Heart-wrenchers: Favorite novels and authors

Okay, guys. Confession time. I’m a journalist, but I received my undergraduate degree in English literature. Egads! Alright, the cat’s out of the bag now, so I can tell you freely and without reservations that I have several favorite books. And since this is my blog, I’m going to cast reporting to the wind for a moment and write a post about literature! So, there.

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Kingsolver addresses a myriad of social issues, involving race, gender, class and even international politics, in this 1960s-era novel. A missionary family, consisting of a fanatical patriarch, a work-worn mother and four lively daughters, travel from Southern Georgia to the Belgian Congo to bring its inhabitants the Word of God. Each in turn learns the danger blindly following social mores, as well as the value of using religion for peace rather than hatred.

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In this graphic novel, Spiegelman tells of his father’s experiences as a Jewish citizen living in Nazi Germany. Caveat: The Nazis are depicted as cats, and Jews as mice. The book is engaging, entertaining, heartfelt, action-packed and riveting. The portrayal of characters through animals does not distance readers emotionally – quite the opposite actually. A heartbreaking sense of humanity exudes from the cats and mice in the book, and their predator-prey relationship reveals more about the human condition than base animalism.

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Shelley stemmed from a highly educated background. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, authored the 18th-century feminist book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Despite living in an era where many women could not legally own property, her parents upheld radical philosophies for the time period. Having obtained an unbridled education, an impressive feat in itself, she started writing the novel at the age of 18. Shelley, her future husband and philosopher Percy ShelleyJohn Polidori (sometimes credited as the instigator of the vampire genre) and Lord Byron entered into a friendly-spirited competition to see who could write the best story. Perhaps to her surprise, Shelley emerged victorious from the competition with Frankenstein.

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