Friday, October 31, 2014

Get To Know Me - Five Favorites of British Literature

Once again, this is a post from the archives of my personal blog, originally posted in 2008. 

I love British Literature and have since college. In fact, I love it so much that I couldn't even narrow this list down to specific titles, just to authors. Once again, I would love to hear your favorites (or least favorites), so comment below!

This version is dedicated to five of my favorite British authors. Most of the classes I took in college were British Lit classes, if I could help it. The funny thing is that I had never read many of the classics until my last semester and beyond. I take it as a reflection on my poor experience with public education. Since graduating, I have made it my goal to catch up.

Charles Dickens

I had never read any of Dickens' work until my final semester of college when I took a class studying nothing but Dickens. I fell in love. I think we read 6 or 7 of his novels in the semester. My favorites so far are Bleak House and David Copperfield. I highly recommend Dickens for anyone who has the patience to get into his narratives and an appreciation for dry wit.
“Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit, has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes, without coming to total disagreement as to all the premises." Bleak House

Jane Austen

A few years ago, my aunt gave me five or six Austen novels for Christmas, and I quickly read them all (except Emma, which I can never seem to get through). After we moved and I started riding the train to work, I listened to a couple more Austen novels on my iPod. I particularly enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. So romantic... And it's an added bonus that many chick flicks reference Austen in some way, like in You've Got Mail, "I get lost in the language... words like thither, mischance, felicity."
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant." Persuasion

George Orwell

I love the world Orwell has created in 1984, and the idea of Winston fighting against a world/institution even though he has absolutely no chance of winning. In some ways, it is a lot like Fahrenheit 451—a corrupt, totalitarian government forbids all independent thought while a few people try to escape and may or may not succeed. If you're into that kind of stuff, you could also try reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I don't like it quite as much as the others, but it is similarly disturbing.
“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word." 1984

J.R.R. Tolkien

When I first moved to Logan Utah for college, it was the middle of the summer and I had no friends beyond my newlywed brother and his wife. I was broke and got a job shelving books at the Logan City Library (a job which I held for approximately a week before a higher paying job came along). While alone in the library in the early morning hours, I discovered all the Tolkien books I wasn't familiar with. I had read Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit already. But since I was friendless and trying to avoid an admirer I soon dubbed Creepy Stalker Boy (long story), I would lock myself in my room and read The Simarillian. I don't remember one thing about it. But I read it.
“I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself." The Hobbit

J.K. Rowling

I fell in love with the Harry Potter books as they came out and I was pretty sad to see the end of the series come. Rowling does a great job at explaining things without preaching to the reader and wrote some pretty amazing character descriptions. I have heard complaints that the books later in the series have gotten "too dark," but it was only inevitable. Besides, the books grow up along with Harry, Hermoine, and Ron.
“Well—it's just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to—what is the phrase?—come quietly. I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course—but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Get To Know Me - Five Favorites of American Literature

This post was originally posted on my personal blog back in 2008. I've updated it a bit here.

While I am a huge fan of British Literature and have, in recent years, come to love many contemporary authors as well, this is a good representation of my favorites among American authors. I'd love to hear your favorites as well, so please comment below!

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

While I do quite enjoy The Scarlet Letter, my favorite work of Hawthorne's is this short story. The entire story is an allegory of good and evil, virtue and vice, as Young Goodman Brown journeys into the woods with the devil and spends the rest of his life wondering if what he found there was a dream or reality. If you can handle Romanticism and allegory, by all means, check it out.
“The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil”

Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie

I love Dreiser's take on the American Dream. In both Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy, he takes characters who are striving for material success and shows how those desires lead to their destruction. A realist and a socialist, Dreiser criticized American society for being too bent on material gain while not providing equal opportunities for all. If you have the patience to delve through his slow-moving narrative, I recommend him.
“We see man far removed from the lairs of the jungles, his innate instincts dulled by too near an approach to freewill, his freewill not sufficiently developed to replace his instincts and afford him perfect guidance. He is becoming too wise to hearken always to instincts and desires; he is still too weak to always prevail against them.”

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

This is probably one of my favorite books of all time. It is about a fictional industrial America whose government is slowly socializing and destroying the free market economy. John Galt decides to 'stop the motor of the world,' and does so. I think it's really about the power of the individual to affect the entire world. Of course, Atlas Shrugged is over 1,000 pages, so you'd better be sure you're ready for it before diving in.
“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose—because it contains all the others—the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity—to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created."

Joseph Heller's Catch-22

This one quickly became a favorite. While very irreverent and ridiculous, the book serves to capture the desperation of one soldier trying as hard as he can to not get killed in World War II. The novel has some great comic characters, such as Major Major Major Major and Milo Minderbinder. While it is a hilarious satire, there are also serious elements because it's a story about war.
“History did not demand Yossarian's premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance. But that was war."

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried

I discovered this author through my 'Gender and War' class my last semester of college. In the class, we read The Things They Carried, a half truth/half fiction collection of stories about O'Brien's experiences in the Vietnam War. I love this book. A word of warning, though: it is a book about war and includes all the gruesome details that some people like to avoid (and I generally like to avoid as well). But it is a great read despite all that because even if it's not all true, it's still honest.
“They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Reviews are Upcoming!

Yes, this is a brand new blog and it currently has no content. The intent of this blog will be for me to post book recommendations and reviews -- hopefully at least one review per week. In the meantime, feel free to browse my past reviews posted on Hot Commodity by clicking here.