Reading break reads
Take a look, it’s in a book
It’s Harry Potter goes to Narnia, but with sex and swearing. That’s what I say when I’m trying to coerce someone into reading The Magicians. It is one of my all-time favourites and I know many people who would love it, so I say it a lot. But I have a confession to make: I’ve been lying to you, friends. The Magicians is so much more than that. Though he’s 17, Quentin Coldwater is still obsessed with a series of children’s books about siblings who travel to the magical land of Fillory and rule it as kings and queens. He longs for magic to be real, or to find a gateway to a secret world. His fantasies come true when he’s whisked away to Brakebills College of Magic to be educated as a magician. Quentin has everything he’s always wanted, including friends and a girlfriend, but he’s not happy. The genius of The Magicians is that author Lev Grossman created a fantasy world based on tropes that his characters are actually aware of. The young magicians of Brakebills grew up reading Harry Potter and other fantasy books, so they have certain expectations about how magic school and magic itself will work that aren’t necessarily accurate. For one, there’s no Voldemort, or Sauron or any discernible purpose to Quentin’s life at all, which he find extremely frustrating. Life with magic seems almost more directionless than life without it. Then, Quentin and his friends find their way in to Fillory.
— Rachael Frey
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby, the classic novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a quick and entertaining read that could be finished in a matter of days. It would also be a good idea to read in preparation for the movie version, which is set to be in theatres on May 10, featuring the ever-dashing Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby. Set in New York in the summer of 1922, the novel follows the protagonist, Nick Carraway, who moves into a house next to the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a man who lives in a giant mansion and throws extravagant parties every weekend. Nick follows the complicated love triangles between Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan — Nick’s cousin whom Gatsby is in love with — and Tom Buchanan, her husband. It also follows the relationship between Tom and the woman he is having an affair with, Myrtle Wilson, and her husband George. These interactions are all observed by the narrator Nick, who tries not to get involved, while setting up meetings between Daisy and Gatsby. The beauty of this novel is not the secretive Jay Gatsby or the ditziness of Daisy, but Fitzgerald’s writing. The portrayal of the American jazz age is poignant and beautiful, as well as his descriptions of scenes as simple as a wind blowing through a room, ruffling the women’s dresses. Needless to say, this book is a classic and a must read, if not for the sheer beauty of Fitzgerald’s writing, but so you can go see the movie in May and understand what’s going on.
— Holly Triebwasser
Many mediocre movies are born from great books. However, the roots of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stretch way before its novelization. Originally a radio show for BBC, one of the contributors loved the idea so much he made a book out of it. That was the beginning of the legacy that was Douglas Adams. It follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, who not only had his house bulldozed but later in the same day witnessed the destruction of his home planet, Earth. He eventually ends up on a ship with Ford Prefect, his best friend on Earth who actually turns out to be an alien; Tricia McMillan, who turned him down at a party a few weeks back; and Zaphod Beeblebrox, who is simultaneously President of the Universe and a fugitive. Throughout the entire thing, Arthur is continually trying to get a handle on things, usually with great comedic effect. The blend of comedy and science fiction in such a rare harmony is why The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has become such a classic. And if you finish it early into reading week, don’t fret! It eventually expanded to become a trilogy in five parts (if you don’t count Eoin Colfer’s sixth addition, which many find blasphemous).
— Nathan Ross