Sep 4, 2010

My Dystopian Research Library

I have slowly building my dystopian reference library. My first book was purchased somewhere between 2001 and 2002 (just checked Amazon and it was Aug 2001) and it was actually a print on demand textbook type academic book by Tom Moylan. It wasn’t until about 2 or 3 years ago that I accepted that science fiction and dystopia were inherently connected, though there are exceptions (as with most things.) For most of my life I lived in the belief that I despised science fiction and did not understand how any one could read it or even worse, enjoy it.


You may have noticed how quickly I have changed my tune, seeing as now I try to review science fiction titles exclusively. The biggest issue I had with Scraps of the Untainted Sky was it’s insistence that dystopia be connected with science fiction. I didn’t want to read about sci fi! I felt so alienated by it and all the weird language it used. I also felt annoyed at this book that claimed to be about dystopia but was throwing all this sci fi crap at me.


Honestly, I am willing to admit I feel a little silly now at being so closed minded, arrogant, and ignorant. But those are the mistakes of the young. Close to ten years have passed since the purchase of my first dystopian research book and in the past 6 months I have been slowly building up my library. These books can be quite costly, sometimes over $100 per book. And I don’t have the kind of money to waste, even on my passion. Without great used book services like Better World Books, Thrift Books, and even occasionally Amazon, I would not have been able to get these amazing books, most for around $20 or less.


Mr. X was generous enough to by me my most prized book of all for Mother’s Day. Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults is at the intersection of my two/three main passions. Young adult literature, dystopia, and writing. And since these are essays, many by authors, it is verging on one of my other reading interests, memoir!


I also need to thank Dr. Amy H. Sturgis for her amazing lists of young adult dystopias and more importantly a source list that led to me to many of my research materials. She also inspired me to pursue this more seriously than I was previously. Also just the vast numbers of young adult dystopian novels available made me realize that there was a lot of information to be culled from them.


Better Hintz and Ostry’s book and Lauren L. Reber’s amazing M.A. thesis Negotiating Hope and Honesty: A Rhetorical Criticism of Young Adult Dystopian Literature I was able to track down many more amazing sources. A lot of which I am still working through looking up on my various book buying sites. Both Sturgis’ blog and Hintz and Ostry focus on young adult sources, I am interested in getting more general research material as well. It was through such searches through the works cited sections that I found No Place Else. Besides the one that is still on its way to me, this was my most recent purchase towards my person dystopian research library. Many of these books have excellent notes and citations after each essay or contribution in the book. This is a total goal mine for me. Most entries have over 20 sources per essays, though of course there is some overlap and some essay topics that are so specific their sources include book unrelated to dystopia. But searching through all of these books is like an amazing treasure hunt in and of itself.


I know some of you may want more information on these books, and I hope to follow up with another post about these and tell you about a few more books. Leave me a comment!

Aug 31, 2010

Why Can’t I Finish a Book? Part 1

It has been over a month since I finished a book. I keep picking up books, enjoying them, setting them down, and starting something new. In part, it feel like I have been on the road for almost 2 months and have barely been back. While travel seems like a perfect time to read, it wasn’t for me. I absolutely cannot read in the car and initially I was considering audiobooks. But it was practically impossible to listen to more than 5 minutes of audiobook without kids needing something, fighting, or just being loud.


Indigara by Tanith Lee I bought new from Half Price books in Ohio when I went to meet Chelsea/The Page Flipper for the first time. Previous to leaving for my cross country trip, Mr. X and I went on a HUGE shopping spree in San Diego and I mistakenly thought I was sick of book shopping. When I got to the book store, Chelsea was waiting for me in the young adult book section. I had a field day there. I sorted through many books finding wishlist items, dystopias, and good deals! Tanith Lee’s book was one of the last books I snagged off of one of the display shelves. I like the techie feel of the cover and the price was right. I am about halfway through this book. It is an easy read, not overly complex, but humorous with some fun word play. This would probably be the easiest book for me to finish in a timely manner, so I should probably go dig it out of the car and finish it up!


Kate’s Book Blog did an interesting series of posts on this book last month. You should check it out!



As soon as I got home from the road trip I WAS EXHAUSTED. We had just spent 5 days on the road with two kids who were sick of the whole travel thing. The kids went to stay with their dad and I spent a couple of days in bed! I went through my house and grabbed the first 3 books that looked even mildly interesting and set up camp in my bedroom.


Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce was the only one of these books I even attempted to read. I got about halfway through this humorous book. I really like the way that it focus on art and tells the story of a unique village and the way that the people in it interact with eachother. I have a soft spots for books that deal with art work or artists. Some of the other books I have enjoyed with similar subjects are: The Da Vinci Code (obviously), The Lady and the Unicorn, Chasing Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Spending.


Do you like books with art as a theme or subject? What are some of your favorites? What book subjects are you slightly addicted to? I really like books about other books or books about authors. :)



Ever since I have been interested in dystopia, people have always recommended Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have checked this book out of the library a few times but never manage to find time to read it.  Two days after returning it to the library the last time I checked it out I found a copy of my very own at a local thrift store for $1!


I started this before my trip and was really enjoying it. I took it across the country with me fully expecting to finish it up no problem.  The problem WAS I never picked it up THE WHOLE TIME. :(


I should be reading this right now but I don’t feel like I am in the right mindset to fully enjoy it. Also it is almost as if a little too much time has passed since I read it last. I hate that feeling.



The cover of Alas, Babylon was what inticed me to buy it at the thrift store a while back. Since I have seen it on a lot of dystopian lists. That makes me feel like it was a super good buy! 


When I first started reading it I thought it had a historical feel to it. Ends up that it was originally published in 1959 and seems to be a bit of a sleeper hit because it is still in print but most people haven’t heard about it.


 Wikipedia says, “It was one of the first post-apocalyptic novels of the nuclear age….” 


It will be a particularly interesting read for me because I am trying to work on understanding where the line between dystopian and post-apocalyptic lies. Are they distinctly separate? Is there an inherent overlap or is varying from case to case? Do you have any thoughts? I would LOVE to hear them!


I feel like I have been reading Cherry Heaven for years. The Diary of Pelly D is both a masterpiece of dystopian work for me but also just a great young adult novel in general. I adore the way that L. J. Adlington crafted Pelly D and I was thrilled to find out the companion novel.  Unfortunately it doesn’t have the same freshness that I adored about Pelly D. It is told in alternating narrations between two classes of people living very different lives in the future.


At first I did enjoy Cherry Heaven but as it went on I found it harder and harder to read. I picked it up again a few months ago hoping to reignite my interest and my effort fell short. I really want to get to the end of this book and see if it pays off at all. Maybe I am just being too hard on it because I read The Diary of Pelly D first and cherish it so much.

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