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What We’re Reading {September 17 2010}

This week in “What We’re Reading” we’re sharing Fiction & Literature Classics that are regularly included on high school required reading lists. Download these books today; they’re fantastic reading!

I would also like to ask you to please share your required reading lists with us. And be sure to take a minute to let us know what you think about the weekly “What We’re Reading” feature. We love to hear from you!

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story of growing up, discovering, and embracing one’s true self. Janie, in her attempt to find love, navigates through a series of relationships that bring with them freedom, alienation and abuse. Written in 1937 this is a surprisingly modern story. The book was under-appreciated, to say the least, by her contemporaries. It wasn’t until Alice Walker wrote an article about Hurston that the masses discovered just what a talented writer she was.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – The Poisonwood Bible is a story about family dynamics. The story follows the Price family who arrive in the Congo in 1959 as emissaries of the Southern Baptist Mission League. Orleanna Price and her four daughters struggle to survive in the harsh conditions, while her husband, Nathan, tries and fails to force the villagers to follow the strict Christian doctrines he’s preaching. When The Poisonwood Bible was published in 1998, Kingsolver was already a well-established and respected author. The book, however, became an overwhelming critical and popular success and more copies have been sold than all of her other works combined!

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto – Kitchen is a book that contains two novellas, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow. A hugely popular author in Japan, the U.S. release of the book in 1992 led to what pop-culture historians have dubbed “Banana-mania”, and the book became a major best seller around the world. In the two novellas that make up Kitchen, Yoshimoto explores death, the occult, sexual ambiguity, love, physical beauty, and the trials and tribulations of young adults living in the big city. Kitchen, while at first seems a coming-of-age story, is in fact a deeply moving tale filled with unique characters and themes. Moonlight Shadows is a more haunting tale of loss and acceptance. The narrator’s focus in both stories is on the things that make life worth living even during the darkest times: good food, family, love, and hope. She reassures us that though she will continue to encounter hardships during her lifetime, she will always triumph and come through.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenidis – Middlesex focuses on the history of forty-one-year-old, hermaphrodite Calliope ‘Cal’ Stephanides. The story follows the struggles Cal and her multigenerational Greek-American family go through while Cal works to establish a clear sense of self. Cal weaves together the story of her grandparents and their descendants with her own, comparing their struggle to retain their Greek heritage and adopt U.S. ways to Cal’s attempts to achieve balance between her female and male halves. The story moves from 1922 to 2001, and through the Turkish invasion of Greece, Prohibition, the Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. Eugenides’s ability to find the humor and the tragedy creates a compelling work that celebrates difference as well as community.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I could go on for days about this book. It’s so creative, clever, and totally fascinating. Martel tells a story that is both striking and unique, the life of Piscine Patel. When he was young, Piscine was teased unmercifully for his name, so he shortened it to Pi. As in the mathematical symbol π. This change of name is only the first of several curious and unbelievable experiences in Pi’s life. The bulk of the novel focuses on Pi’s struggles to survive and to make sense of the conditions and situations he finds himself in. Every setting, from India, to a lifeboat, to Mexico, is beautifully interpreted. Martel has an eye for vivid details and piles them on, making this novel hard to put down, and so very easy to imagine.

One Comment

  1. Patty

    What a great resource — thanks for some good book suggstions – here is what is happening in the north peninsula

    Sophomore Required Reading:
    The Catcher in the Rye J. D. Salinger Fiction Holden Caulfield is the protagonist in the coming-of-age story. After his expulsion from school, Lost and lonely, Holden wanders the streets of New York, engaging in one risky behavior after another.

    Rebecca Daphne du Maurier Fiction An unforgettable tale of love, mystery, and suspense.

    Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut Science Fiction Set in the 20th century, this book tells the story of Billy Pilgrim as he travels through different time periods. It highlights his experience in WWII and his relationship with his family.

    The Power of One Byrce Courtenay Historical Fiction The story is set in South Africa during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The protagonist, Peekay, struggles to accept himself and confronts many issues of prejudice that exist in South Africa society during that time.

    Daughter of Fortune Isabel Allende Historical Fiction The Daughter of Fortune is Eliza Sommers, a young Chilean girl of mysterious origins. She falls in love and attempts to follow her lover to the United States, when he heads to California in search of gold. To avoid harassment, Eliza disguises herself as a man.

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