Thursday, January 12, 2012

Read 'til the End

The "Real 'til the End" book display on the second floor is partly inspired by multiple viewings of the film Melancholia by several of us up on the second floor, in which a giant rogue planet that had been hiding behind the sun collides with the earth, and is partly inspired by a certain prediction by ancient Mayans. According to some readings of the ancient Maya calendar, 2012 will be the final year in the life of our dear planet. There is sure to be a lot of talk about this prediction this year as we move closer towards the supposed date (December 21, 2012 to be exact), so we thought you might want to read up on various theories regarding the Earth’s demise or its ability to soldier on in the face of turmoil.  
Some of the titles we picked out for you include:

How It Ends: From You to the Universe by Chris Impey

The End: natural disasters, manmade catastrophes, and the future of human survival by Marq De Villiers

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

The Wonderful Future That Never Was by Gregory Benford

In related news, In case you haven’t heard, dystopia is HOT right now. Dystopian fiction is set in societies that have gone awry, or the opposite of utopias. You may have heard the buzz about Suzanne Collins’ excellent young adult Hunger Games trilogy which is being adapted into a movie set for release in March, or you may already jumped on the bandwagon like many of us here at the library.  The Hunger Games series tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a teenager living in poverty-stricken District 12 of Panem, the country formed in the ruins of the United States of America. Katniss volunteers to fight in the annual Hunger Games in her younger sister’s place when her sister’s name is chosen. The Hunger Games is an televised event in which two tributes from all 12 of Panem's districts travel to the state-of-the-art Capitol and fight for survival in a treacherous arena until only one tribute remains the victor. Knowing that she can’t effectively fight the totalitarian Capitol outside the arena, Katniss decides to play the game on her own terms, staying true to her own moral code.  While The Hunger Games trilogy is categorized as young adult fiction, it is a thrilling read for adults as well.  

Although I had read quite a few books last year, I did not realized until I was putting together this display just how many excellent dystopian novels were published in 2011. Here is a quick rundown of my two favorites:

America Pacifica by Anna North - Up on the second floor, we love a good debut novel and Anna North delivers the goods in American Pacifica. North graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 2009 (yes, that Iowa Writer’s Workshop whose illustrious alumni include Flannery O’Connor, John Irving, Ann Patchett, and Daniel Woodrell) and her first novel proves that she is a writer to watch. We follow teen-aged Darcy through the underbelly of humid, exploited American Pacifica, a pacific island inhabited by North American refugees after an ice age renders the continent uninhabitable, as she searches for answers to secrets in her murdered mother's past. This story is not for the faint of heart, as North's effective descriptions of the downright nasty conditions of the overcrowded island jump right off the page.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - Even if you don’t have a unhealthy obsession with 1980s pop culture like the characters in this book, Ready Player One (another first novel!) is sure to hook you with its propulsive prose and will have you rooting for the good guys. In 2044, enigmatic bajillionaire and software/game developer James Halliday dies and leaves his company and fortune to the first player that can unlock all of the easter eggs (i.e. hidden messages in video games) that he has hidden in the virtual reality program that he created called OASIS. The ubiquitous OASIS is an escape for most of the world’s population after the Great Recession. Five years after Halliday’s death, Oklahoma high school student Wade Watts, known in OASIS as Perzival, uses his vast knowledge of 1980’s pop culture to find the first hidden egg and start an epic, life-and-death race to the finish line.

Some of the other excellent dystopian titles we picked out for you include:

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Children of Men by P.D. James

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Taking by Dean Koontz

Obviously, I love a good dystopian novel.  If you do, too, don't be afraid to come up to the second floor reference desk to discuss your favorites!



Laura said...

Excellent entry! Apparently the love of dystopian novels is in our blood.

Amanda said...

Laura, I think it came from stealing your copies of Anthem and Lord of the Flies after you read them for summer reading.