Monthly Archives: January 2012

The good, the bad, and the absolute ugly of required reading

One of the reasons why I love English is that I am fortunate enough to be exposed to all sorts of types of books. Since the summer before my freshman year until now, it would be safe to say that I’ve been required to read about 25 books. Some of them I absolutely loved and some I didn’t even read at all. But through it all, I’ve come to realize what kinds of books I like: romantic, a change in the main character, thought-provoking, applicable to my life.

So I’ve gathered a list of the good (ones I would read over and over), the bad (the ones I got through with some cookie incentives), and the ugly (ones that were too miserable to even pick up).

THE GOOD
1. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I’ve read the love story of the Bennet sisters so many times, I literally think it’s the book version of my obsession with Titanic. What makes this book the best is the fact that Elizabeth is a revolutionary character. In Austen’s era, woman like Eliza were considered obnoxious and unbecoming. Her defiance of societal norms is admirable because it proves how independent and confident she is. I’m disappointed that there are too many Lydia Bennets in this world. So come on ladies, your looks and flirtatiousness won’t take you very far. Eliza teaches us that there needs to be internal depth and substance. Without it, there is no long-term happiness.

2. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
I had to read this book twice, once during sophomore year, and again this year. I had the same reaction both times: it was a heart-tugger. I think what really gets me is the fact that Hassan was so loyal to Amir, even when he was being used as a scapegoat. He was loyal to him and always thought of Amir’s happiness before his own. And when it was Amir’s chance to return the favor, he doesn’t. As a consequence, Hassan is emotionally damaged. Amir betrayed a friendship and cowered away from a friendship. All of the twists in the novel make it even more upsetting. But what I really got out of this novel was that there is always “a way to be good again”. All you have to do is just put forth an effort and really want it.

3. Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
This one really resonated with me because of the whole message of maturity. In high school, we all have our moments where we, like Holden Caulfield, make up excuses, feel alienated, and try to escape reality. Believe me, I’ve been there. But you have to get off that carousel of childhood at some point. Holden eventually does, but has anyone else? I could really relate to Holden at some points, but then at other points I wanted to throw a brick at him. So in a way, I have one foot on and one off the carousel. But I think for the most part, I’m off that carousel. It’s those life experiences that take you out of innocence and into reality. Holden’s journey is totally relatable because it chronicles the transition from innocence to maturity.

THE BAD
1. The Awakening, Kate Chopin
If you like books about cheating wives, then go ahead and read this one. I strongly dislike Edna Pontellier and what she stands for. Edna is trapped in a loveless marriage and is undergoing her own “awakening” by realizing that she is more than a wife. Well, bad timing woman! Edna has children–responsibilities that are irreversible. She can’t just have a kids and decide not to emotionally be there. It’s immature and unfair to the children. I don’t care if you have your little rendezvous with Robert, you cougar, but you have to take care of your children. It kills me to see marriages fall apart and how that affects the children. At least, Edna, just wait until they go off to college.

2. The Tragedy of King Lear, William Shakespeare
I absolutely did not understand this at all! Maybe it’s the lack of ability to decipher what the hell Shakespeare was trying to say. Maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t remember which was the evil bastard child, Edmund or Edgar. When I actually did figure everything out (thank you, Spark Notes), I was not happy. First off, since when is it acceptable for a father to disown his child because she doesn’t want to lie to him? Secondly, I find it seriously disturbing that King Lear decides to strip naked in a maelstrom. Just put him in the Cuckoo’s Nest (I’m so clever)! And thirdly, just deliver the letters yourself. That’s the only way to ensure your message is received. Come to think of it, I don’t really enjoy any Shakespeare.

THE UGLY
1. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
A story about a dude that turns into a bug. The end.
How is that supposed to be a good book? From the first sentence of the first page, it’s revealed that he turned into a bug. Where is the build up? Worst book seriously of life. That is not an exaggeration, at all. Seriously, a man turns into a bug? What a literary masterpiece…!

2. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
I didn’t even bother reading this one.

Comment below and tell me if I’m totally off my rocker or if you have any books you would like to add!

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