Monday, March 30, 2015

Read Harder Challenge: Translated Books

When was the last time you read a book that was originally published in another language? Part of the Read Harder Challenge is to give one a try!

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. This book made quite the splash when it was published in English from the original French in 1955, not only for the content - a story of a teenage girl exploring her feminine wiles and interjecting herself into her father's love life - but also because the author herself was only eighteen when her book was published. A short read, reminiscent of Fitzgerald's Lost Generation of the 20s mixed with themes of the burgeoning Beat movement of the 50s, seemed very exotic to American readers at the time. If you're interested in reading something scandalous from half a century ago, this might be one to try.

Palace Walk by Naguib Maufouz. Another title published in English from the 1950s, but this one set around the time of World War I in Egypt. The story focuses on the Egyptian Arabic family the Ahmads, run by a controlling patriarch who more or less terrifies his family into obeying him. The novel rotates between the stories of the father, mother, sons, and daughters of the family, all with their own motivations and desires, while the Egyptian Revolution is taking place. An engrossing look at religion, politics, family life, and gender roles in a time period you might not be as familiar with.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. A more recent title, this one set in Paris and focuses on a cantankerous apartment concierge who observes the tenants of her building closely without them noticing her, and a twelve-year-old genius who decides she's going to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday. Lots of intellectual thought, and a read that will give you pause throughout.

And here are a few more suggestions from the Book Riot staff:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Last month Oprah announced the latest pick for her book club, Ruby by Cynthia Bond. It's the story of Ruby, a woman from a small Texas town who suffered considerably as a child and fled her hometown for the bright lights on New York City, only to return later and struggle with her sanity. We follow one of her childhood friends as he tries to reach out to her. It's a story that grabs you and won't let you go until you've finished it. Racism and religion are central themes to the book, and though it might make the book difficult to read at times, you'll want to follow through with these characters and find out what happens to them. It's been compared to Toni Morrison, and I heard one reviewer say it's like the spiritual sequel Morrison's Beloved.

We've got it in print, as an audiobook, and as an ebook! Join Oprah and other legions of readers with this captivating story.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Read Harder Challenge: Sci-Fi Novels

I'm a big fan of the Book Riot website - fun people talking about books and bookish things is ALWAYS something I will support. At the end of last year they put out their Read Harder Challenge for 2015, and we put some bookmarks out talking about it. Basically you can use it as an excuse to try reading some different genres, or books you wouldn't normally pick up. Expand your horizons! I've spent most of my life thinking I wasn't interested in reading science fiction, and have discovered more recently that I do actually really like it! A Sci-Fi novel is one of the challenges, and if you think you're not much of a sci-fi person, maybe try one of these that I liked!

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton - Don't think much description is needed here. HUGE fan of the movie, and HUGE fan of the book! Usually folks get into debates about if the movie or the book was better, but I'm of the opinion both stand equally. Crichton gives additional background in the beginning of the book you don't get in the movie, and it is super creepy and worth the read on its own. With the new sequel coming out soon, maybe you should beat your friends to the punch and give this one a read before everyone else does.

The Martian by Andy Weir - This is also being made into a movie with Matt Damon, and I am greatly looking forward to it. You wouldn't necessarily think a story about an astronaut being marooned on Mars would make you laugh as much as this one did. Our intrepid hero is basically MacGyver in space, and keeps his sanity and your interest with his humorous observations. Does NASA know he's alive? Will they be able to rescue him? Will he survive long enough to see a rescue? You will be hooked to find out!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - If you come by the library and ask me for a good, edge-of-your-seat read, this is the one I'll suggest. It made numerous "best of" lists for 2014, the movie right were just bought, and the book world is still buzzing about this book. A famous actor has a heart attack on stage the same night a pandemic flu begins to spread that eventually wipes out most of humanity. You follow the stories of people who were connected to the famous actor, and see what became of them immediately after, 20 years later, and even their lives before the flu. It's beautifully written, a compelling story, and you might want to set aside a weekend to read it, because once you pick it up, you won't be able to put it down!

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Let us know of other great sci-fi reads to try!