But some of these fan theories are a lot of fun—and some have more staying power than others. These five may not hold up in a court of literary law, but they will mess with your mind.

    Theory: There is no Mr. Hyde
    Book: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Did you ever notice that in Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, we never get a glimpse of Mr. Hyde’s point of view? While most of the usual discussion about the story takes for granted that Mr. Hyde is literally a separate personality that Jekyll has unleashed—younger, different in appearance, and of a completely different, er, temperament—the fact is we only have Jekyll’s unreliable evidence to back this up. A lot of readers speculate that Hyde is just an excuse for Jekyll to go ham on some really unacceptable behavior he has always wanted to get into. Readers have been fooled because we take Jekyll’s words at face value, and Jekyll believes himself to be a good man who couldn’t possibly do such terrible things. But if Jekyll is unreliable—as he clearly is—then why take him at his word on that?

    Theory: Jane Austen’s novels are about sociopaths and Game Theory
    Book: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

    This one will really get at Austen fans: there’s a prevalent theory that you can use Austen’s novels (not just Pride and Prejudice) as a guidebook to Game Theory, because all of Austen’s characters are basically sociopaths who manipulate everyone around them like game pieces on a board. If you think about it, this is blood-chillingly obvious: Just about every major character in Austen’s stories is playing a cold-blooded game, breaking down their opponents’ weaknesses, deceiving them, and then using their mistakes against them, all to gain social ascendancy. Put in that light, Austen’s work is some Game of Thrones–level stuff.

    Theory: Jack Torrance wrote Apt Pupil
    Book: Different Seasons and The Shining, by Stephen King

    Over on Reddit last year, this theory popped up and took root due to its plausibility—especially when you consider how hard Stephen King has worked to connect his books into one sprawling multiverse. It boils down to a few simple facts: Jack Torrance in The Shining is a frustrated writer who has lost a teaching job because of a violent run-in with a student, and he’s working on a story featuring a character named Denker. Apt Pupil also features a character named Denker, who meets a student who’s a much worse version of the kid Jack attacked. There’s not much more to the theory, but the idea that Jack might have been writing Apt Pupil while going insane in the Overlook Hotel is so exciting we’d like to suggest King go back and revise his books slightly to make the connection overt.

    Theory: George is homosexual
    Book: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

    Of Mice and Men was published in 1937, way before homosexuality was something discussed freely in public, much less accepted in everyday life. There are some references to homosexuality in the book, but they serve to underscore how bad it would be to be outed back in those days. And there is some evidence that Steinbeck may have intended George to be gay. When he sees Curly’s wife, the only woman in the book and a woman who is clearly reveling in her sex appeal among the men working the ranch, George barely looks at her and doesn’t have much reaction. But when George spies Slim—or any other man—his descriptions become far more effusive. It’s subtle—but it adds an unexpected dimension to the story.

    Theory: Heathcliff is a werewolf
    Book: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

    Wuthering Heights is an amazing book, very dark, centering on a romantic duo that’s deeply polarizing. Heathcliff’s story is certainly tragic and deserving of sympathy, but he’s also a destructive, vengeful force, and a malevolent one, at that. When you consider how easy it is to imagine Brontë wrote an early supernatural romance and just made all the references super subtle for plausible deniability, however, it all changes. Cathy? Totally a vampire. And Heathcliff, a man repeatedly described as “savage,” a man who lives in a house with a pack of dogs, a man with “sharp cannibal teeth”? A werewolf. In fact, turning Wuthering Heights into the first-ever Twilight requires you to squint just a little bit.

    The post The 5 Most Brain-Warping Fan Theories About Books appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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