My Top Picks For The Great American Read

Image result for the great american readThe Great American Read is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). All of the books that made the list are truly great, but only one can be named The Great American Read.

Read our last post to see which 40 Books are leading the race, and find a list of my favorites listed below. If you don’t see your book, there is still time to change that. You can vote for your favorites each day until Thursday, October 18, 2018 at midnight PT, when voting closes. Click here to vote now.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

The 1984 book explores the issues of womens rights, religion, and individual liberties. Atwood conceived the novel as ‘speculative fiction,’ (similar to Louis Lowry’s The Giver), works that imagine a future that could conceivably happen without any advances in technology from the present. In other words, she said, “Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.” Every aspect of the book was inspired by social and political events of the early 1980s, but remains poignant because we can imagine this happening today.

 

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is a classic choice for The Great American Read because it is an archetypal representation of The American Dream: if you work hard enough, you can succeed. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his passionate obsession with a married Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.

 

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

People should read The Help because it is real. Though it is a work of fiction, it is based on true events. The story is about African Americans working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. Kathryn was born in 1969 in Jackson and grew up in a household with a black housekeeper.  The story was based on her experiences growing up and it was just adjusted to occur in the 1960s in the midst of the civil rights movement.  A beautifully written but painful story steeped in American history.  It tells the story of black household workers in the South in the early 1960s—domestic helpers who take great risks by sharing stories about what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes. Their tales not only reveal the great sense of empowerment that comes from sharing and having your voice heard, but also remind us of the greatness of the real women who do this work today under sometimes terrible conditions. It is a novel about empowered, heroic women taking a stand for human rights during the civil rights era. It was also adapted into a movie in 2011.

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Lotería

Lotería was the 2013 debut novel of Mario Alberto Zambrano.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

This book was stippled with Spanish aphorisms and phrases, and included an impressive amount of vocabulary in-context, to help teach Spanish to non-speakers. A full deck of Lotería cards is presented back-to-front, to mark the chapters, as if the reader is flipping a card when turning the page, reminiscent of Isabelle Allende and Salvador Plascencia’s magical realism. Image result for loteria el nopal

“I didn’t feel like remembering today so I laid out the cards close to each other so that they were touching like tiles, like El Nopal.” (175).

Luz associates her memories with the Lotería cards, using them to prompt her, to spark her memories. Than she writes about it in her journal. As we read her diary — addressed to “You”, always capitalized, in reference to the reader, or in reference to a higher power — we understand the trauma she is trying to run from. Continue reading

Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly

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Based on the true story of a New York socialite who championed a group of concentration camp survivors known as the Rabbits, this acclaimed debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.

Lilac Girls follows the three stories of Caroline, Kasia, and Herta as they navigate the perils of WWII era life. The novel weaves together accounts from three perspectives – Polish, German, and American – each girl has a different experience, but all are connected and affected by the atrocities of the war. Continue reading

Renee Ahdieh, Flame In The Mist

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Despite the rumors, Renée Ahdieh‘s long anticipated Flame In The Mist is more likely inspired by the story of Mulan rather than existing as a retelling of the tale. Many elements seem to echo the popular Disney’s Mulan cartoon (she cuts off her hair, saves the life of an important warrior, and lives a secret double life as a man), including one of the important quotes of the book: “Be as swift as the wind. As silent as the forest. As fierce as the fire. As unshakable as the mountain.” (143) 

 

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Paulo Coelho, The Spy: A Novel Of Mata Hari

Image result for the spy coelhoPaulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist and The Witch of Portobello, again bewitches readers with The Spy, a novel based on the life of Mata Hari.

Based on real events

Based around the historical facts surrounding her life and 1917 arrest, Coelho weaves together a first-hand account of what really happened during her life – how she felt, and justifies some of the reasons for her actions.

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The Prologue describes Mata’s gruesome execution by firing squad. Imagining her final moments as she gets dressed for a final time and fearlessly faces her own death with open eyes – refusing to be blindfolded.

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‘Rise of the Dragons’ the New Fantasy Adventure by Morgan Rice

Morgan Rice’s newest novel Rise of the Dragons is an action packed fantasy sure to please fans of her previous novels, along 23935129with fans of works such as The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. The first to what looks to be the next The Sorcerer’s Ring, Rice’s acclaimed Young Adult fantasy, Dragons starts out running, a fast paced read that keeps you guessing until the very last page, and then leaves you wanting for more.

 

Escalon is a kingdom of oppression, fallen to the neighboring kingdom of Pandesia and forced to live under their rule. Continue reading