The Beacon Bolt is a publication of the student body of Northwest Christian University. Next Monday will mark the end of the NCU Library’s annual Blind Date with a Book, a month long event where students and faculty can be given a book at random to read. Reading is a great pastime, but the idea of reading a book, buy not knowing what it is until you sit down and open it is something one is liable to be at least slightly apprehensive of. Starting a book is no laughing matter, reading is a fantastic thing to do, but it goes without saying that the experience is infinitely more enjoyable when it’s a book you’re enjoying.
The scare of opening a new book is that if it is of a genre previously unexplored or by an author whose works you’re unfamiliar with, it might not be that good of a fit and your time will be wasted. It can be pretty disappointing to stick with a book, hoping it’ll get better, and finally abandoning it halfway through because it never lived up to expectations. I mean, we’re required to read plenty of things we’d rather not for classes anyways, so any book we’re going to read recreationally had better be a damn good one, which means being curious and stepping into a new series or genre might seem kind of risky.
On the other hand though, getting a little adventurous and deciding to try something a bit outside the territory of what you typically go with is a great way to uncover hidden gems and books that end up etching themselves into your memory for life, when 99% of the time you might not have bothered taking a second glance. The odd books that still end up being good are the most memorable, probably because they are noticeably different in many ways than a reader’s typical fare. Every reader has their personal preferences of what they usually like to read, but occasionally veering off into a new venue is an adventure worth going on.
In honor of Blind Date with a Book, I have decided to recall a handful of these more memorable books that stand apart from what I usually read.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.
This is a classic example of a well-known book that I had been aware of for years but had never harbored any plans of reading, as the only thing I had known about it was the iconic title. However, when I was forced to open up Golding’s 1954 novel for my senior English class in high school, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself thrown into the dark reality of a group of boys who are stranded on a remote, jungle island, completely isolated from civilization. This somewhat creepy and disturbing read theorizes what would happen when seemingly well-bred and educated young lads are faced with the challenge of survival in a place where the rules of society don’t exist, leaving them to create their own.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
This one was definitely out of character for me. However, the miniseries and the film starring Keira Knightly got me curious, and now Jane Austen’s novel of manners ranks among my favorites. If you haven’t read many older books (by “old”, I mean 19th century), it may take a while to adjust to the style of writing, but that doesn’t make it any less enthralling. With the majority of the book focused on dialogue rather than descriptions, P&P is a sublime example of how in the world of literature, sometimes less is more. The sharp and witty conversations throughout, mostly involving the prideful Mr. Darcy, prejudiced Jane, and the less frequent but always amusing observations of Jane’s father, coupled with the babble of her mother and sisters make for a novel that may require a slow start in order to adjust to, but will likely have you turning pages at a steady and fervent clip later on.
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis
A giant of Christian literature, C.S Lewis was a brilliant writer and thinker with a knack for making the complex understandable. His works include fantasy novels, science fiction, and many other theological and contemplative books. Reading The Screwtape Letters is an experience that no other book is likely to give you. Written as a series of letters between two demons, one residing in Hell, and his underling who has been tasked with guiding a man living in Britain away from his faith and Christian beliefs, and eventually to Hell where his downfall will be rejoiced at and his misery celebrated. In this book, Lewis flips the concept of good and evil on its head by writing from the demons perspective, where evil is viewed as good, and good viewed as evil. The demons discuss strategies of temptations, and how we are susceptible to making small compromises that add up over time. The role reversal is extremely effective and chilling. It’s a brilliant strategy, and is arguably the most enlightening piece of work I have ever read. The fact that the book is written in the form of letters almost gives it a textbook quality, in that each letter is comparable to a lesson. This is also advantageous if you aren’t able to regularly set aside time to read, because the way each chapter wraps up ensures that even if you go a few days or a week between reads, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off without much difficulty.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Often included on banned book lists for its content, this series of letters written to God by protagonist Celie, a girl living in 1930s rural Georgia is not for the faint of heart. The first chapter comes with a bit of a shock factor and lets you know right away what you’re getting yourself into. The book censors very little of Celie’s hard life and traumatic experiences, including abuse, rape, and racism. While blunt, the book is also addicting and can be read quite fast. This might be the single most unique book I’ve ever read, and it’s not the kind of book you’re liable to forget once you have. The book was published in 1982, and in 1985 Steven Spielberg directed a star-studded cast in a film adaption, which is also fantastic and I highly recommend. Neither the book or movie are very are always easy to get through, simply due to the content and tragedy that neither works shy away from, but they are both fantastic and deserve a look. A rare blend of pain, endurance, suffering, and joy amidst hardship.
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
The source of the often-used term we are familiar with now, The Time Machine is H.G. Wells’ imagining of what the fate of the human race and planet Earth will be distant, distant future. What’s most striking in this book is the imagination of technology and the futuristic world that managed to be put forth back in 1895. It’s easy to assume that since we live in modern times we have a much better idea of what the future will look like, but Wells’ creates a compelling scenario that is no harder to delve into now despite how long ago it was written. Wells writes primarily of a time when humans are no longer human, and have instead, over time, split into two entirely different kinds of creature: one predator, the other prey. The protagonist, who we simply know is an English scientist and inventor, uses his “time machine” to see what the future of Earth holds, even traveling so far as to see our planet in it’s final stages of life.
This book is primarily glorious, topnotch distraction. There’s no real hidden meaning or theological teachings to mull over, and it likely won’t change your life or make you a “better” person, but boy is it fun. It’s imaginative, polished pulp, and once you get a few pages into it you’ll have forgotten that it was written over 120 years ago, a sure mark of any good book.
None of these books are unknown, but they all were notable deviations from what I typically choose to read, and all of them were enriching and thoroughly enjoyable deviations at that. Enjoy reading? Pick up something new and unusual to you, it’s a great way to expand your horizons! Not much of a reader? Go out and look at books, read the descriptions, and pick out the most intriguing one you come across! Nothing compares to a good story. I believe that there’s no person who doesn’t like to read, just people who don’t yet know what they like to read. Go find out!