Zarafa

In 1827, Muhammad Ali of Egypt gave Charles X of France a giraffe as a gift. This book by Michael Allin describes the journey this giraffe took across the ocean and over two continents, as well as the history of the time period in which the giraffe lived.

Giraffes are my favorite animals, and while I'm not really a non-fiction and/or history fan, I am very intrigued by the culture of both Africa and France. Zarafa is interesting, short, and detailed, a unique read.

Peace, Aimee

Yann Martel

...is an author, not the title of a book, but if I were to post a book that started with the letter Y that I have read, I would be duplicating an author from another A to Z Challenge post.

Yann Martel is one of my favorite authors. I adore Life of Pi, and Beatrice and Virgil is one of the most adorable and insightful books I've read. The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios is a fascinating read, and Martel's style brings spirituality, the human connection to nature (particularly animals), and a sense of adventure to the forefront of his readers' minds. I highly recommended any of his books to any reader, in particular Life of Pi, which I have posted about before here, and which I believe is a necessary read for any human being interested in looking at new ways to find enlightenment.

Animal lovers unite! 

Peace, Aimee

X

As I said of the letter Q, I have not read a book that begins with this letter, so, when I do, I will post my thoughts on it. In the mean time,

Peace, Aimee

What is the What

Based on the true story of Valentino Achak Deng, What is the What by Dave Eggers is a fictionalized account of the Lost Boys of Sudan program, which is a group of young Sudanese refugees who escaped the Second Sudanese Civil War and traveled on foot across Africa. After his village is wiped out, Valentino walked through Kenya and Ethiopia and finally moved to the United States.

This book is the amazing story of the trials of starvation and militia violence that still occurs daily in Africa. After reading this book, I was inspired by Valentino's strength of spirit. I believe this one of those books that every person should read.

Peace, Aimee

V for Vendetta

After a nuclear war has destroyed much of the world and a fascist party has taken over the UK government, an anarchist revolutionary who calls himself 'V' and wears a Guy Fawkes mask detonates a bomb at Parliament and saves a young woman named Evey from gangsters. V intends to kill off the members of the fascist party in control of the country, partly to overthrow the government, and partly for revenge.

This graphic novel by Alan Moore was published in the 1980s, when it was timely, and it has been timely every year since, in my opinion. It is an amazing story with great impact on its readers. I would highly recommended you read it, even if you've already seen the movie, which follows the book fairly well.

Peace, Aimee

Universe, The Restaurant at the End of the

This is worse cheating than The Importance of Being Earnest for letter E... But seeing as I haven't yet read Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Bourne Ultimatum (I'm missing the first book of the series and can't find it anywhere!) and I do not want to duplicate authors for this A to Z Challenge (using Ulysses, since I already used James Joyce for the letter A), this will have to do.  

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the second book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, in which a man named Arthur Dent is saved by his alien friend when the earth is destroyed in order to make room for a new space highway. It's British, scientific (in the loosest sense of the word), and hilarious, three of my favorite categories all wrapped up in one.

Peace, Aimee

The Time Traveler's Wife

This is the story of Claire, who meets a man in the field of her backyard when she is a little girl. He seems to know everything about her, but as she grows up, he knows less and less while she learns more about him. It turns out that he has a genetic defect that causes him to skip around on his life's timeline. He's a time traveler!

A science fiction romance of sorts, this is one of my favorite novels. It explores aspects of love such as devotion and the possibility of soul mates. It is a beautiful novel told back and forth between Claire and Henry in the first person.

Peace, Aimee

Shantaram

This semi-autobiographical novel by Gregory David Roberts takes an Australian prison-escapee on a journey in Bombay, where he assumes a new identity (Lin) to hide from the police. There he meets and falls in love with a Swiss-American woman and befriends an Indian tour guide named Prabaker. Lin is forced to reside in the slums of Bombay, but with his positive outlook on life, he starts up a free health clinic for the poverty-suffering community and becomes fluent in the local language. Unfortunately, his criminal history catches up with him and he is recruited by the Mumbai underworld.

This is the most honest (though fictionalized) and beautiful novel I have ever read. The wise and optimistic voice creates an atmosphere of peace in the book, even when Lin is suffering violent beatings from the police and gangsters, and when he is faced with the terrifying poverty and illness of the slums of Bombay. The word Shantaram means "Man of God's Peace," and this is certainly what Gregory David Roberts is. Though it is over 1000 pages long, it is a book that every person must read.

Peace, Aimee

Road, The

The Road won Cormac McCarthy the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and with good reason. This post-apocalyptic novel follows a man and his young son as they trek across the country avoiding cannibals and the harsh weather. It is a beautiful story with intense diction. It proves the power of love over fear. I think it's a book that everyone should read, but we wary if you don't have a very strong stomach.

Peace, Aimee

Q

I scoured my memory, my bookshelves, and the internet, but I could not find a book I've read that starts with the letter Q. I'm a bit worried about X too...

I am going to make it a personal goal for myself to find a book that starts with the letter Q, read it, and get back to you on it. And X. You can look forward to my post about these two books some time in May, probably.

:)

Peace, Aimee

Publish This Book

Frustrated with the publishing world, having written and pitched many stories to no avail, college student and writer Stephen Markley decided to write a memoir about trying to publish a book. The peculiar idea was, however, that the very memoir he was writing would be the book he was trying to publish. While Markley essentially wrote the book about writing the book, the events in his life and the emotions they elicited quickly and cleverly became the main plot as he revealed the naivety and determination of youth that borders on hubris. Exhibiting extraordinary humor and revealing Markley’s gift of optimism, Publish This Book is an inspiring debut.

After writing the first two chapters of the book, Markley was unable to continue until an agent or publisher showed an interest in the convoluted project. As the rejections rolled in, they made their way into the manuscript, as did Markley’s writing workshop, and soon his friends and family, who dismissed his idea and encouraged him to get a job or work on a novel. Events such as an obtainment of a miserable nine-to-five day job, a friend’s unexpected pregnancy, and the struggle maintaining a relationship with his long-distance girlfriend paralleled his writing process as he narrated his life as it unfolded. The pages of this memoir are infused with scatological humor and are littered with witty footnotes, following his journey from confused, naive, and fun-seeking young adult to wise — though still fun-seeking — published author.

This book is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I found myself cracking up practically every other page. Publish This Book is an essential read for aspiring authors, especially those in their twenties.

Peace, Aimee

Other, The

Two men, who met in high school and went to college together, take two strikingly different paths. Though they shared a connection through their love of nature, their friendship is unlikely. One man becomes an English teacher, a husband, a father, while the other goes off to live a life as a hermit deep in the woods of Washington.

This intriguing coming-of-age novel by David Guterson explores what it means to live a good life, whether it is following the typical path to success and fulfillment or following your own dream. Beautiful language and deep characters.

Peace, Aimee

Notes from Underground

N seems to be another rare letter for book titles. Also on my shelf are Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, N or M? by Agatha Christie, Next by Michael Crichton, and No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, all of which I have not yet read.

Notes from Underground is an existentialist novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, told through the diaries of a cynical man and retired civil servant, who is an unreliable narrator. At times hilarious and other times a bit unnerving, this book is an interesting psychological read.

Peace, Aimee

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Based on a true story, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt describes the events leading up to the murder of a male prostitute by his antique dealer lover in 1980s Savannah, Georgia. With unique characters, humorous and Gothic language, and exploring aspects of revenge, sexuality, voodoo, and justice, this is one of my all-time favorite books that I would highly recommend to just about anyone.

Peace, Aimee

Love in the Time of Cholera

This is an emotional and moving love story written by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It takes place in Spain in the late 1800s and early 1900s and tells the story of a woman's struggle of choosing between two men: her true love, the anarchic, sweeping romantic who she is forbidden to see, and the medical doctor she marries, who has devoted his live to finding the cure for cholera.

Written in beautiful language and delving into themes such as love-sickness, aging, and death, Love in the Time of Cholera is a wonderful literary novel.

Peace, Aimee

K-Pax

I honestly think this (besides its sequel K-Pax II) is the only book I’ve read that starts with the letter K. But it’s a good one, anyway.

Author Gene Brewer tells the story of a man who arrives at a psychiatric hospital claiming to be called Prot and coming from the planet K-Pax. Told through his meetings with the psychiatrist and enduring hypnosis, K-Pax is not only a story of questioning the line between fantasy and reality, but it also questions many aspects of our culture, such as family dynamics and government.

There are hilarious bits and there are terribly sad bits, and the deeper message of the story is not one you would expect from this genre of book. I would highly recommend this novel to people interested in psychology, sociology, astronomy, and even anarchy. It’s a very enjoyable read.

Peace, Aimee

Jane Eyre

The love story of Jane Eyre, an abandoned, orphaned governess, and the Byronic Mr. Rochester, this novel by Charlotte Bronte is a classic, and deservedly so. Told from Jane's perspective, Jane Eyre was ahead of its time concerning feminist issues. It's an entertaining story that illustrates what life was like for the upper-class of England in the 1800s.

Peace, Aimee

Infinite Jest

Written by genius David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest is a 1000-page-long experimental novel that tells the often humorous story of a boy's tennis camp that is located just down the road from a drug rehab center. Somewhat of a coming-of-age story, this book explores issues such as the purpose of entertainment; highly philosophical and highly recommended.

Peace, Aimee

Heart of Darkness

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is my favorite book.

It is told as a story within a story by a man named Charles Marlow who follows the Congo River to the heart of the Congo to find Mr. Kurtz, who has become corrupt in his position in the ivory company. Forcing the natives to worship him, Mr. Kurtz has become an evil madman. It explores issues like greed, corruption of power, the capacity for human evil and goodness.

Peace, Aimee

Gun Seller, The

Did you know Hugh Laurie wrote a book? I knew Hugh Laurie wrote a book! As a matter of fact, I read this book long before I read Stephen Fry's. Half of the comedic pair of Fry and Laurie, Hugh Laurie, best known in America for the television medical drama House, wrote this novel, which is a spoof of the spy genre.

When Thomas Lang is offered tons of money to kill an American businessman, he decides murder is not for him and warns the victim that someone is out to kill him. This causes some CIA agents, terrorists, and an arms-dealer on his tail. He must avoid an international bloodbath and save a femme fatale. It's hilarious and action-packed. Fry fans, Laurie fans, mystery fans, and comedy fans will adore it.

Peace, Aimee

For Whom the Bell Tolls

"No man is an island entire of himself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main... Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." -John Donne

Based on Ernest Hemingway's experiences during the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of American soldier Robert Jordan, whose love for a Spanish girl clashes with his sense of duty to fight for his country.

I didn't much like any of Hemingway's other works, but I do like this one very much. It describes the brutality of war and the human capacity for love.

Peace, Aimee

Earnest, The Importance of Being

Is this cheating? Well anyway, I couldn’t think of a book I’d read that starts with the letter E.

Perhaps the most famous play of Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest is a hilarious satire of Victorian society and the triviality of social status. In the play, a man named Jack lives a double life, claiming to have a scandalous brother named Ernest. When his ward becomes engaged to his friend Algernon, his double life is exposed to the woman he loves, who will only marry a man named Ernest. The dialogue of this play is genius. I’d say it is the funniest thing I have ever read.

Peace, Aimee

Dharma Bums, The

This is one of Jack Kerouac's several semi-autobiographical novels, documenting his adventures with Buddhist nomad friends. In this book, Kerouac climbs a mountain called Desolation Peak and experiments with meditation. Like his other works, it is written in post-modernist prose and reveals his naive and sentimental nature.

I find the Beatnik lifestyle appealing in theory, as well as the spirituality that Jack Kerouac explores in this book. Kerouac was extremely insightful, and he offered a unique perspective on the world that has greatly influenced American culture. The Dharma Bums is one of my favorite books, mostly for its spiritual content.

Peace, Aimee

Chu Ju's House

This young adult novel by Gloria Whelan documents the travels of a fourteen-year-old Chinese girl who runs away from home to protect her unborn sister from the one-child-only law. She lies to cover up her past, living with a family on a fishing boat, an orphanage for rejected girls, and with an old woman on a farm whose son has grown up and moved to the city.

A story about bravery, sacrifice, and love, but also a coming-of-age story, Chu Ju’s House is my favorite young adult novel. I adored it when I was a kid and read it many times. Recommended for young teen girls, especially those with sisters.

Peace, Aimee

Breakfast with Buddha

In this novel, author Roland Merullo takes the reader on a journey across America with the reluctant Otto Ringling and a riddlemaking monk. Though Otto tries to Westernize his passenger, he begins to understand his life through the guru's eyes.

Breakfast with Buddha is a witty and insightful tale that I would recommend to people interested in spiritual novels, and even to those who aren't. I thought it was a fun story of a cynic learning that cynicism can sometimes be hindering.

Peace, Aimee

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel describes the life of Stephen Daedalus, a young man growing up in the early 1900s Dublin. He deals with the perils of having nothing in common with kids at school and the Catholic-Protestant tension of Ireland.

Of all the characters in literature, I can relate to Stephen Daedalus the most. Perhaps that is why I chose a female spin on the title as the name of my blog. With different religious and political views from the family and peers with whom he grew up, and with the strong desire to express himself in writing, Stephen Daedalus experiences anger at his country, his environment, and his culture, but he learns that he does not have to be angry; happiness and contentment are all in the mind-set.

Peace, Aimee