North Korean Nuclear Threat.
Charlottesville White Supremacist Riots.
Russian Election Meddling.
Las Vegas Massacre.
2017 was an exhausting, emotional year.
Like many, I struggled to find a way to deal, to make sense of it all. And like many, I turned to 20th-century literature. Written long enough ago to feel just distant enough, but also written not that long ago to still feel achingly close to today’s reality.
These were hard, but necessary, reads.
- 1984 by George Orwell – When I first read this in high school, it seemed a bit far-fetched. Maybe I was too young, or maybe it was just a different time, but in reading it now, it seems more probable than not.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – This one had a lot of hype, thanks to the award-winning series on Hulu. And it lived up to it and then some. A cautionary tale on how quickly a society’s norms can shift for the worst.
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – While this title seems to be standard for coming of age required reading lists, I somehow missed it during my own formative years. Reading it for the first time this year, I found it hard to digest at first. But slowly I got drawn in and was flipping pages furiously by the end. While written nearly ninety years ago, it touches on 21th-century concerns of consumerism, genetic engineering, overmedication, and social indoctrination.
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I read this story about book burning and screen addiction on my Kindle. The irony was not lost on me.
- A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – One of my favorite books of all time. As a French student in college, I was sucked into Hemingway’s memoir of his post-war Paris years. Famous names are dropped here and there (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and more). But it never has the slimy feel of the dishy memoirs of the present. Now, as an adult, I find comfort knowing that great art can come even from the greyest periods.
How does this worker-bee/soccer-mom/rickety-runner find time to read 50 books a year? This is my secret.