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Posts Tagged ‘Must read books’

Well, of course I love Looking for Alaska- it’s a John Green novel that deals with existentialism, the teenage experience and exactly why we continue to trudge through life even though ultimately, there is no beating it. In fact the only real question is which of the above factors I’m most suckered by!
It is this  quality of the story- it’s being replete with moments that are recognizably true– that makes it so endlessly fascinating. There is also that quick, unexexpected humour that is uniquely John Green’s that peppers the book and makes you realize simultaneously that this could so easily have been your story and that you could never have quite thought up that turn of phrase.


During my very cursory review of the book’s cover ( I really couldn’t wait to plunge in!), I noticed a comparison to the Catcher in the Rye (which, as you can guess, made me want to really stop looking at the damn cover and READITALREADY!). I see elements of similarity, thematically, but the lead characters and their specific grievances are  different, and the writing styles are nothing alike.* Also, while Salinger does not seem to welcome too much probing of his work,(In his dedication: “If there is an amateur reader still left in the world–or anybody who just reads and runs–I ask him or her, with untellable affection and gratitude…”), I can tell that this book is clearly drawn from John (who is one half of the Youtube sensation Vlogbrothers)’s own past and he seems to appreciate the extent to which an author’s experiences colours his choices for subject matter. Authorial influence is not always so apparent in books and lots of people seem to look upon this picking apart of books to get at the author’s own driving beliefs with distaste, but I really enjoyed drawing conclusions from this book and also having them coincide with what I know of the author from his videos.


As for the story itself, it revolves around young teenage misfit and collector of famous last words, Miles ‘Pudgy’ Halter, who moves to a boarding school in hopes of a second chance for happiness through reinventing himself. Culver Creek becomes a place of many firsts, for Pudgy. He makes friends with incredibly funny, larger-than-life characters who are, on first impression, exactly ‘the wrong sort’. In particular, he fancies himself in love with the intriguing, the elusive, the shrouded-in-mystery and lover-of-drama, Alaska Young. Even through the tragedy of  her life, Pudgy finds with new conviction, that  despite very real obstacles in the very real labyrinth of life, that the Great Perhaps he seeks is undiminished in its allure .

En fin, I find myself making an unlikely comparison with another book I read recently, which is Steppenwolf, by Herman Hesse. The latter is much more convoluted, but all the same, seeks an explanation for man’s desire to keep living despite life’s lack of nice, formulaic guarantees. And surprisingly, both authors find comfort in biblically rooted ideas of redemption and hope.


If I haven’t made a convincing argument for reading the book already, I’ll leave his brilliant words the job:

“When adults say, “Teenagers think they are invincible” with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don’t know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are. We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations. They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail.”

[Rap by Alaska]: “Oh shit did you just diss the feminine gender / I’ll pummel your ass then stick you in a blender / You think I like Tori and Ani so I can’t rhyme / but I got glow like Ghostbusters got slime / objectify women and it’s fuckin’ on / you’ll be dead and gone like ancient Babylon.”

But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.

(Cheering at a basketball game)The Colonel led all the cheers.
Cornbread!” he screamed.
CHICKEN!” the crowd responded.
Rice!”
PEAS!”
And then, all together: “WE GOT HIGHER SATs.”
Hip Hip Hip Hooray!” the Colonel cried.
YOU’LL BE WORKIN’ FOR US SOMEDAY!”

“Have you really read all those books in your room?” Alaska, laughing- “Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.”

“I hated cranberry sauce, but for some reason my mom persisted in her lifelong belief that it was my very favorite food, even though every single Thanksgiving I politely declined to include it on my plate.”

“Suffering is universal. it’s the one thing Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims are all worried about.”

“I am concussed.”

“But why Alaska?”, I asked her. She smiled with the right side of her mouth.”Well, later, I found out what it means. It’s from an Aleut word, Alyeska. It means ‘that which the sea breaks against’, and I love that. But at the time, I just saw Alaska up there. And it was big, just like I wanted to be. And it was damn far away from Vine Station, just like I wanted to be.”

*Edit: I do think the fox hat may have been a sort of wink at the reader (reminiscent of Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat), if in fact the book was inspired by Catcher in the Rye, which (for the record) the author makes no mention of.

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Fight club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter, and dark, anarchic genius, and it’s only the beginning of his plans for violent revenge on an empty consumer-culture world.

This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 3

This book was one of the few in recent times, that I read in one sitting. Its brilliantly written with short concise prose and language that just hits you. There are so many ideas in one sentence than there are in full chapter of some other books.

Its written in the form of a first person narrative, except it’s more like disjointed thoughts and experiences that connect together by this one thing, Fight Club.

We’re designed to be hunters and we’re in a society of shopping.  There’s nothing to kill anymore, there’s nothing to fight, nothing to overcome, nothing to explore.  In that societal emasculation, this everyman is created.  ~David Fincher, director of Fight Club

 The story introduces you to the narrator, who is one of these everymen. He is frustrated with his life and feels helpless in trying to change it. It is at this point that Tyler Durden explodes into his life.

Tyler Durden is one of the most intriguing chracters that I have ever read. He is opinionated, rash and enigmatic. Tyler invents Fight Club to help these men who feel powerless to take control of their lives and to do something, even if it is bashing someone’s head in or getting the crap beaten out of you.

After a night in fight club, everything in the real world gets the volume turned down.  Nothing can piss you off.  Your word is law, and if other people break that law or question you, even that doesn’t piss you off.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 6 

One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort.  A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 3

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything,” Tyler says, “that you’re free to do anything.”  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 8 

Tyler believes that the complete destruction and anarchy was the only way to clean up the mess he felt that we, as a society had made.

I wanted to burn the Louvre.  I’d do the Elgin Marbles with a sledgehammer and wipe my ass with the Mona Lisa.  This is my world, now.  This is my world, my world, and those ancient people are dead.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 16

A sort of fun explosive is potassium permanganate mixed with powdered sugar. The idea is to mix one ingredient that will burn very fast with a second ingredient that will supply enough oxygen for that burning. This burns so fast, it’s an explosion. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 22

 I had far too much fun reading these little tips on making explosives and all the other tools you would need to achieve what Tyler had dreamed. I love the quotable-ness of this book!

The author is unapologetic about the way in which he expresses his opinions. The characters are even less so. I absolutely enjoyed every word that was written in this book, even the afterword. I want to now read Lullaby and possibly Choke, by him.

I am also planning on watching the movie soon. The casting is interesting. I think Brad Pitt would have done Tyler justice and Helena Bonham Carter seems perfect for Marla. I’ve only ever seen Edward Norton properly on Modern Family and possibly, The Illusionist but I don’t really remember him.

This book is about one idea, and it expands it until its breaking point. Tyler Durden is the personification of this idea. I don’t want to say anymore, since I feel that going in blind would be the best approach to this book. All I can say is,this book will stay with you,whether you like it or not. If you read anything, read this. I can’t recommend it enough!

May I never be complete.  May I never be content.  May I never be perfect.  Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 5

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wakin-dreamThis month’s theme for NaBloPoMo is ‘routine’ , so I figured I should do a ‘Bookmark’-post.What’s more routine (or boring) coming from me, yeah?

I defy you to call this book boring, though.Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger is a book that stalked me until I finally gave in and bought a copy already.

A book that opens with

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”

hardly requires recommending, but I shall persist.Holden Caulfield is both narrator and lead character of this “story” that reads more like the inside of his head for all its “classic novel” status. He is a cynical teenager who has been expelled from a few schools, and at the start of the novel runs away from this last one ( Pencey Prep). He classes himself as a failure in every subject except for English, for which every Holden child seems to have inclination. This only adds fuel to fire as he already finds the adult world “phony”, and decides to catch a train to New York , although he does not inform his family of this, imagining (correctly) that the consequences could be nothing pleasant. New york disappoints him with more ‘phoniness’ , and he indulges in some, himself. Eventually, he sneaks home to see his younger sister, Phoebe, whom he clearly adores, and who is also almost the only person he seems to want to communicate with (the lack of phoniness helps, I suppose). He then decides to stay with the Antolinis -Mr.Antolini was a former English teacher and good friend. He is disturbed by Antonlini’s patting his head while asleep and leaves his house only to wander the city. Finally, he tells Phoebe that he plans to head west.His sister wants desperately to go with him, but he refuses. To pacify the girl, he takes her to Central Park Zoo, where he observes her thrill as she rides the carousel. The author chooses not to reveal Holden’s final decision, only saying that he “feels sick ” and will attend yet another school in September. Holden seems even to miss his phony roomies, although his attitusde is not much altered.

Put like that, the story is nothing special, but its charm lies in Holden’s slang and the incredibly honest style of writing.Further, his unreliable sense of perception leaves lots of room for interpretation and debate. He is most definitely an unforgettable character and reason enough for the book’s Cult label.

Bottom line: Must read,five stars.. in Holden’s own words ” It kills me”.

If after all that, you still need persuading, I’ll borrow the author’s words:

“Boy, when you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddamn cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.”

“Sensitive. That killed me. That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a toilet seat.”

” Anyway, I’m sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.”

(more…)

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