Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Reads, Part I (Classics)

I thought I'd make book recommendations a regular thing around here.  Last year, I listed everything I'd read over the course of the year and believe it or not, I've actually read more books this year than I did last year.  I seriously have no idea how I accomplished that.

Instead of listing all 41 books at once, I'm going to break it up over several posts and from now on, instead of making one (or several) huge book posts a year, I'll probably update it more perodically.

Between the two book clubs and my own personal "just for fun" reading, I've read several classics which I'll review in this post.  And yes, you'll notice that I've included links to Amazon.  I'm most definitely a library kinda girl, but if you like to buy books, I've conveniently included links for you.  

I'm not a big fan of science fiction, but Ray Bradbury's "Farenheit 451" was really interesting.  The story revolves around a fireman who has the terrible job of burning books and his struggle to hide his distaste for the job, the culture that supports the burning of books and his love for the books he's stolen and hidden in his home.  I found it that it spoke to modern times even though it was written fifty years ago and set over a hundred years into the future.  It's a fairly short read and I'd definitely recommend it over the movie (which I found to be both weird and terrible).

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley is another classic science fiction (is that an oxymoron?) that I read this past year.  It was written by a British author, but is supposedly about American society and the blandness and/or mindlessness of our culture.   One character bucks the system and is punished with banishment and another character, an "outsider", is granted his wish of living alone after being forced into the limelight for his differentness.  While the other readers in my book club liked this one more than "Farenheit 451", I did not.  I don't know if there is a movie of this one or not...I didn't like it enough to bother looking for one.

I couldn't find a stand-alone copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" so I read a book of his short stories.  In the short story (seriously short - like a twenty minute read), Benjamin Button is born an old man and ages backwards.  It's a very interesting concept and it lead to a lively discussion at one of my book club meetings (we ate our meal backwards, too - dessert first, appetizers last!).  You may have seen the movie starring Brad Pitt, but from what others in my book club said, the short story is a bit different.  I really liked it and I enjoyed several of the other stories in the book.  Like "The Great Gatsby", he focuses on the east coast upper class and despite his attempts to show that their character flaws are due to their circumstances, I didn't find myself feeling very sorry for them at all.

"A Wrinkle in Time" is another science fiction classic on my list.  I went on and read the sequels to it as well and enjoyed them all.  The series revolves around the Murry family who travels in time and space to fight evil (the "darkness") with their goodness (the "light").  I liked the third and fourth books in the series more than the first two simply because they involved more history and less science, but I'm a history buff so that's no surprise.  I know that this book is usually on the list of required books for kids in middle school or junior high (I think I read it in sixth or seventh grade), but honestly, I don't know how they get all the concepts included in it.  I barely got some of them and I'm definitely older than thirteen!  But then again, I don't know that I read the book all that carefully since it was not a "fun" read for me back then.

For fun, I read J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye."  It wasn't for one of my book clubs, but it's been on my list of books to read for several years now.  In it, angst-ridden teenager Holden Caulfield recounts the details of a very memorable weekend in his young life.  Several times I wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into the little punk.  What a whiner!  Now I know why I don't particularly want to go back to teaching high school...sheesh.  But, I can say I've read it and while I didn't like the main character, I did like the way it was written and the overall plot.

Next up....historical fiction!

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