My sincere apologies for not writing much lately. Life has been far too busy and is starting to seriously impair my ability to write an engaging blog. Blogs are meant to be fun and not a source of stress, however, so I continue on and blog when I can, in the hopes that you all understand and don’t hold the infrequency of my posting against me.
Now that it’s well into September and school is in full swing, I wanted to do a post on controversial books. I’ve just begun reading The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and I still recall the uproar it caused when it was first published in 1988.
Last year I read Native Son by Richard Wright, which has been ‘challenged’ repeatedly since it was published. The challengers are right – it does have very explicit sexual scenes and violence, but it is an incredible book. I still can’t believe it was written in 1940, with a searing social commentary on race relations in the United States that is still relevant today.
I’m looking forward to the epic read that Satanic Verses promises to be, and I wonder what controversial books all of you have read. Did you enjoy it (or them)? Did you wish you hadn’t read it, or agree with those who challenged it – that it should not have been published? Or did you like it so much you wish it were required reading for everyone?
For those of us who are familiar with bibliographic terms such as ‘signature,’ ‘quarto,’ or ‘catchword,’ there are books out there whose protagonists are just as in love with books as we are. Please enjoy these recommendations below:
The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett (2013)
Of the books recommended here, this one has the strongest focus on the details of bookbinding. The story has a lot of bibliographic detective work, as well as a strong link to Shakespeare, and is a gripping page-turner to boot!
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1993; English translation published in 1996)
There is more detective work in this book as well, with three potential forgeries of a seventeenth-century book whose author was burned at the stake. Interesting details on the life of Alexandre Dumas add to the educational value of this novel, but more of a focus on the occult in the last quarter of the book made me enjoy it slightly less towards the end. But nevertheless, this is a riveting read.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2001; English translation published in 2004)
There are fewer bookishly technical terms in this book, although the protagonist works in a bookshop owned by his father, and has a deep love for books. This is not a light-hearted read by any stretch of the imagination, but the author’s delightful turn of phrase had me chuckling out loud many times throughout. Mystery, cruelty, love, redemption and books fill a full 487 pages, and will be very difficult to put down once you start it.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006)
This story also features a protagonist who loves books and whose father owns a bookstore. It tells the story of a famous author who is at the end of her life, and her story really does not relate to books, except that it is being made into one. However, it is still an intricately woven tale that keeps you guessing until the very end.
Well, here it is, Wednesday already. A couple of weeks ago, I tried participating in Should Be Reading‘s WWW Wednesdays event, and it was kind of fun. I missed last Wednesday, but I thought I might try it again today. The rules are, you share (1) What you are currently reading, (2) What you recently finished reading, and (3) What you plan to read next.
(1) I’m currently reading, The English Girl by Daniel Silva (2013). A spy thriller, and good so far, but I’ve barely started it.
(2) I recently finished reading The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014). It was heart-warming, but also sad. A keeper, though. I love books about bookstores.
(3) Next I think I will read The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller (2011). Set in post WW1 England, it’s also a thriller, and it was a Christmas gift from my father (thanks, Dad!).
That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday installment. Feel free to comment with your own WWW Wednesday titles, or put a link to your WWW Wednesday post in the comments, or go straight to the source and comment at Should be Reading.
Should Be Reading hosts a weekly event called WWW Wednesdays (or at least it was hosted through 2014. I hope it’s still a thing..) where you share (1) What you’re currently reading, (2) What you recently finished reading, and (3) What you think you’ll read next. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a WWW Wednesday, but since there are a few minutes of Wednesday left, I thought I’d try it out and see how it feels.
(1) I’m currently reading Native Son by Richard Wright, first published in 1940.
(2) I just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013);
(3) and next I plan to read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014).
(3)(i) Or maybe The English Girl by Daniel Silva (2013). I’m not sure yet.
So there you have it: my first WWW Wednesday installment. Feel free to comment with your own WWW Wednesday titles, or put a link to your WWW post in the comments, or go straight to the source and comment at Should be Reading.
In high school English class, we all had various books assigned to us. In grade 9 I read The Chrysalids and Lord of the Flies, both of which I thoroughly unenjoyed.
In grade 10 it was To Kill a Mockingbird, and I honestly don’t remember any books from grades 11 or 12. My last year went out with a bang, featuring a spectacularly depressing book by a Canadian author, The Stone Angel. (Yes, that was back when there were 5 years of high school here. But that’s for another post. Or even another blog.)
So now I ask you, dear readers, what did you read in high school English (aside from Shakespeare)? Please share! A synopsis and your opinions would be lovely, but I don’t ask you to invest a lot of time. Just some titles and comments. I’m looking forward to comparing our experiences!
Landscape of Lies by Peter Watson
- This is a page-turning thriller based on an enigmatic message from a medieval painting. Set in 1989, it’s also a entertaining trip down memory lane. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com, but beware, this link is to a new edition from 2005, so I don’t know how much editing has occurred in it.
The Eight by Katherine Neville
- The Eight is truly epic, spanning centuries and the entire globe. Also set around 1990, this book is a page-turner thriller. Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
- I read this book in my early twenties and found it a very intense read, but I was proud of myself when I finished it. Another work that falls firmly into the ‘epic’ category, it is a fascinating account of seventeenth-century science and a riveting mystery with a very unexpected ending. Highly recommended! Check out more reviews on Amazon.com.