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  • Jen Harper 2:00 pm on 2019/10/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , george orwell, , , naomi alderman, , , , , the power, , , yoko ogawa   

    8 Books to Read if You Loved The Testaments, September’s B&N Book Club Selection 

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    The Barnes & Noble Book Club selection for September, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, picks up more than 15 years after the events in her original classic The Handmaid’s Tale. Though the theocratic regime remains in the Republic of Gilead, signs abound that it’s the beginning of the end for the patriarchal power. Poised for revenge, Aunt Lydia is now old and dying, but she has no intention to leave this world without taking down some people with her in this captivating tale that fans won’t be able to put down. But what is a reader to do after finishing this incredible book and discussing it at your local B&N Book Club meeting on Wednesday, October 9th at 7 p.m.? We’ve rounded up 8 more reads to keep you busy until next month. Check out our readalike picks for The Testaments.

    The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
    After reading the sequel, you may want to revisit Atwood’s instant classic that started it all. The dystopian future novel focuses on Offred, an enslaved Handmaid to the Commander and his wife in the Republic of Gilead—which was once known as the United States—an oppressive monotheocracy in which women have no rights and are only as valuable as their reproductive systems are viable. Offred only has her memories of a time when she had her freedom, a job, a husband, a child, a life of her own. And now she’s not even permitted to read and is only allowed to leave the house once a day to go to the food market. It’s a reality that seems all at once surreal and prescient to readers who won’t soon forget The Handmaid’s Tale or its powerful sequel.

    Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
    Kirstin Raymonde is just 8 years old, acting in a production of King Lear in Toronto when the show’s star, Hollywood-famous Arthur Leander, dies on stage of a heart attack. On the very same night, a flu pandemic is spreading across the world, wiping out civilization in Emily St. John Mandel’s spellbinding National Book Award finalist that will appeal to fans of Atwood’s latest dystopian tale. Kirsten can’t find her parents, and she and her older brother must try to survive this bleak new reality. We pick back up with Kirsten 20 years later—she has joined up with a traveling Shakespeare troupe called the Traveling Symphony, determined to bring art to those that remain to remind the survivors that humanity can indeed still exist.

    1984, by George Orwell
    Much like Atwood’s The Testaments, George Orwell’s 1984, written 70 years ago, feels chillingly prophetic in today’s climate. A masterpiece of dystopian fiction, Orwell’s tale offers his profound take on the effects of government surveillance, oppression, and revisionist history. In the tale, Winston Smith is a government employee for the Ministry of Truth, altering historical records to reflect the storyline preferred by the Party, who punishes anyone for even thinking negatively about the government—after all, Big Brother is always watching. Thus Winston has been secretly writing his thoughts in a diary, and one day, when he sees a girl staring, he naturally assumes she’s onto him. But Julia is also a rebel, and soon the two attempt to have a relationship and form a bond that simply isn’t allowed in this society.

    Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Fans of alarmingly prophetic dystopias would also do well not to miss (or, if it’s been a few decades, to revisit) Aldous Huxley’s ruthless, timeless, terrifying vision of a world that seems, in the current climate, jarringly famillier. This classic is often contrasted with the more overtly dark dystopian novel 1984, but it also offers an interesting counterpoint to the world depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale (in it, reproduction is also managed by the government, but in this case, it has been completely divorced from humanity, and babies are genetically engineered and grown in jars.) Brave New World finds humanity completely controlled by the state—but this control is implemented not through fear and subjugation, but by keeping people so distracted by trivial entertainment, state-sanctioned tranquilizing drugs, and government-approved promiscuity that they barely notice or care about their lack of personal freedom.

    The Power, by Naomi Alderman
    Have you ever heard a woman say she always knows where men are on any given street she’s walking on…like she has eyes in the back of her head? This novel imagines that men might be the ones who have something to fear, when teenage girls can torture and kill if they want to. Follow four perspectives of people whose lives are irrevocably altered when this power emerges, and remember the metaphor that Handmaid’s Tale and its sequel also drive home: that the power for evil is certainly within us, and if provoked, we can unleash it.

    The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa
    Ogawa’s dystopian tale about government surveillance and control is a perfect next read for fans of Atwood’s The Testaments. Objects, people, and even concepts are disappearing from the island—and it’s happening at a more rapid pace by the day. Most people on the island don’t even notice, but some are able to remember the things lost to the Memory Police—and these people live in fear of the draconian enforcement group. When a young novelist finds out that her editor has been targeted by the Memory Police, she hides him away in a secret room in her house, where they cling to her writing as a way to preserve the past and their relationship as a means for preserving their humanity. This novel was longlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    In Ishiguro’s dystopian sci-fi novel, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy all grew up attending an exclusive private school together in the English countryside, where the students were sheltered from reality. The children always knew that they were somehow special, but their uniqueness was shrouded in mystery. Now, as adults, the threesome has come back together as 31-year-old Kathy is serving as a “carer” for Ruth and Tommy prior to becoming a “donor” herself in this haunting novel in which an oppressed underclass exists solely to act as organ banks to keep other people alive longer—and the underclass doesn’t understand their unavoidable destiny until it’s too late.

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    Vox‘s entire premise is based on the silencing of women, literally: allotted only 100 words per day and violently punished if they exceed it, women in this version of America have been robbed of their voices, their careers, and their dignity. But when one former cognitive linguist (aka, a scientist of words) is recruited by the higher echelon of the government to work on a cure for a Very Important Person’s brain injury impacting their speech, she decides that this (and her added allotment of words per day) is her opportunity to seek justice. Not just for her, but for her young daughter, who has grown up being silent, and her teenage son, whom she watches becoming more indoctrinated into this toxic system each day. A gripping read with twists and turns you won’t see coming!

    What books would you recommend for fans of The Testaments?

    The post 8 Books to Read if You Loved <i>The Testaments</i>, September’s B&N Book Club Selection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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

    6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles 

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    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.

  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2016/01/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , george orwell, , psycho, ,   

    5 Novels Based on Bonkers Things That Actually Happened 

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    Suspension of disbelief is a term that describes our willingness to be fooled. We all know that when we crack open a novel, we’re volunteering to be lied to, after all; the author is spinning a tale, and in order to enjoy it, we put aside our usual suspicion and distrust. We’re willingly lied to, even if we know on some level that it’s all trickery. Except when it isn’t: sometimes you read a novel describing events so incredible your suspension of disbelief begins to collapse into actual disbelief—and then you discover the story is based on true events, and your entire worldview is challenged. Here are five novels based on incredible, unbelievable things that actually happened.

    The Revenant, by Michael Punke
    In the early 19th century, a man named Hugh Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear while on a trapping mission with a handful of other men. Badly mauled and far away from even the primitive medical care available at the time, he’s left for dead with two men instructed to guard him from local (and antagonistic) American Indian tribes and bury him properly when he dies. When American Indians do arrive on the scene, however, the men steal Glass’s weapons and other gear and abandon him—but not only does he not die, he drags himself hundreds of miles to an outpost, heals, and then sets out to seek revenge. This story seems as impossible as 127 Hours, but it’s just as real; Punke’s exhaustive research proves it happened.

    The Heart of the Sea and Moby Dick, by Nathaniel Philbrick and Herman Melville
    In perhaps the most meta moment of all time, every year the novel Moby Dick becomes thousands of students’ personal White Whale, a book readers fear and dread but must face down. While Melville’s classic remains a challenging, brilliant work of fiction, Philbrick’s nonfiction work illuminates the true story of the whaling ship Essex, which in 1819 was rammed and sunk by an enormous sperm whale, leaving the remaining crew to struggle for three months to survive in tiny open boats—or not survive, as most died of thirst, starvation, and exposure before reaching safety. The fact that anyone lived to tell the tale at all would be an unbelievable plot twist if the story were fiction.

    A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    Martin’s epic fantasy may wind up taking as long to write as the historical events that inspired it took to transpire; while the Wars of the Roses didn’t involve any dragons or undead hordes streaming in from Scotland (although the English tended to treat the Scots similarly to the Free Folk), this dynastic struggle for the crown in 15th-century England is Martin’s avowed inspiration for the “game of thrones” that sets the horrific events of his story in motion. The Wars of the Roses lasted about 30 years and included as much (or more) betrayal, skullduggery, and violence as Martin’s books, ultimately elevating Henry Tudor, Henry VIII’s father and Elizabeth I’s grandfather, and transforming England in ways that changed not just English history, but world history. If you think Martin’s plot twists are crazy, try reading the history that inspired them.

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    Animal Farm is likely more disturbing than Orwell’s 1984, despite the latter’s bleak view of human nature and emphasis on gruesome torture, because it begins almost like a fairy tale, with a farm filled with talking animals who dream of overthrowing their human oppressors and creating a utopia. Orwell skillfully makes the animals into real characters, so it’s all the more heartbreaking to see the dream corrupted as a brutal fight for power and authority transforms a ideal society into a dystopian nightmare, where some animals are more equal than others. Orwell explicitly based the plot on the events surrounding the 1917 Russian Revolution, the civil wars that followed, Stalin’s rise to power, and the subsequent consolidation of authority.

    Psycho, by Robert Bloch
    Although Hitchcock’s film adaptation has eclipsed Bloch’s novel, the book remains a tense psychological thriller. If you think the idea of a disturbed man murdering people and keeping the mummified corpse of his mother seated in his house, where he frequently has conversations with her, to be a bit out there, consider the real-life serial killer the story is based on: Ed Gein, who made “clothing” out of human skin taken from his victims in order to create a “woman suit” he could wear so he could pretend to be his own mother. Bloch claims he wasn’t aware of Gein until the novel was almost completed, but the details are so similar it seems like too strong a coincidence.

  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 6:00 pm on 2015/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: almost doesn't count, and to think that I saw it on mulberry street, , , , east wind: west wind, george orwell, , , pearl s. buck, , , , the diary of a young girl   

    More Essential Books that Almost Never Saw the Light of Day 

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    The best, most beloved books often have one thing in common: a struggle to be published. Some of our most important stories, from Anne Frank’s unforgettable diary, to the wanderlust classic On the Road, and even early books by childhood idol Dr. Seuss, were passed over by multiple agents and publishers. Yet sometimes it’s those books that break rules, the ones labeled “too different” for a mainstream audience, that become the ones we really needed. Check out some of the books below, (or some from our earlier post on books that almost never were), and fall in love with something a little “different.”

    The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
    Plath, the Pulitzer Prize-winning idol of many poets and readers in search of a coming of age story, had to publish her novel The Bell Jar under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel faced rejection because the publishing house saw it as “disappointing, juvenile and overwrought.” Now it’s compared to The Catcher in the Rye, (another frequently rejected title, ahem).

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    When T.S. Eliot was the editing director of Faber & Faber, he rejected Animal Farm because he “did not want to upset the Soviets in those fraught years of World War II.” There was no mention of a problem with Orwell’s writing, and he was already a household name with five other books in print. In this case, in contrast to other rejected writers, politics—not style—almost stopped this required reading staple from ever hitting bookshelves.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
    Anne Frank’s dairy faced unusual hurdles on the road to publication. After her hiding place was discovered, the remnants of her notebooks left behind by the Nazis were kept hidden for years. Eventually her father reclaimed them and worked to bring her voice to light. Under his watchful eye, though, many of the teenage struggles he thought might offend more conservative readers were edited out of the book. A text with fewer edits was later released, giving readers more insight into this vibrant, inspirational young girl.

    On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
    The jewel in the Beat generation’s literary crown, One the Road was initially said to be too provocative and nontraditional. In one very harsh rejection letter Kerouac was told, “this is a badly misdirected talent and…this huge sprawling and inconclusive novel would probably have small sales and sardonic indignant reviews from every side.” The passionate fanbase that exists to this day might disagree with that sentiment.

    East Wind: West Wind, by Pearl S. Buck
    Pearl S. Buck struggled to find an American publishing house for her debut. As one of the few Americans living in China, and one who had close relationships with Chinese writers, Buck was positioned better than anyone to bring China to America with her epic, cross-cultural coming of age story. She was told in a rejection letter that American readers “aren’t interested in China,” but clearly this proved to be untrue. Buck became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature.     

    And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, by Dr. Seuss
    Pretty much everything Dr. Seuss wrote in his early career faced rejection. His first book was passed over 27 times before finally finding a home. Rumor is, he was told his books were “too different” to be published. The Cat in the Hat, Horton, and the Grinch may have never been, just for being different, though ultimately that’s what made them great. Considering the way Dr. Seuss has become a cornerstone of early literacy, a world without him in it would be one with fewer people whose passion for reading began with his giddy, rhyming tales.

    What books do you love that were once overlooked by publishers?

  • Ella Cosmo 3:30 pm on 2015/07/02 Permalink
    Tags: , be afraid, , , george orwell, , lullaby, , scarlett thomas   

    5 Fictional Books Too Dangerous To Read 

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    Literature is powerful: books have inspired revolutions and renaissances, toppled kingdoms and changed the course of human existence. But books themselves aren’t dangerous—that is, unless you’re talking about any of the fictional books-within-a-book below. From the simply malicious to the deeply malevolent, all of them are definitely dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.

    The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers
    On its surface, Chambers’s The King in Yellow is simply a collection of eerie short stories. But fans of the supernatural know this cult classic is far more Heart of Darkness than The Gift of the Magi. Each story is loosely connected by variations to a darkly terrifying fictional play entitled The King in Yellow. Wisely, Chambers allows readers only glimpses of the actual text or scenes from the play itself, instead focusing on the horrific ramifications for anyone who reads it or watches a performance—which brings upon the victim an insanity and despair so vast their mind breaks. Think I’m exaggerating how addictively scary The King in Yellow is to readers?  Just know it’s so goosebump-inducing, it was referenced in HBO’s series True Detectiveand has inspired writers like Neil Gaiman and H.P. Lovecraft.

    Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, by H.P. Lovecraft
    Speaking of the master of the creeping horror genre, no roundup of books hazardous to your health would be complete without H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, a fictional book of magic vastly regarded as the ultimate in dark, evil, and dangerous literature. Supposedly written by the so-called “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred, the grimoire appeared for the first time in Lovecraft’s short story “The Hound.” References to and excerpts from the Necronomicon are interspersed throughout many of his short stories and novellas, and these fleeting and rare mentions are more than enough—the excerpts referenced by Lovecraft are so chilling (“The Call of Cthulhu” still makes me shudder) and the power it wields over the reader so terrible that some people claim the Necronomicon must be a real book.

    The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas
    The End of Mr. Y is surprisingly gritty for a novel with such a philosophical and escapist premise. This is in no small part due to its protagonist, Ariel Manto, a journalist with a voracious appetite for the intellectual whose grim surroundings and messy personal life don’t reflect the ordered world in her mind. Manto is obsessed with the author of a novel titled The End of Mr. Y—an obsession that blossomed after being told anyone who reads the accursed novel will die. While the reader can correctly predict she will in fact both find and read the book, they can also be guaranteed that what follows will be like nothing they’ve ever read. Manto is thrust into an alternate place known as the Troposphere, a world made manifest by human consciousness that removes the limits of the mind. For someone of Manto’s intellectually curiosity, the temptation to immerse herself in the Troposphere is too strong. But all is not what it seems. There’s mischief afoot and dark forces lurking in the shadows of the Troposphere—and the intellectual freedom Manto finds there may come at the cost of her life.

    1984, by George Orwell
    1984 is masterpiece of dystopian fiction. In the 60 years since its publication, Orwell’s profound take on government surveillance and the effects of oppression on the human psyche has become firmly entrenched in the cultural and political lexicon. It also contains a powerful book within a book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Written by a feared and hunted opponent of the state, the text is “a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as The Book.” Unlike the other fictional tomes on this list, “The Book,”  despite the terror it invokes, is ultimately a catalyst for good rather than evil, leading the protagonist Winston Smith to fight, however fleetingly, against the tyranny of big government.

    Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk
    In Palahniuk’s Lullaby, a children’s book is the source of a unique and terrifying outbreak. Simply named Poems & Rhymes, the book’s dark magic is triggered by reading the lullabies written inside; doing so imbues the reader with the power to kill instantly. This dark magic is uncovered by reporter Carl Streator, who embarks upon a breakneck quest to stop the spread of the infection by any means necessary. Accompanied by what can only be described as a ragtag group of co-adventurers, the novel is by turns refreshingly humorous and terrifying, keeping readers on their toes. Lullaby is one of those books that keeps you up late at night, because you just have to find out what happens next. Almost as though the power of Lullaby has infected you, too…

    What dangerous books have we missed? Tell us in the comments, if you dare.

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