May 4 2018

Fave Five All-Time Favourite Books – Week 1

 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Lee’s famous novel, published in 1960, has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. For all that it exposes the racial injustice of a particular time and place, it is timeless and universal. As Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Rick Bragg wrote in Reader’s Digest, “Many people see To Kill a Mockingbird as a civil rights novel, but it transcends that issue. It is a novel about right and wrong, about kindness and meanness.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

You might’ve been assigned the tale of Pip the ambitious orphan in school. But we promise Great Expectations is more entertaining to read as an adult, because the humor that sailed over over your head will be evident now—and besides, you won’t need to write a paper about it. Dickens, in his time, was as famous as a rock star (or, a Kardashian) because his novels were written as page-turners, with whip-smart observations about ambition and human nature.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This much-more-grown-up sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is widely considered to be Mark Twain’s masterpiece. It’s part coming-of-age story, part cross-country adventure, part biting social satire. Twain makes brilliant use of irony as Huck, raised in the pre-Civil War south, gradually comes to understand the evils of slavery. Huck Finn has endured, despite its notoriety as one of the most banned books of all time.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

This fictional, but meticulously researched, thriller will make you wish you paid more attention in art class. A murder at the Louvre museum leads symbologist Robert Langdon on a high-stakes treasure hunt through Europe with the police on his tail. It’s got just the right mix of page-turning action and brainteasing historical information. This is one book that (Tom Hanks’s coolness notwithstanding) is way better than its movie adaptation.  The Da Vinci Code‘s mind-bending “what if” questions will stay with you long after you put it down.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Generations of readers have fallen in love with Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice‘s delightful heroine chooses to marry for love rather than money and isn’t afraid to put an arrogant suitor in his place. With the novel itself still a staple of many an English class, the story also lives on through its many—and very diverse—spinoffs.

 

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May 4 2018

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Harper Lee’s highly regarded and eminently successful first novel has been artfully and delicately translated to the screen. Universal’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a major film achievement, a significant, captivating and memorable picture that ranks with the best of recent years. Its success in the literary world seems certain to be replicated in the theatrical sphere.

All hands involved are to be congratulated for a job well done. Obviously loving care went into the process by which it was converted from the comprehensive prose of the printed page to the visual and dramatic storytelling essence of the screen. Horton Foote’s trenchant screenplay, Robert Mulligan’s sensitive and instinctively observant direction and a host of exceptional performances are all essential threads in the rich, provocative fabric and skillfully synthesized workmanship of Alan J. Pakula’s production.

Young Scout Finch is the first-person narrator of the story. She is only about six or seven when it opens, but more than two years pass by as Ms. Lee builds up to the penultimate events of the book, by which time Scout is nine years old. She is a tomboy who’s as smart as a whip and a precocious reader. When her first grade teacher told her she had to stop reading because her daddy was teaching her all wrong and first-graders weren’t supposed to read, I had to laugh. It was ludicrously funny but also a sad commentary on our educational system. I just loved Scout’s enthusiasm for reading. She joked that her brother, Jem, said she was born reading and she couldn’t remember a time when she couldn’t read. In this way, Scout very much reminded me of myself. I thought it was fascinating how Scout, in her child’s mind, thinks of her father as old, decrepit, and thoroughly boring. She doesn’t think he has any real skills or has accomplished anything. It was an absolute joy to watch Scout’s opinion of Atticus gradually grow and change as she matures and begins to see him in an entirely new light through, not only the big trial, but all the little things he does.

To Kill a Mockingbird is another of those books which sadly, over fifty years after its release, is still found at the top of the ALA’s most banned/challenged books list. It does contain some profanities, mostly mild, but a couple of more moderate ones including taking the Lord’s name in vain twice. There is also a number of instances where the derogatory “n” word is used for African Americans, but given the time and setting of the book, it never seemed overdone or out of place to me. There is also the mature subject matter of a black man being wrongly accused of raping a white girl, but since it is all told through the eyes of a nine year-old child, everything has a certain air of innocence to it, with nothing ever really being spelled out explicitly. In spite of this potentially objectionable content, I still feel that the book is fully appropriate for high school level students. In my opinion, the positive role model that Atticus presents and the positive messages contained within the book’s pages, far outweigh any possible detractors. I personally think it would be an absolute travesty to ban a book as thought-provoking as this one, and in fact, would encourage everyone, teens and up, to read it at least once.

I’m so glad I finally picked up To Kill a Mockingbird. The courtroom scenes were extremely well-written and appear to reflect Ms. Lee’s personal experience with the law. Some parts of the story were a little slow at times, but never boring and always worth the wait for something more exciting to happen. Every character and every little side story added flavor, color and depth to this wonderful tale. The message it conveys is a timeless one. It is one of the most, if not the most, affecting book I’ve ever read centering around the themes of prejudice and racism. To Kill a Mockingbird has without a doubt earned a spot on my keeper shelf and has become a new all-time favorite book for me.

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