Summer reading recommendations from the Perspective

These are books. You should think about reading more of them. Probably.

These are books. You should think about reading more of them. Probably.


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According to reliable academic research, the average high school student loses 10,045 brain cells during summer break. Incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors will struggle to regain those cells while fumbling through their core classes while next year’s college freshmen and working professionals will find themselves stumbling through conversations about quadratic equations and the joys of reading Balzac in the original French, losing their mojo points with every mispronounced élan.

Also according to experts, since last November, copies of George Orwell’s classic dystopia Nineteen Eighty-Four are selling like crazy, and what with the new Hulu series, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is also drawing further study and sales. Apparently, America wants to read bleak novels about a grim, cheerless future where our freedom is stolen and we are controlled like cattle.

What to do? Here’s some reading to keep you on the edge. Warning: These are all depressing, overwhelmingly negative takes on life and the universal human struggle.

Have a great summer!

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We: A Russian inspiration for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, this dystopia envisions a world where everyone is assigned numbers, all live in glass houses so as to enable permanent surveillance (this was before electronics, remember) and dissidents struggle to put their thoughts into words so as to even make the notion of rebellion a possibility. Hulu’s new miniseries is already taking up plenty of online discussion. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to dip your toe in the water with an offhand comment about how “Zamyatin’s infinite revolution was a more positive spin on such nihilistic bromides as ’We are all doomed’”? And watch everyone gape in amazement at your savior faire.

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle: A couple of sisters live in a decrepit mansion, fending off meddlesome town residents sniffing scandal and bad behavior in the wake of a family death. Shades of the film Stoker and Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden. Jackson, famous for her short story “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House, gives the term “feral” a new meaning in this genuinely creepy novel as we see characters who should be out baying at the moon somehow manage to manipulate and maneuver each other mercilessly.

Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son: Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize, this novel is the best fictional window into the totalitarian North Korea as we’re likely to see. Pak Jun Do is a spy, a gulag prisoner, a tool of the state, and a hauntingly real voice narrating the atrocities done to him and done by him, in his service to Kim Jong Il and his murderous, unbalanced regime. The way things are going now, expect a surge in visa applications from curious Westerners wanting to see how much of this is “for real.” 

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Summer reading recommendations from the Perspective