Book Review: “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway

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I was in eighth grade when I fell violently and happily into Ernest Hemingway’s writing. We were reading his famous novella, The Old Man and The Sea, and I remember everyone in my class hating it. I loved it, though. Here we were, reading what I understood as literature, and not only was it about an interesting subject (a washed-up fisherman trying desperately to catch and keep a giant fish alone in the open ocean), but it was accessible. My eyes flew over the pages, and I couldn’t stop myself from getting lost in the words.

Authors have been trying to write like Hemingway for years for a reason: his writing is legible. You can understand what he’s trying to say. It’s that brilliant writing that not only says something worthwhile or meaningful but says it in a way that you can grasp without having to open up a dictionary.

Hemingway was my favorite author until I became a feminist and started reading Haruki Murakami (who is not a feminist, either, but I still like him). Hemingway isn’t known for writing well about women, and he wasn’t always the best in his relationships with women in real life. Still, I come back to his books because they have something to say, even if it isn’t always my favorite way of saying it. Plus, it’s a joy to read stories that are well-written but still easy on my tired eyes and blessedly not that long. That’s why I decided to re-read The Sun Also Rises during quarantine.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Sun Also Rises gets right: I’ve read this book maybe twice, when I was in high school and wanted to read everything Hemingway had ever written. I’ve got to say that reading it as an adult was very different. Suddenly all of the subtext made sense to me, and not really in a good way. For example, one of the main characters, Brett, is impulsive and promiscuous, hurting every man in her path. However, when we learn about her background as a victim of domestic abuse, her current actions seem like coping mechanisms instead of just selfishness. Hers is a sad story- in fact, most of the characters in this book are sad due to their physical and emotional scars from past problems. That’s why they treat one another so badly.

Although it made for a sad read, it was good to learn more about each character and put two-and-two together about the hints that Hemingway left in this book. The main themes are unrequited love, struggling with feelings of uselessness, dealing with alcohol addiction, and the thrills of traveling and experiencing other cultures. You will feel like you, too, are in Spain with this wild group of people- for better or for worse.

 

What The Sun Also Rises gets wrong: This book is infamous for the characters’ anti-Semitic views. Even if it is an accurate representation of the time, it’s still not fun to read about the slurs and racism shown toward the Jewish character, Robert Cohn.

There are a few minor characters who are black, but they are more stereotypical caricatures than real people, and this “casual” racism will make you squirm. A racial slur is used to reference the black characters.

 

Who should read The Sun Also Rises: Fans of crisp writing, weird characters that are loosely based on real people, lots of drama, and the 1920s.

 

Who shouldn’t read The Sun Also Rises: If you didn’t like F. Scott Fizgerald’s The Great Gatsby, don’t read this one. It’s similar to Gatsby in that it’s about a group of people with annoying habits and problems that they don’t communicate well about. It’s an examination of a generation that people now don’t know much about personally- we only really know them and their struggles through books like this.

 

The Sun Also Rises is available at the library.

Content note: violence (in particular, bullfighting), racism, some suggestive scenes (which are mostly inferred or referenced in conversation), language, substance abuse.

Top 5 Faculty Development Books

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Professors use books in the Faculty Development section for research, teaching advice, college statistics, personality theory, leadership, and more. This section is located on the library’s second floor. The following 5 books have been checked out the most from the Faculty Development section in the past 2 years.

*Book descriptions are provided by the publishers c/o the library catalog

 

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon

From a passionate and talented chef who also happens to be an Episcopalian priest comes this surprising and thought-provoking treatise on everything from prayer to poetry to puff pastry. In The Supper of the Lamb, Capon talks about festal and ferial cooking, emerging as an inspirational voice extolling the benefits and wonders of old-fashioned home cooking in a world of fast food and prepackaged cuisine.

 

The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

Witty and filled with stories, this book allows you to peek inside each of the nine Enneagram types, keeping you turning the pages long after you have read the chapter about your own number. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will also start to see the world through other people’s eyes, understanding how and why people think, feel, and act the way they do.

 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life.

 

Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Textbook Authorship and Higher Education Publishing by Mary Ellen Lepionka

Includes chapters on the college textbook industry, writing to reach your true audience, and more!

 

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard, one of today’s most brilliant Christian thinkers and author of The Divine Conspiracy, presents a way of living that enables ordinary men and women to enjoy the fruit of the Christian life. He reveals how the key to self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest. The Spirit of the Disciplines is for everyone who strives to be a disciple of Jesus in thought and action as well as intention.

 

 

Book Review: “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

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Donna Tartt is the bestselling author of The Goldfinch, The Little Friend, and The Secret History. Each of these novels involves suspense and intense character studies.

The Secret History is about an eclectic group of college students who find themselves in a lot of trouble as close-kept secrets are revealed.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Secret History gets right: Terrible people doing terrible things? Check. Secrets, murder, drugs, and pagan rituals? Check. An engrossing setting, to the point that you feel like you are actually in the book? Check.

Donna Tartt is excellent at drawing you in to the world that she’s created. Right away, you are introduced to a bizarre crime, and the rest of the book has you scrambling to figure out how the story ends up there.

Any book with an unreliable narrator is going to have your brain spinning, but few books do this quite so well as The Secret History. A lot of the book’s events and character development is seen through the eyes of someone who slowly begins to realize that he doesn’t really know that much about anything after all. This allows the reader to piece together the puzzle, and guess what? Some of it is entirely up to your imagination! I guessed several twists accurately throughout the book, but there were a few that weren’t fully explained (such as the characters’ true motivations and feelings).

Reading about Richard, the story’s narrator, and his university experiences in Hampden reminded me of both my own time in college and the college students that I manage at work. I loved seeing the dichotomy between Richard and his friends’ great intellect and their terrible decision-making and lifestyle habits. How can they be so intelligent as to speak to each other in Latin one minute and then try to live in a freezing warehouse in the middle of a Vermont winter the next? Honestly, this dichotomy is pretty realistic for what I recall of myself and my friends in that stage of life.

Richard wanting to be a part of the strange but exotic Greek students group is a relatable feeling. It can be hard to find your place in a new environment; however, you don’t want to pick the wrong group of people that everyone else warns you about (as Richard inevitably does). Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla, and Bunny are in turns fascinating, terrifying, hilarious, and deeply disturbing people; as Richard gets sucked further and further into their sordid lives, so do we.

In spite of the sometimes flowery prose and the pretentious characters who are spouting Greek one moment and stoned out of their minds the next, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a testament to Donna Tartt’s writing that she made such unlikable characters and their various crimes so intriguing and their college, despite its obvious flaws, so nostalgic.

What The Secret History gets wrong: Most of the characters in this book are unlikable. It’s kind of like a modern The Great Gatsby in that way- still a great story, but you may get annoyed by how pretentious and selfish the characters are. (Side note: the main character’s favorite book is The Great Gatsby because he identifies with Jay Gatsby, which is hilarious because he is totally a Nick Carraway instead.)

Who should read The Secret History: Readers who enjoy academia, mythology, suspense, crime, and literary writing.

Who shouldn’t read The Secret History: Readers who are looking for a shorter, faster-paced story. It’s easy to get lost in the world of The Secret History, but the plot does take a while to develop. This is a dark story that explores the evil in human nature, so if you’re looking for a light read, don’t pick this one up yet.

 

The Secret History is available in our Recreational Reading section at the library.

Content note: violence; sexual content (most of which happens off-screen); moments of racism, homophobia, and sexism from a few characters; lots of substance abuse; pagan rituals. Reader discretion is advised.

Top 5 Books Over 500 Pages Long

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Ah, the indoors: a perfect place to crack open a good book. What with the extra time spent indoors these days, a really long book could be a productive way to stay busy. If a long book for long weeks at home sounds ideal to you, take a look at our list of lengthy tomes below and get reading!

 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

*Available as an eBook

Pages: 850+

Basic plot: A restless woman starts an affair that leads to high-society drama; Tolstoy’s views on Russian politics and philosophy coincides with an examination of a landowner’s life.

For readers who like: drama, politics, Russian history, and characters with multiple names.

 

East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

Pages: 601

Basic plot: Two brothers struggle with their rivalry and family secrets in a reflection of Cain and Abel.

For readers who like: sociopathic villains, intense dialogue, and major catharsis.

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

*Available as an eBook.

Pages: Depending on the publisher, around 400 or 500

Basic plot: A diligent woman with a hard and lonely upbringing goes to work for a mysterious, wealthy man who has a lot of secrets.

For readers who like: suspense, romance, a hint of the supernatural, and lots of plot twists.

 

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Pages: 1000+

Basic plot: A math teacher and an assassin attempt to cross time and space to find each other.

For readers who like: magical realism, science fiction, espionage, and romance.

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Pages: 784

Basic plot: A boy steals a famous painting for personal reasons and becomes involved in the art underground.

For readers who like: coming-of-age stories, suspense, and vivid descriptions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading List: Poetry

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Most poems can be read in one sitting, but their meaning may stay way with you forever. If you’re a fan of poetry, check out the poetry collections below. Some are eBooks that you can read from home, and others are print books that are available at the library.

 

Questions About Angels by Billy Collins (eBook)

Billy Collins – winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, veteran of a one-hour Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, and a guest on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion – arrives at Random House with the poetic equivalent of a Greatest Hits album, seasoned with some wonderful new numbers. Read our review here.

 

American Primitive by Mary Oliver

50 lyrical poems by the author express renewal of humanity in love and oneness with the natural.

 

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes

The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of invisible men and women: of slaves who “rushed the boots of Washington”; of musicians on Lenox Avenue; of the poor and the lovesick; of losers in “the raffle of night.” They conveyed that experience in a voice that blended the spoken with the sung, that turned poetic lines into the phrases of jazz and blues, and that ripped through the curtain separating high from popular culture.

 

The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes

Contains in sequence all the poetry written by the author from 1956 until her suicide in 1963, together with fifty selections from her pre-1956 work.

 

New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdich

This anthology gathers poets of diverse ages, styles, languages, and tribal affiliations to present the extraordinary range and power of new Native poetry.

 

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The Varorium Edition of the Poems of W.B. Yeats by W.B. Yeats

This book contains the complete poems of Irish author and activist W.B. Yeats. Yeats’ poetry speaks of love, nature, politics, and myths.

 

Selected Poetry by Victor Hugo and Steven Monte (eBook, includes poems in French and English)

This generous, varied selection of poems by one of France’s best-loved and most reviled poets is presented with facing originals, detailed notes, and a lively introduction to the author’s life and work. Steven Monte presents more than eighty poems in translation and in the original French, taken from the earliest poetic publications of the 1820’s, through collections published during exile, to works published in the years following Hugo’s death in 1883.

 

The Woman I Kept To Myself: Poems by Julia Alvarez

The Dominican-American writer presents a collection of autobiographical poems, each comprising three 10-line stanzas.

 

The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop

A collection of 149 poems by the author.

 

Selected Poetry, 1937-1990 by João Cabral de Melo Neto (eBook, includes poems in Portuguese and English)

Brings together a representative selection of the work of one of Brazil’s most respected poets, including many poems published in English for the first time.

People’s Choice Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

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Recently, I asked the Union community via Instagram to pick a book for me to review (these are the kind of fun shenanigans I’ve been up to while working from home). The choices were Race Matters, The Sun Also Rises, and The Handmaid’s Tale.  Each of these books are available at the library, so patrons can read the review and then pick out the book. The votes came in, and The Handmaid’s Tale was chosen!

Spoiler-free description of The Handmaid’s Tale: a woman in a dogmatic society, the Republic of Gilead, must play the hated role of a Handmaid while grappling with memories of a past life.

I first read The Handmaid’s Tale a year or two ago. I’d heard of it before, and as the show based on the book gained more media attention, the buzz put the book back on my radar (although I still haven’t watched the show). I remember reading The Handmaid’s Tale as fast as my eyes could skim the words- the story was so engrossing and equal parts mind-numbingly sad and frustrating. As soon as I finished, I handed the book over to my husband, and he also read it blazingly fast. I strongly believe that The Handmaid’s Tale is a book by women, for women (and it attracts a largely female audience because it’s talking about female experiences, and boys don’t read “girl” books starting at an early age). But this story is also very much for men, too. In fact, I wish more men would read The Handmaid’s Tale.

Let’s get one thing straight about The Handmaid’s Tale before we dive in to the review: this is a book about a very messed up society. If you’ve kept up with author Margaret Atwood at all, then you know that she is obviously not promoting the mistreatment of women with this book. She is fighting against it in real life by showing how terrible it is in fiction. This is one of those books where some really rough acts and crimes are committed, but that doesn’t mean that the book is promoting this kind of behavior- it’s actually the exact opposite. Yet, The Handmaid’s Tale still winds up on banned book lists because people are afraid to read about real problems (that’s just my opinion there, but hey, this is a book review, so most of this is my opinion).

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Handmaid’s Tale gets right: This is a very insulated story. It’s told from one woman’s perspective, and since she’s been subjected to brainwashing and abuse, sometimes her perspective is shocking. A lot of books about crazy government regimes focus on the politics or the activists, but this book zeroes in on one Handmaid’s story. I love that. It’s so much more personal and relatable than if we had 300+ pages about every terrible law that Gilead passed.

The Handmaid’s Tale is fictional. Some might call it satire, but it’s also a warning to the real world. Sometimes you can reach a wider audience by instilling your values and fears into fiction, and Atwood does this beautifully in The Handmaid’s Tale. A very paraphrased and basic version of her message is this: women are equal to men, but a lot of societies don’t treat them this way; biological differences are often used by those in power to subjugate women; and systemic oppression is wrong. As a feminist, I appreciate these messages being brought to the general public in the form of a story- this makes hard facts and opinions more accessible to everyone.

What The Handmaid’s Tale gets wrong: There are some slower parts to the book, but honestly you probably won’t notice. You’ll be too caught up in how awful Gilead is. Also, there’s a cliffhanger and we had to wait over 30 years for a sequel. So, if you’re just now picking up this book, you will be excited to know that you can read The Testaments right after (and you can read my review of The Testaments here).

Who should read The Handmaid’s Tale: Readers who enjoy dystopian books, feminist literature, and finally knowing what all of the hype is about.

Who shouldn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale: Younger audiences should wait until they are mature enough for the heavy content.

The Handmaid’s Tale is available as a print book at the library.

Content note: there are scenes of rape and abuse all throughout the book. Reader discretion is advised.

Logos Links: March 2020

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Library team members Amber Wessies and Olivia Chin have searched the Internet for the best book, movie, and library-related links. Learn more about library news around the world below.

 

Resources For Libraries On Coronavirus

How can libraries be prepared for coronavirus? What can libraries do to help educate their patrons and prevent fake news from spreading? This article is a helpful resource for the current times.

 

Human Libraries: Turning The Page On Discrimination

The intent behind “human libraries” is more of a conversation than a presentation. The people who are telling their stories sit at different tables and other people can come up to them/sit with them and just have a conversation.

 

How To Source Your Academic Paper

This helpful post explores how to find online resources for students and serves as a guide to evaluating each source.

 

Tennessee Becomes Second State To Propose “Parental Review Boards” For Public Libraries

Why have parental review boards when public libraries already have measures and committees in place for challenges to their content? Sounds like a waste of taxpayer money and unnecessary censorship to me!

 

Tell Me Your Story: Narrative Inquiry In LIS Research

We cannot get to these sorts of things [the experience of being a person] with analytics and systems. We have to get to this kind of information by engaging in practices that bring us in contact with people. We have to talk to them, we have to observe them, we have to ask questions, we have to not just take their word for it when they say they do something, but we have to dig deeper and find out what they actually mean.

Everyone has a story to tell. And you have a response to every story you hear. How does your response impact your research? That is the basis behind narrative inquiry or story research.

 

Finding The Finals Fairy

A university in Maryland uses a Finals Fairy for de-stressing in the library for finals weeks. The librarians, library staff, and volunteers hide random dollar store items throughout the library for students to find. They post clues on social media and then ask students to post if they find the prize. They do it at different intervals during each day of finals. The last day they do a grand prize that could be something like an ereader or gift card to a restaurant. They hide a winning in a book and post a picture of the spines.

 

 

 

Top 5 Beach Reads For Spring Break

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With spring break comes much-needed time away from school and (hopefully) some beautiful weather! If you find yourself with some free time this spring break, you may want to pick back up the tried-and-true habit of “reading for fun.” We’ve compiled a list of the best “beach read” books in the library so that you can read by the water this break (or travel to fun places through the world of literacy, even if you’re still in your dorm)!

 

Out Of Africa by Isak Dineson

Author Isak Dinesen, whose real name is Karen Blixen, tells her story of the 17 years she ran a coffee farm in Kenya, Africa. This book is a well-written classic that will take you to new places.

 

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

From the author of the bestseller The Girl On The Train, Into The Water is a tale of suspense and mystery. When two people turn up dead in the local river, who will discover their stories?

 

The Paris Wife by Paul McLain

What would it be like to be married to a struggling author in a new city? Historical fiction fans may enjoy this novel’s fictionalized look at the life of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, with a focus on their time in Paris.

 

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig

On a remote island estate, Annaleigh Thaumas, the sixth-born of twelve sisters, enlists the aid of an alluring stranger to unravel the family curse before it claims her life. This retelling of a Grimm Brothers tale is hauntingly interesting.

 

Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Dive into the world of magical realism with Marquez’s unique storytelling. These short stories will keep you interested without taking up all of your vacation time.

Book Review: “I Wear The Black Hat” by Chuck Klosterman

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Have you ever thought about why we enjoy watching a good villain onscreen? Or why some people enjoy bands or public figures who go against social norms?

In I Wear The Black Hat: Grappling With Villains (Real or Imagined), journalist Chuck Klosterman examines the concept of villainy and what makes us so interested in villains. According to Klosterman:

The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.

Following this definition of a villain, the book continues to look at examples from both real life and pop culture of villains and how the general public reacts to them. It’s written in the format of loosely connected essays.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What I Wear The Black Hat gets right: The quest to understand and analyze human nature is enjoyable to read about. Klosterman obviously did a lot of research (and watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books) to put together these ideas. His tone is often funny, but sometimes he dives into more serious musings that will quickly make you somber.

My favorite essay by far was about Batman and Bernhard Goetz. I would love to see an updated version that includes the movie Joker, as it deals with the same themes of controversial vigilantism.

What I Wear The Black Hat does wrong: There are moments where Klosterman goes off on rabbit trails. He has hilarious examples to prove his points, but sometimes he goes a little too far and forgets what he was originally writing about.

A personal (and completely arbitrary) reason that I disliked parts of the book: Klosterman admits to hating R.E.M. in 1988. As someone who literally still runs an R.E.M. lyrics Twitter account that I started years ago for no particular reason, hating R.E.M. is just unacceptable to me. At least he admits to learning to love R.E.M. and even claiming them as one of his favorite bands now, but still. How could you start off hating them?

Who should read I Wear The Black Hat: People who love a good, complex villain in fiction (and people who don’t understand why anyone would love a villain). Readers who enjoy philosophy, pop culture, history, music, and current events.

Who shouldn’t read I Wear The Black Hat: If you’re not interested in nonfiction essays, don’t pick this one up.

 

I Wear The Black Hat is currently available at the library.

Content note: Acts of villainy are described (including real-life, violent crimes).

Reading List: Science Fiction

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Space, experiments, artificial intelligence, aliens, genetics: science fiction is a fascinating genre where almost anything can happen. We have both science fiction classics (like Jurassic Park) and new science fiction (like The Martian) available at the library. Skim through this list to find your next sci-fi read!

*book descriptions are from the library website and/or the publishers

 

2001, A Space Odyssey by Arthur Clarke

This allegory about humanity’s exploration of the universe and the universe’s reaction to humanity was the basis for director Stanley Kubrick’s immortal film, and lives on as a landmark achievement in storytelling.

 

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Through journal entries, sixteen-year-old Miranda describes her family’s struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon, causing worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

 

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

For twelve thousand years, the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future–to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years.

 

Contact by Carl Sagan

Astrophysicist Rebecca Blake deciphers long-awaited signals from space, persuades world leaders to construct a machine that many consider a Trojan Horse, and journeys into space for an epochal encounter.

 

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Timeline by Michael Crichton

A Yale history professor travels back in time to 15th century France and gets stuck, unable to return to the present. His colleagues organize a rescue and upon landing in France become involved in the Hundred Years War.

 

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South.

 

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin

Eighteen-year-old Eli discovers a shocking secret about his life and his family while working for a Nobel Prize-winning scientist whose specialty is genetic engineering.

 

Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Charlie, realizing his intelligence is not what it should be, ponders over the possibility of an operation, similar to one making a mouse into a genius.

 

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

In a future world baked dry by the sun and divided into those who live inside the wall and those who live outside it, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone is forced into a difficult choice when her parents are arrested and taken into the city.

 

To find more science fiction books and movies, explore the “science fiction” subject through our library catalog.