Monday, March 9, 2015

Two I Recommend

I've read two books recently that I highly recommend. The first is an adult dystopian novel that did not receive the attention it deserved when it came out last year, but was a favorite of many reviewers. In general, I've had my fill of dystopian novels, but any genre can be good if the writer makes it so.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is set in a future American where the population has been ravaged by a worldwide flu epidemic. Spanning two decades, beginning with the day the epidemic hits the Midwest, the book centers on a ragtag group of Shakespearean actors and symphony musicians that travel the Midwest, performing the the little settlements that have survived.

It is one of the less-grim dystopian novels that I've come across, and I appreciated that. The intricate plot kept me turning pages, and the characters are so vivid that you miss them after you read the last page.  The book also raises philosophical issues about art and history and change that merit contemplating. One of the central themes dances around this quotation from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager: “Survival is insufficient."

The One and Only Ivan is based on the real-life story of a Silverback Gorilla who lived at a shopping mall. I generally hate books that personify animals, but this one -- written for children -- presents  very believable voices for Ivan, the gorilla, and the other animals who live in this small zoo.

One of my students recommended this book, and I'm so glad I took him up on it. I hear that it is a very popular read-aloud in elementary schools, and I can see why. The story deals with big issues -- treatment of animals, how children are affected by the parents' economic situations -- very gently. And it is a good old-fashioned read!


  1. I just read Ivan a couple weeks ago....and have been recommending to EVEryONE!!! Great book, quite deserving of that Newberry prize.

  2. oooh, thanks for the book recs! I just finished a series (Artemis Fowl, I like YA books for listening since they're simpler) on audiobook and needed a new story to jump into. I love a good dystopia so I'll be checking that out. Have you read Margaret Atwood's MadAddam trilogy? Those are excellent.

  3. This is perfect! I just posted asking for reading recs. I saw Steph was reading Ivan and I think someone else at work was all about Station Eleven.