Looking for a book that’s philosophical meanderings and gorgeous prose will make you dizzy? Searching for a story that will leave you intellectually and spiritually fulfilled? Longing for action and intrigue? Then East of Eden is the book for you! The novel that Nobel prize winner John Steinbeck described as the pinnacle of his career, East of Eden is an intricately woven literary masterpiece. Spanning three generations, East of Eden is a twisted version of the Bible tale of Cain and Abel. The story begins with Adam, an innocent, pure, young man whose childhood is a struggle against his abusive half-brother, Charles. Meanwhile, we meet Cathy, a twisted Eve, a monster incapable of feeling emotion for others. Their sons, Caleb and Aaron struggle as the opposing sides of human nature battle inside them. Steinbeck introduces countless subplots, each worthy of its own book. The story of Lee, the intellectual immigrant and Samuel Hamilton, who is based on Steinbeck’s grandfather. Despite being built on a biblical story, the book is more contemplative and generally spiritual than specifically Christian. East of Eden can be described as nothing other than an epic saga about all of humanity. It will touch your soul. – Meilan S. ’17
Although I loved this book in 5th grade, I decided to revisit it now that I am in its target audience. Unfortunately, my impression of it has changed vastly with age. Meet Zoey Redbird, a teenage girl with no personality whatsoever. After being marked as a fledgling vampyre, she is shipped off to a school for other vampyres, called the House of Night. Sound familiar to anyone? Before long, Zoey is embroiled in conflict with the resident mean-girl, Aphrodite, after Zoey starts dating her ex-boyfriend. Said ex-boyfriend is inexplicably drawn to Zoey because… it’s inexplicable. Each character in this sad excuse for a book is a cardboard cutout, from the “hot guy” to the “gay best friend” to two characters whose only identifiable character trait is their love of shoes. Zoey is worst of all: an annoying, unsympathetic protagonist who embodies the worst of teenagers. Honestly, this book confuses me. The plot and character development are on an elementary school level, but the unrelenting bombardment of adult content makes that impossible. If anything, this book is so comically awful that it makes a fun read. The rest of the series is no different, though Zoey gets a new character trait: inability to comprehend monogamy.
Considered one of the classics of science fiction, Ringworld follows the journey of Louis Wu, an aged explorer bored with life on Earth. On his 200th birthday, an alien named Nessus (whose race has supposedly been extinct for centuries) invites Louis to join an expedition to a new world. After recruiting two other crewmates, Speaker To Animals (a huge, carnivorous cat) and Teela Brown (a young human), the motley group sets out towards a strange, ring-shaped world. Ringworld is science fiction at its best, with an enticing and unusual concept and a richly detailed world. Its three-dimensional characters and constant surprises make Ringworld more than just another exploration story. A twist ending forces readers to reconsider the entire book. Niven is fastidious about tying up loose ends; seemingly inconsequential details often end up being instrumental to the plot. Ringworld’s pace can be slow at times, but for stylist reasons rather than bad writing. All in all, Ringworld is a fantastic read, and well worth the time it takes to track down in a used bookstore (or your local library).
Middlesex, by Jeffery Eugenides, is a book that crosses boundaries. Not only is the subject matter, the story of a pseudohermaphrodite, Callie/Cal struggling with self-identity, fresh, but the book also encompasses several genres. It begins as a historical novel as we explore the lives of Callie/Cal’s parents and grandparents. It shows the scientific side of his condition, as well as how it affects him emotionally, from confusing crushes to the hybrid emotions he feels when trying to be a girl. Furthermore, it is told in an uncommon narrative voice: first person omniscient, which adds to the fresh feel of the novel. The book is an enthralling masterpiece, and despite the extraordinary events that unfold, Eugenides is able to keep it grounded with Callie/Cal’s narration, which is extremely relatable and realistic. Without a doubt, Middlesex is a fantastic book, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting and satisfying literary journey. – Meilan S. ’17
Camille, by Alexandre Dumas Jr., is a perfectly fine book. It follows the story of love between a young nobleman, Armand Duval, and a “lady of the city,” Marguerite Gautier. At first Gautier is cold and refuses Duval’s advances, but she quickly opens up to him and falls in love. Although the novel is lush with descriptions of 19th century Paris and makes some valid observations on society, it is emotionally lacking. This is especially disappointing given the potential storyline. Unfortunately, the book, like a glass of warm milk, is nice and nothing more. Parts are told too quickly or in a style that makes some events seem unbelievable and the characters unsympathetic, especially Duval who seems like a flat caricature. By the end of the book, I found myself not caring all too much about Marguerite and Duval. It has several redeeming qualities like plot and theme, however, so it makes a good read, though not a fantastic one. – Meilan S. ’17
Ready for a literary treat? The Dinner, by Herman Koch, follows two Dutch couples meeting for dinner to discuss a moral dilemma revolving around their sons. Reading about four adults eating for an entire book may not sound appetizing, but The Dinner is a riveting page-turner. In a style characteristic of the postmodern era, Koch focuses more on character development than plot twists like explosions and bar fights (not to say there aren’t any of those). Even though it takes place over a very short period of time, the book manages to stay interesting by incorporating multiple flashbacks. It even has humorous moments thanks to the narrator’s amusing view of the world, despite the heavy subject matter. The Dinner is a fantastic book full of surprises that will make you think. The Dinner will not entice everyone. Lovers of action/adventure/romance/fantasy may have difficulty finishing it. – Meilan S. ‘17