I love this book! It’s a short (yes, 501 choices is short) collection of book titles with short descriptions. It feels like such an accomplishment to tick off one of these titles. My copy has post-it tags sticking out every where and I’ve probably read it many times. I got through it every so often to update the books I happen to have read. It’s a must-have for book lovers!
With timid hands I picked up J. K. Rowling’s newest novel. Being a complete divergence from Harry Potter, I wasn’t sure I would still love the author`s voice. I was well warned that this book was certainly not children’s literature.
I absolutely adore the way Rowling can smoothly and fluidly from one character’s point-of-view to another’s. The Casual Vacancy has a large cast of characters, twenty all together, and the reader is given a look into the fabric of each character’s being. One is given the chance to empathize and understand, even if we don’t agree, with their perspective. Rowling also employs a bevy of secondary characters who play supporting roles into whom the reader is not permitted to look. Rowling’s power of description makes her characters feel like real people. If this book were a television series it would be brilliant.
However, it is this multitude of people that make it hard to connect the dots and understand where the plot is. I respect an author’s right to conceal the point of a piece until the end, but when I read a novel I need something to hold on to–a thread that lets me know where I am in the story arc. I do not like having to thrash around in the dark, trying to find my own way to the end of the book.
When the book arrives at the last few chapters the pieces of the puzzle do begin fitting together at a very rapid pace, but if I wasn’t so particular about finishing the books I start, I might have put this book down a quarter of the way through because the pieces of the story seemed to be at opposite ends of the earth.
After finishing the novel I did feel as if the story had an end. I felt closure for many of the characters. Normally I enjoy that but, due to the overall disheartening theme, I was frustrated some characters’ stories were sewed up as tightly and irreversibly as they were. Undoubtedly, the lessons this novel provides are important–your opinions and perceptions are often nothing more than a product of smoke and mirrors; people’s authentic selves are often more hidden than even they can imagine. My one wish for The Casual Vacancy is that I had been given a glimpse of the plot line before two-thirds of the way into the book.
In summary: the writing was fantastic; Rowling has a knack for capturing humanity in a few lines. I enjoyed being introduced to such an array of characters, but if you are an impatient reader, searching for an uplifting story, this isn’t it.
Martyn Lyons’ Books: A Living History is a beautiful book. If you like history, or are an avid book lover, this book is for you. Each page contains interesting facts about the publishing industry and how society shaped and influenced the business of making books, as well as how the book shaped and influenced society. This dynamic relationship has been responsible for political upheaval, social awareness and global connection, at times.
I was thrilled to learn about when book seller, printer, and publisher became separate jobs. I enjoyed learning about when and how copyright came into being. And I appreciated the open-ended and optimistic look at electronic publishing.
I am also in love with the photos and illustrations Lyons has included. Books, and their history, are most certainly made alive by this book!
I’m still not sure how I feel about Phillip Pullman’s The Goodman Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. I really enjoyed reading it. There were even times I laughed out loud. But I was also tremendously confused a lot of the time.
Pullman creates a world in which Jesus had a twin named Christ. I couldn’t decide if I was supposed to like one and not the other–I thought they would be one dimensional characters and the division would be clean. In reality both men had ideas that made sense to me, both were interested in what was best for human kind. In fact, I think what I liked about both of them was the idea that they were human. They made mistakes, had flaws, made people angry and became angry many times. Neither of them seemed to have an exorbitant amount of patience. It was most certainly a refreshing take on the son of God.
This book would be a great read for people who know the old Bible stories or for people who just happen to like to read about raw humanity.
I wasn’t sure I would like Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Normally, I don’t enjoy science fiction. That’s the brilliant thing about book clubs–they force you, well encourage really, to pick up things you would usually overlook. I am so thankful for my bookladies, our tastes are all so varied that my mind is always being opened to new things.
So, Ender’s Game was new territory for me. It is a children’s novel; that part isn’t new, I love children’s literature. But, it is also set in space, about a war with aliens. Two things I normally have a hard time relating to are space travel and war. I agree with neither.
At least, that’s what I thought the book was about. As I read, it occurred to me that the book was really talking about the idea that we have to make the opposition, or the enemy, into the “other” before we can justify annihilating them. Ender learned about their culture. He began to see them as he saw his own family. However, not only were the aliens the “other”, but those in charge of Ender’s well being manipulated his world so that everyone was the “other” to Ender.
Ender was segregated from his peers and given special treatment. Throughout, it was clear that Ender didn’t want this, and that he thought he was no better or worse than most of his peers, but his peers began to draw a distinction between them and Ender. Thus, Ender was isolated, thereby making his peers “other”.
This book touches on some very heavy ideas and yet, it doesn’t read that way. On the surface it is a story about perseverance, hope, and surviving against all odds. But when you dig a little, it isn’t hard to see that Ender’s Game is also about the idea of segregation as a tool for mind control, and empathy as a gateway to understanding.
Both adults and children will feel right at home reading this novel. There are some very important ideas contained within its pages!