tag: book clubenglish 101modern classicspaul bowlessheltering sky

February 2010

english 101 #2: Brave New World

Hello and welcome to the second edition of English 101: The Harper Perennial Classics Book Club! Today’s book is Brave New World.

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(The first cover is our deluxe modern classics edition, and that jpg doesn’t do it justice. The second is the regular modern classics edition.)

Confession #1: I have never read Brave New World
Confession #2: I was not psyched to read it when Kayleigh suggested we put it on the list.
Confession #3: I was excited when I realized our new deluxe modern classics edition contained both Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, because it meant that I had much less to read than I thought.

So, with all that buildup, and after nearly falling asleep during the first chapter, I am pleased to report that I did not dislike Brave New World. A ringing endorsement, I know. But allegory is generally not my thing, and so I was relieved to grow attached to Lenina, Bernard, and John (the savage) while reading. I need that. All in all, though, it didn’t grip me, and I wonder if I would have felt differently if I had read it when I was in high school, at a time when there weren’t forty-seven other books clamoring for my attention.

I’d love to hear from people who are huge fans of Brave New World. What do you like about it? Is it similar or different from what you normally read? When did you first read it, and do you think that mattered?

Check out Kayleigh’s review (which will probably be more positive) on Monday on Roaring 20s! And remember, anyone who comments here OR twitters using #english101 will have a chance to win a copy of The Poisonwood Bible, next month’s book (which I am very much looking forward to, seeing as how I have never read any Barbara Kingsolver)! Do both and they’ll count separately. And if you blog about Brave in the next few days, please leave a comment with a link for more chances to win!

March 2010

english 101 #3: The Poisonwood Bible

Welcome to the third installment of English 101: The Harper Perennial Modern Classics Book Club. Today’s book is The Poisonwood Bible.

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About the book: The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

Before I start talking about how much I liked this book, I should mention that the reason I had never read it for years was that I was convinced it was dystopian lit that took place in some sort of apocalyptic world. Why did I think that? I have no idea.

But back to the book. I think what I loved the most about The Poisonwood Bible is that it’s one of those unique books that teaches you about something, be it an era or a country or a time, without ever seeming didactic or boring. I feel like TPB gave me a taste of what happened in Congo in the 60s, and definitely left me wanting to know more and read some nonfiction about the time. Another thing in its favor is that it is told, in alternating chapters, by five different narrators, and I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where that was done so well and so distinctly, though my favorite character by far was Leah, the smart, non-silent, non-stuck-up sister.

The only thing I didn’t 100% love about the book was that I much preferred the parts where the Price family was together in the Congo than the parts that take place in later years. A part of me almost wished that Kingsolver could have ended the book with the Prices (or most of them) leaving on the day of Lumumba’s assassination, which was also an important day in their family, and left me wondering what happened to them afterwards.

So let’s discuss. Did you love the book as much as I did? How did you feel about the later parts? Which cover do you like better? (I have to say I’m in love with our orange and yellow deluxe edition.) And can you recommend any other books that teach without being too obvious about it?

If you’re on Goodreads, we’ll also be discussing the book there in our new goodreads group, which you should absolutely join.

(More on next month’s book club pick tomorrow.)

April 2010

english 101: next month’s pick

News alert: we are switching around the order of the picks for english 101: the harper perennial modern classics book club due to circumstances beyond our control. So, April’s pick will be . . .

DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE by Isabel Allende

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An orphan raised in Valparaiso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, vivacious young Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Entering a rough-and-tumble world of new arrivals driven mad by gold fever, Eliza moves in a society of single men and prostitutes with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chi’en. California opens the door to a new life of freedom and independence to the young Chilean, and her search for her elusive lover gradually turns into another kind of journey. By the time she finally hears news of him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is.

The timing works out perfectly, since our friends at Harper will be releasing Isabel Allende’s newest hardcover, Island Beneath the Sea, on April 27.

I’ve got five copies of Daughter of Fortune to give away! To win, just tell me why you want to read it. (“Because it’s free” is a totally acceptable response.) Go!

May 2010

english 101: pick #5: the sheltering sky by paul bowles

It’s time to get started on our next pick: The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. A story about three American travelers adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky explores the limits of humanity when it touches the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert.

As usual, I’ve got 5 copies to give away. Comment for a chance to win! (And be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you.)

And in case you were wondering, here’s our updated English 101 schedule:

Jan- Tree Grows in Bklyn
Feb – Brave New World
March – Poisonwood Bible
April – Daughter of Fortune
May – Sheltering Sky
June – To Kill a Mockingbird
July – So Big
August – One Hundred Years of Solitude
September – The Golden Notebook
October – Native Son
November – Unbearable Lightness of Being
December – Their Eyes Were Watching God

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