In my opinion, this is George Orwell's best book. "1984" is a scarily accurate dystopic novel about what the author saw going on around him during the rise of such dictatorships as Stalin and Hitler. The novel asks what the world would be like if such totalitarian socialism were allowed to run rampant and take over everywhere, and the answers Orwell digs up are terrifying in their implications! Read this book, challenge your mind, awaken your senes to what is happening in the world around you now, and be changed forever. "1984" is absolutely one of the best books ever written!
An overwhelmingly intimate portrait of France's last, ill-fated queen, "Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette" is also one of the finest historical novels I've ever read. The book begins with the 14-year-old Marie's trade-off to France and ends with her execution, so any and all events in the woman's life are covered throughout the narrative. Told in first person through many short chapters, divided further into five acts in the tradition of a Shakespearean tragedy (the perfect word to describe Antoinette's life), the novel offers views into Marie Antoinette's internal conflicts as she tries desperately to fulfill her roles as princess and eventually Queen of France, all while growing up and living in one of the most outrageously opulent palaces in Europe. Court gossip, fashion and food, and sexual scandal are all present, as are the more quiet moments of the Queen's life. The picture author Sena Jeter Naslund conjures up is of a typical woman trying to be the best wife, mother, and woman she can be. This is a truly sympathetic book and reveals how Marie Antoinette was at most a scapegoat for the rightfully-angry French citizenship to blame. If you're at all interested in Marie Antoinette, be sure to give this fantastically-written historical fiction novel a read!
With the recent resurgence of the popularity of 'Alice in Wonderland' due to Tim Burton's new film, Collins Design has cranked out what is probably the most amazing version of the first story, 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', ever published. While the story itself, a flawless example of the genre of literary nonsense, has transcended time and place to fix itself as a classic story, the equal star in this edition is the bizarre, dark, and beautiful artwork by renowned artist Camille Rose Garcia. Filling the dust-jacket and sturdy pages with near-disturbing portrayals of already disturbed characters, the fantasmagorical illustrations of this edition help bring to life the warped story of a young girl falling down a tricked-out rabbit hole into a land of dreams, and her encounters with the odd, over-the-top, and deranged inhabitants of that Wonderland. A true masterwork of a story with amazing illustrations!
The first book by Dan Brown featuring the character of Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist. Like many, I read "The Da Vinci Code", this book's successor, before "Angels & Demons", but that in no way hampered my enjoyment of this fast-paced, suspenseful, and intriguing book. There are many, many similarities with "Angels & Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code", namely concerning plot order (both books start with a mysterious murder which catapults Robert into an adventure involving the Catholic Church), motivations (each book concerns an organization trying to do something against the Catholic Church's wishes and/or knowledge), and certain characters (Langdon, of course, along with a female intellectual sidekick, police officers and chiefs, and mysterious assassins). Don't be fooled, though, into thinking this is merely "The Da Vinci Code 2". This book is in some ways much more suspenseful and urgent in pace than "The Da Vinci Code", and is far less controversial through much of the text. The plot driver concerning the Illumaniti brotherhood and their supposed reemergence to once-and-for-all destroy the Church is very interesting. Readers will also find the same delightful tidbits of history, symbolism, art, and architecture as in "The Da Vinci Code", especially because this edition of the book holds many photographs, drawings, and other such miscellanea of the many locations, people, and symbols it describes. A highly recommended read!
The fluid, intellectual writing of Ian McEwan, which drives a superb and deeply-felt plot, makes "Atonement" a must-read for any person. I could hardly believe the book was written recently - it feels as though the author wrote it while living the life presented in the book himself! A human tale of mistakes, jealousy, true love, and the way in which we enter into these emotions and how we deal with them later, written in a period-exact style. I absolutely recommend this astonishing book - DO read it. You will recognize many of the inner turmoils of the characters and will more-than-likely be thinking of this book long after you finish it the first time. The movie is wonderful, too!
One of my favorite books, and the only novel ever written by the tragic Sylvia Plath, "The Bell Jar" is surprisingly autobiographical as it details the life of its main character and her slow, yet sure, descent into what is essentially insanity. This is a very readable book that captures the time period pitch-perfectly, and you'll find that while the main character's actions and thoughts can be a bit disturbing at times, your predisposed ideas about mental illness and sociology will be challenged and possibly changed. I could certainly relate to the young woman, and I think anyone, even mentally healthy people like myself, will find realism and understanding within these fantastically-written pages. A true American classic that should be read by everyone interested in serious literature.
This is truly a story not to be missed, an important fable set in Holocaust-era Germany that reminds readers of the evils committed in the name of Adolph Hitler's deranged ideals. Uniquely told from the point of view of the child of a top-ranking Nazi, this simply-written fiction tale tells universal truths and could be a great way to introduce this most dark of subjects to age-appropriate youngsters, with parental guidance along the way, of course. A moving, yet ultimately tragic and disturbing, story that contains the essence of the Holocaust in an intimate way, 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' is required reading.
The best of the four books in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Saga, "Breaking Dawn" is a satisfying conclusion to this hyper-popular series. The plot concerns Bella's engagement and marriage to her vampire lover Edward, and her best friend Jacob's continuing jealousy and conflict concerning his own feelings toward the pair. Suffice it to say that this doorstopper makes up for the PG and PG-13 tone of its predecessors - the sex, violence, blood, and horror are wracked up to a big level in this novel, but the story is all the better for them. The book is deeply disturbing at times (especially during scenes of sexual horror involving a character's out-of-control pregnancy and birth), and even though the ending is a tad underwhelming, the characters are all given satisfying send-offs. If you've read and enjoyed the other books in this series, be sure not to miss this one. It's truly the best of the bunch!
P. D. James' fluid command of the English language is thrust into the spotlight in this amazingly emotional and highly realistic story set in a dystopic future world where all women have lost the ability to conceive children. In a world without hope of any future, governments slowly erode and the youngest generation alive devolves into animalistic criminal behavior, while one man named Theo observes it all. The action is set in James' own England, and the plot is highly thrilling as secrets in this dreary, dying world are revealed and the stakes are raised for Theo and the other main characters. Written poetically, the novel is a prime example of dystopic fiction and spiritually-significant storytelling, and the stunning conclusion will stick with one forever. The film version, while somewhat different, is a great, fully-realized work of art, too.
"The Chronicles of Narnia", the complete collection of all 7 of C.S. Lewis' masterpieces, has been read and enjoyed by millions of people throughout the decades since its initial publishing, and for good reason. The stories teach important values and morals to its target audience, i.e. children, while also inventing a wildly imaginative and diverse fantasy world anyone would want to live in. Shades of grey present in the protagonists of each book help us all see the fallibility and imperfection present within humankind. A must-read, especially if you have children. This will surely spark their imaginations and creativity!
What can I say about Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" that has not yet already been said? This story is a moving, realistic portrayal of one black woman's quest to gain recognition, equality, and understanding amidst heartbreaking setbacks and obstacles, including sexual and physical abuse, all set in a disgustingly-segregated America. Atmospheric, emotional, spiritual, and moving, this novel (and the incredible movie version) are stories sinful to miss. Read it today!
This graphic novel won the Pulitzer Prize for good reason: it tells a true story so involving, recognizable, and horrific in a groundbreaking and creative fashion. Two side-by-side stories are developed within the narrative, along with simple black and white drawings, and depict a son's frustrations as he interviews his own father about the father's experiences as a Jew during the Holocaust. Jews are portrayed as mice, while Nazis are cats, and other nationalities and groups are represented in other ways besides, all in service of a remarkable, emotional, and truly important tale that is at once intimate yet epic. This version of the book contains both parts of the story in one graphic novel. A true reading experience that shouldn't be missed!
A daringly unique and original autobiography of one woman's coming-of-age during the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in 1980s Iran, told entirely in simple black-and-white, graphic novel form. "Persepolis" tells Marjane Satrapi's involving and absorbing story about the radical changes her country and culture underwent during the Islamic Revolution, and the effect these changes had on both her as a developing woman and her family and friends. Satrapi's life is amazing, and given that much more relevance through this bracingly funny, dramatic, and life-affirming graphic novel. I first saw the Academy Award-nominated animated film of the same name, which is equally great, but do yourself a treat and read this graphic novel before you die.
Another unusual tale from 'Wicked' Gregory Maguire, 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister' was a book I enjoyed very much. The premise is, of course, the classic Cinderella story, but Maguire's version of the tale takes more from the themes of beauty, ugliness, society, and even sexuality than merely reworking an already tired story. Set in the Dutch 17th century, the book paints a subtle, poignant picture of a woman coming to a new land looking to make a solid life for her two plain daughters. In the process her daughters get caught up in a life of art, money, and arguments over the true nature of beauty and hideousness. Supernatural beliefs in imps and the like are thrown in as well, creating a richly golden mood of dramatic fantasy. If you like any of Maguire's other writings, you'll like this, too; if you have yet to taste Maguire's distinct offerings, this is a great start.
Sharon Draper's "Copper Sun" is a stunning work of historical fiction that conveys the horrors of slavery from a unique point of view. Told entirely from a young slave girl's eyes, the book if full of undeniably human characters and explicit, though not unbearable, scenes of slave life. The writing is definitely geared to young adults, so this is a great read to help expand a teenager's knowledge of slavery in the United States. The main character is loveable and strong, and the various supporting players, both good and bad, are involving and deftly-written. The story takes unexpected turns and goes places I wasn't expecting, so it turned out to be a rather unique read, too. I've only read a handful of books in one sitting in my entire life, and this was one of those books! Highly, highly recommended!
Stephen King for kids, seriously. This is a darkly magical tale spun by master storyteller Neil Gaiman concerning an out-of-place girl who discovers a hidden parallel world too good to be true in her new home. The characters in this novel are eccentrically drawn and the plot is unique and engaging, with truly frightening sequences in the "Other" world Coraline frequents, and an unforgettably menacing and scary villainess. A bone-rattling supernatural fable...just not as a child's bedtime story!
After all of the controversy this book has garnered, some people might be turned off, especially Christians. I can testify, however, that the book is really very good and, as a Christian myself, the material isn't too objectionable, as long as you realize that this stuff is FICTION. The book's story involves a symbologist's quest to uncover secrets of Christ's history after a murder takes place in the Louvre museum in Paris, France. The book is great fun, especially if you're interested in history, art, architecture, etc. Symbols and puzzles play a great part, naturally, and it's fun trying to figure them out with the characters as they race agains the clock. The added photos, pictures, and drawings in this Illustrated Edition of the book help guide readers to visualize the places, people, and symbols the book describes, too. Dan Brown, the author, is a master at keeping you thrilled with tight, short chapters, and you'll find it hard to put the book down once you've started reading it! A recommended read if you want thrills and suspense with a dash of (re-written) history and art thrown in. For open-minded Christians, too!
I fell in-love with HBO's fantastically-realized hit show "TrueBlood", and was overjoyed to learn that it's based on a series of equally-popular books. I grabbed the first in the multiple-book series, "Dead Until Dark", as soon as I could and devoured it pretty quickly. A book which defies genre-assigning, the novel explores the life of telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who lives in a small, deep-South Louisiana town called Bon Temps. Plagued with her "curse" of hearing other people's private thoughts, Sookie is soon overjoyed when the town's first vampire, amusingly named Bill, moves to Bon Temps. The books most interesting idea comes from the fact that vampires have recently "come out of the coffin" because of a synthetic, bottled blood that allows them to get their nourishment without having to feed from humans, but the characters are well-written and rounded, and Sookie makes for a plucky, innocent, and all-together wonderful heroine. The book combines different genres, ranging from fantasy to comedy to horror to romance, and gives the reader a great mystery to boot. All in all, this is a must-read!
A long book by the master, Stephen King, that was truly my introduction to his works. While this book garnered mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the quasi-spiritual bend to the young boy in the story. Taking place in a creepy ghost-town, the story features all sorts of gruesome and terrifying imagery and scenes, yet also has a lot to say about spirituality, religion, human relationships, aging, and violence. This is a recommended read if you like Stephen King or are a fan of horror writing. I imagined this book would make a fine movie, until I saw the film version for myself...read the book, but stay away from the film!
"The Devil Wears Prada" is a fun book any worker can relate to, even if your boss isn't quite as hellish as the editor-in-chief character, Miranda Priestly. The central character, a young journalist forced into an assistant position at a high-profile fashion magazine, is relatable and you'll find yourself rooting for her all through the book. However, you can tell this is the writer's first published material, and that's not a good thing. Also, this is definitely not literary in any way, so if you're truly looking for something mindless that you can enjoy and then forget about later, read this. Surprisingly, the movie version with Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep is miles better than its source material - if you're interested in the story and don't want to read it, pick up the movie and enjoy it! I liked it better.