How I Found: Recommended with Station 11, I dove in because of my love for its pairing. I wasn't sold at first, probably because I was comparing the two, and I shouldn't have. I am so glad I stuck with it for the interconnected stories whose characters span the Russian Revolution to the end of the universe.
Why You Might Read: The connections are beautiful and painful, human. "We imprint our intimacies upon atoms born from an explosion so great it still marks the emptiness of space." From space, to art, to drug use this book points at our potentials and our failures and says, "I told you so." Don't try to compare it to anything. It's incomparable.
How I Found: When asked about this book, a bibliophile friend just about jumped out of her seat with enthusiasm for it. Post-apocalyptic or Dystopia, however you want to label this, it defies the tropes of its genre. First, her modern-day setting makes it easily accessible; readers of all ages will ponder their reliance on civilization as we know it. Second, her characters' appreciation of the arts from Shakespeare to comic books fill it with wonder; readers will revel in the language of Mandel's description and insistence that, "Survival is insufficient." Third, her fragmentation is exceptional; readers are transitioned from one scene to the next and back again before they've even realized it was coming.
Why You Might Read: This is the type of book that will make you jump out of your seat the next time someone asks you if you've read it. It is also the type of book bibliophiles want to read over again, but accessible enough that a young reader can delve in and appreciate as is. The layers of characterization and symbolism make it an intricate work akin to the frames of a comic or the acts of a play. As soon as you put it down, you'll want to pick it back up again.
How I Found: It's been a long time since I've been able to do any world-travel, but what I have done impressed upon me the importance of perspective. So, in a time when it seems the world has gone mad with pressing one's own perspective on another, I was looking for a book that reiterated the dangers of such and took me to another place and time. This is precisely what I found in Things Fall Apart, an apt title for the book and the moments in which we are living. Nigerian author Chinua Achebe tells the story of the Igbo tribe through Okonkwo. In this way, the readers' perspective is his perspective and although he spends the better part of Part I atoning for his father's laziness, the reader comes to see much of the wisdom of the culture of the Igbo as in, "There is no story that is not true . . . The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others."
Why You Might Read: If you've ever read In the Heart of Darkness, this is the opposite of that. This brings forth the perspective of the people who suffered Imperialism and Colonization rather than the perspective of the Imperialist and Colonizer. It is a story full of folktales of a part of Africa that reflect the harsh yet strikingly beautiful surroundings in which they were born, but it is also the sad story of what xenophobia can do to both those from within and those from without the nation. If we can all but remember the Umuofia saying "That as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him," we reap what we sow, we might better live and let live than trying to press one perspective upon another.
How I Found: My best friend sent me this for my birthday with a note saying, "I've wanted to read this and so I thought you could too, and it would be like our own little book club." This is definitely a two-person book club book, a best-friend book club book. Incredibly personal and heart-wrenching, Alexie bares his soul, his grief for both his mother and his culture in a patchwork of prose and poetry that might reveal how the perpetrated can become the perpetrator. Having grown up in the farm towns near the reservation he lived in and high school he went to made the words that much more poignant and powerful for me.
Why You Might Read: A memoir for and of his mother, Alexie reveals that complex relationship of mother and child. Each needing the other but also needing to grow with and from one another. He revels in the gifts she left him, " . . . a trust fund/Of words, words, and words/That exist in me/Like dinosaurs live in birds" while simultaneously mourning what she could not provide and taking with her Spokane words and thoughts that will never be spoken or thought again. Extremely private, this book should be read by those seeking perspective with eyes wide open and reserved for quiet and contemplative conversation suited only for those with whom you can talk with souls laid bare.
For more Native American perspective see "Missing More Than a Word" from Tanaya Winder in the June Issue of Poetry Magazine.
How I Found: This is a reread. This is one I wish I had a record of my first reaction to reading twenty years ago. I imagine myself a teenaged-girl shocked by the reality presented, now a thirty-something stunned not by the reality of the book but of our own. Although this is still a future as yet unrealized, what creates the reality isn't too far-fetched from our own. Offred speaks of her compatriots of her past, explaining, "We were revisionists. What we revised was ourselves," and we do: change and change and change but never reflect.
Why You Might Read: If you're looking for a reality check, "Hey, at least we're not there, yet," this is one that presents frightening possibilities that may help us look in the mirror and not shout for change, but for a look at what has been created and how we might each be complicit as our narrator admits. The answer to this tale isn't in Offred's retelling, though, but the Historical Notes that reveal what we leave as record is all that's left, and if it doesn't exist in tangle form, it's as good as a forgotten memory about a book once read.
I am a reader who was brought to the world of books by being read to as a child, a wonderful librarian, scores of dedicated teachers, and the friends who still talk to me about books. This page is dedicated to all readers as a way to help you find books for you and yours as they were found by me. Let their pages turn your life into a world of magic, reality, and possibility.
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