Staff Book Recommendations

By , November 7, 2014 10:34 am

James Hinds

Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A Heinlein

Through my powers of deduction and understanding of the scientific method, I infer there is an unspoken law to literature; a book can only be included on a high school reading list if it is both depressing and boring. I have no idea why the powers decided on this, perhaps this was to ensure the next generation of potential readers as unable to read without relapsing into post traumatic boredom.

I refer, of course, to that bane of high school reading program, The Lord of the Flies. I, like many unsuspecting English students, had to read this in high school. It often felt less like something my teacher wanted and more like something the devil demanded. This is a real shame, because if I had my preference, I would have read Tunnel in the Sky instead.

Tunnel in the Sky is similar to The Lord of the Flies. A story about young children stuck in the wilderness, who must survive on their own. In The Lord of the Flies, these are young children who have no idea what they are doing and are astonishingly cruel and destructive. Tunnel in the Sky? The kids are older—late high school. They’re actually taking a test for a survival course which goes wrong, but their fair bit of survival knowledge aids their ability to fend for themselves. Unlike the characters in The Lord of the Flies, they go far beyond survival and set up a representative democracy.

On second thought, maybe these books aren’t so similar.

 

Corey Parson

On Writing

I would recommend anyone who enjoys the written word to read Stephen King’s On Writing. It isn’t so much an instructional guide as a memoir of how Stephen King became the writer he is today, though he also offers practical advice and quotable tidbits like, “The road to Hell is paved in adverbs.” It is very down-to-earthand relatable; not only practical but inspirational as well.

 

Molly Morelock

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Western’s aren’t my thing. I find them bleak and boring with no real appeal besides the attractive cowboys that ride off into the sunset. Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses is the only Western my reading palate has any taste for. Unlike most novels I read in school, I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. The main character, John Grady Cole is a sixteen year old cowboy with no family, no home, and nowhere to go, so he sets off on perilous journey to Mexico with his best friend. There is romance, betrayal, violence, and all sorts of other bad themes people love to read. I would describe it more as a coming of age novel, for those of us who have to face the world alone and deal with troubling situations while maintaining an optimistic heart. It also doesn’t hurt that Matt Damon plays a real handsome John Grady Cole in the movie adaptation.

 

Mathew Pardue

Heorot Trilogy by Larry Niven

I recommend the book I most recently read. Well, three books, the Heorot trilogy by Larry Niven and his coauthors. They’re slightly older novels given to me by my father, but they don’t feel too outdated to me (the first was published the year before I was born). The trilogy consists of: The Legacy of Heorot, Beowulf’s Children, and Destiny’s Road. As the first two names imply, they’re technically books about heroes fighting monsters, but I think they really shine in the “science” part of science fiction. They explore an alien world with strange life, and even strange chemistry, that the heroes must understand and overcome to survive. Be forewarned that all three books contain mature content, so I don’t recommend them for bedtime stories with the kids. But if you like solid, well-researched science fiction and dramatic stories, then this series might appeal to you.

 

Amy Beard

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

If you thought J.K. Rowling had skill interweaving complex details, you haven’t read Salman Rushdie. Allow me to blow your mind with my boy Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Rushdie’s language is by far one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Midnight’s Children blends reality with fantasy, simplicities with complexities, humor and horror, past and present, creating a marvelous literary voyage. If you aren’t ready to be completely swept up by a novel, Midnight’s Children is not meant for you.

The book is a coming of age story but not in the typical sense—this is Rushdie after all. The novel depicts the narrator’s and India’s metamorphosis.

As the title alludes, the book does not focus on just one person (though Saleem, the main narrator gets a lot of the limelight). The ”midnight’s children” of the title are the 1,001 children born in the first hour of Indian independence, Aug. 15, 1947. Two boy babes are born in the same Bombay nursing home at the exact stroke of midnight: one to wealth and one to the streets. Molding their fates, a nursemaid switches babies: Shiva and Saleem’s differing life stories reveal a labyrinth of excitement. As a Bombay book, a big-city book, Midnight’s Children is coarse, knowing, comfortable with Indian pop culture and, above all, aggressive. This book will not disappoint.

 

 

 

 

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