Archive | October, 2015

5 Books You MUST Read

6 Oct

There are many more books that I’ve read that I can recommend than those that I can’t. I’ve put together a short list of books that are near and dear to my heart, hopefully getting a little of several genres. I’ve also included some runner-ups that I couldn’t include because of my genre and number restriction. The Bluest Eye, The Sound and the Fury, and Beloved were all pining for the same spot. And here we go…

Runner-up: The Bluest Eye, The Sound and the Fury

5. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King – This is a book I read when I was either in 8th grade or as a freshman in high school. I read it twice, both within a year of each other, but it has remained on my top list of books to tell people about. There are a few great things I love about this book. First, it takes the fantastical elements you’ll find in all historical fiction and combines that with the writing style of Stephen King. From page one you’ll be hooked, and soon after you’ll be lost in the characters that are spun so well by Mr. King. Secret passages and scandal make this book a must-read!

4. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll – These books epitomize the wonderful place that vague meets descriptive. While I do prefer the former, I had to include both to do Carroll a justice. Whimsical in nature, the imagery of these books is the best kind of original. There is enough to decipher, here, that we can easily interpret and adapt to what we need this book to serve as. From the darker Through the Looking Glass adaptation of Disney/Tim Burton to the possibly drug-induced classic by Disney to the Czech stop-motion film Něco z Alenky (Something from Alice), we can find a little something for everyone.  We can look at this book as a child, curious about the world and tired of daily monotony, or as an adult in which we find a commentary on the contrast between adult and child that lends the former to reservation and control and that latter to excess and imagination. You can actually read these books online for free!

3. Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood – Now we’ve reached a place where our last three books are interchangeable in position based on my mood. This book I read in my 20th Century Fiction course about four years ago. It is a dystopian novel, which already places it high on my list of books that I like. This book serves as a commentary to the current state of the United States focused on our sexual needs and the decline of our fertility. Any book with sex as a theme is probably on my list of books to read, and this one deals a lot with sexual dysfunction. We get to see the contrast between how things stayed the same and how things are drastically different (think underground strip clubs vs. ritualistic fertility sex orgies) in a society designed to save the human race.

2.  Beloved by Toni Morrison – This is also a recent read, but is a beautiful and sensual novel in none of the classical ways. The premise of this book is very dark, but each word has a purpose. The flow of her words on the page is nothing less than sensual. Throughout the book Morrison alluded to the ending, and while my suspicions were correct, I did not imagine the book would end like it did. With nothing even close to a happy ending, the book still ended in the best way possible, and left me very satisfied.

1. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg – I’m cheating by having this on the list, because I haven’t actually finished it. To give you an idea of what this book is about, let me list some key words for you: rape, sex, sexuality, race, gender, love, suicide, depression, oppression, police brutality, civil rights, poverty. Do I have your attention? You wouldn’t expect all of these to be able to fit into one book without being overwhelmed, but it is eye-opening how cohesive and spot-on Feinberg illustrates each of these struggles. One main character is faced with all of these challenges and more and you can’t help but gain a better understanding for how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. This a novel that will transcend generations and will continue to be relevant, even decades from now.

 

Have you read any of these books? Do you disagree with any of my choices?

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5 Books You SHOULDN’T Read

6 Oct

Without further ado, I present to you the books I would never recommend anyone read (I tried to get a variety of genres):

5. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This was a leisure read I’ve been meaning to read since my freshman year of high school. I’d heard it was a good book, but like many books, never got around to reading it until recently. My opinion might have been different had I read it at a younger age, as it is a self-discovery coming-of-age type of book, and I did go back and forth between including it or not. For lack of a 5th book off the top of my head, I included it. My biggest reason is that this is the only book I’ve ever read that was worse than the movie hands down. I enjoyed the way the book was written, but sometimes lacking insight from an outside source made it a little too vague. If you’re interested in the story, I would recommend just watching the movie. The writing itself isn’t terrible, but again, its just a little too vague and sparse with detail to call it a need to read.

4. Maurice by EM Forster – I was required to read this for my 20th Century Gay and Lesbian Fiction course, an elective I took while obtaining my bachelors. While the premise seems like it would make a good novel, reading it was a very different story. It lacked excitement, and was predictable.

3. Firestarter by Stephen King – I recently read this novel, and for the first 200-250 pages I had to force myself to pick up the book. Again, the plot seemed interesting enough (college experiment goes awry and leads a couple to develop psychokinetic powers, the offspring of which causes them to go on the run to avoid being a government experiment), but until the very end of the book it was a struggle to maintain concentration. The book also jumped around a bit between characters, but often in a way that interjected boring dialogue between what would otherwise be an interesting storyline. I would like to say that the last 100 pages or so were worth the wait, but that would be a lie.

2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – This is a book I read in high school, as part of my AP Literature course. Described as heavy and a difficult read, I wouldn’t disagree. If I was to revisit the book almost 10 years later, I can’t say that I would like it any more than I did at the time. If I remember correctly, the metaphor was thick and instead of contributing to the books purpose, detracted.

1. War of the Worlds by HG Wells – This is a book I read in high school, probably as a sophomore or junior. The lore surrounding the book itself, along with a love of the classics led me to its pages. This is a book that makes the bore of Firestarter look like child’s play. The details Wells uses are descriptive to the point of excess, making his sentences frequently take up an entire paragraph, and sometimes even spanning multiple pages. To err on the side of caution, this book didn’t get interesting until the last 10 pages (I want to say 4, but that could be an exaggeration).

 

5 Books You MUST Read

 

As someone who loves a good book, I actually welcome you all to read the above, especially to be able to discuss my statements. Which of these have you read? How did you feel about them? 

The Casualties of War

3 Oct

In case you haven’t heard, a US airstrike in Afghanistan has led to the death of several personnel who were part of a doctors without borders facility stationed there. You can read about it here.

I find it tragic that those humans that were doing their best to undo the damage that war causes were, themselves, casualties to the same war. I also find it tragic that these lives seem to matter more than the other civilian lives lost.

The article I’m referencing is from the Times, and while they make mention of other Afghanistani civilian lives lost, it is written to bear less weight than the people in this hospital. Apparently there is outrage at our decisions to make an airstrike in this location, and maybe there was some miscommunication, or misinformation surrounding and leading to it, but this article (and the outraged people) seem to lack understanding of how airstrikes work.

Forgive me, and correct me, if I’m wrong (I’m not a military expert), but the nature of an airstrike alone lends itself to killing unwanted targets. We can type in coordinates, and launch whatever ammo we are using in a particular situation, but we can’t say there are 30 people in a building and we only want to bomb 5 of them. It doesn’t work that way.

Any war, at any time has caused civilian casualties. We seem to feel okay if its “the enemies” civilian casualties versus our own, but we shouldn’t. And we shouldn’t feel okay about either, no matter who it is causing them.

My hope is that maybe this situation will help more people realize that civilian casualties aren’t uncommon, and there are more reasons than just a fallen soldier and money to fight less. I also hope that they do look into what happened that lost these doctors their lives, wounding so many others in this hospital, and they find that the original threat was an actual threat. No one will be happy with that, of course, but at least if this is founded, these people didn’t die for no reason.

Finally, I would like to note that this article was so right when they described the capability to perform airstrikes as “devastating”.

Ditch the Texting

1 Oct

I do this every once in awhile. I decide that I want to stop texting and start using my phone the way it was intended – to talk.

I’ve never been ale to pull it off. I think it makes me too nervous, because talking on the phone makes me nervous. Actually…scratch that. Calling someone makes me nervous. There is this moment when you call someone now that you have to determine if you are calling to chat, or if you are calling for a purpose…and that moment is the moment that causes me anxiety.

I’m tired of texting. It takes forever. Its slow. Its clumsy. There are very little hellos and even fewer goodbyes. The beginnings and endings are blurred. People don’t respond.

But I can’t make the leap alone. I have a request…next time you need me, whether it is to chat or to answer a question…call me. The more you call me, the more I can call you, and the less anxiety I will have.

Are you on board? What do you like about texting? What do you dislike? What do you like and dislike about calling?