Another year of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge done!
by W.E.B. Du Bois, 1903
There is a certain sense of wonder – or is it chagrin? – when reading a hundred-year-old book that exemplifies the adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Such is the case with W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of essays published at the turn of the 20th century that are, sadly, as poignant today as they were a mere 40 years post-Emancipation. Race relations have no doubt improved greatly since then, yet not so much as to prevent the reader from sitting slack-jawed and wondering if Du Bois were writing these words today. He and his ideas are far from obsolete.
by Sandra Cisneros, 2002
I know I’ve said it before, that sweeping, multi-generational narratives is an odd literary niche to love, but it’s one I can’t get enough of. From Roots to The House of the Spirits to Middlesex and now Caramelo, I’m a huge fan of novels that delve into the past to reveal both cultural and personal identities. Told by Celaya “Lala” Reyes, the youngest of the Reyes clan, Caramelo explores the meanings of family, motherhood, fatherhood, pride, and love, as well as what it means to be a Mexican, an American, and something in between. It is a beautifully written story that I loved reading.
by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852
And so continues my education of reading books that I should have read, but haven’t. I was particularly interested in reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin to learn exactly where the term “Uncle Tom” originated. For the unaware, an Uncle Tom is a black person who is exceedingly deferential to whites. That’s the polite way of putting it; for a more piquant definition, watch Django Unchained. Samuel L. Jackson’s character? He’s an Uncle Tom through and through. But where does the term come from? Surprisingly, not directly from this book.
by Carter G. Woodson, 1933
Carter G. Woodson is one of those names I’ve heard bandied about for quite some time, thanks largely in part to the fact that one of the three huge regional libraries in Chicago is named for the writer. As such, I’ve always had him in my mind as someone I ought to read, but, as is often the case, I never got around to it. With the Read Harder Challenge’s task to read a book published between 1900-1950, this 1933 tome jumped to the forefront. It’s a fairly short book, coming in at around 100 pages, but it’s packed with some interesting ideas regarding education and race that not only were applicable to its time, but continue to be relevant today.
de Carlos Ruiz Zafón, 2001
[Scroll down for English.]
He oído mucho de este libro, un libro sobre un misterio de libros. Intenté leerlo el año pasado, pero cuando la elección pasó, ya no tenía ganas de descifrar un misterio en español. Pero estaba determinada leerlo y por fin he terminado con ello. ¿Valía la pena? Desafortunadamente, no estoy segura. Sí, disfruté algunas partes del libro y a veces lo encontré encantador, pero aunque la trama me interesaba, el cuento no tomó forma al fin.
by Meredith Russo, 2016
I kind of hate fairy tales. Not the Brothers Grimm sort, which are actually quite gruesome and only vaguely resemble the stories we were told as kids, and not even really the Disney sort, because I can’t lie that, as much as it rankles my inner feminist, I still enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. No, I mean those stories where someone with a “problem” – they have a string of failed relationships, they are clumsy, they (gasp!) have curly hair and glasses – overcomes said “problem” to live happily ever after. I realize there is some comfort in knowing that we are all lovable despite our differences, but this sort of trite plot and predictable ending are far from new and far from interesting.