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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Literature and Languages

Today we're continuing our look at the Outstanding Books for the College Bound list. It only comes out every five years and the new edition comes out in January and the committee (which includes me) is seeking nominations of new books to put on the list!

Yesterday, we looked at History and Cultures, on Sunday we looked at Arts and Humanities. Today we're looking at Literature and Languages.

    

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson. Told in a fitting and perfect 18th century voice, Octavian is a slave, but one owned by a group of scientists, who give him an extensive classical education and closely monitor and document his growth and development, both physical and mental. But as their experiments get more and more risky, Octavian has to admit certain hard truths about the reality of his situation.

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn. Nollop is an island named after the guy who discovered the pangram sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." So when letters start falling off the Nollop statue, they're outlawed. Told in letters, the townspeople so devoted to language are slowly losing theirs.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Two years after his father died on 9/11, 9-year-old Oskar is still reeling from the loss. When he finds a key labeled "Black" in his father's closet, he thinks it might offer some clues, so he sets out to find the lock that fits the key. Intertwined is the story of his grandparents-- survivors of the Dresden bombing.

    

Looking for Alaska by John Green. There is before, and there is after. In the before Miles goes to boarding school and meets his dream girl Alaska. Alaska helps him find his place at the new school, but she is, sadly, taken. And then there is the after.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Christopher is an autistic teenager who is wrongfully accused of murdering the neighbor's poodle. He sets out to find who really did it, which proves even more challenging due to his social issues.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Kathy spends a lot of time driving to visit Ruth and Tommy who are in the hospital or hospice or something (it's not overly clear until the end of the book). While for now she's a caregiver, she knows she'll be a patient soon enough. On these drives, she reminisces about their time together at an exclusive and elite boarding school and what sets them apart from regular people.

    

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. Set during the rebellion of the early 1990s in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Mister Pip tells the story of the one white man who stayed on the island after every one else fled and the island was blockaded. When he starts school again, he teaches Great Expectations and soon Matilda's entire village is talking of Pip's adventures, but the soldiers think Pip is a real man hidden among them.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. The first in a series reexamining Oz, this one gives us Elphaba, an insecure girl trying to unseat a tyrannical ruler, who will grow up to be the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Death narrates this tale of a small girl in Munich in WWII. Death is serious, and funny, and really sick of war. He's not a big fan of humans, and usually doesn't notice them, but he notices Liesel. Liesel is sent to Munich as a foster child. She knows her mother is giving her up for reasons that have something to do with Hitler and that her dad was a Communist. In Munich, she makes unlikely friends and learns to read from a stolen book. There is power in stealing books. There is power in reading.

What titles would you add to this list? Please suggest a title by filling out this form. Nominations close at the end of the month, so put 'em in now!

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