All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front is a war novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The title is an allusion to a German army report that stated “All quiet on the Western Front” because there was no military activity that day. The novel is about German soldier Paul, who serves in World War I. As the war progresses, Paul begins to wonder what causes men of the same generation to fight one another, and he begins to wonder what future he will have after all the suffering he has seen.

The novel begins as Paul and his comrades line up for their meal. The men are joyful, for there is excess food, due to the fact that over half of their regiment had been killed on the Western Front. They speak of home and their past. However, as time passes, tragedies occur as one by one, Paul’s friends are taken from him. As Paul witnesses the suffering around him, he cannot help but wonder what about human nature causes men, who have no personal grievances against each other, to slaughter one another.

Paul soon no longer cares for anything. He longs for neither home nor peace; the only thing that matters to him is his comrades. He believes that his generation is lost, that they were irreversibly cut off from their past, that the war consumed them and prevented any hope of a future, and that they would be rejected by previous and following generations.

All Quiet on the Western Front reveals major themes about human nature and war, like what causes a soldier to kill another soldier, despite the fact that they have never known each other and harbor no grievances against each other. Overall, it’s a classic with many relevant themes and should be read by everyone; however, it does contain lots of violence and some inappropriate scenes.

-Josh N.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell’s 1984 is a dystopian novel read by countless high school students each academic year. It tells the story of a futuristic society(Oceania) under the rule of an elite group called the Party and the symbolic, mythical figurehead Big Brother from the perspective of an Outer Party member named Winston Smith. In this society, the population is divided into three main classes: the Inner Party (upper-class minority), the Outer Party (middle-class minority), and the Proles (lower class majority). Through the use of fear and mind control, Big Brother ensures that all citizens worship him, his administration, and his existence.

Excessive surveillance through telescreens and the Thought Police discourage rebellion and opposition. Individuality and basic human emotion and instinct are extinguished, and the citizens of Oceania have lost the ability to love and form familial loyalties. Techniques such as doublethink and crimestop are ingrained into the minds of citizens that prevent thoughtcrime, or having thoughts against Big Brother and the Party. Throughout the story, Winston battles with thoughtcrime in his brainwashed state, and struggles to become “conscious.” He falls in love with a fellow rebel, Julia, and tries to join the mythical anti-Party group known as the Brotherhood. However, this bliss soon comes to an end when Winston is caught by the Thought Police. He experiences both physical and psychological torture that transforms him into a devout follower and worshipper of Big Brother and the Party once again, and he sinks back into a brainwashed state as he waits for inevitable execution.

Orwell published this book in 1949 as both a prediction and a warning of what the year 1984 would have in store for human society. Although Orwell did not live long enough to see this fated year, his predictions create a shocking parallel with 2019. This book was not written as a simple story, but rather as an exemplar of our future and a passionate remonstrance against the direction it is taking. A message written to implore future generations to avoid bringing the world written in these pages to life. 1984 should be read by all voting Americans in 2019. We must understand that our actions have a power that can be used for better or for worse. Will 2019 become 1984? Only time will tell.

-Katie A. 

1984 by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander

Complete with a foreword by Albus Dumbledore, illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and an A-Z list of magical creatures and their descriptions, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the perfect book for anyone wishing to delve a bit further into the wizarding world.

Written by J. K. Rowling as Newt Scamander, the main character of the movie series of the same name, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the textbook required by Hogwarts students in their first year. Though the information is expository, it isn’t dull, and J. K. Rowling adds humor and little remarks that make the text entertaining.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the handwritten notes by Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Scribbled conversations, games, comments, and jokes can be seen on the pages. The writing styles and voices of the characters are evident, and while reading them I imagined tidbits of conversations that weren’t included in the Harry Potter books.

I admire the factual style J. K. Rowling uses when she includes references to foreign ministries and remedies for injuries caused by certain beasts. There is even a short biography for Newt Scamander in the back of the book. Certainly, the imagination and thought put into this book makes it a fascinating addition to a Harry Potter book collection.

Other than enjoyment, another reason this might be a good book to read is that it provides information about creatures that appear in the movie series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and knowing about these creatures could enrich the experience of watching the movies.

-Mia T.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them by J. K. Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library