by Madeleine L’Engle, 1978
narrated by Jennifer Ehle
Alas, the third book in the Time Quintet suffers a little bit from boredom. We’ve moved ahead in the Murry’s lives and find Meg married to Calvin and pregnant with their child. Twins Sandy and Dennys are in law and medical school and Charles Wallace is a teenager. The family has gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Calvin is off in England giving a conference, so they are joined by his mother, Mrs. Branwen Maddox O’Keefe. The dinner is interrupted when Mr. Murry receives a call from the president warning him of impending nuclear war set in motion by the South American dictator known as Mad Dog Branzillo. After Mrs. O’Keefe utters a mysterious rune, we’re off on another adventure in time and space.
by Richard Adams, 1972
My first question about Watership Down is, why did no one ever tell me to read this?! You see, I love bunnies. Aside from Care Bears, I was not a teddy bear kind of kid. I was also never a doll kind of kid and the only dolls I had were ones that other people bought for me and not ones that I asked for. No, I loved bunnies, and it is still one of my greatest regrets that I have yet to adopt a bunny as a pet. I also feel a pang of regret for the fact that my childhood passed without ever reading this adventure tale about a gang of bunnies looking for a new, peaceful home. Society, you have let me down!
by Basma Abdel Aziz, 2013
translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette
In a modern, unnamed Middle Eastern city, a line of people has formed outside a Gate. Stretching for kilometers, the queue is filled with people trying to take care of bureaucratic needs. We meet Ines, a teacher who has been required to receive a Certificate of True Citizenship to continue teaching at her school. We meet Um Mabrouk, who starts selling tea to other members of the queue to make up for the money she is losing from abandoning her job. We meet Shalaby, whose aim is to convince everyone that his cousin is a martyr who should be revered for his actions during the Disgraceful Events. And we meet Yehya Gad el-Rab Saeed who is suffering from a bullet lodged in his pelvis during those same Events. Yehya wants nothing more than to receive a copy of his X-ray showing the bullet and permission to have it removed. Bullets are the property of state and cannot be removed without permission, so Yehya waits, with his peers, in front of a Gate that does not open.
by Joanna Russ, 1975
While my original plan for the “read a classic of genre fiction” task in the Read Harder Challenge was to count my forthcoming reread of Parable of the Sower, I decided to branch out instead and pick up a book I’d been meaning to read for years. The Female Man is a classic of feminist science-fiction. Though she may not be as well-known as the likes of Octavia Butler or Ursula K. Le Guin, Russ’s work has always appeared in discussions of this particular genre. The novel involves four women – really, four iterations of the same woman in various points in time and space. Jeannine lives during the 1930s, Joanna is a 1970s feminist, Janet is from another version of earth called Whileaway that is populated only by women, and Jael, with her metal claws and teeth, hails from a future torn by war between the two genders. This is the story of what happens when they come together.
by Alisha Rai, 2017
Goddamn you, Read Harder Challenge and your read “a romance by or about a person of color.” I resent you and Alisha Rai for making me have feelings. Now, I’m certainly not a convert to the romance genre, and I don’t see myself continuing this series, but there were aspects of the book that I greatly appreciated, nay, respected and I just did not expect that from a genre that I typically brush aside. I still hate love, but I don’t hate someone who has written realistically about love and all the messiness it entails.
by Stephen King, 1982
narrated by George Guidall
I have some weird literary blind spots. Until last year, I’d never read Toni Morrison. I still haven’t read a barrage of classics, like Catch-22, The Grapes of Wrath, or anything by Tolstoy. And, until now, I hadn’t read anything by Stephen King. I’ve been meaning to remedy this for a while, as I have seen a host of King-based movies, but it wasn’t until the first Dark Tower movie came out last fall that I finally got on the bandwagon. Why start here? Well, I’m taking into consideration that this is a planned movie franchise and that I will be seeing them all – this is Idris Elba we’re talking about – and I like to be that person who’s constantly making comparisons to the book on which a movie is based. Call me a movie downer, but that’s how I roll.
by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915
Herland left me conflicted. Part of me wanted to stand up with my fist raised and yell, “PREACH!” Part of me, though, bemoaned the central idea behind this feminist utopia. For, if a woman does not want to be a mother, is she still a woman? Is her life still valid? Does it still have meaning? Gilman’s answer to this appears to be “no.” While so much of this journey of three men into a strange land populated only by women continues to ring true even a century later, I couldn’t help but be disappointed in the idea the womanhood equals motherhood. This is one belief that I am all too eager to have die away.