Chances are, you’ve probably read it already. It’s required in many English curricula. My school, for whatever reason, did not include it, so I’m a latecomer. I found it at the bottom of the sci-fi shelves at the library last week and decided to give it a go.
Everyone seems to think this book is about the harmful effects of government censorship, but it’s not. The government is not responsible for the public’s declining interest in books. No, television and political correctness are to blame.
Fahrenheit 451 is a fairly quick read, but it is jam-packed with beautiful words. It’s not just a generic dystopian story; it’s a great work of literature. Here is an author who knows how to write with style.
This book is just as relevant today as it was in the 1950s. Perhaps it’s even more relevant, with the advent of iPads and Netflix and 3D televisions.
I recommend it to everyone because I think everyone should read it.
Recommended for people who like: watching television, reading books, living in the United States or other places where people have a weird obsession with being politically correct
Be More Chill is a take on the total-loser-to-totally-popular transformation tale. You know those stories. The guy sits in the back of the classroom, unnoticed by the love of his life. He longs to be accepted into her crowd and—voila! Something that makes him instantly cool appears! He becomes arrogant, but more importantly, cool, and in the process alienates all of his uncool friends. Sometimes he gets the girl, sometimes he gets a wake-up call, but usually, he gets both.
Now, in this story, the “insta-cool” loophole is an edible microcomputer that tells Jeremy, our snarky, sex-driven narrator, how to behave so he will be accepted. While the basic plot is not original, the combination of the “squip” computer and the twist ending definitely help make it more interesting. Compared to similar books, Be More Chill is pretty good.
Compared to the other Vizzini novel I’ve read (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), it’s really not good. Funny Story was more engaging, more relatable, and much more original, and I enjoyed it a lot more. Perhaps my indifference to Jeremy and connection with Craig stems from my own high school experience — we don’t have “cool” kids, but we do have a lot of stress. But, I digress.
Vizzini’s trademark humor and accurate teenage dialogue is evident here. Be More Chill, while not overwhelmingly original, is still entertaining.
Recommended for people who like: Shakespearean references, scenes so embarrassing they make you cringe in your seat, semi-realistic teen fiction (it’s pretty real, except for the microcomputer)
Digression #2: One reviewer called Jeremy “Holden Caulfield with internet access.” I do not think that description is correct. Jeremy is obsessed with fitting in; Holden goes out of his way to stand out. As a Salinger fan, I was slightly disappointed.
The Road is like nothing you’ve ever read before (unless, of course, you’ve read other Cormac McCarthy books).
It’s a story of a father and son moving through post-apocalyptic America, sustained by their love for each other. It’s a beautiful and terrifying adventure into human nature. It’s a novel free from grammatical boundaries and contemporary sensibilities.
The Road may seem simple at first glance, but it is not. The sparse dialogue implies much more than it says, and uninterrupted, chapter-less flow of words mimics the duo’s journey. As a warning, some of the descriptions are difficult to read through. I have a strong stomach for violence in literature, courtesy of GRRM, and I found some passages almost unreadable. There is no sugar-coating here, just gritty realism.
If you’re looking for something interesting, understated, and, above all, moving, pick up The Road. It may take some time to digest, but it is well worth it.
Recommended for people who like: dystopian fiction, experimental writing styles, Dave Hause’s song “Prague”
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Published: 1902 Rating: 4/5
Why should I read this book?
Hound is the third of four full-length novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. You should read it, simply put, because Holmes is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever encountered in literature. His ability to deduce facts from seemingly-unimportant details never becomes boring or predictable. I don’t think I’ve ever figured out the solution to one of the cases before it’s revealed (and I hope you haven’t either, or I’ll feel really dull).
I read recently that Hound is the most adapted of Holmes and Watson’s cases, and now I understand why. The misty moors, the escaped convict, the variety of suspects, and, of course, the titular hound make for a suspenseful story. Watson is charming, as ever, and Holmes is—well, Holmes. And by that, I mean fantastic.
Recommended for people who like: BBC’s Sherlock, mysteries, giant scary hellhounds
If you’ve read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights (and really, how could you get through high school English without doing so?), you will probably be interested to hear that Northanger Abbey is a parody of those Gothic novels. Jane (we’re on a first name basis) succeeds in creating not only a funny parody but also a great work in its own right.
On my Grand Jane Austen Scale, Northanger Abbey comes second only to Pride & Prejudice. I’m fairly certain that Catherine Morland, the heroine, is my literary alter-ego. The hero is sarcastic and charming (and I’d quite like to marry him, actually). But best of all, although Jane’s voice switches between light and dramatic, it always remains humorous.
Northanger Abbey is an engaging, exciting read full of Jane’s trademark wit and charm.
Recommended for people who like: funny Regency ladies
Note: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne came after Jane, but their novels still count as Gothic novels.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will enlighten you with the answer to life, the universe, and everything. And should you ever decide to hitchhike around the galaxy, it will give you handy hints much better than those in the Encyclopedia Galactica.
But most importantly, it will make you laugh. It’s a short, entertaining, ridiculous ride through space. Sometimes it sacrifices the characters and plot in favor of funniness, but it’s comedy, not hard sci-fi. It’s allowed to do that.
Recommended for people who like: Monty Python, The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett, computers that sing Rodgers and Hammerstein
It seems like I give an awful lot of books five stars, but A Countess Below Stairs is one of my all-time favorites. It should get six out of five, because I’ve read it at least six times since I bought it in seventh grade and it only gets better with each reread.
Ibbotson has published five young adult novels, and Countess is my favorite of the five. It follows the story of Anna Grazinsky, a penniless countess forced to flee Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, and her time working as a housemaid at the estate of a British earl.
Ibbotson is one of the best young adult authors for reasons including but not limited to the following:
Her characters, while not always fully rounded, are always memorable.
She is one of those people who seems to know everything (or is just good at making stuff up), as evidenced by her vivid descriptions of a variety of locations around the globe.
Her romances are always beautiful and never sappy.
Her heroines are strong and lovable, not annoying, whiny, or empty-headed.
Obviously, I am very biased in favor of Ibbotson’s work. You should read A Countess Below Stairs because it’s the best.
Recommended for people who like: romances that aren’t fluffy, post-WWI era Britain, Downton Abbey
Author: Beth Ann Bauman Published: 2009 Rating: 2/5
Why should I read this book?
To be honest, I’m not quite sure that you should. While the story described in the inside flap — two sisters dealing with their alcoholic father during the off-season of the Jersey shore — sounded far from groundbreaking, I expected it to be at least an absorbing and authentic read.
To my disappointment, it wasn’t. The dialogue didn’t sound like dialogue real teenagers would have. (Trust me; I’m from New Jersey.) The characters were fleshed out, but kind of dull. Bauman’s prose rarely offered up an interesting turn of phrase or fresh metaphor.
From the pictures on the covers — an empty boardwalk and an abandoned Ferris wheel — I expected to hear a lot more about the character of the shore during the off-season. However, Bauman mentioned a diner, a surf board, and a broken skee ball machine and expected it to pass as an acceptable description. I only had a clear picture of the setting because I had actually been there.
Overall, this book seemed uninspired. The cute ending didn’t make up for the mediocrity of the preceding pages.
Recommended for people who like: going down the Jersey shore, angsty romances
Warning: Read Rant at your own risk. It will ninja your brain.
According to the inside flap, it’s about a serial killer who infects his victims with rabies. This description, however, leaves out some other major topics that Rant covers: government oppression, car salesmanship, escapism, class prejudices, the formation of urban mythology, and time travel.
It’s not a bad book — in fact, it’s very intriguing, insightful, and funny — but it seems a little overly ambitious. It’s written in the style of an oral biography, so on top of all those hard-to-digest themes, there are also a huge cast of characters and, at times, conflicting stories.
But even if you don’t understand everything this book has to offer — trust me, I don’t — it’s still worth a read merely because it makes your brain do mental gymnastics. I guarantee that you will be thinking about this book days after you put it down.
Pick up Rant if you want to read something different from everything else you’ve ever read.
Recommended for people who like:Fight Club, time travel theories, their brains melting and leaking out through their ears
Author: Charles Dickens Published: 1861 Rating: 5/5
Why should I read this book?
Full disclosure: This is the first full work of Charles Dickens that I have ever read.
(And I call myself a bookworm. The shame.)
I honestly can’t believe I didn’t want to read this book when I received it as a gift a few years ago. Yes, the words are difficult, the plot is complicated, and the hero is really an anti-hero, but those aren’t bad things. All those components just serve to make this book endlessly fascinating. I was captivated by Dickens’ well-developed characters, social commentary, and comic genius. (I would like to emphasize the comic genius part — I literally laughed out loud several times while reading.)
I enjoyed reading this book so much that I now own two copies. Also, I think I’d like to marry Herbert Pocket.
Recommended for people who like: dry humor, bromances, Victorian England
There have been tons of movie adaptations of this book, but I found the characters and descriptions to be so strong that I didn’t want other people’s images to conflict with mine. Therefore, I refuse to watch Great Expectations.
There is, however, a fantastic song by The Gaslight Anthem entitled “Great Expectations” that makes references to the book.