What English language book have you read recently and would like to recommend to others? What makes it worth reading? Let me start by introducing a few books here.
The Three-Body Problem
I recently finished reading the English translations of a trilogy of science fiction novels by Chinese write Liu Cixin: The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death’s End (in Chinese the trilogy is entitled 地球往事, Remembrance of Earth’s Past. The stories, which deal the discovery of life on other planets, are vast in scope, starting with the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s and finishing just before the end of the universe billions of years in the future. The first book focuses on Ye Wenjie, the astrophysicist who first makes contact with the alien race, and Wang Miao, a scientist who learns about their life via a computer game called Three Body problem. He learns that the aliens live on a planet, Trisolaris, that has three suns. Life there is harsh and unpredictable; it is scorching hot when more than one sun is in the sky at the same time, and when the suns are lined up, the immense gravitation pull can wreak havoc on the planet. How nice it would be to live somewhere more inhabitable…like Earth! The Trisolarians are soon on their way, but will they be invaders or immigrants?
The books feature complex characters that develop over time. Ye Wenjie is vengeful and impulsive at first, largely due to her experiences during the Cultural Revolution. The main character of the second book, Luo Ji, is transformed via love from a carefree playboy into a cunning man with steely resolve. The protagonist of the third novel, Cheng Xin, is more humane and reflective, but these good characteristics sometimes prove to be disastrous.
The themes can be quite dark. For example, deep in space, the captains of several spaceships realize that if they pool together their energy, food and other resources, it would only be possible for one ship and its crew to survive the long voyage to safety. Is it better to sacrifice many to save the few or is it better just to let everyone die? If the many have to die, who will choose? Who gets to live and who gets to survive?
The Dark Forest, the title of the second book, refers to the idea that the universe is like a dark jungle that is full of dangerous predators. Civilizations more through this jungle hoping to see and not be seen. In such a dangerous environment, what can one do to survive? What cruel sacrifices must be made?
The Three-Body Problem won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.
Thirteen Reasons Why
For non-translated books, an English book I read recently was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. This book also explores dark themes. The book opens with the protagonist, Clay, receiving a package of audiotapes from a classmate of his, Hannah, who recently committed suicide. The package has been sent as a kind of chain message to 13 different people, each of whom is meant to pass it on to the next person on the list and each of whom Hannah feels contributed to her decision to kill herself. On the audiotapes, Hannah describes her life, her experiences with the recipients and her reasons for suicide. The book mixes, Hannah’s narration with Clay’s reflections and is about the pressures of growing up and the importance of communication. Sometimes, when Hannah wanted to open up, there was no one to really listen to her. However, she also sometimes ignored opportunities to connect to the people that did care about her.
If you are looking for something lighter, you can check out my article entitled 15 Books for Teens Who Hate Reading (longzijun.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/books-for-teens-who-hate-reading/), in which I briefly introduce the following books:
- Things You Need To Know and Some You Don’t
- The Cube – Keep the Secret
- Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
- Boy Meets Girl
- The Sound of Colors
- The Best Christmas Present in the World
- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
- The Spiderwick Chronicles Book One (The Field Guide)
- Style Deficit Disorder
- Street Wear
- 50 Artists You Should Know
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand
- Naruto—Mission: Protect the Waterfall Village
- Death Note 13: How to Read
All of the above books are available in the English Corner.
Leave a comment below to to introduce and English language book (or English translation) that you feel is worth reading.