Category Archives: Reading Corner
Are you looking for a good book to read? Fictional books abound at the library and your local bookstore, but it’s hard to know which ones are worth picking up. One book that everyone should read is called To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Harper Lee grew up in the southern United States during the 1930s and 40s and wrote only one full-length novel. It sold like hotcakes and was even made into a Hollywood movie starring Gregory Peck. Today, it remains one of America’s best-selling fictional pieces of literature.
To Kill a Mockingbird is set in 1930s Alabama. To be precise, the story spans three years: 1933 to 1935. The story centers around a 10 year old girl named Scout Finch. Scout lives with her brother, Jem, and her father, Atticus Finch. Atticus is widowed and a lawyer in the town of Maycomb, where the family resides. Next door, a boy name Dill is befriended by Scout and Jem, and together, the threesome runs into amazing adventures together.
While Scout, Jem and Dill hang out during the hot, lazy summers in Maycomb, Jem and Scout’s father, Atticus, is dealing with a case involving a black man who is accused of sexually assaulting a white girl from the town. The book talks seriously about race in the American south and offers a raw perspective on what it was like to be on either side of the race fence at that point in history. Because of Atticus’s position as a defendant to Tom Robinson, the black man on trial, Scout and Jem are made fun of at school. Many of the white folks in town turn against Atticus and try to take the law into their own hands.
The story has many parallels with the real life of Harper Lee, who also grew up in Alabama in the 1930s and had a father who was an attorney in their small town. Lee’s mother suffered from a mental condition, and she died when Lee was 25. In addition, like Atticus Finch, Lee’s father defended black men who were accused of a heinous crime. Dill, the friend from next-door in the novel, was even based on a childhood friend of Lee’s named Truman Capote. Like Harper Lee, Truman grew up to become a famous writer who is still well-known today. Both Lee and Capote are known as southern gothic writers. They remained friends until Capote’s death in 1984.
You will be able to find several copies of To Kill a Mockingbird at your local library or bookstore. It is also available online. Pick up a copy today, and dive into the world of a child growing up at a pivotal point in America’s history.
Surely you’ve heard of Bridget Jones’ Diary. It’s the acclaimed novel by British author, Helen Fielding, and in 2001, it was made into a film starring Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Both the book and the film were huge successes. Bridget Jones is the main character and the author and narrator of the story. She is a frumpy but trying to be chic, man-obsessed, thirty-something singleton living in London, and in the story, she recounts her often deep dives into alcoholism, inability to stop smoking and eating cakes and bonbons and of course, her boyfriend exploits. Throughout the book, she’s convinced she’ll never find love, but wouldn’t you know that by the end she’s found it at last. Her new love is tall, dark and handsome, successful, morally responsible, kind, mature and rich. His name is also Darcy. Sound familiar?
If you haven’t realized it already, Bridget Jones’ Diary is a direct adaptation of Jane Austen’s famed romance novel, Pride and Prejudice. This novel is the original romance and the original love story. The protagonist is just a little bit more “put together” than Bridget Jones. Her name is Elizabeth Bennet, and she is the second oldest daughter in a line of five girls. Her best friend is her older, kind, thoughtful and extremely gorgeous, Jane. Unfortunately, the rest of Elizabeth’s family is a bit of an embarrassment, namely, her mother and three younger sisters, who are boisterous, flirtatious and unrestrained.
The story takes place in the early 1800s in England, and at this time in British history, women were at a distinct disadvantage. If their family didn’t already have money, they were forced to find suitable husbands who did. The problem was that marrying up in society was almost never done, and you were lucky if you found a man who would marry you as a lower member of society. If you didn’t, you would be at the mercy of others for the rest of your life, because of course, women of the middle class and up didn’t work at this time. Elizabeth and her sisters were middle class, but their mother hoped that they could snag rich men.
When Elizabeth first meets the extremely rich, tall, dark and handsome Darcy, she is kind to him, but he doesn’t return her kindness. This prompts Elizabeth to detest Darcy. As the story progresses, however, an their paths cross again and again, it seems that Darcy has back-tracked and is falling in love with Elizabeth. Darcy, who is proud and has a prejudice against the lower classes is torn in his decision to ask Elizabeth to marry him, but would the equally proud Elizabeth accept his hand anyway after his behavior? The rest, as they say, is history. If you enjoyed this book review, check out more romance books at NoQStore Malaysia, and lose yourself in more stories of love.
Travel books can be a terrific read whether one is planning a trip or stuck at home for the present. From the classics to contemporary authors, travel books can inspire, entertain and inform the active or armchair traveller.
One of the most classic and beloved books of travel literature is Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts. This book tells the tale of the author’s walking journey across Europe in the 1930s in between the two world wars. In a contemporary follow-up of sorts, Nicholas Crane took a similar journey 60 years later in the 1990s. He wrote about his walk across the Continental Divide in the book Clear Waters Rising.
For anyone who has ever dreamed of hopping on a train to see how far it goes, another classic, Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, tells just such a story. From the familiarity of London’s Victoria Station, Theroux travelled to the far reaches of the rails into Russia and Asia. This is one of the best books on long-distance train travel ever written.
Laurie Gough is the very picture of the free-spirited traveller, and Kite Strings of the Southern Cross details her adventures in Fiji, Bali, Malaysia and beyond with humour and thoughtfulness. She does not shrink from describing the perils of life on the road but survives it all with her sunny optimism intact. Women in search of inspiring travel books often find the genre dominated by men and will find this one particularly compelling.
Dervla Murphy is another unconventional woman writer of travel books. The Irish writer’s first book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, tells the story of a cycling journey she took in the 1960s across Europe and through Afghanistan to India. It’s her later books that may be even more compelling, however, simply for the fact that her adventurous travels continued in her 60s and 70s in such books as Silverland: A Winter Journey Beyond the Urals and The Island that Dared: Journeys into Cuba. Murphy also wrote in earlier books such as Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels with a Mule in Unknown Peru about travelling with her young daughter Rachel proving that no obstacle is too great for the dedicated adventurer.
Redmond O’Hanlon is one of the most intrepid adventure travel writers with excursions into the Congo, Borneo and the Amazon. He wrote about those journeys in the books Congo Journey, Into the Heart of Borneo and In Trouble Again. He also his detailed his experiences in the North Atlantic on a trawler in Trawler.
While the days of explorers writing about their excursions into lands previously unknown by their audiences may be behind us, inspiring adventurers still remain. Free spirits can look beyond exhortations to buy travel guides here for the usual tourist destinations and seek adventure far from the beaten path in still-uncharted territory just as these writers did.
Also See 5 Classic Books Everyone Should Read