The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

As one of Hemingway’s many classics, The Old Man and the Sea retells the story of man versus nature. Hemingway writes the novel in such a way that makes the reader urge for more.

The story begins with Santiago, an aged and experienced fisherman who has been out on the sea for 84 days with no luck of finding fish to catch. He is viewed as a lonely outcast to the rest of society, and his own apprentice is told to stay away from him. Santiago is even labeled as a word that means unluckiness in his native language.

Santiago’s character can be seen in today’s world in people who are still waiting for a win or change in their lives. Many individuals are still on their journey to reach their goals in life just like Santiago. Suddenly, on the 85th day, a large marlin takes the bait on Santiago’s hook that is 200 yards deep in the water. The marlin is massive and unlike anything, Santiago has ever seen in his years of fishing. Through the next days and nights, the marlin holds onto the line, but it is too heavy for Santiago to lift.

From breaking his wrist to cramping his whole body and not being able to sleep properly, Santiago risks everything he has to catch the great marlin and lift his pride. Finally, the marlin is caught, but Santiago admires and feels like he built a brotherly relationship with the animal.

Santiago’s story reflects the human relationship with nature that is filled with admiration and struggles. His character is not defined by his defeat or “unluckiness”, but rather his determination. It takes courage to endure pain and hardships.

Hemingway uses such symbolism and words that the novel requires an analytical mind to read. Every small detail is impressively used to build the theme of the novel in the end. This book can be read by anyone as young or as old because everyone is eventually lead to the same motif about life.

-Zohal N. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

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

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, in all of it’s blue and gold shimmering splendor, is regarded as one of the greatest American novels of twentieth-century literature. Focusing on the story of Nick Carraway and his involvement with notoriously wealthy Jay Gatsby (followed by his legacy of the American dream and bitter love pursuit), The Great Gatsby dives into 1920’s American society in which the ideal life is painted as an extravagant party, born out of wealth and materialistic grandeur.

Hidden within the folds of Fitzgerald’s florid language — words of “yellow cocktail music,” a “universe of ineffable gaudiness,” “roaring noon” — the novel captivates the audience until it’s profound and raw close. The seamless flow of one thing to the next, the vivid images of a fast-paced and rich life, the timeless theory of long-lasting love and ambition: Fitzgerald renders a chaotic and recklessly beautiful portrait of the roaring 20’s Jazz Age and the world that buzzed within its history.

The incorporation of reoccurring symbols, such as the green light at the end of the dock or the constant juxtaposition of the colors yellow on blue, deepens the horizons to which The Great Gatsby stretches. Across the novel’s pages, Fitzgerald repetitively uses the colors yellow and blue to convey the ideas of truth versus wealth and false wealth in an abstract manner. Likewise, the green light brings the audience closer to Gatsby’s personal ambitions, his true substance over his outward actions.

Fitzgerald’s gradual characterization of each character increases the mysterious aura that revolves around Gatsby and those associated with him, wrapping the entire story into an enigmatic piece of literature rooted deeply in American history.

—Keira D.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Book Review Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck’s classic novella Of Mice and Men is about two ranch workers, during the Great Depression. Both of these men are the exact opposite of each other: Lennie is large, but he loves touching soft things and he is mentally paired, while George is small but intelligent. Together, they travel from ranch to ranch, with the dream of owning land.

At the beginning of the story, the two arrive at a new ranch, after being chased out of their old one, since Lennie had done a “bad thing.” On this ranch, the two meet Candy, an old, physically disabled ranch worker, who greatly cares for his old dog, a parallel to George and Lennie’s relationship. George and Lennie realize that with Candy’s help, their dream of owning land and rabbits is obtainable until all their plans are disrupted by a flirtatious woman, the wife of their boss’s son.

Steinbeck’s novella portrays the theme that the best plans often go amiss, and that immigrants often come to America because of their hopes and dreams. Despite George, Lennie, and Candy’s careful planning, their vision fails to materialize, showing that nothing in life goes perfectly. In addition, Steinbeck’s novella shows that people often come to America due to the opportunities and lack of a rigid class structure. People often come to America because like George and Lennie, they have dreams of moving upwards socially, economically, and politically that they cannot accomplish in their current country.

Overall, I would recommend Of Mice and Men to students seventh grade and above, due to the dialect of the characters, author’s writing style, and strong language. It is definitely a classic, with universal and significant themes relevant in society.

– Josh N.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive.

Old Rogaum and His Theresa by Theodore Dreiser

This is a short story written by Theodore Dreiser and I read it last week from an old book I found on the bookshelf. Though I wasn’t really expecting many surprises from this story, towards the end I was still surprised by its content.

The story starts off with old Rogaum who is a German butcher with his family living in New York. He calls his children one by one to bed every day at nine. His oldest daughter Theresa however, refuses to obey her father’s bed calls thinking that it is restricting her personal freedom. She is a girl in her puberty, therefore, wishing to show her charisma to boys. Almerting, the son of a stationer and also a member of a gang club, fell to Theresa’s interest. They were together for quite a long time before Almerting starts to complain about Theresa’s curfew. But since Theresa comes from a religious family, she refused to listen to Almerting’s wheedling. However one night, Rogaum decided to show his daughter some consequences of coming home late and locked her out.

Desperate to get in and later angry at her parents, Theresa wandered off by herself and met Almerting who coaxed her into coming with him to his club room. This leads to Rogaum looking for his daughter crazily when he saw a girl attempting to suicide laying half-dead at his feet. The girl galvanizes Rogaum to look even harder afraid that the same thing might happen to her daughter. Eventually, he was notified by the police that Almerting was with Theresa.

Overall, there weren’t a lot of surprises. But what I learned from this story is the love our parents give to us. They might be mad at us for not obeying them like Rogaum. But they do it for our sake. So as children, it is probably not a good choice to imitate Theresa and get ourselves hurt in the future.

-Coreen C.