Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is all the books on our to-read lists. I actually don’t have a lot of timely books this season.

  1. Winger by Andrew Smith (I want to reread this for the sequel) Winger (Winger, #1)
  2. Stand-Off by Andrew SmithStand-Off (Winger, #2)
  3. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
    The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)
  4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God
  5. More Happy than Not by Adam SilveraMore Happy Than Not
  6. The Diviners by Libba Bray diviners
  7. Wicked by Gregory MaguireWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1)
  8. Hello, I Love You by Katie StoutHello, I Love You
  9. Falling into Place by Amy Zhang Falling into Place
  10. Red Queen by Victoria AveyardRed Queen (Red Queen, #1)
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Book Review: Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connell

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Goodreads Summary:

Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor’s astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is a story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Lily Sabbath. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawkes, Hazel Motes founds The Church of God Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child, and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdoms gives us one of the most riveting characters in twentieth-century American fiction.

I did not get this book at all. I have so little understanding of it that I felt like I couldn’t do an accurate summary, hence the Goodreads summary. It took me about three weeks (!) to read this fairly short book, and it was grueling. I’ve been super busy with school, too, and it was so offsetting to start to sit down and read it.

I think I overestimated my ability to stomach classics. I understand there’s a ton of symbolism, I got the gist of some of it, but it was entirely too deep for my mind to wrap around the concepts of the book.

I gathered that Hazel Motes basically pushed himself so far away from Christ by preaching because he secretly wanted to be saved. He had a fascination with Asa Hawks because he “blinded” himself for his faith, and I think Hazel wished that he could believe in something that strongly, but he believed Jesus was a trick so he decided to go in the exact opposite direction.

Blindness is an obvious motif, most likely pertaining to the incorrect interpretation of religion and the allusion to biblical stories. Hazel is definitely a strange character, and the city in Alabama that it’s setting is described as dirty and depressing. Basically, all the characters are strange and very… gross, I guess.

The writing style was done in a way that I hardly could understand anything. It was very abstract and repeated a couple key phrases a lot, but I couldn’t figure out what they were symbols for. The dialogue is abrupt and choppy, and it’s difficult to understand the motives behind the actions to most of the characters. Flannery O’Connell focuses more on their behaviors and less on their thought processes, and this made the odd things they did even more confusing.

The story is also depressing, what little I could understand.

And let me just tell you my biggest failure pertaining to this book. Enoch Emery.

Hazel meets Enoch Emery, the boy with “wise blood,” and he comes back to cameo a couple of times and plays an important role towards the end of the novel.

I don’t understand Enoch Emery in the slightest. I didn’t understand what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how he related to the rest of the story. I think he was supposed to be an external reflection of Hazel’s internal turmoil, but I don’t understand anything he did. I didn’t even half understand it.

The book is named Wise Blood because of this character, and I didn’t get a single thing he did at all. It’s pathetic how much I didn’t understand, because I’m pretty sure I missed a huge chuck of the plot. Oh well.

So, yes. I couldn’t even write an accurate review on it because I understood it so little. If you want to read it, good luck.

1.5 Stars

 

Book Review: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World

In the future, everyone is happy. With the aid of brain washing, genetic engineering, relentless condition, recreation sex and drugs, of course. Bernard Marx seems to be the only one who questions the system, so much so that he decides to take Lenina to the reservations in North America to see the tribal savages– people who live in families and and give live births. Bernard took one of the “savages” back to civilization and he began to question the validity of free will and the usefulness of the control the World Controllers have over the people.

The majority of this book was pretty dull. I found that I disliked Bernard and most of the other characters, but I’m pretty sure that was the point. Lenina and the rest of the filler characters all completely bought the conditioning and the happiness that the World Controllers fed them, and while the reader may root for a moment of clarity for them, it never happens. This ignorance is important to the entire book because it shows how fool-proof the brain washing is. If the children were raised in these castes, raised with sleep-hypnosis and electric conditioning and drilled routines in their brains, than it would be ridiculous to assume that they could simply stop.

Bernard proved to be a little different, but the thing about this protagonist is that he wasn’t a hero. He wasn’t anything, really. Sure, he had more speculations than most about the blind obedience and use of drugs the society submersed themselves in, but he still fed into their social ways. He despised the casual sex until he was a desired candidate. He had doubts about the lab-based children and absence of families until he became famous and gave up thinking about the problems and instead allowed their easy happiness to wash over him.

The “savage”– John– became the real figure to watch. He experienced both a fairly normal tribal life with families and towns, similar to Native American life, and he went to Europe to experience the real civilization. Huxley juxtaposes these two societies together to show that they have similar problems– the manufactured and widely used drug soma in Europe equates to alcohol in John’s tribe– and also to demonstrate the extent the Europeans have drifted from humane behavior and into a technology-controlled stupor.

**MINOR SPOILER**

When John talked with the World Controller and Bernard’s partially self-aware friend at the end of the book, the truly philosophical topics came into play. The whole book raised questions of happiness and free will and wondering if intense emotions like love are worth it if there’s a risk of emotions such as misery. Is it better to be ignorant and blissfully unaware and happy or is it better to have free will be feel deeply and have unhappiness?

They discuss this at the end of the book, and it really ties together the entire themes of the novel. He talks about how conditioning plays the main factor in a person’s life and human instinct is an allusion. Human instinct only relies on one factor: how a person was raised. If they were told from a young age there is a God, they will believe it. If there is no speak of a higher presence, than they are none the wiser.

**END MINOR SPOILER**

The book exaggerates the flaws of modern society in that it shows how conditioning– even something as simple as training your children to believe in God– affects a person more than natural instincts. The novel satirically shows the ease that a person could fall into ignorance, and it brings up the question: is it easier? Sure with the knowledge we have now we think that a life of unawareness would be terrible, but it would be blissful if we didn’t know of anything more. Huxley shows the danger of an all-powerful state and the use of technology to control its people, referencing an over-the-top version of modern society. He degrades sex to an extreme in which it becomes as casual as conversation– even in children– to show that sex has been taken out of context in modern society and is not synonymous with love.

There are so many moral points that Huxley brings up in this book, which is the real reason why it’s a modern classic. The entirety of the plot is not fast-paced or riveting, but the questions that he instills in the readers and his satirical critique of society cause the book to captivate its audience.

4 Stars