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#TheGreatAmericanRead: Other Worlds


 

Welcome back to the final week of The Great American Read. In just one more week, PBS will announce the book voted upon by the pubic as the #1 American Read. I can’t wait, and I have my own suspicion of the winner. More about that later.

This week’s episode was titled Other Worlds . All the books in this category fell into the Fantasy, Science Fiction ( or speculative Fiction), Historical Fiction and magical realism realm.

I’m going to be honest and tell you I’ve read exactly 1 book on this list and I didn’t exactly like it. Okay, like isn’t the right word. I didn’t understand it would be better. That book was 100 Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s listed as a Worlds Beyond or Magical realism story. I think the reason I didn’t get it is because I have enough trouble with real realism, never mind magical realism, but that’s just me. I struggled – struggled – with this book several years ago when it was an Oprah Book Club selection. I didn’t get it then but now that I’m older ( waaaay older) maybe I’ll tackle it again. (Maybe not!)

The other book listed in this category was THE SHACK, a mega-hit a few years ago when it was released as an indy pubbed book. Both of these books deal with family, death, dying, what comes after death and questions do we ever truly die?  The major themes in the Shack are forgiveness, redemption, and hope. 

So, I’ve already established that I’m not a sci-fi fan. I never knew it was also called Speculative fiction, but that moniker makes sense, since stories in this category propel us into the future in order to explain the present – and help us make wise choices in the here and now. Books in this category included: Ready Player One, The Martian, Atlas Shrugged, The Foundation Novels, and Dune.

  

 

 

Each of these books tries to explain how society has come to be what it is in the future and each book paints a terrible picture of where the human race is heading. Impressive in this theme is the fact that 2 of the books, Atlas Shrugged and the Foundation Novels, were written decades ago but were able to pinpoint the exact issues we are dealing with today as a society. If I ever get a month free from my life I just might read these two tomes.

Fantastical worlds and Magical places have a few entries in this episode as well. Every teenage boy’s favorite book, The Lord of The Rings falls in this category. As do the Chronicles of Narnia, Gulliver’s travels, and The HitchHiker’s guide to the Universe. Total honesty here again, peeps. I tried to read The Lord of the Rings once. Couldn’t get past the second page. Seeing the movie didn’t help. I just didn’t understand it. Hubby, and daughter, though? Loved the book and the movies!

 

 

 

The last category explored in Other Worlds was HISTORICAL FICTION. I have to admit, I’m not sure why this category was included with the others, but I will tell you the books listed in this category are favorites of many people I personally know – including one entire Romance Writing group. LONESOME DOVE and OUTLANDER are the books mentioned here. Both deal with the past ( although  I really think Outlander could be considered Time Travel more than anything else, but again, that’s just me) and explore history and historical events through the eyes of fictional characters.

Get any two historical romance readers or writers together and one – if not both- have much to say about Diana Gabaldon’s epic tale of Claire and Jamie. Put any number of modern day cowboys together and you might just get a tale similar to Lonesome’s Dove depiction of a great cattle drive and the men who attempted it. Both of these books are on my #TBR list for 2019. And you will notice they are the only ones that are from this category!

SO, that concludes last night’s selections. Now, I mentioned in the beginning of this post that I had a sneaking suspicion which novel was going to be voted number one. My prediction? TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Tune in next week to see if I’m correct!!!

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#TheGreatAmericanRead, Villains and Monsters, #PBS

This week’s edition of The Great American Read   ( my current TV watching obsession!) was all about VILLAINS AND MONSTERS in books. And the monsters aren’t exactly the kind that appear from under your bed!

This episode was fascinating for me because it made me take a second look at books I typically would never read: dark, tortuous anti-heroes, creepy villains, and tales of obsession. I like to stick to happy, peppy, HEA stories usually. Hee hee

So, the breakdown for the Villains, Monsters, and Evil Forces books on the 100 list are as follows.

OBSESSION. My dictionary defines it thus:an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. The books in this category are pretty recognizable. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Moby Dick.

  

Dorian is obsessed with growing old and Ahab is obsessed with the great white whale who bit off his leg.

 Thrillers. As a society we love to be scared. Truly. There’s nothing like being placed in a situation – like a movie theater -where you scream with fright at what’s on the screen, and then take a breath because you know it’s not real. The favorite books in this category are Gone Girl and then classic And Then there were none

 Written decades ago, this book started the genre of crime thriller. 10 people are invited to a secluded island under a false pretense and then systematically, to the words of an old children’s poem, are killed to serve some skewered sense of justice. Brilliant writing. Brilliant ending. No one did it better than Dame Agatha

Our next category is the dark side of human nature. George R.R. Martin has a great quote in this segment. He says, “the villain is just the hero who’s on the other side. ” Love that. Here, we have the classic DuMaurier Rebecca and Game of Thrones.  Has there ever been a creepier housekeeper than Mrs Danvers?

   

Institutional Evil is next on the list. These are the books that turn their attention to societal evil. Books such as The Handmaids Tale and Beloved fall into this category.

We see the United States during two courses of its history real and imagined. First, it’s slavery past in Morrison’s book, and then an imagined future where America is now called Galead and run by a group of men who rule over women. Even though this is a work of fiction, the parallels to what is going on in our society today is pretty terrifying.

The corrupt and all powerful Villain is next. This is where the phrase absolute power corrupts absolutely is a perfect description. The Harry Potter books, The Stand, and Alice in Wonderland fall into this category.

  

Voldemort covets all the power in the universe as his own. Randall Flagg can read people’s minds and souls to get them to believe in him and him alone, and who can ever read about the Queen of Hearts and not see her as a totalitarian nincompoop?

The last category of Evil concerns those characters who choose ambition over ethics. The Watchers and Frankenstein explore this topic in full detail. Everyone always forgets that Frankenstein is not the monster’s name. Victor Frankenstein is the doctor who wants to reanimate a man and create life. He sees himself as a human God above the spiritual one and he, it turns out, is the true monster in this tale.

 

My takeaway from this episode is that evil, monsters – real and imagined, and villains who live on the dark side of society are just as readable and fascinating as the good guys in white hats who combat them.

Watch the Great American Read every Tuesday at 8 pm on PBS and vote for your favorites anytime here.

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