Redwood Staff Picks from PBS' the Great American Read

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 12:56pm -- baglio

Recently PBS provided viewers with a wonderful list of books entitled The Great American Read in which PBS chose 100 of America's favorite books. You can view the entire list through this link here: https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/books/#/. In honor of this great list, the staff here at the Redwood decided to make our own choices from the Great American Read List, and present them as our next reading list. We hope you enjoy these titles as much as we do!

Brandon's Picks:

Catch-22

By, Joseph Heller

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. 

 

Frankenstein

By, Mary Shelley

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley about the young student of science Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley's name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823. Shelley had travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is just 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where two centuries before an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she travelled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topics of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the story within the novel.

 

Susie's Picks:

The Book Thief

By, Markus Zusak

When Death has a story to tell, you listen.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

 

The Giver

By,  Lois Lowry

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

 

Nancy's Picks:

The Alchemist

By, Paulo Coelho

 A special 25th anniversary edition of the extraordinary international bestseller, including a new Foreword by Paulo Coelho.

Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.

Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

 

Anne of Green Gables

By, L.M. Montgomery

Life is forever changed at Green Gables, a tranquil farm on Canada's Prince Edward Island, with the arrival of a redheaded chatterbox named Anne. The spirited, precocious 11-year-old orphan finds "scope for imagination" everywhere she looks, transforming the lives of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, her elderly guardians, with her merry doings and misadventures. Anne — spelled with an "e," as she gravely informs new acquaintances — builds a world of enchantment around Green Gables and its surrounding woodlands, lakes, and valleys. Thanks to the freckle-faced girl's imaginative musings, the rustic region's natural wonders blossom into a fairyland of endless romance. Anne's inspired prattle, goodwill, and joie de vivre win her a warm circle of friends, just as they have won the hearts of readers around the world. 

Since its first appearance in 1908, the novel has led generations of children to laugh and cry — but mostly laugh — along with this beloved story's vivacious heroine. Now this inexpensive edition, complete and unabridged, introduces new readers to the ageless charm of a fanciful world made real by love and friendship. 

 

Patrick's Picks:

The Lord of the Rings Series

By, J.R.R. Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings to him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

This new edition includes the fiftieth-anniversary fully corrected text setting and, for the first time, an extensive new index.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), beloved throughout the world as the creator of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a fellow of Pembroke College, and a fellow of Merton College until his retirement in 1959. His chief interest was the linguistic aspects of the early English written tradition, but while he studied classic works of the past, he was creating a set of his own.

 

Wurthering Heights

By, Emily Bronte

Considered lurid and shocking by mid-19th-century standards, Wuthering Heights was initially thought to be such a publishing risk that its author, Emily Brontë, was asked to pay some of the publication costs. A somber tale of consuming passions and vengeance played out against the lonely moors of northern England, the book proved to be one of the most enduring classics of English literature.

The turbulent and tempestuous love story of Cathy and Heathcliff spans two generations — from the time Heathcliff, a strange, coarse young boy, is brought to live on the Earnshaws' windswept estate, through Cathy's marriage to Edgar Linton and Heathcliff's plans for revenge, to Cathy's death years later and the eventual union of the surviving Earnshaw and Linton heirs.

A masterpiece of imaginative fiction, Wuthering Heights (the author's only novel) remains as poignant and compelling today as it was when first published in 1847.

 

Jill's Picks:

The Notebook

By, Nicholas Sparks

Every so often a love story so captures our hearts that it becomes more than a story-it becomes an experience to remember forever. The Notebook is such a book. It is a celebration of how passion can be ageless and timeless, a tale that moves us to laughter and tears and makes us believe in true love all over again... 

At thirty-one, Noah Calhoun, back in coastal North Carolina after World War II, is haunted by images of the girl he lost more than a decade earlier. At twenty-nine, socialite Allie Nelson is about to marry a wealthy lawyer, but she cannot stop thinking about the boy who long ago stole her heart. Thus begins the story of a love so enduring and deep it can turn tragedy into triumph, and may even have the power to create a miracle...

 

This pick is shared with Alyssa!:

Gone Girl

By, Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 

 

Alyssa's Pick:

The Outsiders

By, S.E. Hinton

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.

The Outsiders is a dramatic and enduring work of fiction that laid the groundwork for the YA genre. S. E. Hinton's classic story of a boy who finds himself on the outskirts of regular society remains as powerful today as it was the day it was first published.

 

Michelle's Picks:

Pride and Prejudice

By, Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is a novel of manners by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of the British Regency. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman living near the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, near London. Page 2 of a letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra (11 June 1799) in which she first mentions Pride and Prejudice, using its working title First Impressions. (NLA) Set in England in the early 19th century, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr. Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr. Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. While Bingley takes an immediate liking to the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane, Darcy has difficulty adapting to local society and repeatedly clashes with the second-eldest Bennet daughter, Elizabeth. Pride and Prejudice retains a fascination for modern readers, continuing near the top of lists of "most loved books." It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, selling over 20 million copies, and receives considerable attention from literary scholars. Modern interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen's memorable characters or themes.

 

The Count of Monte Cristo

By, Alexander Dumas

A popular bestseller since its publication in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great page-turning thrillers of all time. Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, Alexandre Dumas’s grand historical romance recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantès, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal. As Robert Louis Stevenson declared, “I do not believe there is another volume extant where you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of romance.”

 

Joe's Picks:

The Great Gatsby

By, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. First published in 1925, this quintessential novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,”  is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

 

The Sun Also Rises

By, Ernest Hemingway

The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway's masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway's most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

 

Patricia's Picks:

The Invisible Man

By, H.G. Wells

Often referred to as a “father of science fiction”, H. G. Wells was one of the first authors to write a type of speculative fiction which referenced the advancements in science of his time. Characteristic of Wells’ work is their cautionary tale nature which warned against the unintended consequences of technological development gone too far. First published serially in “Pearson's Weekly” in 1897, The Invisible Man is just such a story. At the beginning of the novel a mysterious man named Griffen appears in a snowstorm at the local inn of the English village of Iping in West Sussex. Rarely emerging from his room Griffen works continuously with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus. Soon it is revealed that Griffin is a former medical student who has invented a chemical process to render bodies invisible. Having impulsively tried the formula upon himself, Griffen is unfortunately unable to turn himself visible again. Running out of money and driven to the brink of madness by his condition, Griffen turns to crime to continue his experiments. As suspicion grows around the mysterious man the townsfolk begin to close in on Griffen as the novel races to its tragic conclusion. 

 

And Then There Were None

By, Agatha Christie

"Ten . . ."

Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious "U. N. Owen."

"Nine . . ."

At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.

"Eight . . ."

Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.

"Seven . . ."

Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?

 

Lisa's Picks:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

By, Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird

By, Harper Lee

One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

 

Alexis's Picks:

The Chronicle of Narnia Series

By, C.S. Lewis

Witness the creation of a magical land in The Magician's Nephew, the first title in C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy series, which has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years. This paperback features cover art by three-time Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator David Wiesner and black-and-white interior art by the series' original illustrator, Pauline Baynes.

On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.

This is a stand-alone novel, but if you want to journey back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

Charlotte's Web

By, E.B. White

Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte's Web, high up in Zuckerman's barn. Charlotte's spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur's life when he was born the runt of his litter.

E. B. White's Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come. It contains illustrations by Garth Williams, the acclaimed illustrator of E. B. White's Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, among many other book.