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Tag: Aldous Huxley

Short Form Summer Reading Summaries

by flickr user sara. nel
Whether you’re a librarian, a parent, or procrastinator not too proud to admit it, you’re probably familiar with the question that comes up around this time of year regarding assigned summer reading. Not just panicked students requesting the books they need, but the slightly desperate plea, “What is this book about?” We put the question to the collective mind of our Hub bloggers, with the added challenge to summarize familiar summer reading classics in the shortest form possible. Here is a round-up of the quirky, clever, and funny responses we got:

From Sarah Debraski with an assist from Paul, some great haiku

The only thing you
need to know is Big Brother
is always watching
(1984 by George Orwell)

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Sex, God, and the Series: The Top 10 Book Challenges of 2011

The American Library Association yesterday released its list of the top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2011. At first blush, this year’s list appears to have few surprises, and in fact, 8 of the 10 books have been on the list before. Half of the titles have been on the list at least three times in the past 11 years.

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
  2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The biggest surprise comes from a title that isn’t in the list this year: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. This picture book, which tells the story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who become parents to a baby girl penguin, has held court at #1 or #2 on the banned books list since 2006. Yet this year the title has dropped off the top 10 entirely.

Graph of Trends in Challenged Books

There are also some more subtle shifts in this year’s list that shed light on some interesting trends in book challenges over the past decade:

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Roots of Dystopia (Another Hunger Games Post)

For those of us old enough to remember the year 1984, we can recall the discussions and hand-wringing as we compared our world with the future that had been prophesied by George Orwell in his novel 1984, written in 1948. I recall earnest discussions about the topic from casual conversations in public to stories on news programs. It was a time of anxiety in an era of anxiety. The threat of mutually assured destruction loomed as the US and the USSR maneuvered to wind down the Cold War. The new threat of terrorism and hijacking from rogue states in the Middle East and elsewhere had people on edge. Industrial pollution and environmental disasters had people wondering if their communities might be next. Amidst the anxiety and rumination, Neil Postman began writing his now classic critique of television and public discourse, Amusing Ourselves to Death. In the foreword, Postman contrasts the dystopian futures presented by George Orwell in 1984 and Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. In the first, society is ruled over by the totalitarian big brother that always watches citizens and rules through a combination of propaganda and fear. In Huxley’s version the world is controlled not through brutality and coercion but through pleasure. Postman asserts that in the debate between Orwell and Huxley that Huxley got it right. In Postman’s estimation we have created a society that doesn’t need a dictator to control us or deprive us of our freedoms, because we will happily forfeit our freedoms to have them replaced by pleasure and trivial nonsense.

1984 and Brave New World stand as the most essential modern dystopian novels. Yes, there were dystopian visions before them like We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, but 1984 and Brave New World are the two models for the modern dystopian novel. There is a continuum for dystopias when using these two as models. On the one end, we have a future where we are controlled by that which we hate (as in 1984) and on the other end we have a future where we are controlled by what we love (as in Brave New World).

Where would The Hunger Games fall on this continuum?

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