Saturday, October 19, 2013

Neil Gaiman: Let children read the books they love

Lucas reading R.L. Stine

When my almost 8-year-old son chose R.L. Stine's Weirdo Halloween at the bookstore the other day, I hesitated for a milisecond but bought it anyway. The cover is freaky but it looked like fun and after all we are right smack in the middle of the Halloween season. Why not? He devoured it in two days. I asked him what he thought of it and he said, "It was a little bit scary but very exciting!" He gave the book a full five stars.

It's interesting that reading this book coincided with Neil Gaiman's brilliant lecture on why our future depends on reading, libraries and daydreaming. At one point, Gaiman said, "I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children." Every now and again there was a fashion for saying that Enid Blyton or RL Stine was a bad author or that comics fostered illiteracy. It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness."

He added: "Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading. Stop them reading what they enjoy or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like – the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian 'improving' literature – you'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant."  I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you Neil Gaiman for this wonderful speech!

For an edited version of Gaiman's lecture click here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

12 Short Books for Book Clubs

My book club has decided to choose a short book for our December meeting so I've been having fun searching the net looking for just the right book. There's surprisingly a lot of brilliant classics just under 250 pages. I've picked twelve books here only because twelve images fit in my collage. I've only read three from my list - Bonjour Tristesse (link to my review here), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Turn of the Screw - all good. I'd love to hear your recommendations for short novels from any genre so do leave a comment below.

Here's the list: 

Balzac, Honore de - Eugenia Grandet
Eugenie, a beautiful flower in a garden of miserliness and cunning, falls in love with Charles. But her father will not allow a marriage with the son of a ruined man. (238 pages)

Bradbury, Ray - Fahrenheit 451
Fireman Guy Montag burns books to keep society happy. But then he starts hoarding and reading books himself, until he is turned in. (183 pages)

Fox, Paula - Desperate Characters
The Bentwoods live childless in a renovated Brooklyn brownstone. But after Sophie is bitten on the hand while trying to feed a half-starved neighborhood cat, a series of small and ominous disasters begin to plague their lives. The fault lines of their marriage are revealed — echoing the fractures of society around them, slowly wrenching itself apart. (180 pages)

Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
A group of schoolboys struggle to survive on an island after their plane crashes. After a while, they’re not only hunting wild boar, they’re hunting each other. (182 pages)

James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
A young governess must battle evil ghosts to save the souls of children in her care. (165 pages)

Kawabata, Yasunari - Snow Country
Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country is widely considered to be the writer’s masterpiece: a powerful tale of wasted love set amid the desolate beauty of western Japan. (193 pages)

Maugham, Somerset - Up at the Villa
Mary Panton walls up her desires in a beautiful villa high up in the hills above Florence, as she calmly contemplates her disastrous marriage. But a single act of compassion begins a nightmare of violence that shatters her serenity. (225 pages)

McCullers, Carson - Member of the Wedding
Twelve-year old Frankie’s brother is getting married, and she decides to join the new couple on their honeymoon. (118 pages)

O'Hara, John - Appointment in Samarra
In December 1930, just before Christmas, the Gibbsville, Pennsylvania, social circuit is electrified with parties and dances. At the center of the social elite stand Julian and Caroline English. But in one rash moment born inside a highball glass, Julian breaks with polite society and begins a rapid descent toward self-destruction. (237 pages)

Sagan, Francoise - 
Bonjour Tristesse
The story of a jealous, sophisticated 17-year-old girl whose meddling in her father's impending remarriage leads to tragic consequences. (160 pages)

Spark, Muriel - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Miss Brodie has a tremendous influence over her students, but eventually one turns on her and brings about her dismissal; a story of hero-worship and treachery. (187 pages)

Wiesel, Elie - Night
A candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. (148 pages)

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