In the Required Reading Revisited Book Club we focus on books considered “Required Reading” by most educational institutions, i.e. books you read (or were supposed to read) in school – either high school or university.
On March 13th, out on the Book People patio and amidst the sounds of the beginnings of SXSW all around us, we talked about Sherman Alexie’s award winning YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of Part Time Indian. All in attendance agreed it was wonderful, and one even stated she wouldn’t have thought twice about this book, would never have read it had it not been for this book club, and she absolutely loved it. Two said they were passing it on to their niece or nephew. In the discussion we talked about how younger readers would interpret the book differently, not having had as much experience seeing the effects that systemic racism and poverty have on a culture, or not understanding certain contexts regarding how American Indian tribes were so marginalized. But the book has such emotional resonance that it makes these things real on a level that might not require that understanding.
This book is both easy to read and easy to love. It’s funny and irreverent, but never dishonors the themes it seeks to expose the reader to. Junior, our fourteen year old protagonist, is simply authentic, and through him we come to understand the deeply troubled and complex lives of his friends and family. It’s a deceptively simple novel, much in the way our December title, Things Fall Apart, was, in that despite the ease with which you consume the novel, the ideas it contains are not simple at all.
In April we’ll be exploring another young reader title, but the similarities with Alexie end there. This classic novel by T.H. White is referred to by many as “the single finest fantasy novel written in our time.” Whether one believes this to be true or not, it can hardly be denied that Arthurian legend is one of the most influential stories in all of the western world (second, of course, to the Bible). Hugely popular during the medieval period, the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table heavily influenced post-medieval literature. Then in the 19th century, with the rise of Romanticism, interest was reawakened with authors such as William Wordsworth and Alfred Lord Tennyson. The 20th century saw no less than thirty film adaptations of this story, live action and animated alike, though the Disney version everyone is so familiar with, The Sword and the Stone, took some comical (and musical) liberties not present in the actual story.
The Once and Future King, published in 1958, is divided into four parts – The Sword and the Stone (1938), The Queen of Air and Darkness (1939), The Ill-Made Knight (1940), and The Candle in the Wind (1958). While the first book primarily deals with Arthur’s adventures as a boy and his mentorship with Merlyn, who teaches him what it means to be a good king, the subsequent books deal with the coming tragedy that is the downfall of Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, and the kingdom of Camelot.
Pro tip: This book is quite long. If you start now, you can finish by April 10th. *Note: You are not required to have finished the book to attend book club*
The Required Reading Revisited Book Club, hosted by Consuelo Hacker and Sarah Holdgrafer, meets on the 2nd Sunday of every month at 4pm at Book People (the next meeting is April 10th). We typically meet on the 3rd floor. Just stop by the 1st floor information desk when you arrive if you are unsure where to go. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian & The Once and Future King are available online at Bookpeople.com. Use the code BOOK CLUB when purchasing online, or if you come in to the store, mention it’s for Book Club at the registers and you’ll receive 10% off! Join our Facebook page to get all the latest information on what we’re reading! We look forward to talking with you on April 10th!