Friday Five: 5 Books!

No creative sub-category here (we couldn’t decide!), just 5 books! We love reading, and we love the following five books for some reason or another. Skip around if you like! There’s something for everyone: love story, non-fiction, history, zombies…you know…like ya do… We would love to do more commentary on literature, movies, any pop culture really…so let us know what you like!

1) The Diaries of Adam and Eve: Translated by Mark Twain, Mark Twain (Meagan)

Quick. Easy. Hysterical. And then suddenly I’m reading a love story so strong and deep, it resonates as one of the most romantic pieces I’ve read. Not looking for a love story? Read it anyway, because as I said, HYSTERICAL. I used to teach these short stories in school, and as students read to themselves I loved watching as stifled chuckles rippled through the classroom because Twain’s imaginings of Adam and Eve experiencing the world for the first time are so imaginative and clever.

eves diaryOriginally, Adam and Eve’s diaries were published separately. The first, Extracts from Adam’s Diary, is Adam discovering and conquering the world, meeting and “dealing with” this new creature with long hair who frequently leaks water from its eyes, and eventually developing a deep love for Eve. Eve’s Diary does much of the same, but is also beautifully introspective. As God is not actually even a character in these diaries, the focus is on these two individuals learning who they are and who they can be together. But funny and light! I promise! Eve feels bad for the fish and brings them to the shelter, where they of course die. Adam almost drowns a baby because he THINKS it’s a fish, BUT EVE STOPS HIM DON’T WORRY! That sounds awful…but read it. You’ll love it.

And romantic? Let’s just say as you read, you realize that Adam and Eve are merely stand-ins for Twain and his own wife, Olivia. You can sense the depth of love they each felt, even through all the humor and satire. After Olivia died shortly before he finished Eve’s Diary, he’s quoted as saying “Eve’s Diary is finished–I’ve been waiting for her to speak, but she doesn’t say anything more.” Y’ALL. Go read it now. Really, right now.

It’s free on Gutenberg.org! Read Adam’s first here. Then Eve’s (which actually has some Adam in it too…) here.

(Again, these short stories were originally published separately, but you CAN find them in one volume now!)

2) The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Lawrence Wright (Jeff)

I taught history to really eager high school students for 5 years.  One of the things that I never did very well was get us past the mid-20th century.  I fought to get my students past WWII, but we still continually ended up finishing the year during the Cold War discussing proxy wars and trying not to be too aggressive fighting against the narrative of American exceptionalism.

That being said, whenever students asked about books to read outside of class or whenever people ask me for book recommendations now, I suggest this work.

Lawrence Wright grew up the son of a banker in Dallas, TX during the mid-20th century. He was a sophomore in high school the day JFK was assassinated and his experiences with both the right-leaning and left-leaning citizens of the Metroplex helped shape who he became as an author.  looming tower

The Looming Tower is his greatest accomplishment thus far.  He has other great books, but his history about the development of Al-Qaeda in the 100 years leading up to 9/11 is a masterpiece.

As Wright was a sophomore in 1963, I was a sophomore in September of 2001. I enjoyed being able to go through this book and have a chronological history examining world events, policy decisions, and global issues that impacted the people who would go on to transform the world I live in.

The book won numerous accolades for Wright, including the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction writing.  It meant more to me that it helped me understand a little of what had happened to the world in those years that I never got to teach in my own class.

3) The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom (Meagan)

I find myself most in love with books I taught. And it makes me want to teach MORE books. But here is an all-time favorite!

If you don’t know this book, it is the true account of the Ten Boom family (told by Corrie to John and Elizabeth Sherrill) as they protected neighbors and strangers as Nazis invaded the Netherlands. They built a “hiding place” in their own home, and became a crucial piecehiding place of the Dutch underground as they helped provide shelter and food to those suffering persecution. Eventually, the family is discovered, arrested, and Corrie travels through prison all the way to a concentration camp. THEN (as if this wasn’t adventure enough) Corrie spent the rest of her life spreading the message of forgiveness and freedom. The details are captivating.

I first read it sometime during elementary to middle school age. And I know many people who say “Oh yeah, I think I read that as a kid…” I, as a kid, acknowledged that it was a fascinating, true story. But WOW, did I miss the weight and significance of who she was and what she did. And the first third of the novel is just about her childhood! Jeff and I reference HER father so often in our parenting! So if you’ve read this book before, DO IT AGAIN!

Here’s just a couple truth bombs she delivers so gracefully:

“Perhaps only when human effort has done its best and failed, would God’s power alone be free to work”

“If the Gospels were truly the pattern of God’s activity, then defeat was only the beginning.”

The story of this self-conscious, joyful, brave woman is convicting, challenging, encouraging and invigorating.

4) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks (Jeff)

Now that I have added an intellectual sounding book to the list, I can get to one of my favorite fiction books of ALL time.  This post-apocalyptic horror narrative is a collection of stories put together after the zombie uprising is stopped.

The writing is fast paced, tense, and full of rich, visceral descriptions.  As someone who is still faithfully slogging through The Walking Dead comic book and loves watching almost any movie about zombies, this book tops my list for best zombie stories.World_War_Z_book_cover

Max Brooks (son of MEL Brooks!) took inspiration for the novel from the works of George Romero and the much more academic work, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II by Studs Terkel that won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985.

The book follows Max, a member of the UN Postwar Commission as he travels the globe and gets first-hand stories about the events leading up to, during, and after the war with zombies.  He weaves stories of politics, survival, and existentialism throughout the narrative.

The book takes place all over the globe and details macro-events both triumphant and tragic as well as micro-events from the common man as the world fights against the undead hordes.

I don’t know if there is another book about zombies I have read through as many times or a book that I can just pick up and want to keep reading from whatever page I turn to.  If you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre and/or zombies, this is a must read!

5) Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Jeff)

I don’t know if you can tell from my selections, but I enjoy dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.  I’m sure that says something about me, but thats a post for another time.  Ernest Cline’s FIRST novel is one of my favorite science fiction books.

ready playerSet in 2044 the book follows teenager Wade Watts as he navigates a puzzle that is built into the world wide MMORPG that everyone on earth is plugged into constantly.  The advancement in virtual reality visors and haptic glove technology allows people to live their lives in a simulation as the real world around them crumbles from an energy crisis and a destroyed economy.

The man who created the virtual world they live in created a puzzle that when solved allowed the winner to take over control of the simulation.  Yes, it is a really futuristic version of Willy Wonka, only with way more 80s references.  Seriously.  The puzzle is solved by having extensive knowledge of pop-culture from the 80s and early 90s.  No subject is off limits: games, books, movies, TV shows, even Dungeons and Dragons.

The puzzle and the story are told against a tense backdrop where an evil corporation (definitely not Google, Microsoft, or FaceBook) is trying to win the puzzle so they can monetize the virtual world and gain complete global domination.  You know, that old story.

Wade is an engaging protagonist and the people who help him fight against the evil corporation add layer after layer of richness to the story.  I read the book in almost one sitting because it was just too good to put down.  If you love video games and pop culture references – this one is for you!

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