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Read a book, celebrate National Book Month

Book reviews in recognition of January being National Book Month (part 2)

January 1, 2018

‘Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland’
by Lewis Carroll

alice in wonderland

Megan Quint/Staff Illustration

Review by
Megan Quint/
Staff Writer

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll is an imaginative children’s novel that has had a lasting impact on society. Originally published in 1865, it tells the story of a young girl named Alice who falls into a rabbit hole and enters an imaginary “Wonderland” filled with strange anthropomorphic creatures, nonsensical poems and riddles.

Alice must navigate through Wonderland to try and find her way home – seeking advice from a hookah-smoking caterpillar, getting directions from the Cheshire cat, attending a “mad” tea party with the March Hare and Hatter, playing croquet using a flamingo with the Queen of Hearts, and trying to figure out “why is a raven like a writing desk?”

It is a must-read for anyone who enjoys stretching their sense of logic by reading a story rich with satire and symbolism — and for fans of the animated Walt Disney and live-action Tim Burton-directed film adaptations. Want more? Read the lesser-known sequel to the book, “Through the Looking-Glass.”

‘Ticket to Childhood’
by  Nhat Anh Nguyen

Hannah Nguyen/Staff Illustration

Review by
Hannah Nguyen

“One day, I suddenly realized that life is dull and boring.” Every child has had those thoughts, but adults rarely remember. That’s how the “Ticket To Childhood” by Nhat Anh Nguyen, starts.

This book can be appreciated simply because it combines the innocent thoughts of a child and the wisdom of an experienced adult. As the author writes on the back of the book, “I do not write this book for children, I write for those who were children.” The adult reader enters a time machine when reading the book, as children can see the present, but adults can see the past. The tone is simple, yet precise, emotional and mischievous. Anh uses these features to compare how humans ironically lose themselves when they grow up, which draws readers into an enjoyable journey—a journey back
to childhood.

The journey starts when the narrator was an eight-year-old boy named Mui. He recounts his childhood spent with his four best friends. In their world, the world of the children, they do “childish” things that no adults can understand, but also the world that every adult has experienced. There is a court for parents, a school that teaches 1+1=3, a language that only children can understand. The story also describes the adult world, a completely opposite world. Both worlds have the same phenomena but depending on being a kid or a grownup, the observer looks through different lenses.

Nhat Anh Nguyen, via his work, shows then grownups how they used to “childishly” live in their own childhood.

The beauty of ‘Ticket To Childhood” is that it succeeds in integrating two prisms, and thus brings two distinct worlds closer together. Or rather, those who have been children can once again remember their own childhood, enabling them to understand more about children and also about themselves.

‘Dune’
by Frank Herbert

Review by
Justin Ngo/Staff Writer

dunenovels.com/Courtesy Photo

If you’re looking for a good science fiction book to read, “Dune” is one I recommend for you. It was first published in August 1965. The beginning of the book is at first a little difficult in immersing within, but the world building in the story develops similar to Tolkien and pays off with reading experience. The world of “Dune” incorporates elements of fantasy and science fiction like noble houses and creatures like sand-worms and themes of capitalism and environmental science.

The story includes aspects of real world religions of the Abrahamic faith and mystical spiritualism like the Orange Catholic Bible, Fremen, and Bene Gesserit. The story also takes the conventional hero’s journey through a dark exploration of themes like prophecy and free-will. Through Herbert’s detailed writing and story-building, the characters of “Dune” go through interesting character arcs and provide for intriguing commentary on politics and feminism.

The characters of “Dune” themselves feel genuine and real like George R.R. Martin’s characters in “Game of Thrones” and the prose of which provides an insightful tone.

“Paradise Lost” by John Milton

illustration

Wikimedia Commons/Gustave Doré/Courtesy Illustration
Illustration for John Milton’s “Paradise Lost“ engraved by Gustave Doré.

Review by
Craig T. Hiblar/Contributing Writer

Paradise Lost is an epic poem written by the 17th century English writer John Milton (1608-1674). Milton’s poem, which was published in 1667, is considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces in English literature. Paradise Lost is an epic that can be compared to Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. When Paradise Lost was published, it consisted of twelve books and over ten thousand lines of verse. What makes this poem so unique is not only its length but the fact that Milton was completely blind when he wrote it. Being able to read and understand Milton’s poem is to understand the state of religious flux in 17th century England. This was the time of the Reformation when the Catholic church was challenged by the rise of Protestantism. As a faithful Protestant, Milton wrote Paradise Lost to, in his own words, “justify the ways of God”.

Paradise Lost is a Biblical epic about Satan’s rebellion against God and his expulsion from Heaven to rule in Hell. Satan then causes the Fall of Man by setting out to destroy Adam and Eve, God’s creation, by causing them to sin and be cast out of the Garden of Eden. The poem also describes how God had advance knowledge of Satan’s plans to cause the Fall of Man and how his son Jesus volunteered to take the form of man and die to save God’s creation from sin and eternal damnation. The conclusion of Paradise Lost finds Adam and Eve being escorted out of Eden by the angel Michael. Michael shows Adam a vision of the future birth of Christ who will be the savior of Man. Meanwhile, Satan and his followers are punished by God for causing the Fall of Man. They are all turned into serpents, the form that Satan took, to beguile Adam and Eve into eating from the Tree of Knowledge.

Reading Milton can be a real intellectual challenge. Like the plays of William Shakespeare, Paradise Lost requires the full attention of the reader. In fact, the best way to read Milton is to read the poem orally. To speak the words of Paradise Lost out loud is to feel the power of the poem’s words. The poem can take several days to read. The reader should not be in a rush to read Milton. One or two pages a day will help the reader to understand how much faith that Milton put into God and the Bible. Anybody who wishes to study the literature of 17th century England should read Paradise Lost by John Milton, one of the greatest English poets of his time.

 

 

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