Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a mostly autobiographical novel. Esther, the main character, is a young woman who finds herself sinking into a deep depression after returning home from an internship in New York. After a suicide attempt, Esther enters an asylum where she must figure out what she wants from life. Knowing Sylvia Plath's history, it is easy to understand why this book is autobiographical. Names have been changed, but events and feelings have not. Esther's despair feels real and raw. Read this book if you love Plath's poetry, if you like The Catcher in the Rye but want to read about a female character with the same tone, or if you are interested in stories about mental illness. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a self-proclaimed "anti-war" novel about a man named Billy Pilgrim who was a Prisoner of War in Dresden during WWII. The book mixes real history with science fiction. Vonnegut himself was a POW in WWII during the bombing of Dresden. What makes this book a science fiction novel is the fact that Billy Pilgrim is "unstuck in time" which means that he often finds himself traveling through time to other parts of his life. Also, Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens and kept in a zoo on their planet. During his time on the alien planet, he learns about their views on time and war. The novel, written during the Vietnam War, really captures the absurdity of war while also making statements about how humans choose to live their lives. Read this book if you like science fiction, if you like anti-war novels, or if you are interested in some WWII history, particularly the bombing of Dresden. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Children's Story

The Children's Story by James Clavell is a very short story about an incident in a classroom. It is revealed that the students are being re-educated by some unknown foreign power that has invaded America. The book raises questions about our current school situation and what can happen when young minds are introduced to new ideas. Read this book if you like stories of dystopia, if you have a spare ten minutes, or if you question how students are learning. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is the story of Callie, a young girl who comes from a Greek family. At the age of fourteen, Callie becomes Cal after a doctor reveals that she was actually born a male. Cal narrates the entire book as he traces his life which begins, not at his birth, but at the beginning of his grandparents' romance. This family history is captivating because of the secrets and lies that one family can possess. Cal's struggle with his identity is rooted in these secrets and lies. Read this book if you love sweeping family histories, if you're interested in some Turkish/Greek history, or if you can't get enough drama from the soap operas. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling is the seventh, and final, book in the fantastical Harry Potter series. Rowling attempts to tie up all the strings that she has left hanging in previous books. The book is long and at times I felt like it was dragging on simply to make the book longer than the previous one. However, fans of Harry Potter will not be disappointed with Rowling's conclusion to the much-loved series. I don't want to ruin it for anyone, so I'll leave it at that. Read this book if you're a fan of Harry Potter, if you love fantasy, or if you simply want to see what all the hype is about. I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is a collection of vignettes told from the perspective of Esperanza, a young girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. The short, poetic pieces offer a colorful collection of characters and events. The writing may be hard for some to understand at first, but the language is so beautiful, many of the vignettes could be read as poems. While the stories seem to be disconnected, by the end of the book you have a portrait of Esperanza's life which is ultimately framed by her longing to leave Mango Street, because she knows that she does not belong there. Read this book if you love the beauty of poetic prose, if you are interested in social issues (including poverty and prejudice), or if you are a woman wanting to remember what it was like to be a young girl trying to become something. I give it a 9 out of 10.