I have delayed writing this a bit, and in the duration have finished two books and am on my third. Oh, how I love Thanksgiving break!
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair)
**I am kind of assuming you know the characters and the basic premise but am not giving away the story in case you have forgotten or have never read it.
This was about my fifth or sixth time reading 1984. I think the first time I read it was in eighth grade, when I read this really good book called Inventing Elliot, by Graham Gardner. Its epigraph was a quotation from 1984 that is now featured on my Facebook profile:
The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?
The characters also referenced 1984 quite a bit in the novel, and I recommend reading it. (Although I have not read it in a couple years, so my taste may have changed . . . )
I really love 1984 because each time I read it, I feel like I am rediscovering the whole thing. It has only been a few months since I read it last–over the summer–but I felt like I was discovering new meaning to Ingsoc and the book that I had not seen the last time. 1984 is such a masterpiece. It is so beautiful.
The third chapter of the book gets me really sad because of O’Brien’s refutation of something Winston said earlier in the book (hell, I will give it away. Winston says that all hope lies in the proles), but at the same time, I cannot help but look at the entire third chapter as something incredibly interesting. O’Brien’s treatment of Winston and his explanations of Ingsoc’s goals made for as interesting a read as the passages from the book itself. The last scene in the Chestnut Tree Café is easily one of the best in the book. I will not give away any more. :) Overall, 1984 is one of the best books ever.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Having read Cat’s Cradle last spring, I really wanted to read more by Vonnegut. In Slaughterhouse-Five, he is able to sum up the entire life of Billy Pilgrim in a way that is both intuitive and roundabout (does that make sense?). The second chapter begins,
Billy Pilgrim was unstuck in time.
Billy is a guy who fought in WWII and was taken prisoner by the Germans. At random moments in his life, he experiences different parts of his life, both in the past and future. The format of the book follows these jerks through time and lends a similar, disjointed feel to the book itself. The entire concept is very interesting, and by incorporating centering the book around a real historical event (the bombing of Dresden), Vonnegut gives story grounding and context around which the unstuck-time-experiences revolve.
While it is a bit hard to follow at the beginning (which is, I believe, intended), Slaughterhouse-Five is definitely one of the best books ever. Vonnegut’s writing style, so unique, brings a lot to the story. I cannot quite place my finger on it, but there is something very different about this novel as opposed to other war novels I have read (All Quiet on the Western Front, for one). Despite being very useful for Scholars’ Bowl, Slaughterhouse-Five is a fresh thought-provoking book. I loved it!
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
(“Yay,” she cheered. “I get to use my international keyboard!”)
I am rereading this book (well, the first time I heard it as an audiobook, but I guess “reread” makes more sense than anything else) and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. I am supposedly reading it so I can get extra credit in AP European History, but really, I am glad I had an excuse to buy and reread it.
The story centers around Edmond Dantès, a sailor in a Marseillaise ship during the time after Napoleon’s defeat. He is wronged by three men, two of whom are jealous of his job and fiancée, and a third of whom is worried about the implications of a politically damaging letter that will get out unless Dantès is sent to prison forever. Dantès escapes from prison fourteen years later as a changed man, eager for vengeance upon those who betrayed him years before.
The plot of the book is very intricate and reminds me of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (which I have never actually finished, but still) in more ways than one. Both were written as historical novels and set in a similar time period. They have large (perhaps, epic? ;)) scales and the large number of characters all have their own role to play in the resolution of the plot.
There is a moral undertone that is tangible even in the first 200 (of 1000+) pages. Dantès debates internally whether revenge is the correct course to take; it seems that the entire book is an investigation into the idea of righteous revenge. Very interesting and relevant even today, especially on the issue of the justice system, at least in my opinion. A good, albeit long, read.