Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When You Reach Me: Making Sure You Reach Readers with Satisfying Conclusions

This month I've launched my effort to plow through a healthy chunk of Newbery Award winners in my quest to get a bead on the best children's literature out there. I delved into Clare Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest earlier this month (Musing Over Manifest and Mockingbird, 6 May 2013) and have now added Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me to the list.

With a whopping two under my belt now, I already see a pattern. These are slice-of-life tales. The main character in each book is a pre-teen girl learning to navigate the world around her, by understanding her family, making make friends, and grappling with the bigger pictures of life.

The two stories also involve mysteries. In Manifest, Abilene wants to learn about her father's childhood while in Reach Me the quest is to learn the identity of whoever is leaving secret notes. Manifest and Reach both engaged me in the overall stories and characters. However, the former did a little too much signposting and left me feeling a little letdown by the finale. The latter had peppered in the clues so that it all came together in the end, but I was still scratching my head a bit.

Rebecca Stead discusses When You Reach Me

I have integrated some mysteries in my own endeavors writing Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone and now fine-tuning its sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table. The lesson is to make sure the reader will 1) want to learn the outcome and that 2) the reader will be satisfied with the outcome once it arrives. This means that the reader must be well-invested in the characters and the story, but also that the ending comes across neither as too signposted nor as too much of a surprise.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

J.K. Rowling Harry Potter novels released as a box set

First posted 6/24/2020.

Harry Potter Series

J.K. Rowling

First Publication: July 1, 2009 (box set of all seven)

Category: youth fantasy novel

Sales: 500 million (all 7 books)

Accolades for the Entire Sieres (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Books:

“J.K. Rowling is the author of the record-breaking, multi-award-winning Harry Potter novels. Loved by fans around the world, the series has sold over 500 million copies, been translated into over 80 languages, and made into eight blockbuster films.” AZ

Harry is an orphan who “learns he is a wizard on his 11th birthday when Hagrid escorts him to magic-teaching Hogwarts School. As a baby, his mother’s love protected him and vanquished the villain Voldemort.” GR

The series then follows Harry and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley as students at Hogwarts and “Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrow the wizard governing body known as the Ministry of Magic and subjugate all wizards and Muggles (non-magical people).” WK

The books in the series are:

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Newsweek: Top 100 Books

First posted 6/9/2020.


Top 100 Books

Newsweek’s list was assembled by aggregating ten other lists. Unfortunately, the ten are not all referenced, but the article does say it included Modern Library, Oprah Winfrey’s book club selections, a reading list for St. John’s College, and Britain’s Daily Telegraph list of “the perfect library.”

  1. Leo Tolstoy War and Peace (1869)
  2. George Orwell 1984 (1949)
  3. James Joyce Ulysses (1922)
  4. Vladimir Nabokov Lolita (1955)
  5. William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury (1929)
  6. Ralph Ellison Invisible Man (1952)
  7. Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse (1927)
  8. Homer The Odyssey (800 B.C.) / The Iliad (800 B.C.)
  9. Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  10. Dante Alighieri Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) (1304)

  11. Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales (1387)
  12. Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
  13. George Eliot Middlemarch, a Study of Provincial Life (1872)
  14. Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart (1958)
  15. J.D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  16. Margaret Mitchell Gone with the Wind (1936)
  17. Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
  18. F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (1925)
  19. Joseph Heller Catch-22 (1961)
  20. Toni Morrison Beloved (1987)

  21. John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
  22. Salman Rushdie Midnight’s Children (1981)
  23. Aldous Huxley Brave New World (1932)
  24. Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  25. James Baldwin Notes of a Native Son (1955)
  26. Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America (1840)
  27. Charles Darwin The Origin of Species (1859)
  28. Herodotus The Histories of Herodotus (5th century)
  29. Jean-Jacques Rousseau The Social Contract (1762)
  30. Karl Marx Das Kapital (1867)

  31. Niccolo Machiavelli The Prince (1532)
  32. St. Augustine of Hippo The Confessions (400 A.D.)
  33. Thomas Hobbes Leviathan (1651)
  34. Thucydides The History of the Peloponnesian War (5th century)
  35. J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings (trilogy: 1954-55)
  36. A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)
  37. C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia (series, 1950-1956)
  38. E.M. Forster A Passage to India (1924)
  39. Jack Kerouac On the Road (1957)
  40. Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

  41. various writers The Holy Bible: King James Version (1451)
  42. Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  43. William Faulkner Light in August (1932)
  44. W.E. Burghardt Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (1903)
  45. Jean Rhys Wide Saragosso Sea (1966)
  46. Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary (1857)
  47. John Milton Paradise Lost (1667)
  48. Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina (1877)
  49. William Shakespeare Hamlet (1603)
  50. William Shakespeare King Lear (1608)

  51. William Shakespeare Othello (1609)
  52. William Shakespeare The Sonnets (1609)
  53. Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass (1855)
  54. Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  55. Rudyard Kipling Kim (1901)
  56. Mary Shelley Frankenstein (1818)
  57. Toni Morrison Song of Solomon (1977)
  58. Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962)
  59. Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
  60. Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

  61. George Orwell Animal Farm (1954)
  62. William Golding Lord of the Flies (1954)
  63. Truman Capote In Cold Blood (1966)
  64. Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook (1962)
  65. Marcel Proust In Search of Lost Time (1913)
  66. Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep (1939)
  67. William Faulkner As I Lay Dying (1930)
  68. Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises (1926)
  69. Robert Graves I, Claudius (1934)
  70. Carson McCullers The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940)

  71. D.H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers (1913)
  72. Robert Penn Warren All the King’s Men (1946)
  73. James Baldwin Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
  74. E.B. White Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  75. Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness (1899)
  76. Elie Wiesel Night (Un di Velt Hot Geshvign) (1958)
  77. John Updike Rabbit, Run (1960)
  78. Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence (1920)
  79. Philip Roth Portnoy’s Complaint (1969)
  80. Theodore Dreiser An American Tragedy (1925)

  81. Nathanael West The Day of the Locust (1939)
  82. Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer (1934)
  83. Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon (1929)
  84. Philip Pullman His Dark Materials (trilogy: 1995-2000)
  85. Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
  86. Sigmund Freud The Interpreation of Dreams (1900)
  87. Henry Adams The Education of Henry Adams (1907)
  88. Mao Zedong Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Little Red Book) (1966)
  89. William James The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902)
  90. Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited (1945)

  91. Rachel Carson Silent Spring (1962)
  92. John Maynard Keynes General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936)
  93. Joseph Conrad Lord Jim (1900)
  94. Robert Graves Goodbye to All That (1929)
  95. John Kenneth Galbraith The Affluent Society (1958)
  96. William Grahame The Wind in the Willows (1908)
  97. Alex Haley & Malcolm X The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
  98. Lytton Strachey Eminent Victorians (1918)
  99. Alice Walker The Color Purple (1982)
  100. Winston Churchill The Second World War (6 volumes, 1953)

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities published 150 years ago this year

First posted 6/26/2020; updated 7/6/2020.

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

First Publication: 1859

Category: novel about classism

Sales: 200 million

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In that famous first line from A Tale of Two Cities, “Dickens exemplifies the dichotomous relationship that existed between the aristocracy and the lower classes of the time and the universal themes that would be depicted throughout the book.” AZ

“Dickens plunges the reader into one of history’s most explosive eras – the French Revolution. From the storming of the Bastille to the relentless drop of the guillotine, Dickens vividly captures the terror and upheaval of that tumultuous period.” BN

A Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris, the titular two cities, at the end of the 18th century, and principally concerns the lives of Dr. Alexandre Manette, his daughter Lucie, who marries a French nobleman, Charles Darnay, and their close family friend, barrister Sydney Carton.” AZ “Despite the union of Lucie and Darney, Carton confesses his love to Lucie, declaring to ‘embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you,’ a promise that he will uphold in dramatic fashion by the end of the novel” AZ “on the bloodstained streets of Paris.” BN

“Dickens considered…[this] to be the best novel that he had ever written. One of only two works of historical fiction that the author would compose; it is a sweeping narrative that explores the best and the worst of the human character and condition.” AZ It “is a stirring classic of love, revenge, and resurrection.” BN

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