Book Recommendations: The Classics

Do you have a little more time on your hands, now that classes are online and summer is just around the corner? If you are looking for some book recommendations, here are some from the Writing Center tutors!

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If you still haven’t read some of these classic books, now might be the right time! Or, even if you have read them before, there is nothing wrong with revisiting a good book. 

1. The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered by some people to be one of the greatest American books of the 20th century. There are also several movie adaptations you can watch to compare it to, the most recent the 2013 film directed by Baz Luhrmann and staring Leonardo DiCaprio. 

2. Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice is another classic novel by one of the greatest female writers of all time, Jane Austen. Once again, this classic romance has numerous movie and television adaptions to watch too.

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God

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An excellent book by the great African American female writer Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a book everyone can enjoy. There is also an excellent film adaptation directed by Darnell Martin and staring Halle Berry. 

A Most Beseeching Proposal

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It’s November 20th! This date may not be of particular significance to you, but it is the same day that Mr. Collins’ proposed to protagonist Elizabeth in Jane Austen’s ‘Pride & Prejudice.’ Now, I am going to propose an idea to you, which you may vehemently reject – in the same vein Elizabeth did poor Mr. Collins – if you so desire. Yet, I profess to you, most eloquent and admirable reader, that I have just as much persistence and determination as the latter to make you believe this most illuminating idea.

It is common conjecture in the literary world that Mr. Darcy’s standoffish and rude manners stem from a quality of awkwardness. Perchance, this version of Mr. Darcy is easier to reconcile with the dashing and romantic man that the movies portray. Certainly, this version of Mr. Darcy is easier to forgive than the man who thought others so beneath him he had no qualms in telling them so and who interfered in his relations’ relationships based on this prerogative. Yet, our astute protagonist never did allow the trait of awkwardness as a pass for his horrible (not simply rude) words and actions – and I assert that the reader should not either.

Mr. Darcy’s character arc (that is, what he overcomes) is represented by the first half of the title ‘Pride & Prejudice.’ Notice, Austen did not entitle her work ‘Awkwardness & Prejudice,’ a title that would render Mr. Darcy’s transformation much less drastic than it truly is. The reader is supposed to be taken on a journey of understanding and forgiveness along with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth; the central theme of the story is about the power of love as a driver of inward change and pardon. The reader can indeed make no excuses for the horribly prideful man Mr. Darcy is at the beginning of the story – and by the end, still view him as favorably, or even better, than when excuse had been made.

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From pixabay.com

Mr. Darcy was not a man so inept at interacting with others that he did not know rules of conduct and words to refrain from to avoid giving offense. When Wickham shares information with Elizabeth about Mr. Darcy’s connections, he describes him as believing that “everyone connected with him should have an understanding of the first class” (73). Well, dear reader, what does it mean for someone to be “understanding of the first class?” Other than knowing the level of propriety required and the activities customarily taken up by these members of society, I am quite sure this “understanding” also involves not giving offense. I do not think that “first class” members are exempt from the ability of being snubbed. This point means that Mr. Darcy must refrain from speaking the things less kind to people such as Lady Catherine de Borough and Miss. Bingley. Think with me now of when Elizabeth visits Netherfield and observes Miss Bingley speaking steadfastly on to Mr. Darcy as he writes a letter to his sister. The clipped tone of Mr. Darcy’s replies suggests enough about his being perturbed, but no word is directly spoken to bring insult to Miss Bingley station of life or to suppose her inferior to him. Furthermore, when Mr. Darcy later exposes the faults of Mr. Bingley, he does so in a playful manner, making sure to smile and tease his friend at the close of the ordeal. When Lady Catherine recounts to the whole dinner table at Rosing’s that Elizabeth is free to come practice playing the pianoforte every day,  Mr. Darcy “looked a little ashamed of his aunt’s ill breeding, and made no answer” (148). He may find her offer too forward, but he would not dare tell her so or even to voice his opinion in a ‘light-hearted’ quip. You see, most intelligent friend, with all these people – Miss Bingley, Mr. Bingley, Lady Catherine – there was something for Mr. Darcy to lose: amity and purposeful connection to the movers-and-shakers of town. These people are refined, dignified, and deemed important, so Mr. Darcy stays hushed and relents from exposing the true feelings he harbors inside. If only he could be persuaded to choose his mode of conduct based on a law of kindness rather than the judgement of high-society. But hearken, most humble and learning student! He does learn to do so over time, as I have told you, and your admiration for him can thus flow unrestrained.

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From pixabay.com

Elizabeth is as astute a person I have ever read about, and I am sure she would have been able to link a quality of awkwardness to his harsh words and feelings of superiority – should that have made any sense at all. There is a quote that all pre-Pemberley-Mr. Darcy-absolvers want to point to: “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never met before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done (149).” Does Elizabeth then feel as though she understands his whole character? Perhaps so, if she had said something to the tune of “Oh, Mr. Darcy! Your inaptitude to speak with strangers is the reason you called me barely tolerable within earshot and thought it your place to split my beloved sister with her beloved suitor – how silly of me!” No, that is quite preposterous of us to think she would say. Rather, Elizabeth brings up how she does not employ her time to practice playing the piano, and thus she is not very proficient in doing so. In the same light, she is suggesting that Mr. Darcy practice conversing with strangers in order to improve his social graces – little is said about his character thus being made better. I remind you, dear reader, that there is nothing wrong in forgiving Mr. Darcy, but it is not good practice (I digress, excuse me) to simply paint over another’s weaknesses in order to make them more pleasing to us.

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From pixabay.com

Mr. Darcy is clearly unaware of how to engage with a woman so keen and challenging as Elizabeth – but did he really have to insult her as he explained his intrigue? After Mr. Darcy’s first confession of love to Elizabeth, in which he openly shared his feelings about her family, Elizabeth objects, “I might as well inquire…why with so evident a design of offending and insulting me you chose to tell me that you liked me against your will, against your reason, and even against your character? (161-162)” Granted, dear reader, she inquires so after knowing Mr. Darcy struggles in social situations. Yet, she still thinks she should “as well inquire” as to the audacity of sharing such brazen and offensive things as he did about her family during his proposal to her. She goes on to state she sees in him “arrogance…conceit…[and] selfish disdain of the feelings of others” (164). I understand that Elizabeth’s part of the story involves prejudice and that we learn more of the truth with Mr. Darcy later on – however, one uses body language around others, separates themselves from others, and speaks of others does generate a good idea of any kind of pomp that lies within. Since you ask, this is advice I would have given to Mr. Darcy: “Oh, so I see you are falling in love with the clever and enchanting Elizabeth. What is this? She is so unique to everyone else, but you are struggling with the situation of her family? Why, my dear friend – what is intelligence if it is not moving away from these old ideas of classist structures? Speak to Elizabeth in kind words of what she means to you. You will learn to love her family as well. Or at least barely tolerate them (*wink*).” You see, most patient reader, just because we come across a new situation, it does not mean that we should bring forth from within ourselves negative reactions. Mayhap, Mr. Darcy was afraid of the feelings he was having towards Elizabeth because he would then, for the first time, be connected to a rambunctious group of people (her family). Mr. Darcy could have handled his apprehension with more kindness. Being kind does not involve knowing how to speak perfectly to someone – sometimes, all one must do is remain quiet and learn.

A view of a downward sloping street in England with the village houses made of stone lining the path on the left.
From pixabay.com

Thank you for taking this journey with me, most kind reader! I do hope it was not too taxing of a trip – why, I should think it as easy a road as a walk into Meryton from the Bennets. The material discussed, while I had claimed audacious at the beginning, I most dearly hope you have taken a liking to. One of the things I most admire about you, most excellent friend, is your willingness to learn. Your objections to my word were simply taken as a token of your prompting me to better explain myself. All in all, I know that I have equipped you with the knowledge about not excusing Mr. Darcy, but rather admiring him for his change and growth – as we do with our dear Elizabeth. Take heart, friend! Isn’t the story of life and love all about bearing our mistakes and resolving to improve for the better? How touching. It is a good thing I am already most highly esteemed in the estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Collins recommended me to her, and he is my mentor, you know. Some say we are quite similar. Whatever that means…Farewell, dear reader!

Alessandra | Fall 2020

Spooky Book List

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Although we’re a few days late, the Writing Center wanted to wish you a Happy Spooky Season! Below is a list of nine “spooky” books to keep you in the Halloween spirit. All information and cover photos may be found on the Goodreads website.

  • One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus (Mystery)
    • “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.”
    • If you like this book, you might also like McManus’s other mystery tales Two Can Keep a Secret and One of Us is Next (sequel to One of Us is Lying)
Amazon.com: One of Us Is Lying (9781524714680): McManus, Karen M.: Books
  • A Heart in A Body in the World by Deb Caletti (Suspense/Coming of Age)
    • “When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run? So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.”
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (Romance/Mystery)
    • “After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.”
    • Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16248223-the-ghost-bride?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=qOVWv6ezgB&rank=1
    • Especially good in audiobook format!
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson (Sci-Fi, Horror, Short Story)
    • “When the familiar and seemingly safe turns lethal, therein danger lies. Amid a forest where the shades of the dead linger all around, every homesteader knows to follow the Simple Rules: “Don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, don’t run at night. These things draw shades. Silence Montane has broken all three rules on more than one occasion. And to protect her family from a murderous gang with high bounties on their heads, Silence will break every rule again, at the risk of becoming a shade herself.”
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Ghost Story, or is it?)
    • “Henry James’s chilling ghost story begins when a governess arrives at an English country estate to look two young children, Miles and Flora. At first, everything appears normal then one night a ghost appears before the governess. It is the dead lover of Miss Jessel, the former governess. Later, the ghost of Miss Jessel herself appears before the governess and the little girl. The children, however, adamantly refuse to acknowledge the presence of the two spirits, although there are indications that there is some evil communication between the children and the ghosts.”
  • Recently adapted as the Netflix show “The Haunting of Bly Manor”
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Ghost Story)
    • “It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, the lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”
    • Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/89717.The_Haunting_of_Hill_House?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=IvK84rGuMU&rank=1
    • Recently adapted as the Netflix show “The Haunting of Hill House”

*Note: Some of these books may contain triggers for certain people. If you are worried about certain triggers, please check for trigger warnings before reading.

Danielle | Fall 2020

E-Libraries: The “Facebook” for Readers

A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilsty a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook. – H. P. Lovecraft

Maybe you’ve heard from your English professors that readers make better writers. Well, it’s true. And we’ve all probably seen those “X-number of Benefits from Reading” lists like those on Buzzfeed that explain how reading helps lower stress, potentially slows the effects of Alzheimer’s, increases your ability to empathize with others, and enhances cultural awareness and social sensitivities amongst other benefits. But if you’re working on becoming a better version of your writing self, I recommend increasing your literary intake! Oh, and scientists suggest you read more, too.

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According to Psychology Today, “Neuroscientists have discovered that reading a novel can improve brain function on a variety of levels” (Bergland). A study at Emory University expl
ored the cognitive benefits of reading fiction by scanning brain activity of undergraduates who read a novel over the course of a few weeks. The left temporal cortexes in the students’ brains were highly active and engaged (the area of the brain associated with language cognition). Soooo, what does this mean? Essentially, I just proved to you how reading DOES influence the way you write because you can pick up on other styles of writing and the various ways of using new and familiar words.

In our world today, (the world of iPads, tablet, and ebooks) the process of reading is actually changing…drastically. Not only has the term “book” taken on a new electronic paperless form, but our library and bookstore system is also morphing into something more tech savvy. There is an insane amount of literature available, ebook or paper copy, so how do you even find things you want to read anymore now that everything is virtually, virtual?!

Welcome to the realm of e-libraries! You may have your own Kindle or other virtual library hooked up to your mobile tech devices, but I want to briefly introduce three of my favorite internet “libraries” that allow you to interact with other readers (kinda like Facebook).

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Courtesy of: http://www.punesite.com

  • GOODREADS: Here, you can create your profile and immediately start sifting through hundreds of book lists categorized by any imaginable grouping: YA fiction, Best Cover Art, Books that Should be Movies, Books that Were Better than the Movie, Romance, Dystopian, etc. You and other users can rate these books and write reviews for other users to evaluate as each member crafts his or her own “To Read” list. This is helpful because you can keep track of things you want to read or have read, and peruse what other readers like. I’m a fan.
  • RIFFLEBOOKS: A similar site, Rifflebooks, allows users to navigate lists of books and send recommendations to each other, participate in book discussions, follow other users’ books lists, and “like” books. Rifflebooks, to me, has a very Pinteresty feel in terms of organizing my own lists of books and browsing through others. I like Rifflebooks because I can engage more with other readers, which contributes to the feeling that Rifflebooks is a community of readers actively interacting with one another and their literature.
  • BOOKLIKES: For all of you bloggers out there, here is your book-blog-nerd-heaven. As soon as you sign up, you receive your own website url hosted by Booklikes that you can customize through different templates. You’ll get your own “Bookshelf” that graphically displays all of your books you add through the site. Not only do you get to catalog your books, but you can also write reviews, blog, and connect easily with other bloggers through Booklikes, which is free, polished, and highly functioning.

So there you have it. I’ve outlined three similar yet very different online bookish communities that will allow you to keep up with literature as the ways we encounter books is changing in our techish world. With literature at our fingertips at almost every moment, now keeping track of what we’d like to read is becoming easier as we can adapt and engage with our readings even more. I wish you all the best in your summer reading endeavors!

 

Shannon, peer tutor

 

Bergland, Christopher. “Reading Function Improves Brain Connectivity and Function.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC. Jan. 2014. Web. 29 April 2015.