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Genre or Topic/Theme Related > Books relating to OUR world and times

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message 1: by Heather (last edited Sep 08, 2010 05:03PM) (new)

Heather Clapp | 5 comments For awhile I was a BIG historical fiction reader and liked fantasy as well.....but the current world is becoming so interesting that everything I read now has something to do with today's issues.

I should probably break it up a bit with some nice escapism reading but I seem to have this fear that if I look away for even a second, I'll miss something important. The award winning book, for me anyway, in this genre of books relating to the current, is The Jefferson Project because it combines some real meaty philosophical food for thought, in a well paced, suspenseful fictional format. The best books entertain while they teach and teach while they entertain. The Jefferson Project  by Thor Duffin

What are your favorites?

message 2: by Emily (new)

Emily  O (readingwhilefemale) | 487 comments This is an awesome, if somewhat confusing, topic (as I'm sure you'll soon see). I think I'll split mine between fiction and non-fiction. There are so many great books that it's hard to know where to start.

For the non-fiction side of things, I really enjoyed Ayyan Hirsi Ali's autobiography, Infidel, but then she is also kind of a hero of mine in some ways, so I'm a bit biased there. Another book on an issue that's very relevant these days is The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, which is, as its title suggests, a book on the overwhelming evidence for evolution. It could be organized a little better (that's true of all of his books really) but since he is one of the world's premier evolutionary biologists, I'd say it's worth a read. That book isn't particularly godless, but for people who are interested in that debate, I can also recommend The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God and Letter to a Christian Nation. Then there are always the famous feminist texts Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, which is riotous and crazy and where I got the idea for my women-only challenge, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, which is empowering if maybe a little idealistic, Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, and Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters, both of which are good introductions to why feminists aren't just a bunch of grumpy old man-hating lesbians (trust me, we're not). Great stuff all around.

For fiction, the first thing that comes to mind is Next, which deals with genetic engineering. I also, for some reason or another, think of Fight Club. Strange as it is, it does have a voice that tries to talk about consumerism and human worth, and it ends surprisingly differently than the movie. I guess To Kill a Mockingbird would also fall under this category.

I feel like it's harder to pick fiction, because it's hard sometimes with these thing to decide what is "modern" enough to fit the category. When do these issues really start? Toni Morrison's (Beloved) writing is more than applicable today, even if her books are often set during or just after the time of slavery. She is using her books to comment, not only on that history, but on the present, and how it has been shaped by that history. The same could be said for people like Alice Walker or Octavia Butler (Kindred), both of whom set their novels in different places or times, but both of whom are still commenting on the present. You could also look at the many famous feminist novels written during the beginnings of the women's liberation movement. Yes, they were talking about their time, but the repercussions of that time are still felt today, and many of their problems are problems that we still face. You can't talk about race today without talking about slavery, and you can't talk about equality today without mentioning the inequalities of the past. And if they are talking about today, do they have to be set in the real world, or can they be, like many science fiction novels, set in a fictional world, as a means of commenting on the real one? What about books like The Handmaid's Tale, Four Ways to Forgiveness, or The Left Hand of Darkness? What about dystopias like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, or Brave New World?

Basically, what I'm trying to say with this novel of a post is that I have no idea where to draw the line between historical and modern concerns, but that I am definitely with you on loving books that entertain and teach and that are relevant to modern day problems. Those are, to me, the best kinds of books, and the ones I listed are all pretty darn good. :)

message 3: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner), The Founding Bookworm (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 4407 comments Mod
Hmm very thought provoking discussion already! When I first read this I was thinking about how it is such a weird experience when I read something that happened in my lifetime. Like when I read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or when that very tiny paragraph in The Time Traveler's Wife and they talked about 9/11..I was just taken aback. I mean, obviously it is history but it was so weird to be able to actually have been alive during an event while reading a book.

message 4: by Heather (last edited Sep 08, 2010 06:43PM) (new)

Heather Clapp | 5 comments That's a very interesting point about the odd feeling you get when you read a story concurrent to an event in your lifetime. It's a similar feeling to when I'm feeling particularly contemplative and I start to imagining what the rest of the world is doing right now.
It makes me feel oddly connected and lonely at the same time.

What's even stranger is when you read a fiction that's so on point, it actually becomes less fiction as the world unfolds. For instance, in the book I mentioned before there's a section about "Refuser States". I know he wrote this thing before any states decided to become refusers of National Health care. Sometimes the collective conciousness creeps into the very receptive minds of the artist I think.

Thank you for the responses Jamie and Emily.

message 5: by Heather (new)

Heather Clapp | 5 comments Emily wrote: "This is an awesome, if somewhat confusing, topic (as I'm sure you'll soon see). I think I'll split mine between fiction and non-fiction. There are so many great books that it's hard to know where t..."

Yes Emily. Our time is as separate from history as a ripple is to the pond. AND if we get so focused on here and now we'll lose our way back.

message 6: by Emily (new)

Emily  O (readingwhilefemale) | 487 comments Jamie wrote: "Hmm very thought provoking discussion already! When I first read this I was thinking about how it is such a weird experience when I read something that happened in my lifetime. Like when I read [bo..."

I remember feeling like that when I read [book:Falling Man|28700]. And I remember that part in Time Traveler's Wife too. It felt strange somehow.

message 7: by Kimberly (last edited Sep 08, 2010 08:58PM) (new)

Kimberly (kimberlywithat) | 2140 comments Great topic! I'm trying to think of any... I tend to read a lot of fantasy so I don't come across as many novels about our time. One does come to mind though, in the Young Wizards series there is a line in the first book, I can't remember it and I'll probably butcher what it actually said... But at one point in the book it mentions the Twin Towers, and about how much life there was on the island, and how horrible it would be if something were to happen, all that life gone so easily. The book was written in the 80's, long before 9/11. When I read the book it was after 9/11, and I remember it gave me chills. In the most recent book in the series it comments on that line from the first book. About how not too long ago they had looked at the building and had that thought, and now they were gone.

Sorry, not the best explanation. I'll have to think of some more books!

message 8: by Natanya (last edited Sep 10, 2010 03:43PM) (new)

Natanya (vraisemble) | 255 comments Ahh Jamie I totally felt the same way for both Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and The Time Traveler's Wife when they talked about 9/11. It was such a weird feeling. Or even just when books mention ipods/mp3's kind of like in my mind books should be totally separated from (or maybe too good for, haha) modern crazes, even if these little things are what makes them more relatable for the general public.

message 9: by Heather (new)

Heather Clapp | 5 comments Noam Chomsky is amazing. He's got a very keen eye to the way we are constantly and effectively manipulated. He should be required reading for anyone who would like to consider themselves a critical thinker, because without the ability to spot the propaganda tricks, it's hard to know what thoughts are actually OURS.

Also, thanks for the recomending the Lucifer Effect. That will be an interesting read for sure.

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