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The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,134 Ratings  ·  258 Reviews
A passionate hymn to the power of fiction to transform people’s lives, by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other cla
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 21st 2014 by Viking (first published August 28th 2014)
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Terri Our book club is reading this too. Some of the questions I hope we discuss include: 1. Do you think the author's perspective on Huck Finn, Babbitt,…moreOur book club is reading this too. Some of the questions I hope we discuss include: 1. Do you think the author's perspective on Huck Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as representative of American culture was accurate? 2. Discuss the impact on our individual cultural perspectives on how we read and interpret literature. 3. What 3 books would you identify as representative of American culture?(less)

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Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, arcs, 4-stars
The Republic of Imagination, the third published work from Azar Nafisi, is not what I assumed it would be upon reading the title and initial blurb. Its subtitle, "America in Three Books," caused me to believe that the title itself referred to Nafisi's adopted country, which could not be farther from the truth. Rather, she means a land entirely of a reader's own creation, allowing one to escape everyday life (whether terrible or merely boring) into a land wherein anything is possible. To explore ...more
Donald Grant
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Every once in a while a book comes along that not only makes you think, but challenges you in ways you were not expecting. This would be one of those books.

Azar Nafisi has the unique advantage of viewing this country and its attitude toward art and literature from the outside. Originally from Iran, she has become an American citizen (in her words because she found herself grumbling about America so she knew she was an American). But it is her heritage that gives her a different understanding of
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nafisi chose three books that, to her, represent America's zeitgeist. Part One is about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. She alternates her analysis of the book and how it reflects American spirit and sense of freedom is counterbalanced by the story of her old friend who was a radical in post revolution Iran and recently died after a long battle with cancer. This is the strongest and most moving part of the book on many levels. Part two considers Babbit by Sinclair Lewis,consumerism, and the ...more
Shaimaa Ali
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

في البداية شكر مُستحق للعزيز (خالد لطفي) صاحب مكتبة تنمية الرائعة على هذا الترشيح الجميل ..
كنت في مكتبة تنمية وترددت عندما طالعت اسم المؤلفة التي لم أكن قد قرأت بعد عملها الأشهر (أن تقرأ لوليتا في طهران) .. والذي استقر في مكتبتي منذ سنوات، ولكن بدعم من ا. خالد ابتعته ولا أدري لماذا بدأت به الآن! :-)

الكتاب هو مزيج من تأريخ شخصي لحياة الكاتبة بين إيران وأمريكا ، وبين تاريخ أمريكا نفسها من خلال ثلاثة أعمال أدبية مختلفة ، كان أشهر هذه الأعمال (هيكلبري فين) لمارك توين ، ثم رواية (بابيت) لسنكلير لوي
Oct 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Not what I was expecting which explains the single star. It seems more like a college term paper than a book. I could not get past that and put it down about half way through the Huck Finn section. I am very disappointed since I have been looking forward to reading it since this past summer. Not my thing in spite of the hype and anticipation.
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Azar Nafisi's passion for books and reading are intimately connected to her life as a citizen, a teacher, and a writer.

In writing this book --it was Azar's desire to connect readers all over the world in a meaningful dialogue. AWESOME IDEA!!! I see this book as a opening for conversation.

Stories need to be refreshed and retold in every generation. We do this through conversation, often with with "intimate strangers" (as Azar likes to call us). I love that phrase! "Intimate Strangers:". Readers
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was a very well written book of literary criticism and it inspired me to read the writer's very well known book Reading Lolita in Tehran. However, in reading the Republic of the Imagination, it helped that I had read within the last ten years two of the books Ms. Nafisi reviewed, Huckleberry Finn and Babbitt; in addition I liked both of these books. I found it harder to read the section where Ms. Nafisi examines The Heart is a Lonely Hunter which I have not read. However, this book did make m ...more
I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran, and this is just as powerful. Nafizi writes of Literature Militant with the power to change lives--to horrify, terrify, and mobilize--as she blends 3 quintessential American titles (Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) with anecdotes from her own life in Iran and then in the US. She writes the best kind of literary criticism, rich in examples, expansive, and eye-opening. Her polished prose is passionate and convincing, and the b ...more
Dusty Summerford (Reviews by Reds)
Wow!! What an eloquent read! I wasn't sure I would care for this book but I couldn't have been more wrong! Very well written!! Thank you Azar Nafisi & Goodreads for this Advanced Proof!! Can't wait to suggest to my book club!
Ryan Dejonghe
Aug 12, 2015 rated it liked it
“Imagination”, “exhilarating”, “impassioned”: in three words, I feel beguiled. Those are the words used to describe Azar Nafisi’s THE REPUBLIC OF IMAGINATION. I was expecting something—different. Maybe something about smuggling out contraband books. Maybe something about rainbow kitty unicorns. Nope.

I thought I was reading a long introduction. It was good, but it kept going and going. And going. Then I realized this is the whole book.

I need to come back and read this book in five years from now
Aug 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program in return for an honest review.

I have to admit, I've only read one of the books Azar Nafisi discusses here, and that was many years ago. My impressions of Huck Finn diverge from Nafisi's analysis, and I think I should revisit the book at some time. In fact, now I'm interested in reading Babbit and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as well. At the same time, these books aren't the point of The Republic of the Imagination.
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

هذا الكتاب الثالث الذي اقرأه للكاتبة الايرانية آذر نفيسي بعد الاول الشهير "أن تقرأ لوليتا في طهران" والثاني: "أشياء كنت ساكتة عنها" وهذا الاخير الذي صدرت طبعته العربية هذا العام وتكفل نشطاء الانترنت مشكورين عنا برفعه بسرعة مذهلة.

قلتها من قبل اني احببت آذر نفيسي لاسباب كثيرة منها انها تكتب بحميمية تكسر الحواجز بينها وبين القارئ حتى ليبدو انهما يتشاركان غرفة واحدة من الحكايات والقصص والروايات تتلوها على مسامعه. رغم ان الترجمة العربية لهذا الكتاب الجديد اسوأ من سابقيه للأسف.

لا يمكن الابتعاد كثيرا ع
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5-stars, really.

i enjoyed this read -- i found nafisi's voice to be great, and her prose is lovely. it's very clear she is a passionate advocate for literature, and believes deeply in the importance and necessity of fiction in our world. i underlined many passages in the book, and will be pondering on many of nafisi's thoughts and ideas for some time to come. i just feel a bit disconnected from some aspects of the book, perhaps because i am not american? while i am certainly clear on nafisi's
Manick Govinda
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I loved this book as much as "Reading Lolita..." Nafisi makes a uniquely personal yet connected journey through America via a series of great American novels and authors in search of what makes America such a powerful metaphor for freedom. She also faces up to the growing illiberalism of literary studies students who wish to re-write culture and history through censorious attitudes such as 'trigger warnings' on books. She is someone I definitely look up to for strength, wisdom, a re-kindled love ...more
فهد الفهد
جمهورية الخيال

تقرأ آذار نفيسي تجاربها في الحياة من خلال كتبها المفضلة، هكذا فعلت في (أن تقرأ لوليتا في طهران) عندما استعرضت تجربتها وتجربة طالباتها مع القمع في طهران ما بعد الثورة، وها هي تحاول قراءة وفهم أمريكا بما أنها صارت مواطنة أمريكية من خلال ثلاثة كتب تعبر عن روح أمريكا كما ترى نفيسي وهي هكلبري فن لمارك توين، وبابت لسنكلير لويس، والقلب صياد متوحد لكارمن مكولرز.
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nafisi argues for more reading - especially fiction to maintain empathetic, engaged citizens. I couldn't agree more. She also opened my eyes to the Common Core curriculum - let's just say, not a good plan.
Wally Wood
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Azar Nafisi, born and raised in Iran, wrote the best-selling Reading Lolita in Tehran. Her new book is The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books. It deserves to be as widely read as Reading Lolita.

Nafisi, born in 1955, has a doctorate in English literature from the University of Oklahoma (Norman), and taught English literature for 18 years in Iran. She and her family left Iran after the revolution, and she is now a fellow at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a treat to be inside the mind of Azar Nafisi! This book by the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran is woven around close readings of three books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunters, plus an epilog about the writings of James Baldwin. Nafisi tells us that she began thinking about this book when she was finishing Reading Lolita, originally calling it, “Becoming an American", discussing 24 novels! While the number of novels narrowed, the scope of the ...more
Lisa  Carlson
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fiction writers
Recommended to Lisa by: Mpls Star Tribune
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I cannot think of another author I've read who defines the role of fiction in our culture as beautifully and profoundly as Iranian Professor and Writer Azar Nafisi has. Her 10-26-14 story in the Mpls Star Tribune is an anthem for fiction writers everywhere who regularly are subject to hearing fiction will never be as great as non-fiction. I have long believed it is superior in the ways she states; "it's the moral guardian of the American dream and nonfiction always compliments fiction not the ot ...more
Jennifer King
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Republic of Imagination, loaded with excellent quotes, reads as part memoir, but mainly as academic discussion, on the ideas which define this place inside our heads in which reading fiction helps us to grow. Nafisi’s Republic is a place of imagination where we can create independent thoughts, where we learn to have empathy from reading, and where reading fiction helps to cultivate inner thought, and in turn makes us better citizens of the world.

Yes, books are important. Without them, we rem
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book discusses the importance of fiction as a way of interpretting and coping with life circumstances. I was already a believer in this philosophy, but Nafisi brought in as examples three classic American novels to demonstrate how these American books are vital representatives of America. She actually discusses more than 3 novels, and the epilogue is more of a 4th chapter dedicated to the major works of James Baldwin, but her subtitle would be very cumbersome if it was something like "Ameri ...more
Sherry Elmer
I didn't love this book the way I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran, but I did love the questions Nafisi raised in it: What is America? What characteristics best illustrate the American people? What books best define us?

Of the three books Nafisi chose as most distinctly American, one was a likely choice: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The other two were a bit more surprising: Babbitt and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. While I think Nafisi made a good case for the books she chose, I can't help t
Nov 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran and was quite looking forward to this read. While I can't remember the last time I didn't finish a book, I am throwing in the towel about 80 pages in. My ranking of this book is largely based on my expectation from having reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, where I felt that I learned so much about Iran, the author and her students, and that the discussion of books complemented and enhanced those stories beautifully. This book, to poach from another GoodReads revie ...more
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I just finished reading the "advance" uncorrected version of this new important book about the power of reading. What a great companion piece to Reading Lolita in Tehran. Nafisi captures why reading and literature should be and can be just as powerful in America today as in Tehran. I cannot wait for October for the final published version as I am excited for her ideas to come together in the epilogue, which is blank pages in the advance copy. Today, when so many forces are focused on STEM a ...more
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Nafisi is one of my most favorite authors. This book was breathtaking in its scope and depth of understanding of America and it's fiction. The author uses 4 books, or authors, to lead discussions of her life, her love of literature, and her assessment of American culture, or the lack thereof. She discusses the novels Huck Finn and Babbitt in the first two sections of the book. Then she discusses Carson McCullers and ends with James Baldwin. Throughout the book, Nafisi discusses the American ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Blending memories of her life and friends in the United States with the literary works of Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, and Carson McCullers, Nafisi looks at her adopted homeland through the lens of three books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Part memoir and part literary criticism, professor Nafisi passionately defends the importance of fiction as a vital civilizing ingredient in human life. “The crisis besetting America is not just an economic or p
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nafisi, well known for her book "Reading Lolita in Tehran", is perhaps more accessible here for American readers. Her narrative explores American literature classics such as Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The a heart is a Lonely Hunter. But she is able to make it about more than the rewards of reading fiction- it has to do with her hunger for friendship, for belonging, and for understanding the essence of being American on her way to citizenship. As a librarian, I have to applaud her effort to e ...more
Willow Redd
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This was a Goodreads First Reads giveaway as well as an advanced uncorrected proof. Reading Lolita in Tehran has been on my to-read list for a while, so when I saw The Republic of Imagination on the giveaway list I figured it would be worth entering. And I'm so glad I did!

Nafisi uses her love of literature and experiences in Tehran and America to define what she considers the quintessential American experience through three novels: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Babbitt by Sin
Dec 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: cbr6, nonfiction
I am frankly disappointed in this book. I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran, and was put off by the preachiness in this book. For the record, I agree that our education system needs fixing and the humanities are dying, but I am not the person Nafisi needs to convince. I am the choir she's preaching to--stop telling me what Common Core is, and tell me how to work around it in my classroom, for Pete's sake!!!

On a petty note: does she not read books past 1960? I can think of so many contemporary exam
Thoiba mohmmed
Sep 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
أتذكر حينما أنطلقت بنا الطائرة من سماء السلطنة إلى إيران كنتُ أفكر في هلكبري فن .. آذر نفيسي .. ديستوفسكي .. آلبير كامو. .. وصورة كافكا في مخيلتي .. لكن توقف بي الأمر أن أتذكر إجابة معيوف الرواحي عن قتل أحد شخصياته الروائية بعد خروجة من السجن .. كنت أتمنى أن أجد إجابة مقنعة أكثر من الصمت .. كان الصمت فقط .. لا شيء ..

حسناً كان سؤال الانسة آنا في محاضرة الأمس مقنعاً .. لماذاً لا نستطيع أن نُعمل الخيال .. ؟ أن نتحرك أكثر من قالب الروتين والإجابات المملة .. أريد تنوعاً ..

كانت رغبتي حينها أن أجلس في
May 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Good things:
- prompted me to read The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
- this quote: "Anyone who has experienced exile knows that in the aching desire to retrieve the lost land, the first thing that comes to mind is not what forced you to leave, but what kept you from leaving."
- At one point she states that "Every novel has at its core a choice," which made me think about writing in a slightly different way.

Meh things:
- a little didactic, a little too much about her personal life
- she gives major spoiler
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This needs to be read. Its blend of memoir and literary/social criticism, combined with Nafisi's zeal, make for a vibrant, uplifting read. Readers are left feeling they can do something because we have the freedom — and should act upon that freedom — to share with others our thoughts and feelings about the books we read, the art we see, the music we hear, and more. More of my thoughts on this title can be found on my blog at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall.
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This, to me, is a perfect book. Absolutely the reason to read. The author's premise is that literature is necessary for a democracy to work. Then she explores three classics to explain why this is so. Plus she weaves personal stories of being orphaned from home, losing humanities for data, and feeling lonely into social justice and educational reforms. She uses beautiful prose and literature to demonstrate why our democracy is at risk as we as a society diminish the importance of reading and hum ...more
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2015
Highly highly recommend....the first section. I loved her analysis and perspective on differences of learning and approach to literature between two very different countries/societies. All the Huck Finn chapters were fascinating as she deals with the ideas of freedom and individuality as contrasted between American and Iranian students. The sections after that had flashes of insight but were much less compelling and tended to ramble. I would give 5 stars to the first section and probably 3 to th ...more
Azar Nafisi is a beautiful teacher of literature and, in my mind, an honorary librarian with an uncanny ability to make her audience fall in love with the books she loves. This time, she discusses Mark Twain, L. Frank Baum, Sinclair Lewis, Carson McCullers, and James Baldwin, but essentially she talks about the universal human experience as conveyed through literature and storytelling. For book listeners, I would recommend the audiobook version of the book eloquently and leisurely narrated by Mo ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Random pick at the library, yet it was one of those picks that you can't believe how lucky you were to find this book! I listened to the audio book and it truly was like sitting in on the very best literature class I could have ever imagined. I had some great literature teachers, yet none were able to pull from the classics what Azar was able to bring to life.
If you are someone who gets irritated at spoilers to books, I would recommend you first take the time to read the three books she discuss
Logan Kratzer
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Her thesis or purpose in writing this book as presented in the first few pages sounded amazing, but then she failed to deliver. It ended up being more of a memoir of her own experiences in writing this books and the people who are important in her life.
Jan 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get into this book, which was disappointing as it had been recommended as such a good read. I made it just over halfway through before stopping as it never seemed to get going in a discernible direction.
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
كانت لدي توقعات عالية وربما أحبطت بسبب الأسلوب الممزوج بين تحليلات أدبية ومقالات تاريخية. لم أستطع إكماله بسبب التكرار والعودة للتطرق إلى هكلبيري في المئة صفحة الأولى والإسباغ في طرح فكرة الشخصية المشردة.
Carol Bachofner
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book did not disappoint. I loved knowing how Nafisi sees her new country in the pages of some of our great books.
Courtney Brown
Aug 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club

Feel as though this book should be subtitled "why I didn't end up writing the book I set out to write."

May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved Nafisi's _Reading Lolita in Tehran_ and was just as excited to pick this book up and find an introduction that promised a similar integration of memoir and investigation of classic literature. I can't say the book disappointed me (because it didn't), but the experience of reading it was different than I'd anticipated. In this book, Nafisi looks at a few texts (I read the paperback with a different subtitle and find that she interjects insight into a variety of books, so find the "America ...more
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nafisi weaves together many threads here to create a unique and captivating kind of literary analysis. There are reflections on US culture and history, becoming a US citizen, living through the Iranian Revolution, her ongoing conversations with friends and acquaintances about literature, and of course, analysis of the three books in the title: Twain's Huck Finn, Sinclair Lewis's Babbit, and Carson McCullers's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. The chapter on Huck Finn, alone, is worth picking up the ...more
Nov 05, 2015 added it
Shelves: memoir, philosophy
This book has a disappointment built into it. The author describes, early on, her desire to publish a book, or essay, or term-work, on Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. She begins it by writing about a deep friendship she had with an old friend now dying of cancer. Well & good, but, I keep expecting her to give us the actual paper, when what happens is we read about it second or third hand through the evolution of the friendship and the literary arguments she has with her friends ...more
Shelly Shore
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-books
Overall, I quite liked this book. Somehow, it managed to be a goodbye to a friend, a love letter, a refugee narrative, a commentary on educational policy, and a literary analysis, all at once. I loved the insight and detail Nafisi put into the textual and character analysis, and the grasp she has on American history and culture while still maintaining an attention to regional differences and her own unique perspective as an immigrant citizen. The split of the book into distinct parts, each one f ...more
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Azar Nafisi, Ph.D. (Persian: آذر نفیسی) (born December 1955) is an Iranian professor and writer who currently resides in the United States.

Nafisi's bestselling book Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books has gained a great deal of public attention and been translated into 32 languages.

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“Pragmatists are sometimes more prone to illusion than dreamers; when they fall for something, they fall hard, not knowing how to protect themselves, while we dreamers are more practiced in surviving the disillusionment that follows when we wake up from our dreams.” 10 likes
“American students, we are told, are falling behind in reading and math; on test after test, they score below most European students (at the level of Lithuania), and the solution, rather than seeking to engage their curiosity, has been testing and more testing— a dry and brittle method that produces lackluster results. And so resources are pulled from the “soft” fields that are not being tested. Music teachers are being fired or not replaced; art classes are quietly dropped from the curriculum; history is simplified and moralized, with little expectation that any facts will be learned or retained; and instead of reading short stories, poems and novels, students are invited to read train schedules and EPA reports whose jargon could put even the most committed environmentalist to sleep.” 8 likes
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