Flowers for Algernon (Throw Back Thursday)

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Title: Flowers for Algernon
Author:Daniel Keyes
Published: 1966

Synopsis:
With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

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I first heard of this book in sixth grade when part of it was printed in our language arts books. It was in the back of the book meaning that we’d never ever get to it during the school year, so I did what any book loving sixth grader would do, and read it after I was doing homework. I was hooked, not fully understanding the scope of the story. It wasn’t until later, when I re-read it for high school that it really just struck a chord with me. This novel is so beyond the time period it was written, that even now, in this day and age it’s so complex and profound. I don’t normally get around calling books profound, but this book really is. It takes the scope of human intelligence, and what defines intelligence and turns it around, really making the reader focus on what they consider valuable in humanity and that’s a really harsh pill to swallow.

This book breaks my heart into eight million tiny pieces. From the first paragraph, Charlie who wants so desperately to do nothing but gain intelligence so he ‘can have lots of friends who like him.’ is something spectacular. Later on during the novel he calls himself extraordinary, which is interesting because the word encompasses both his extraordinary mental handicaps and then his extraordinary intelligence as he progresses after the surgery. I really like how the author shows us the rise and fall of the man named Charlie. When we first meet him, he can’t even spell his name correctly, and as his world knowledge grows, you see that not only his knowledge of superficial things, but the way human minds work, to when he starts to regress. Something interesting that I noticed is that he had better interpersonal relationships when he was handicapped then when he was considered a ‘functioning member’ of society.

It might sound a little silly, but this book inspired me to take more patience with special needs people. I’ve discovered that love working with them, as I’ve had lots of opportunities to volunteer and work on a one-on-one basis with some extraordinary kids and adults.

This book…this book guys it just breaks my heart. It’s beautiful and poignant, smart and well written. It’s something that has stood against the ages, and it will always be something that I will hold dear to me.

Tell me about a book that even now grips you by the heartstrings and doesn’t let you go.

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Throwback Thursday: Animal Farm by George Orwell.


Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Originally Read: 2002
Re-read: Jan. 5th, 2015

Each Thursday I’ll be featuring a book from my childhood, re-reading it and informally reviewing it. If you want to join in, please do and link me your post.

Synopsis:
Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/ communist philosophy of Stalin in the Soviet Union.

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This is a book that I love so very much. It’s one that I toss regularly at people, it’s a book that I think everyone needs to read. I first was introduced to Animal Farm in high school my senior year by friend of mine who was shocked that I hadn’t read it, and that it wasn’t on the required reading list for our AP English class. I picked it up from the library and read it in a matter of maybe an hour and a half–then re-read it soon after to fully digest everything that’s going on. It’s a slim book, an easy read on first pass, but once you start to make connections between these characters and the historical figures that they match up with, suddenly everything seems to open up.

To me this is a book that once read is one that sticks around for a long time. It’s teachings are applicable to today’s world just as much as the era of Stalin, Marx and the rise of the Communist culture. The narrative is subtle, things changing without realization, until the reader is very much caught up in the story going along with everything that’s happening. The last scene/lines of this book are forever burned into my brain while the pigs are with the men, and the other animals have a hard time distinguishing between the two.

Frankly, Animal Farm is a book that needed to be written, and it’s a book that needs to be read by everyone. It stands the test of time, and can be applied to today’s society and I really just want everyone to read it so I can talk to them about it.

Throw back Thursday: A Wrinkle In Time


Title: Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Originally Read: 1993
Re-read Jan 1, 2015

Synopsis:
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

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I’ve been wanting to do a feature like this for a few months, and I finally decided to buckle down and do it. Each Thursday I’ll be featuring a book from my childhood, re-reading it and informally reviewing it. If you want to join in, please do and link me your post. 🙂

A Wrinkle in Time is a book that’s stuck with me for years. I remember my mom buying the trilogy when I was in second grade, and hiding them from me because she felt that I was too young to read them. However, being the voracious reader I am I snuck downstairs, picked them off of the antique bookcase and smuggled them upstairs to read by flashlight under my blankets. Meg was someone that I wanted to be like so badly, she was smart, and strong and made a difference in the world. I really was too young to read them as I had nightmares about IT for weeks afterward. I ended up reading A Wrinkle in Time again, and the other two in the trilogy after finding an excerpt of it in the back of my English book. This time I identified a bit more with Meg, though a younger version.

I got the box set of all five for Christmas this year, and I quickly breezed through A Wrinkle in Time, getting lost once more in the pages and the story of Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin. Even now the details and story telling hold up so beautifully. It’s a simple, quick paced story with plenty of action and mystery. I love the details that are in the story, the narrative is so immersive and wonderful. L’Engle was a story teller, and it shows. Emotions are tangible and believable, and she creates amazing worlds. Camazotz is terrifying, even now, policed conformity something that could actually happen. The science is still very science fiction, yet the methods and logic behind it are still able to stand supported in 2015.

If you haven’t read this, please do. It’s a beautiful introduction to some amazing characters who are still so very close to my heart. I gave A Wrinkle in Time to one of the girls that I nanny. I strongly believe it is a relevant story to this day. It’s an easy introduction to science fiction and fantasy with touches of dystopian worlds. The theme of individuality and embracing oneself is something that needs to be brought back. I cannot recommend this book enough.