Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Yet another list, this one with a twist

The fact is, no one needs another best-of list telling you how great The Great Gatsby is. What we do need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books—new or old, fiction or nonfiction—open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways.

Newsweek has a list of 50 books we should be reading right now, and why we should be reading them. Interesting stuff. 1 children's book (Dark is Rising) but only 6 written by women.

What book do you think people should be reading right now? I nominate Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding. It (rather unfairly) gets called "Bridget Jones goes to Africa" but underneath the romantic subplot and the humor, we see how crazy celebrities are, how hard it is to get money to do good in the world, and how often the rules we make to help only end up hurting further.

I read this book six or seven years ago, and I'm still struck how people living in the refugee camp weren't allowed to plant food because no body wanted them putting down roots (both literal and metaphorical.) The aid agency was running out of funds and didn't have enough food and everyone could forsee another famine coming. The people wanted to help themselves, they didn't want to be totally dependent on charity and foreign aid, but they weren't allowed to do the very things that needed to get done.

Plus, it's just hilarious.


Anonymous said...

Ok I used to love Newsweek, and read it every week, until the new format. BUT, Things Fall Apart... Not a must read. In my thoughts, a way too loved and praised book. I understand it broke barriers but it was not good. sigh.

Jennie said...

I totally disagree.

Not good how? I mean I didn't like it (although I did like the months following when all we did was tell jokes about Okonkwo and his many yams) but I wouldn't say it wasn't a good book.

More than that though, it's an unbelievably important book, and not just because of the barriers it broke and the messages and ideas are still very important and relevant today.

Unknown said...

I've not read the entire list yet, but....

Things Fall Apart is a wonderful book, in my view, but why should we be reading it now? I'd go with Half of a Yellow Sun instead.

I had a group of five boys, students in my 7th grade English class, read The Dark is Rising and that all hated it. Really hated it. I tried to read myself and found it very tough going. Have you read it?

To make a list like that today and have only 6 women on it is a bit shameful, too.

Jennie said...

I can't speak to if Half a Yellow Sun is a better choice, because I haven't read that one yet.

I do think Things Fall Apart is still important because we're still dealing with the culture-clash and colonial attitudes that shaped Africa.

As for Dark is Rising, I haven't read it. (I am going to start listening to it tonight though). I do know that lots of my friends read and loved it in 5-7th grades.