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  • Jeff Somers 3:30 pm on 2017/01/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , john green, , the fault in our stars original ending, the sense of an ending, wait what?   

    5 Beloved Novels That Almost Had Very Different Endings 

    The act of creation isn’t always simple. Sure, sometimes writers receive a flash of inspiration and create something fully-formed. More often, writing a novel is a start-stop process, marked by flurries of intense work and stretches of contemplation. Most novels undergo serious revision between the initial idea and the final version. (Heck, some authors continue revising even after a book has been published.) Even still, usually a finished novel is fairly similar in its main plot points to the first draft. But not always, as these five famous novels demonstrate—the endings of each were actually quite different in the initial draft, sometimes shockingly so. (Beware of spoilers, obviously!)

    The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
    Anyone who has struggled to main their composure when reading the devastating, somehow inspiring ending of Green’s novel knows the death of Augustus, the co-lead and primary love interest of the main character, cancer-afflicted teen Hazel, hits hard. It’s a quiet, yet intense ending that fits perfectly with what comes before. But Green recently admitted that he had two other endings in mind, and in retrospect, both of them sound absolutely insane: in one, Peter Van Houten ties a character to railroad tracks in order to explore the philosophical puzzle known as the Trolley Problem, and in another, Van Houten and Hazel die together in a shootout with drug lords. Green was talked out of both ideas and settled on the tragic ending that so perfectly ends the story, and no, you’re tearing up thinking about it again, not us. Pass those tissues.

    A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
    The final lines of Hemingway’s 1929 classic A Farewell to Arms are perfectly Hemingwayesque: “But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” The clipped rhythm, unadorned sentences, and bleakness: that’s Hemingway, all right. But in 1958, Papa admitted he’d struggled to find those words, and estimated he’d written 39 alternate endings before settling on the final version. Recent scholarship ups that to 47 distinct endings, all preserved in Hemingway’s papers—including one suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A 2012 edition of the novel includes them all, and while only the final few lines are altered, the tone and implication of the ending is often completely transformed between variations.

    Matilda, by Roald Dahl
    Matilda is one of Dahl’s best-loved novels, the story of a precocious little girl whose intellectual prowess is stymied by schoolwork way beneath her abilities, triggering the development of temporary telekinesis, which she uses it to play pranks on the mean-spirited school headmistress and help her kind-hearted teacher, Miss Honey. The ending is a bit abrupt—Matilda’s awful parents are implicated in an elaborate fraud scheme and go on the run from the police, disinterestedly giving her permission to live with Miss Honey instead—but Dahl’s early manuscripts reveal a much darker ending in which Matilda dies. In that early version her pranks are a little meaner, as well, demonstrating an overall different tone.

    Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
    Dickens actually revised the ending to this classic novel twice. The original ending had Pip meet Estella—but she has remarried after Drummle’s death, and thus there is no chance of a happy ending. Dickens liked this ending because it was unexpected and went against convention. However, he was persuaded its melancholy tone was uncommercial, so he altered it to something very close to the modern ending, wherein Estella is widowed but not remarried, and indicates she now sees Pip as a potential future. His final revision was to finesse the famous line “I saw no shadow of another parting from her” into its current form in order to make it slightly more ambiguous.

    Rinkitink in Oz, by L. Frank Baum
    Baum wrote 14 Oz books in his lifetime, and dozens of official entries in the series have been penned by others. Like many authors of successful series, Baum tried to do something different, only to come back to Oz because the books sold well. The 10th installment, Rinkitink in Oz, is often considered an outlier—albeit a very good one—because 90 percent of the story takes place outside of Oz; Dorothy only appears suddenly at the very end to give the heroes a tour of Oz. The reason for this is simple: it was originally written a decade earlier as a standalone fairy tale with no connection to Oz whatsoever. In need of a new Oz book and exhausted after a particularly busy few years of writing, Baum dusted off King Rinkitink, rewrote the ending with a bit of Ozness injected, and published it. The good news is, it’s one of the best stories in the series.

    If John Green had gone with the shootout ending, would The Fault in Our Stars still be as beloved? Discuss below.


    The post 5 Beloved Novels That Almost Had Very Different Endings appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Diana Biller 8:30 pm on 2016/03/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , david auburn, , john green, mmm... pi, , proof, rebecca goldstein, the mind-body problem   

    In Honor of Pi Day, 6 Great Novels for Math Nerds 

    Today is Pi Day (or, as the Internet has dubbed this year’s occurrence, Rounded Pi Day), which means it’s the perfect time to celebrate the long tradition of books inspired by mathematics, and also to ask the important question: are mathematicians really as tortured as writers like to think they are? Because…yikes. Here are six genre-spanning books that promise to please even the most math-obsessed.

    A Doubter’s Almanac, by Ethan Canin
    This bestselling novel from the critically beloved author of America America spans 70 years in the life of mathematical genius Milo Andret, from his childhood, to his academic superstardom, to the scars he leaves on his son, Hans, a genius in his own right. Canin deftly interweaves mathematics, family, addiction, grief, and love to produce an elegant, powerfully written novel that brings the reader into a fraught world of genius and struggle.

    Proof, by David Auburn
    Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece follows Catherine, a brilliant young woman who has spent the last several years caring for her math genius father, who is suffering from mental illness. Picking up a week after his death, the play deals with Catherine’s own struggle to define the line between brilliance and madness as she navigates the loss of her father and a tentative, difficult new romance. Proof won the Tony Award in 2001 and was turned into a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

    An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
    This charming young adult novel, about a teenage prodigy who tries to prove a theorem that will predict the ultimate end of any relationship, is stuffed to the brim with surprisingly accurate math. Green, who declares he “sucks” at math while still being really into it, actually consulted with a mathematician friend as he wrote the book, and there’s an appendix filled with graphs and equations at the end. Funny, smart, and tender, An Abundance of Katherines is a great read for math lovers young and old.

    Flowers from the Storm, by Laura Kinsale
    Laura Kinsale’s beloved romance about a mathematician who suffers a debilitating stroke and the Quaker woman he falls in love with appears with astonishing frequency on “best of romance” lists, and for good reason. Weaving together linguistics, math, disability, and religion alongside the main love story, Kinsale’s novel is intensely absorbing, poignant, and even funny.

    Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
    It was hard to pick which Neal Stephenson novel deserves to represent his work on this list, and if I’m honest, Cryptonomicon probably edged out the competition because I’ve always liked the title, so, you know, check out Anathem too. Starting in the 1940s with a mathematician who becomes a cryptoanalyst for the Allies (and hangs out with Alan Turing along the way), and moving on to the life of his grandson, a computer genius in the present day, Cryptonomicon is an exciting and challenging technological adventure.

    The Mind-Body Problem, by Rebecca Goldstein
    Goldstein’s first novel was a runaway hit when it was published more than 30 years ago, and it’s still easy to see why. The hysterically funny story of a young philosophy graduate student who marries a famous mathematician and then finds herself struggling to balance the life of the mind with the life of the body, The Mind-Body Problem offers hilarious takes on academia, philosophy, genius, marriage, and family, and is a delightful and startlingly clever read.

  • Monique Alice 6:00 pm on 2015/11/24 Permalink
    Tags: a little life, , , hanya yanagihara, john green, kate morton, , , the lake house, , the nightingale, why leave the house?   

    5 Books to Keep You Inside on Black Friday 

    There are two kinds of people in this world: There are the people who love Black Friday (the hustle and bustle and holiday cheer), and the people who don’t (the parking, the crowds, the constant fear of being trampled for standing too close to the last half-price flatscreen). If you are one of the former, I commend your positive attitude and wish you a wonderful holiday season. If you are one of the latter, follow me down a rabbit hole of amazing books that will shelter you from the mayhem occurring at your nearest shopping outlet. If you dig into one of these reads after your turkey, you’ll be done just in time to fire up the laptop for Cyber Monday. Happy reading (and shopping) this holiday season!

    The Lake House, by Kate Morton
    The newest novel by the author of The Secret Keeper is a spellbinder of a book. Sadie is a young whip-smart detective who stumbles upon an intriguing old manse in the English countryside while visiting family. Captivated by the abandoned estate’s air of mystery, Sadie reaches out to its elderly owner, Alice. Sadie is soon astonished by the many layers of secrecy and deception that permeate the house’s history, beginning with a little boy’s disappearance in 1933. As the tale unfolds, the reader is never quite sure whom to trust—this book keeps you guessing right up until the sucker punch of an ending. You might want to make sure to have snacks on hand before you start this one, because you’ll be glued to your favorite chair until the very last page.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir
    Chances are, you’ve heard of the recent movie adaptation of The Martian starring Matt Damon. Well, as is always the case if you’re a book lover, the book is even better! Imagine, for a moment, the kind of guts it takes to not only be an astronaut, but to be among the first astronauts to go to Mars. Got it? Great. Now, imagine the guts it takes not to immediately lose it if, after an unforeseen crisis, the rest of your crew takes off and leaves you alone on Mars because they think you’re dead. You have no way of communicating with Earth, and even if you did, your supplies will never last long enough for help to arrive. This is exactly the pickle that Mark Watney finds himself in, but luckily, he is pretty dang gutsy. Mark is determined not to give up, and readers will want to hang in there with him for the long haul.

    A Little Life, by Hanya Yanigahara
    This story begins when four college friends make their way from a Massachusetts campus to the Big Apple to begin their respective careers. At first, it seems like the quintessential New York coming-of-age tale—a lawyer, an actor, an architect, and an artist adrift in the big city and trying to make their respective ways in the world. However, it soon becomes clear that this book is all that and so much more. Yanagihara’s finely wrought characters capture the reader’s imagination for the three-decade span of the book, careening back and forth between life’s most joyous highs and desperate lows. This is a book that tackles the complex manna of the human experience: friendship, love, trauma, disappointment, and the darkest of our secrets. A light read? Not so much. But this critically acclaimed book promises to make you see your own life and loved ones with a renewed sense of gratitude and inspiration.

    The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
    It’s 1939, and Europe is ablaze with the effort to repel the Nazis. Vianne sees her husband, Antoine, off to the frontlines and tells herself that the Germans will never set foot on French soil. So, she is beyond terrified when Nazi boots land not only in her town, but on her foyer when troops commandeer her home. She and her daughter are forced to live among the enemy, and to resist in whatever hidden ways they can without being discovered. At the same time, Vianne’s sister Isabelle is falling hard for a handsome rebel who may not be who he seems. In the pages that follow, Vianne and Isabelle fight to stay true to themselves and preserve their way of life. This historic novel is an ode to sisterhood, the French character, and the ways in which women also fought the Second World War.

    Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    The Fault In Our Stars author John Green has knocked another one out of the park with Looking for Alaska. This book is a heady brew, indeed—one part weirdness, one part infatuation, one part crisis, and several parts heartbreak. At first glance, it might appear to be a book about being a teenager, and in some ways, it is. In reality, though, just like The Fault in Our Stars, it’s a book about being human that happens to feature teens. When you think about it, there must be a reason we continue to find teenaged characters so compelling long after we leave our own teen years behind. John Green makes you wonder whether the reason is that the teenage years represent our best and worst selves—the time when we are full of hope and also full of anger, brimming with love and concurrently as selfish as they come. Like teenhood, the beauty of Green’s work is in its potential to be many things all at once.

    What book will you be diving into on Black Friday?

  • Jeff Somers 4:33 pm on 2015/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: alternate views, , , , , , , , , john green, , , , ,   

    5 Fictional Romantic Leads Who Deserve the Grey Treatment 

    It’s no shock that demand for more tales from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades universe remains high. What is a delightful surprise is James’s decision to explore the relationship by going back and telling the story from Christian’s point of view in the forthcoming Grey. It’s an exciting decision, bringing a renewed depth and urgency to the story, and giving readers the opportunity to have their assumptions challenged. Retelling the story from a different point of view is a genius move—and one we wish other authors had made over the years.

    As a matter of fact, James isn’t the first writer to have this idea—Veronica Roth Released Four: A Divergent Collection last year, five short stories from the Divergent universe told from Four’s perspective. Roth originally tried to write Divergent from Four’s point of view, in fact, abandoning that version when she created the character of Tris and fell in love with her voice, but she always felt that Four “has a distinct history and a complex psychology” and wanted to explore his point of view more. With some stories that retell events from Divergent and others that offer up new background information on Four, it’s a fascinating look at events from the books and the relationship between Tris and Four from a whole new perspective, and fans love the opportunity to get to know their favorite characters and stories more deeply. Here are four other famous romantic couples we’d love to see get the Grey/Four alternative perspective treatment.

    Q and Margo from Paper Towns, by John Green
    Part of the point of Green’s great novel (a film version of which drops this summer) is that Q can only see things from his perspective—a perspective that proves to be pretty narrow by the end of the story. After falling in love with the Margo he imagines, and then perceiving clues and intention where none actually exists, he must by the end of the book accept that he wasn’t dealing with reality, but rather with his own desires. Margo is a fantastic character who injects a crazy energy into Q’s life and inspires a life-changing road trip. Seeing the same story from her point of view, and finding out in detail what she’s up to while Q and his friends follow the “clues” and pursue her, would be fascinating.

    Claire and Jamie from Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    It’s true that over the course of her novels, Gabaldon opens up the story to other points of view—she’s even stated in interviews that she tries to add a new POV character in each new novel. And it’s also true we’ve had sequences from Jamie’s point of view. But wouldn’t it be grand if we got to read the whole story from his perspective, from Claire’s arrival from the future through the witch trial? On the one hand, this would be difficult to navigate. On the other hand, it would be tremendously fun to see how Gabaldon would narrate events through a red-blooded 18th century Scot’s point of view.

    Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Gatsby and Daisy’s doomed romance is so burned into our collective consciousness, and has been adapted for the screen so many times, it’s easy to forget the whole story is told from Nick Carraway’s point of view—we never get inside the head of either of the lovers. A book told from Gatsby’s point of view might ruin the mystery that still surrounds one of the greatest characters of all time, but the story told from Daisy’s point of view might shine light on heretofore hidden aspects of the story—most notably why Daisy is such an object of obsession for Gatsby in the first place, as from Nick’s point of view the character never seems to quite deserve such passion.

    Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
    A permanent classic of American novels and American romance, this is one of those stories where both principles in a love affair are equally interesting. While Jane’s voice and personality continue to entrance readers to this day, Mr. Rochester is also a fascinating character filled with surprises, and surprising depths. Hearing the tale of how Jane came into his life and how he developed a passion for her—and hearing Jane’s famous speech admitting her feelings—from his point of view would no doubt be entertaining and revealing, and just a lot of fun.

    If Grey is a smash hit, which it likely will be, maybe one positive effect will be inspiring other authors to offer up alternative takes on their most popular characters.

    Pre-order Grey >
  • Nicole Dieker 5:30 pm on 2015/05/27 Permalink
    Tags: books for everyone, , , , , , , , john green, , , ,   

    9 Books Even Non-Readers Will Love 

    Books like War and Peace, David Copperfield, and Ulysses are classics we think everyone should read—but when you take a look at our bookshelves, you might see an entirely different set of volumes. When the classics feel daunting, you can turn to this list, full of titles even self-described “non-readers” will love, ones we turn to when we want to do that most daring of activities: read for pleasure.

    Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

    Jon Krakauer’s newest book, Missoula, investigates sexual assaults on college campuses, but it’s his 1997 Mount Everest narrative Into Thin Air that climbed its way into readers’ hearts and bookshelves. Into Thin Air is often included in high school English curriculums, telling the story of how an ordinary man—Krakauer himself—decides to summit Everest and finds himself in the middle of a life-or-death storm several of his climbing companions don’t survive.

    Why is Into Thin Air so popular? Perhaps because it pits will against nature, man against the mountain, and reveals how much of our fate is based on chance. Or it could be because a lot of us read it in high school, and found it much more compelling than Ethan Frome or The Scarlet Letter. Either way, look for the upcoming September film adaptation Everest, starring House of Cards Michael Kelly as Krakauer and Jake Gyllenhaal as expedition leader Scott Fischer. And look for new editions of Into Thin Air to start turning up on commutes and lunch breaks everywhere.

    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Here’s another high school classic that tends to stay on our bookshelves long after graduation. Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a delicate and powerful look at how racism and sexism influence a small Southern town, and her unforgettable characters—Scout, Dill, Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, and of course Atticus Finch—make this book beloved by even the most “non” of non-readers.

    It doesn’t hurt that the 1962 film version, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus, was pretty much perfect. In a world where we get updated versions of Little Women or Pride and Prejudice for every new generation, Hollywood has left To Kill a Mockingbird alone, knowing nothing can compete with what’s already been filmed. This July, Harper Lee’s previously unpublished companion novel, Go Set a Watchman, will be released, and we’ll finally get to learn more about Scout, Atticus, and life in Maycomb, Alabama. Reread her debut first.

    Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews
    If you’re of a certain age, V.C. Andrews’ 1979 Flowers in the Attic might have been passed to you under a desk in middle school, making its way from one backpack to another so it could be taken home and read in secret. Even the cover implied secrets: the flap with the rectangle cut out so you could pull it back and see the four Dollanganger siblings with their grandmother looming overhead.

    Once you gorged yourself on the melodramatic prose, you could follow it up with the even more melodramatic 1987 movie, which seemed pre-designed to be screened during slumber parties. Of course, if you read or watched Flowers in the Attic in the ’80s or ’90s, you probably gathered your friends together to have a wine-and-cheese screening of the 2014 Lifetime movie remake, and tweet about how Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka is (impossibly!) old enough to play Cathy.

    And maybe you’ve kept your copy of Flowers in the Attic with the vague idea that you might give it to your own daughter someday. But maybe it’s better if she gets it surreptitiously passed to her from a friend.

    Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
    This one you will pass down to your daughters (and your sons). Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was published in 1970 and remains one of the most cherished YA books that conveniently doubles as a puberty guide for parents who want to outsource the conversation. Publishers were finally obliged to update the text to include newer models of sanitary napkins, but Margaret is still smartphone- and Internet-free, and still happily chants “We must! We must! We must increase our bust!” with the three other members of the Pre-teen Sensations.

    The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
    Green’s novel hit the top of the New York Times‘ YA bestseller list upon publication, and only three years later has it finally fallen to #3. His story of young love, combined with an honest look at illness and how our culture treats cancer patients, ensured that Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters would get to share their forever within the numbered pages with all of us.

    The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    This book is polarizing. It’s yet another classic you probably read in high school, long before you were old enough to understand what it feels like to have failed dreams. Because of that, some readers dismiss the book outrigh—then find that green light beaming at us from across the current, flickering in our minds and nudging us to read the book again as an adult. If once you do, you’ll find a very different novel, one you’ll empathize with far more than when you were sixteen.

    BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries starring Colin Firth (and his wet shirt) as Mr. Darcy will try to read Jane Austen’s 1813 novel at least once.

    And most of us will love it: Austen is very clever, after all, and there are some funny jokes about sneezes. Then we’ll put it on our bookshelves and watch the BBC miniseries over again, letting it play in the background while we clean the apartment or fold the laundry. “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you,” we will say under our breath, along with Darcy.

    The Hunger Games Series, by Suzanne Collins
    How quickly did you make it through Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy? The fast pacing and high stakes make The Hunger Games the kind of book you forget you’re reading until you turn the last page and realize you’re at the end—and that Collins left you on a cliffhanger, so you’d better start the next one.

    The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
    It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say everyone has read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, but not by much. Did you wait in line at a Barnes & Noble Midnight Magic Party to get your copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the minute it released? Have you taken a quiz to determine whether the Sorting Hat would place you into Gryffindor or Ravenclaw? Do you have serious opinions about the epilogue?

    We know you do. You don’t even have to tell us. We also know you are going to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them when it opens in 2016, reportedly starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, just because you want one more peek into Potter’s magical kingdom. Harry Potter brought a lot of people into the world of reading, the same way Hagrid pulled Harry into a world of magic. And once you’re there, we think you should stay.

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