2015 Summer Reading Program Finale
Sunday, November 01, 2015
I know it's a bit late. I have been sick for weeks now, and I'm trying to catch up!
This summer I met my goal of reading 35 books between May and Labor Day! Below I included a short review of the books I read in August. (For reviews on previous books, you will have to reference blogs from a few months ago). At the bottom I will assign awards in various categories to the best books of the summer!
MAY, JUNE, and JULY BOOKS
1. Daniel Deronda
2. Lady Chatterley's Lover
3. Tarzan of the Apes
4. The Awakening
7. My Antonia
8. The Beautiful and Damned
9. Dead Souls
10. Fahrenheit 451
11. The Grapes of Wrath
12. Sense and Sensibility
13. Things Fall Apart
14. The Iliad
15. Ethan Frome
16. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
18. A Journey to the Center of the Earth
19. Pride and Prejudice
20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
21. All Quiet on the Western Front
22. The Odyssey
25. The Prince and the Pauper 4/5 I wouldn't call it great literature, but is was a great reading experience. It is set in Tudor England. Twain must have done some research, because I learned some historical and cultural facts through this novel.
26. Paradiso 3.5/5 While I appreciate the technical skill of creating this trilogy, this one lacked the energy of The Inferno. Also my version had no explanatory notes, and the translation was very old.
27. Five Weeks in a Balloon 3/5 The premise is that a band of explorers must travel across Africa in a hot air balloon to search for the origin of the Nile. It had plenty of racially offensive content about the natives. And I wasn't particularly impressed with either the plot or the main characters.
28. Apology 4.5/5 Apology is Socrates defense of his alleged "lewd" conduct at his trial. (If you know your history, he was found guilty and killed with poison). It might not be entertaining, but it is a great example of argumentation and made even more relevant by it being true.
29. A Study in Scarlet 4.5/5 The first of the Sherlock Holmes books, and it surpassed my expectations. I was expecting something stuffy and formal. Sherlock solved the case before I had my wits gathered, and then methodically explained his conclusions while cross-examining the culprit.
30. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 4.5/5 While it is certainly great fiction and its impact on American literature probably cannot be overstated, something about it doesn't feel right. Maybe it's the dissonance between the lighthearted "anyone looking for a moral will be shot" while it also hits upon themes of racial equality with the runaway slave Jim. It's like the book accidentally discusses serious themes and then quickly tries to revert to good old fun and games like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It's an important book, but not as cohesive as I would like.
31. A Midsummer Night's Dream 5/5 This was a re-read, and my version was illustrated! It was a wonderful reading experience. Very entertaining.
32. Woman Warrior 3.5/5 The author discusses her origins as a Chinese-American immigrant. She discusses the role of the woman in Chinese and Chinese-American cultures. While she celebrates her own culture, I feel that she is intolerant toward others. I believe in reading world literature, but as a westerner this one did not strike me as exceptional.
33. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 4.5/5 This is the true account of Frederick Douglass's time in slavery and how he eventually secures his freedom. What struck me the most was how articulate and educated his words sounded on the page. For a man who picked up reading and writing by bribing white school boys, this literature on the page looks like it's written by a privileged, well-educated white man. It is very well-written, both technically and in content.
34. The Sign of the Four 5/5 The second Sherlock Holmes book. I felt like this one had a better story than the first.
35. Crito 4/5 This one is like a companion to Apology (see above). When Socrates is imprisoned awaiting his execution, this is the account of a man who visits him and tries to tempt him to escape. The dialogue between the two outlines his reasons for staying.
PROT'S PICKS AND AWARDS:
-->Most Engrossing Read: One Flew the Cuckoo's Nest. This one I could hardly put down. The plot and characters both were very compelling.
-->Best Piece of Writing: The Grapes of Wrath. While Of Mice and Men touches upon many of the same themes and the same setting, this one explores the depth of their suffering more fully. At times it reads almost as documentary describing events and policies meant for the poor to stay poor. The reader also easily identifies with the hardships of the characters.
-->Best Depiction of Setting: All Quiet on the Western Front. It perfectly captures the daily struggles and brutal realities of trench warfare in World War II.
-->The Underdog Award: Pride and Prejudice. When I last read it in high school, I was too young to appreciate it. I don't get into chick flicks, and through my prejudice (get it?) I missed the substance. This is a masterfully written book that does deal with legitimate issues and concerns. Luckily I have grown enough as a reader to better appreciate it this time.
-->Most Surprising Read: A Journey to the Center of the Earth. I expected some dynamite and shovels, literally digging from one end of the earth to the other. Instead I got subterranean prehistoric creatures (and dinosaurs!), an underground ocean, and other far-fetched plot twists. But Verne has such a great scientific mind that he made almost all of it believable.
-->Most Entertaining Read: I could have picked The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but Sherlock Holmes "The Sign of the Four" had the slight advantage. Of the two Sherlock books I read, this one was stronger. It had humor, adventure, and everything else you would expect to find in this genre.
-->Best Children's Book: Tarzan of the Apes. I had very low expectations for this book. Mentally I placed it more as a guilty pleasure than a serious novel. But both the plot and characters moved me. I think it would also appeal to even reluctant readers.