The Sad, Sweet Story Behind “Love You Forever” by Caroline Robertson

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

You’ll probably recognize those words from Robert Munsch’s children’s book, Love You Forever. It’s among the best-selling kids’ books of all time, but it still tends to provoke very different responses among parents. Depending on who you talk to, it’s either either a touching account of a mother’s unending love or the ultimate example of helicopter parenting gone bad.

I admit I have always subscribed to that latter category. It pains me to say it, because I love Mr. Munsch’s books.Mud PuddleMortimerThe Paperback PrincessSmelly SocksStephanie’s PonytailToo Much Stuff: There are well-worn copies of each of them on my daughters’ bookshelf. But while we own a copy of Love You Forever – who doesn’t? – I’ve always found the story to be a little bit creepy.

To recap, the book begins with a mother rocking her newborn baby, singing that now-familiar song as he drifts off to sleep. From there the baby grows into a trouble-making toddler, a caked-in-dirt little boy, a sulky teenager and, eventually, a husband and father with a baby of his own. Through it all, every night, even after he’s moved into his own home, his mother sneaks into his bedroom, pulls him from bed and rocks him while she sings him their song.

I’ve read Love You Forever dozens of times over the years, but today I learned the story behind the book: It was originally written as a song for the author’s two stillborn babies.

As Mr. Munsch writes on his Web site:

“I made that up after my wife and I had two babies born dead. The song was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried. It was very strange having a song in my head that I couldn’t sing.

For a long time it was just a song but one day, while telling stories at a big theatre at the University of Guelph, it occurred to me that I might be able to make a story around the song.

Out popped Love You Forever, pretty much the way it is in the book.”

16 Books To Read Before They Hit Theaters This Year

Some of these I have already read (Gone Girl, The Fault in Our Stars); some I may skip (not a big sci fi/fantasy fan), and some deserves a re read (The Giver), but what a great rederence if you like reading a book and see the movie AFTER!!  I would also add The Wolf of Wall Street!

 

Chris Ritter / BuzzFeed

1. Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

William Morrow and Company

Paramount Pictures
 
 

What it’s about: Over the course of a Labor Day weekend in the late ’80s, 13-year-old Henry and his depressed mother Adele’s lives change when they harbor fugitive Frank Chambers at home. Frank fills a fatherless void for Henry and brings out life in Adele, all while the police are on the hunt for the escaped murderer. It’s a deeply moving read with unpredictable twists, and Kate Winslet is bound to shine as Adele in the film.

Amazon review: 4.2/5 stars

Release date: Jan. 31, 2014 (Click here to watch the trailer)

Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin

2. The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter

Hachette Book Group

Columbia Pictures
 
 

What it’s about: Based on a true WWII story, museum curators, art historians, and others, collectively called the Monuments Men, risked their lives to save pieces of art that the Nazis planned to destroy. This book is a fascinating story about a rare WWII topic and shows how important it is to cherish artwork. As for the movie, the film features a kick-ass cast and it will be exciting to see everything unfold on the big screen.

Amazon review: 4.3/5 stars

Release date: Feb. 7, 2014 (Click here to watch the trailer)

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray

3. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich

David C. Lee / Warner Bros.
 
 

What it’s about: Orphan and mechanic Peter Lake attempts to rob a Manhattan mansion only to find Beverly Penn, the daughter who resides in the home Peter believed to be empty. Thus begins the love affair between a middle-aged Irishman and a fatally ill young woman in a magical New York City. If you’re looking for a novel laced with fantasy and romance, this is a good place to start. Hopefully Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay do the characters justice!

Amazon review: 3.9/5 stars

Release date: Feb. 14, 2014 (Click here to watch the trailer)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe

4. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Razorbill

The Weinstein Company
 
 

What it’s about: St. Vladimir’s Academy is a school for dhampirs, vampire-human hybrids who serve as guardians, and Moroi, “good” vampires with an ability to use magic from one of the four elements (water, fire, air, and earth). Vampire princess Lissa Dragomir and dhampir Rose Hathaway are best friends, connected through a special bond that they can’t quite explain. After escaping school for two years, the girls are brought back to the academy and are faced with Lissa’s mystery element (or lack thereof?) and the danger it brings. The series is six books long, but definitely worth it, and the movie was created by the directors of Mean Girls.

Amazon review: 4.5/5 stars

Release date: Feb. 14, 2014 (Click here to watch the trailer)

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Sarah Hyland

5. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

 
 

What it’s about: Four people come together on New Year’s Eve on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination known as the last stop for those who are ready to end their lives. The story is told from four distinct points of view, filled with second chances and regrets. Despite its somber topic, the book balances the provocative and the hilarious, and mixes in intense and moving moments. This just screams indie flick.

Amazon review: 3.7/5 stars

Release date: March 7, 2014 (U.K.)

Starring: Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Imogen Poots, Pierce Brosnan

6. Divergent by Veronica Roth

HarperCollins

Summit Entertainment
 
 

What it’s about: In a dystopian Chicago, society is split into five factions based on personality type (Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, Abnegation, and Candor). When Tris Prior finds out she doesn’t quite fit into any one faction, she’s declared Divergent, a dangerous revelation she must keep secret in order to survive. Once the Choosing Ceremony begins, Tris must decide to either join her family or follow her own path. The book is completely captivating and will keep you up at all hours of the night until you finish. All of the initiation scenes should translate great in film and the fear simulations will be even more exciting to see.

Amazon review: 4.6/5 stars

Release date: March 21, 2014 (Click here to watch the trailer)

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Dutton Books

20th Century Fox
 
 

What it’s about: A tumor-shrinking medical miracle bought Hazel a few years of time, but she’s a terminal time bomb, suffering from stage IV cancer. At a support group for her illness, she meets fellow cancer survivor Augustus Waters, a boy who pretends to smoke cigarrettes and has a prosthetic leg. With a shared obsession for the novel An Imperial Affliction and a similar sense of sarcasm, the two fall in love, despite their inevitable fate. John Green’s story is honest and hilarious, exposing the fear, anger, and sadness that accompanies a terminal illness. It’s an emotional read, and it’s bound to be a heartrending two hours at the movie theater.

Amazon review: 4.7/5 stars

Release date: June 6, 2014

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort

8. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

Scribner

Stephen Lovekin / Getty
 
 

What it’s about: When tragedy pushes Hassan and his family out of India, they eat their way around the world, settling in Lumière, a small town in the French Alps. The family opens an Indian restaurant that becomes wildly popular among the residents, infuriating their French rival Madame Mallory. After she wages a culinary war with the family, Mallory finally agrees to mentor Hassan, leading him to Paris and the launch of his own restaurant. The novel is endearing, cultural, and a downright delicious read. Not only does Helen Mirren star in the movie, but it’s also produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

Amazon review: 3.8/5 stars

Release date: Aug. 8, 2014

Starring: Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Houghton Mifflin

Kevin Winter / Getty
 
 

What it’s about: Everything is perfect; diseases have been eradicated, everyone is equal, and society is under control. Each person is assigned a position by the Community, and 12-year-old Jonas has been picked as the “Receiver of Memories.” Only “The Giver” knows the truth of the past, and he must now pass that information down to Jonas. This book has often been described as the first YA dystopian novel (in correlation with the current trend) and it shows that a utopian society has its downsides, like a lack of personal freedom. Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep make this a highly anticipated movie, and hopefully Taylor Swift will prove her acting chops.

Amazon review: 4.3/5 stars

Release date: Aug. 15, 2014

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgård, Taylor Swift

10. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Shaye Areheart Books

Exclusive Media Group
 
 

What it’s about: Libby Day was 7 when her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in an event known as “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She testified that the person responsible for the cruel acts was in fact her 15-year-old brother, Ben. Fast-forward about 25 years and Libby is approached by the Kill Club, a group of people obsessed with solving notorious crimes. They believe Ben was wrongly accused, and she is eventually sucked into the investigation to uncover the twisted truth. Christina Hendricks plays Charlize Theron’s mom, so that should be interesting!

Amazon review: 4.2/5 stars

Release date: Sept. 1, 2014

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks

11. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Penguin Group

Larry Busacca / Getty
 
 

What it’s about: Judd Foxman’s father just died, and on top of that, his wife Jen had an affair with his boss, which recently became painfully public. Judd is forced to sit Shiva and spend seven days and nights with the dysfunctional Foxman clan, facing confrontation and dealing with old grudges. The book is hilarious and the movie features Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. Enough said.

Amazon review: 4.2/5 stars

Release date: Sept. 12, 2014

Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver

12. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Delacorte Press

Universal Pictures
 
 

What it’s about: When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he remembers is his name. His memory is blank, and he’s surrounded by a group of boys in a place called the Glade, a large space entrapped by tall, stone walls. Every 30 days another boy is delivered, but when a girl named Teresa appears in the lift the next morning, her presence is almost as unexpected as the message she delivers. The language is a little tough to get through in the beginning, but once you catch on to the lingo, you’ll be racing to find out what happens. It’ll be very interesting to see how the book is translated in film, especially with the monstrous creatures called Grievers.

Amazon review: 4.3/5 stars

Release date: Sept. 19, 2014

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario

13. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Crown Publishing Group

20th Century Fox
 
 

What it’s about: It’s Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary when Amy mysteriously disappears. Nick is oddly evasive and evidence is slowly going against him, but did he really kill his wife? Gillian Flynn’s novel is packed with suspense, twists, and plenty of emotions. Readers are pretty split on their feelings about the end, but the entire book is definitely thrilling and the movie will probably be just as captivating.

Amazon review: 3.8/5 stars

Release date: Oct. 3, 2014

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

14. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Random House

Vince Valitutti / Universal Pictures
 
 

What it’s about: This true story follows Louis Zamperini, a track star from the ’30s and a participant in the Berlin Olympics. Zamperini became an airman in WWII and in May of 1943, his plane went down, leaving him adrift in the Pacific Ocean with nothing but a raft. Facing starvation, dangerous waters, and a situation in which he is taken prisoner by Japanese forces, this fascinating account is both vivid and powerful. The film is directed by Angelina Jolie.

Amazon review: 4.8/5 stars

Release date: Dec. 25, 2014

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, Domhnall Gleeson

15. Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Random House
 
 

What it’s about: Twentysomething Cheryl Strayed lost her mother and her marriage all in a short amount of time. Four years later, with nothing to lose, Strayed took an 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail in order to deal with her catastrophic past. This honest memoir is filled with suspense and humor, a journey worth the read. Reese Witherspoon takes on the role of Strayed and she’ll probably be her usual charming self.

Amazon review: 4.2/5 stars

Release date: 2014

Starring: Reese Witherspoon

16. Serena by Ron Rash

HarperCollins

Magnolia Pictures
 
 

What it’s about: The book is a thrilling story that follows newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton on their journey to create a timber empire and ruthlessly kill all who fall out of favor. George fathered an illegitimate child, and when Serena discovers that she cannot bear children, she sets out to kill the son George fathered without her. If Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s previous films together are any indication of their chemistry, then it’s guaranteed this movie will be a must-see.

Amazon review: 3.8/5 stars

Release date: 2014

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper

Common Core, NYS and Ficton

This is an excerpt from an article that was published by The Washington Post which examines the difficulty that New York State us having implementing the Common Core Curriculum.  This excerpt explains the limited role fiction plays in the new curriculum.  As a Special Education teacher with a master in Reading Education, and having 25 years teaching students K-adult how to read, and as a life long reader, I fine these standards insulting regarding what quality teachers do in the classroom.

But please, read for yourself:

 

Reduction of Literature in English Language Arts

 Upon reading the modules it becomes clear that literature, particularly fiction, is being devalued.  In the fifth-grade English Language Arts curriculum, there are 11 days devoted to closely reading the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During the entire year, there are only two works of fiction: Esperanza Rising and Dark Water Rising.  There is instead a volume of informational texts that include From Kosovo to the United States, Sloth Researcher Bryson Voirin, Investigating the Scientific Method with Max Axiom, A Live Interview with Eve Nilson, and The Most Beautiful Roof in the World. These are samples; there are more.

Romeo and Juliet, which has been a mainstay of ninth-grade curriculum in most high schools, is reduced to an excerpt in the modules, while an article about Bernie Madoff is included.

I understand the importance of reading for information and infusing reading across the curriculum.  I worry, however, that literature is being squeezed out by too much informational text in English Language Arts classes. Students need literature. In great novels, they encounter both flawed and heroic characters that help them grow in knowledge of self. They learn about the complexity of human relationships and the rhythm and nuance of beautiful writing. Reading short, informational texts may prepare students for reading tests, but reading full length works prepares students for college.

 

Comments?

Notable Children’s Books of 2013

 

YOUNG ADULT

Stephen Savage

 

BOXERS and SAINTSWritten and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang. (First Second, $18.99 and $15.99.) In these companion graphic novels, Yang, a Michael L. Printz Award winner, tackles the complicated history of China’s Boxer Rebellion, using characters with opposing perspectives to explore the era’s politics and religion.

ELEANOR & PARKBy Rainbow Rowell. (St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99.) A misfit girl from an abusive home and a Korean-American boy from a happy one bond over music and comics on the school bus in this novel, which our reviewer, John Green, said “reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”

FANGIRLBy Rainbow Rowell. (St. Martin’s Griffin, $18.99.) In her second Y.A. novel published in 2013, Rowell cleverly interweaves the story of an introverted girl’s freshman year in college — and first romance — with the “Harry Potter”-like fan fiction she writes in her spare time.

THE 5TH WAVEBy Rick Yancey. (Putnam, $18.99.) Yancey’s wildly entertaining novel, in which aliens come to Earth, manages the elusive trick of appealing to young readers and adults alike.

PICTURE ME GONEBy Meg Rosoff. (Putnam, $17.99.) Mila, a young Londoner with an uncanny gift for empathy, accompanies her father to upstate New York to search for his best friend. Questions of honesty and trust are central to this novel, a ­National Book Award finalist.

THE RITHMATISTBy Brandon Sanderson. Illustrated by Ben McSweeney. (Tor/Tom Doherty, $17.99.) A boy longs to join a magical cadre defending humanity against merciless “chalklings” in this fantasy, set in an alternate version of ­America.

ROSE UNDER FIREBy Elizabeth Wein. (Hyperion, $17.99.) In Wein’s second World War II adventure novel — the first, “Code Name Verity,” was highly praised last year — Rose, 18, an American transport pilot and aspiring poet, struggles to survive in a women’s concentration camp after her plane is grounded in Germany.

◆◆◆

MIDDLE GRADE

BETTER NATE THAN EVERBy Tim Federle. (Simon & Schuster, $16.99.) A 13-year-old escapes to New York for a Broadway audition in this debut novel, described by Patrick Healy in The New York Times as “a twinkling adventure tale for the musical theater set.”

THE CATS OF TANGLEWOOD FORESTBy Charles de Lint. Illustrated by Charles Vess. (Little, Brown, $17.99.) A young girl whose life is saved when magical cats ­transform her into a kitten learns there are consequences to playing with time and fate.

FLORA AND ULYSSES: The Illuminated AdventuresBy Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by K. G. Campbell. (Candlewick, $17.99.) A freak accident with a vacuum cleaner turns an ordinary squirrel into a super­hero in this madcap chapter book by the author of “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward ­Tulane.”

HERO ON A BICYCLEBy Shirley Hughes. (Candlewick, $15.99.) In this first novel by the award-winning picture-book author and illustrator, a family in Nazi-occupied Florence aids the partisans.

MY HAPPY LIFEBy Rose Lagercrantz. ­Illustrated by Eva Eriksson. (Gecko, $16.95.)In her review on NYTimes.com, Pamela Paul described this chapter book, about a kindergartner’s experience of starting school, as “one of those joyous rarities: a book about girls who are neither infallible nor pratfall-prone, but who are instead very real.”

THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMPBy Kathi Appelt. (Atheneum, $16.99.) In a swamp near the Gulf of Mexico, raccoon brothers search for the yeti-like Sugar Man, who, if awakened, can help save their home from becoming a theme park. Our reviewer, Lisa Von Drasek, said Appelt’s “mastery of pacing and tone makes for wonderful reading aloud.”

◆◆◆

PICTURE BOOKS

AFRICA IS MY HOME: A Child of the AmistadBy Monica Edinger. Illustrated by Robert Byrd. (Candlewick, $17.99.) A West African girl, on board the Amistad when older slaves take over the ship, has a long journey back to her homeland.

THE BEAR’S SONG. Written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. (Chronicle, $17.99.)A bear cub chases a bee into the Paris opera house while his father struggles to find him amid the amusing distractions of Chaud’s busy scenes.

BLUEBIRDWritten and illustrated by Bob Staake. (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99.) In this wordless tale of a bullied boy and the bird who helps him, Staake, creator of “The Red Lemon,” has drawn a book of true beauty with a bittersweet ending.

THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH: The Improbable Life of Paul ErdosBy Deborah Heiligman. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (Roaring Brook, $17.99.) A picture-book ­biography of Erdos, the eccentric Hungarian-born mathematician.

BUILDING OUR HOUSEWritten and illustrated by Jonathan Bean. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.99.) A true tale of homesteader parents in the 1970s.

THE DARKBy Lemony Snicket. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. (Little, Brown, $16.99.) A little boy and the darkness he fears reach a detente in this just-spooky-enough story, a New York Times Best Illustrated award winner.

FOG ISLANDWritten and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer. (Phaidon, $16.95.) In this Times Best Illustrated award winner, storm-tossed siblings wash ashore on a forbidden island off the coast of Ireland.

HILDA AND THE BIRD PARADEWritten and illustrated by Luke Pearson. (Flying Eye/NoBrow, $24.) In this graphic novel, a blue-haired girl named Hilda feels out of place in urban Tolberg, until an amnesiac raven helps her settle in.

JOURNEYWritten and illustrated by ­Aaron Becker. (Candlewick, $15.99.) A lonely girl draws a red door on her bedroom wall and enters a lushly detailed imaginary world.

MR. WUFFLES! Written and illustrated by David Wiesner. (Clarion, $17.99.) A house cat does battle with space aliens in this wordless picture book by Wiesner, a winner of three Caldecott Medals.

SOMETHING BIGBy Sylvie Neeman. ­Illustrated by Ingrid Godon. (Enchanted Lion, $16.95.) A little boy, frustrated by his desire to do something significant, and his father, who wants to help him, find a new perspective at the seashore.

THIS IS THE ROPE: A Story From the Great MigrationBy Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by James Ransome. (Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, $16.99.) The multiple Newbery Honor winner Woodson uses a common household item to reflect one family’s experience of the Great Migration.

These Amazing Classic Books Are So Short You Have No Excuse Not To Read Them

 

As Books Editors, we set aside more designated reading time than most people do. Still, even we are daunted by copies of 

The Goldfinch looming on our desks. Once we embark on a bulky book, will we have time for anything else (including, but not limited to, reading other books)?

Sometimes, especially when in the midst of a reading slump, shorter books seem more approachable. Enter: the novella. A novella is defined as a fictional narrative that is longer than a short story but shorter than a regular novel. Another differentiating factor: Novellas tend to involve fewer conflicts than novels, but these conflicts have a bit more time to develop than in short stories. There are actually lots of debates on what novellas are and aren’t (restricted to a certain page count, for example), but we’ll leave that for another time.

Since we know all of you are extremely busy (it is the holiday season, after all), we’ve compiled a list of short, classic works, some novels and some novellas, that are all under 200 pages (We bet you didn’t know The Great Gatsby was only 180 pages).

Have even LESS time to read? Take a look through our compilation of short stories you can read in under 10 minutes! 

albert camus

The Stranger by Albert Camus (123 pages): Camus’s classic novel about a man who, somewhat aloofly, kills someone and must face the consequences is often cited as a major exemplar of existentialist thought (though Camus preferred not to be lumped into the existentialist category).

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (166 pages): This novel about an ambitious scientist who conducts an unorthodox experiment and creates a “monster” is an early example of gothic horror writing during the Romantic period.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (55 pages): No one should miss Kafka’s tale of a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he has been transformed into a gigantic bug. If you’ve already read it, you could also take a look at Haruki Murakami’s tribute to the story, published in The New Yorker

george eliot

Silas Marner by George Eliot (160 pages): We bet you didn’t know that George Eliot, best known for the sprawling and fantastic Middlemarch, ever wrote anything so short! In this novel, Silas Marner is a member of a small religious community, and is accused of stealing the church’s funds, and is found guilty. The rest of the book chronicles his life after leaving the community where he has been shunned.

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (96 pages): Going through a bad breakup? Then you probably shouldn’t read this book. It’s the depressing story of unrequited love. Werther loves a girl, but she is already engaged to another. He becomes friends with them both, and things get messy.

Passing by Nella Larsen (102 pages): This novella, set in 1920s Harlem, is about the reuniting of two mixed-race childhood friends. One of them, Clare, is able to pass as white, and has even lied to her husband about her racial origin. This beautifully written book depicts the horrors of racism and the lengths that some people went to to not be considered “lesser than.” 

f scott fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180 pages):For those of you who haven’t read this book, get to it! It’s only 180 pages. This classic, referred to by some as “the Great American Novel” is about a man who lets his love obsession get the better of him, and it ultimately leads to his demise (it’s about a lot more than that, but you’ll just have to read it to uncover it all).

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (128 pages): This novel focuses on a woman who is trying to reconcile her views on femininity and motherhood with those of the very conservative South. It does not have a happy ending.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (72 pages): Conrad’s classic is about an ivory trader in Central Africa who is searching for (and becomes obsessed with) another trader.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (182 pages): Austen’s first completed novel (though one of the last to be published) is about the trials of heart of a 17-year-old girl. She has to make some weighty love decisions, but she ends up happily ever after.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (96 pages): James’s novella is dissimilar from his other, longer works, which tend to offer commentary on the societal norms of his day. The Turn of the Screw, on the other hand, is a ghost story, but whether or not the ghosts in it are real is a point of contention amongst critics. 

willa cather

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (128 pages): This story is about a Swedish immigrant family in farm country. Alexandra, the farm owner’s daughter, inherits the farm and devotes herself to making it a profitable enterprise, even though many others are giving up and leaving.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (144 pages): This crime novel features Chandler’s famous character PI Philip Marlowe. An old man is being blackmailed and he wants Marlowe to make it stop.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (77 pages:This novel, set against a bleak New England winter, tells the tragic story of Ethan Frome, his wife Zeena and her companion Mattie. Frome is stuck in a loveless marriage, and falls in love with the young woman who comes to take care of his wife. Trouble ensues.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (128 pages):This is one of the most famous novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. It is about a mystery involving an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a terrifying, supernatural hound. 

robert louis stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (64 pages): This book is about two opposing personalities (one good, one evil) battling inside one man (but it’s really about man’s dual nature–something that was particularly intriguing during the Victorian period).

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (180 pages):A young, handsome man sells his soul to be young and beautiful forever. He never ages; a portrait painted of him ages instead. Despite his good looks, he is a nasty, despicable creature with no heart.

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (160 pages): This classic science fiction novel about alien invasion is where so many bad book adaptations get their ideas. (Don’t watch the movies! Read this book instead!)

Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville (160 pages): Melville’s classic is about unintentional mutiny onboard a ship. Billy Budd is falsely accused of mutiny, and when the accusations are formally made against him, he is unable to respond due to his stutter. He strikes out, and accidentally kills the man who made the accusations. The story covers the aftermath of this event. 

charles dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (80 pages): A miserly business owner withholds both livable pay and general kind-heartedness from his employees, even on Christmas Day. This all changes, however, when he’s reminded unwillingly of his past, and shown how others think and speak of him.

The Pearl by John Steinbeck (96 pagesSteinbeck’s novella addresses the age-old theme of good and evil, through the story of Kino, a man who discovers a massive pearl. He sells the object, which we learn is cursed, in order to pay for his newborn son’s medical treatment, and bad luck ensues.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (160 pages): This novella is fairly different from the movie version (the male protagonist is gay…pretty big difference) and Capote’s prose is simply stunning, so even if you’ve seen the movie, this is still worth the read!

Animal Farm by George Orwell (140 pages): Orwell’s novella is an allegory for the Russian Revolution, and the hypocrisy of the newly-instilled leaders. Of course, it’s overtly political, and uses talking pigs, sheep, and horses to illustrate Orwell’s viewpoints. 

CLARIFICATION: The page counts for these titles are for the full books they are featured in. They include introductions, Author’s notes, etc. (This means most of these novels are even shorter than what is listed here).

CORRECTION: A previous version of this text listed that Kafka’s Metamorphosis is 201 pages. It is actually around 55 pages.

100 Notable Books of 2013

 

Johnny Kelly

Published: November 27, 2013

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

FICTION & POETRY

THE ACCURSEDBy Joyce Carol Oates. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.) Oates’s extravagantly horrifying, funny and prolix postmodern Gothic novel purports to be the definitive account of a curse that infected bucolic Princeton, N.J., in 1905 and 1906.

ALL THAT ISBy James Salter. (Knopf, $26.95.) Salter’s first novel in more than 30 years, which follows the loves and losses of a World War II veteran, is an ambitious departure from his previous work and, at a stroke, demolishes any talk of twilight.

AMERICANAHBy Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Knopf, $26.95.)This witheringly trenchant novel scrutinizes blackness in America, Nigeria and Britain.

BLEEDING EDGEBy Thomas Pynchon. (Penguin Press, $28.95.) Airliners crash not only into the twin towers but into a shaggy-dog tale involving a fraud investigator and a white-collar outlaw in this vital, audacious novel.

CHILDREN ARE DIAMONDS: An African ApocalypseBy Edward Hoagland. (Arcade, $23.95.) The adventure-seeking protagonist of Hoagland’s novel is swept up in the chaos of southern Sudan.

THE CIRCLEBy Dave Eggers. (Knopf/McSweeney’s, $27.95.) In a disturbing not-too-distant future, human existence flows through the portal of a company that gives Eggers’s novel its title.

CLAIRE OF THE SEA LIGHTBy Edwidge Danticat. (Knopf, $25.95.) Danticat’s novel is less about a Haitian girl who disappears on her birthday than about the heart of a magical seaside village.

THE COLOR MASTER: StoriesBy Aimee Bender. (Doubleday, $25.95.) Physical objects help Bender’s characters grasp an overwhelming world.

A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENABy Anthony Marra. (Hogarth, $26.) Odds against survival are high for the characters of Marra’s extraordinary first novel, set in war-torn Chechnya.

THE DINNERBy Herman Koch. Translated by Sam Garrett. (Hogarth, $24.) In this clever, dark Dutch novel, two couples dine out under the cloud of a terrible crime committed by their teenage sons.

DIRTY LOVEBy Andre Dubus III. (Norton, $25.95.) Four linked stories expose their characters’ bottomless needs and stubborn weaknesses.

DISSIDENT GARDENSBy Jonathan Lethem. (Doubleday, $27.95.) Spanning 80 years and three generations, Lethem’s novel realistically portrays an enchanted — or disenchanted — garden of American leftists in Queens.

DOCTOR SLEEPBy Stephen King. (Scribner, $30.) Now grown up, Danny, the boy with psycho-intuitive powers in “The Shining,” helps another threatened magic child in a novel that shares the virtues of King’s best work.

DUPLEXBy Kathryn Davis. (Graywolf, $24.) A schoolteacher takes an unusual lover in this astonishing, double-hinged novel set in a fantastical suburbia.

THE END OF THE POINTBy Elizabeth Graver. (Harper, $25.99.) A summer house on the Massachusetts coast both shelters and isolates the wealthy family in Graver’s eloquent multigenerational novel.

THE FLAMETHROWERSBy Rachel Kushner. (Scribner, $26.99.) In Kushner’s frequently dazzling second novel, an impressionable artist navigates the volatile worlds of New York and Rome in the 1970s.

THE GOLDFINCHBy Donna Tartt. (Little, Brown, $30.) The “Goldfinch” of the title of Tartt’s smartly written Dickensian novel is a painting smuggled through the early years of a boy’s life — his prize, his guilt and his burden.

THE GOOD LORD BIRDBy James McBride. (Riverhead, $27.95.) McBride’s romp of a novel, the 2013 National Book Award winner, is narrated by a freed slave boy who passes as a girl. It’s a risky portrait of the radical abolitionist John Brown in which irreverence becomes a new form of ­homage.

A GUIDE TO BEING BORN: StoriesBy Ramona Ausubel. (Riverhead, $26.95.)Ausubel’s fantastical collection traces a cycle of transformation: from love to conception to gestation to birth.

HALF THE KINGDOMBy Lore Segal. (Melville House, $23.95.) In Segal’s darkly comic novel, dementia becomes contagious at a Manhattan hospital.

I WANT TO SHOW YOU MORE: StoriesBy Jamie Quatro. (Grove, $24.) Quatro’s strange, thrilling and disarmingly honest first collection draws from a pool of resonant themes (Christianity, marital infidelity, cancer, running) in agile ­recombinations.

THE IMPOSSIBLE LIVES OF GRETA WELLSBy Andrew Sean Greer. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99.) A distraught woman inhabits different selves across the 20th century in Greer’s elegiac novel.

THE INFATUATIONSBy Javier Marías. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (Knopf, $26.95.) Amid a proliferation of alternative perspectives, Marías’s novel explores its female narrator’s relationship with the widow and the best friend of a murdered man.

THE INTERESTINGSBy Meg Wolitzer. (Riverhead, $27.95.) Wolitzer’s enveloping novel offers a fresh take on the theme of self-invention, with a heroine who asks herself whether the ambitious men and women in her circle have inaccurately defined success.

LIFE AFTER LIFEBy Kate Atkinson. (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, $27.99.)Atkinson’s heroine, born in 1910, keeps dying and dying again, as she experiences the alternate courses her destiny might have taken.

LOCAL SOULS: NovellasBy Allan Gurganus. (Liveright, $25.95.) This triptych, set in Gurganus’s familiar Falls, N.C., showcases the increasing universality of his imaginative powers.

LONGBOURNBy Jo Baker. (Knopf, $25.95.) Baker’s charming novel offers an affecting look at the world of “Pride and Prejudice” from the point of view of the Bennets’ servants’ hall.

LOVE, DISHONOR, MARRY, DIE, CHERISH, PERISHBy David Rakoff. (Doubleday, $26.95.) Rakoff completed his novel-in-couplets, whose characters live the title’s verbs, just before his death in 2012.

THE LOWLANDBy Jhumpa Lahiri. (Knopf, $27.95.) After his radical brother is killed, an Indian scientist brings his widow to join him in America in Lahiri’s efficiently written novel.

THE LUMINARIESBy Eleanor Catton. (Little, Brown, $27.) In her Booker Prize winner, a love story and mystery set in New Zealand, Catton has built a lively parody of a 19th-century novel, while creating something utterly new for the 21st.

MADDADDAMBy Margaret Atwood. (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $27.95.) The survivors of “Oryx and Crake” and “The Year of the Flood” await a final showdown, in a trilogy’s concluding entry.

A MARKER TO MEASURE DRIFTBy Alexander Maksik. (Knopf, $24.95.) Maksik’s forceful novel illuminates the life of a Liberian woman who flees her troubled past to seek refuge on an Aegean island.

METAPHYSICAL DOG. By Frank Bidart. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24.) To immerse oneself in these poems is to enter a crowd of unusual characters: artistic geniuses, violent misfits, dramatic self-accusers (including the poet himself).

OUR ANDROMEDABy Brenda Shaughnessy. (Copper Canyon, paper, $16.) In these emotionally charged and gorgeously constructed poems, Shaughnessy imagines a world without a child’s pain.

SCHRODERBy Amity Gaige. (Twelve, $21.99.) In Gaige’s scenic novel, a man with a long-established false identity goes on the run with his 6-year-old daughter.

THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGSBy Elizabeth Gilbert. (Viking, $28.95.) In this winning novel by the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” a botanist’s hunger for explanations carries her through the better part of Darwin’s century, and to Tahiti.

SOMEONEBy Alice McDermott. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Through scattered recollections, this novel sifts the significance of an ordinary life.

THE SONBy Philipp Meyer. (Ecco/Harper­Collins, $27.99.) Members of a Texas clan grope their way from the ordeals of the frontier to celebrity culture’s absurdities in this masterly multigenerational saga.

THE SOUND OF THINGS FALLINGBy Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Translated by Anne McLean. (Riverhead, $27.95.) This gripping Colombian novel, built on the country’s tragic history with the drug trade, meditates on love, fate and death.

SUBMERGENCE. By J. M. Ledgard. (Coffee House, paper, $15.95.) This hard-edged, well-written novel involves a terrorist hostage-taking and a perilous deep-sea dive.

SUBTLE BODIESBy Norman Rush. (Knopf, $26.95.) Amid dark humor both mournful and absurd, former classmates converge on the hilltop estate of a friend who has died in a freak accident.

TENTH OF DECEMBER: StoriesBy George Saunders. (Random House, $26.)Saunders’s relentless humor and beatific generosity of spirit keep his highly moral tales from succumbing to life’s darker aspects.

THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIEBy Ayana Mathis. (Knopf, $24.95.) Mathis’s deeply felt first novel works at the rough edges of history, within a brutal and poetic allegory of a black family beset by tribulations after the Great Migration to the North.

THE TWO HOTEL FRANCFORTSBy David Leavitt. (Bloomsbury, $25.) In Leavitt’s atmospheric novel of 1940 Lisbon, as two couples await passage to New York, the husbands embark on an affair.

THE VALLEY OF AMAZEMENTBy Amy Tan. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $29.99.) This wrenching novel by the author of “The Joy Luck Club” follows mother and daughter courtesans over four decades.

WANT NOTBy Jonathan Miles. (Houghton Miff­lin Harcourt, $26.) Linking disparate characters and story threads, Miles’s novel explores varieties of waste and decay in a consumer world.

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVESBy Karen Joy Fowler. (Marian Wood/Putnam, $26.95.) This surreptitiously smart novel’s big reveal slyly recalls a tabloid headline: “Girl and Chimp Twinned at Birth in Psychological ­Experiment.”

WE NEED NEW NAMESBy NoViolet Bulawayo. (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, $25.) A Zimbabwean moves to Detroit in Bulawayo’s striking first novel.

WOKE UP LONELY. By Fiona Maazel. (Graywolf, $26.) Maazel’s restlessly antic novel examines the concurrent urges for solitude and intimacy.

THE WOMAN UPSTAIRSBy Claire Messud. (Knopf, $25.95.) Messud’s ingenious, disquieting novel of outsize conflicts tells the story of a thwarted artist who finds herself bewitched by a boy and his parents.

NONFICTION

AFTER THE MUSIC STOPPED: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work AheadBy Alan S. Blinder. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) The former Fed vice chairman says confidence would have returned faster with better government communication about policy.

THE AMERICAN WAY OF POVERTY: How the Other Half Still LivesBy Sasha Abramsky. (Nation Books, $26.99.) This ambitious study, based on Abramsky’s travels around the country meeting the poor, both describes and prescribes.

THE BARBAROUS YEARS. The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675By Bernard Bailyn. (Knopf, $35.) A noted Harvard historian looks at the chaotic decades between Jamestown and King Philip’s War.

THE BILLIONAIRE’S APPRENTICE: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge FundBy Anita Raghavan. (Business Plus, $29.)Indian-Americans populate every aspect of this meticulously reported true-life business thriller.

THE BLOOD TELEGRAM: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten GenocideBy Gary J. Bass. (Knopf, $30.) Bass reveals the sordid White House diplomacy that attended the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.

BOOK OF AGES: The Life and Opinions of Jane FranklinBy Jill Lepore. (Knopf, $27.95.) Ben Franklin’s sister bore 12 children and mostly led a life of hardship, but the two corresponded constantly.

THE BOY DETECTIVE: A New York ChildhoodBy Roger Rosenblatt. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $19.99.) In his memoir, Rosenblatt recalls being a boy learning to see, and to live, in the city he scrutinizes.

THE BULLY PULPIT: Theodore Roose­velt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of JournalismBy Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Simon & Schuster, $40.)Historical parallels in Goodwin’s latest time machine implicitly ask us to look at our own age.

THE CANCER CHRONICLES: Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest MysteryBy George Johnson. (Knopf, $27.95.) Johnson’s fascinating look at cancer reveals certain profound truths about life itself.

CATASTROPHE 1914: Europe Goes to WarBy Max Hastings. (Knopf, $35.) This excellent chronicle of World War I’s first months by a British military historian dispels some popular myths.

COMMAND AND CONTROL: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of SafetyBy Eric Schlosser. (Penguin Press, $36.) A disquieting but riveting examination of nuclear risk.

COUNTRY GIRL: A MemoirBy Edna O’Brien. (Little, Brown, $27.99.) O’Brien reflects on a fraught and distinguished life, from the restraints of her Irish childhood to literary stardom.

DAYS OF FIRE: Bush and Cheney in the White HouseBy Peter Baker. (Doubleday, $35.) Baker’s treatment of the George W. Bush administration is haunted by the question of who was in charge.

ECSTATIC NATION: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877By Brenda Wine­apple. (Harper, $35.) A masterly Civil War-era history, full of foiled schemes, misfired plans and less-than-happy ­endings.

EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI: The Concubine Who Launched Modern ChinaBy Jung Chang. (Knopf, $30.) Chang portrays Cixi as a proto-feminist and reformer in this authoritative account.

THE FARAWAY NEARBYBy Rebecca Solnit. (Viking, $25.95.) Digressive essays, loosely about storytelling, reflect a difficult year in Solnit’s life.

FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged HospitalBy Sheri Fink. (Crown, $27.) The case of a surgeon suspected of euthanizing patients during the Katrina disaster.

GOING CLEAR: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of BeliefBy Lawrence Wright. (Knopf, $28.95.) The author of “The Looming Tower” takes a calm and neutral stance toward Scientology, but makes clear it’s like no other church on earth.

THE GUNS AT LAST LIGHT: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945By Rick Atkinson. (Holt, $40.) The final volume of Atkinson’s monumental war trilogy shows that the road to Berlin was far from smooth.

THE HEIR APPARENT: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy PrinceBy Jane Ridley. (Random House, $35.) He was vain, gluttonous, promiscuous and none too bright, but “Bertie” emerges as an appealing character in Ridley’s superb book.

A HOUSE IN THE SKYBy Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. (Scribner, $27.) A searing memoir of a young woman’s brutal kidnapping in Somalia.

JONATHAN SWIFT: His Life and His WorldBy Leo Damrosch. (Yale University, $35.) A commanding biography by a Harvard professor.

KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR: The Path to a Better Way of DeathBy Katy Butler. (Scribner, $25.) Butler’s study of the flaws in end-of-life care mixes personal narrative and tough reporting.

LAWRENCE IN ARABIA: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle EastBy Scott Anderson. (Doubleday, $28.95.) By contextualizing T. E. Lawrence, Anderson is able to address modern themes like oil, jihad and the Arab-Jewish conflict.

LEAN IN: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadBy Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell. (Knopf, $24.95.) The lesson conveyed loud and clear by the Facebook executive is that women should step forward and not doubt their ability to combine work and family.

LOST GIRLS: An Unsolved American MysteryBy Robert Kolker. (Harper, $25.99.) Cases of troubled young Internet prostitutes murdered on Long Island add up to a nuanced look at prostitution today.

MADNESS, RACK, AND HONEY: Collected Lectures. By Mary Ruefle. (Wave Books, paper, $25.) The poet muses knowingly and merrily on language, writing and speaking sentences that last lifetimes.

MANSON: The Life and Times of Charles MansonBy Jeff Guinn. (Simon & Schuster, $27.50.) Guinn’s tour de force examines Manson’s rise and fall, the 1960s music industry and the decade’s bizarre ambience.

MARGARET FULLER: A New American LifeBy Megan Marshall. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.) Fuller’s extensive intellectual accomplishments are set in contrast with her romantic disappointments.

MEN WE REAPED: A MemoirBy Jesmyn Ward. (Bloomsbury, $26.) A raw, beautiful elegy for Ward’s brother and four male friends, who died young in Mississippi between 2000 and 2004.

MISS ANNE IN HARLEM: The White Women of the Black RenaissanceBy Carla Kaplan. (Harper, $28.99.) A remarkable look at the white women who sought a place in the Harlem Renaissance.

MY BELOVED WORLDBy Sonia Sotomayor.(Knopf, $27.95.) Mostly skirting her legal views, the Supreme Court justice’s memoir reveals much about her family, school and years at Princeton.

MY PROMISED LAND: The Triumph and Tragedy of IsraelBy Ari Shavit. (Spiegel & Grau, $28.) Shavit, a columnist for Haaretz, expresses both solidarity with and criticism of his countrymen in this important and powerful book.

PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR: An AdventureBy Artemis Cooper. (New York Review Books, $30.) The British wayfarer and travel writer is the subject of Cooper’s affectionate, informed biography.

THE RIDDLE OF THE LABYRINTH: The Quest to Crack an Ancient CodeBy Margalit Fox. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $27.99.)Focusing on an unheralded but heroic Brooklyn classics professor, Fox turns the decipherment of Linear B into a detective story.

THE SKIES BELONG TO US: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking.By Brendan I. Koer­ner. (Crown, $26.) Refusing to make ’60s avatars of the unlikely couple behind a 1972 skyjacking, Koerner finds a deeper truth about the nature of extremism.

THE SLEEPWALKERS: How Europe Went to War in 1914By Christopher Clark. (Harper, $29.99.) A Cambridge professor offers a thoroughly comprehensible account of the polarization of a continent, without fixing guilt on one leader or nation.

THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD: And How They Got That WayBy Amanda Ripley. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) A look at countries that are outeducating us — Finland, South Korea, Poland — through the eyes of American high school students abroad.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICEBy David Finkel. (Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Finkel tracks soldiers struggling to navigate postwar life, especially the psychologically wounded.

THE THIRD COAST: When Chicago Built the American DreamBy Thomas Dyja. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) This robust cultural history weaves together the stories of the artists, styles and ideas that developed in Chicago before and after World War II.

THIS TOWN: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded CapitalBy Mark Leibovich. (Blue Rider, $27.95.) An entertaining and deeply troubling view of Washington.

THOSE ANGRY DAYS: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941By Lynne Olson. (Random House, $30.) The savage political dispute between Roosevelt and the isolationist movement, presented in spellbinding detail.

TO SAVE EVERYTHING, CLICK HERE: The Folly of Technological SolutionismBy Evgeny Morozov. (PublicAffairs, $28.99.) Digital-age transparency may threaten the spirit of democracy, Morozov warns.

TO THE END OF JUNE: The Intimate Life of American Foster CareBy Cris Beam. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.) Beam’s wrenching study is a triumph of narrative reporting and storytelling.

UNTHINKABLE: Iran, the Bomb, and American StrategyBy Kenneth M. Pollack. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) The Mideast expert makes the case for living with a nuclear Iran and trying to contain it.

THE UNWINDING: An Inner History of the New AmericaBy George Packer. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) With a nod to John Dos Passos, Packer offers a gripping narrative survey of today’s hard times; the 2013 National Book Award winner for nonfiction.

THE WAR THAT ENDED PEACE: The Road to 1914By Margaret Mac­Millan. (Random House, $35.) Why did the peace fail, a Canadian historian asks, and she offers superb portraits of the men who took Europe to war in the summer of 1914.

WAVEBy Sonali Deraniyagala. (Knopf, $24.) Deraniyagala’s unforgettable account of her struggle to carry on living after her husband, sons and parents were killed in the 2004 tsunami isn’t only as unsparing as they come, but also defiantly imbued with light.

WILD ONES: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in AmericaBy Jon Mooallem. (Penguin Press, $27.95.) Mooallem explores the haphazard nature of our efforts to protect endangered ­species.

YEAR ZERO: A History of 1945By Ian Buruma. (Penguin Press, $29.95.) This lively history shows how the Good War turned out badly for many people and splendidly for others less deserving.

 

 

 

6 Reasons The Book Is (Almost Always) Better Than The Movie

6 Reasons The Book Is (Almost Always) Better Than The Movie

Posted by  × October 2, 2013 at 11:51 am

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It’s undeniable that a book original usually blasts its movie version out of the water. But why is that so? Below, six reasons books almost always take the cake. Filmmakers, consider this your cheat sheet for bringing book-based movies more up to snuff. (And while we have your attention, please re-do Bonfire of the Vanities ASAP.)

The Movie Gets Lost In Translation
It’s widely known that Stephen King was unhappy with Kubrick’s approach to putting The Shining on the screen. King disliked Shelly Duvall’s weak “scream and run” character and Nicholson’s too-rapid descent into insanity, versus book Jack Torrance, who experienced a slower and thus more agonizing loss of his marbles. Without the actual writers sitting by their side, filmmakers are left to play the telephone game on a grand stage. They perceive the author’s writing and spin it into their own take. And, as anyone who has frequented a book club or two knows, there are many different ways to interpret a book.

That’s Not How I Pictured It!”
Once a filmmaker decides upon settings and characters, we’re limited to seeing those characters and settings through their eyes. However, 500 different readers of the same book may have 500 different ideas of a character’s appearance. And if an actor doesn’t measure up to what you imagined when reading the book, there’s some disappointment. (Remember the ruckus that ensued when the Fifty Shades Of Greycast was revealed? People care!)

Huxley’s intro to Brave New World struck hard when I read it, and sticks with me still—probably because he uses a fragment to begin the book. In this opening, I’m fed a “squat grey building of only thirty-four stories” and “harsh thin light” looking for some “pallid shape of academic goose-flesh.” I found an awful TV movie of Brave New World from 1980, and its intro imagery didn’t come close to Huxley’s. (Not like that would have been easy.) There’s no squat grey building, no pallid shape of academic goose flesh, no fragment! Give me my book back, thank you very much.

Limited Storytelling Time 
Perhaps I missed a “pallid shape of academic goose flesh” in the Brave New World movie because of time constraints. Most movies do their thing in 1.5–3 hours. A book is edited and crafted, but the writer is still working within an unlimited time canvas. This condensing of books into movies leads to deleted parts from the book or abbreviation of developments within the book.

Script Writing May Not Do The Story Justice
While a movie is afforded the power of visual stimulation, it’s limited in terms of having to tell a story primarily through dialogue. Making that transition from words to visual representation plus dialogue is not as simple as it seems, particularly when you’re dealing with a book that has a lot of inner dialogue, or that gives the reader insight into a character’s mind. Short of the Zach Morris look-at-the-camera-while-having-a-side-convo-with-the-audience technique, it’s tough for filmmakers to depict the inner workings of a character’s mind.

Books Allow The Reader to Put it Together
Some movies are more powerful because they play like books. Film noir and later Alfred Hitchcock did a good job of inference with subtle tension. Of course, Jaws was so effective because you never see the darned shark! Without the power of visuals, books allow readers to put together the story and elements in their mind. Sometimes movies overdo the visuals.

The Book Stays With You
Music has vinyl and writing has books, but movies don’t offer a physical object that offers an emotional connection—unless you want to count the campiness of VHS tapes. So, when you’re arguing about whether the book or movie was better, you might just be standing up for that old worn-in friend with the creaky binding that lives on a shelf in your bedroom.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

OK I have to admit, that I read this book out of guilt.

Let me explain.

About 2 years ago someone recommended this to me. So I picked it up. Big mistake. It is not a long book, but I could not get through it. So I put it down. My nephew read the series and loved it, and my friends “The Matt’s” loved it. So I thought I must have missed something. I didn’t see the movie. I had no interest. So now that Catching Fire the sequel is coming out in the theater, I thought I should give it another read. I thought I was missing something.

I just don’t think that I’m into dystopia novels. This is one of them.

The setting is North America in the future. The continent is split up in districts with The Capital being in charge. At one point the districts tried to revolt unsuccessfully against the Capital. As a punishment, every year, The Capital holds The Hunger Games. Each district has a lottery and two teenagers (one boy, one girl) must compete to the death.

Katniss’s younger sister was selected and Katniss volunteers to take her place. The rest of the novels is a very violent journey though The Hunger Games.

When I was in high school, The Lottery really bothered me and the movie of Lord of the Flies bothered me more than the book, so maybe I am not one of those people that can’t take the violence to the innocent . I guess I don’t want to believe that society can become that violent.

I finished the book and will go with the Matt’s to see the movies, but this wouldn’t be my first choice.

This book is not appropriate for Middle School students. I would say Ninth grade or 14 years old.

Young Adults Banned Books

Banned Book Week – Banned Young Adult

The following books/series are a huge hit with teens and adults alike. Yet they are some of the most continuously challenged and banned books of the last 10 years.

The Complete Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Harry potter series

US readers $57.54 (through Pottermore) click HERE!

About the book:

Harry Potter is only 11 years old when he finds out that he’s a wizard. The series follows his life in the wizarding world and the challenges he must face.

His Dark Materials (series) by Philip Pullman

His dark materials

US readers $13.84, click HERE!

About the book:

In the epic trilogy His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman unlocks the door to worlds parallel to our own. Dæmons and winged creatures live side by side with humans, and a mysterious entity called Dust just might have the power to unite the universes–if it isn’t destroyed first. The three books in Pullman’s heroic fantasy series, published as trade paperbacks, are united here in one dazzling boxed set that includes The Golden CompassThe Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. In these new editions, each chapter opens with artwork by Pullman himself, along with chapter quotations from the likes of Milton, Donne, Black, Byron, and the Bible that did not appear in earlier editions. Join Lyra, Pantalaimon, Will, and the rest as they embark on the most breathtaking, heartbreaking adventure of their lives. The fate of the universe is in their hands.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

A wrinkle in time

US readers $4.99, click HERE!

About the book:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

The perks of being a wallflower

US readers$6.83, click HERE!

About the book:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of high school. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. Of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

 

– See more at: http://www.ereadernation.com/banned-book-week-banned-young-adult/#sthash.OQMnJ3bO.dpuf