Thursday, December 8, 2016

The "Books to Read in Pairs" Book Tag

In mid-November, Jen Campbell created the "Books to Read in Pairs" book tag on her YouTube channel.  You can watch her video here.  Unlike most Booktube/book blog tags, this one has no questions.  The only rule is that you go to your bookshelves and find pairs of books that would be interesting to read together.

Maybe the books address similar topics, or were influenced by the same time period.  Perhaps they were written by the same person, or people in the same family.  Maybe one book was written as a response to or was inspired by another.  The particulars of the pairing aren't concrete, which allows the book pair-er to be creative and inventive.  Whatever the linkage, Jen asks only that you share 8-10 pairings, and discuss why they would be interesting to read together.  

This sounds like great fun, and a unique way to engage with my bookshelves.  Here are my pairings -

  1. The Tempest by William Shakespeare & Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood 
    Hag-Seed is Margaret Atwood's modern take on Shakespeare's classic play.  Set on a small island, The Tempest features the exiled magician Prospero and his daughter Miranda; there are three separate plots that alternate during the play.  Atwood's version features theater director Felix who has been exiled to teaching drama to incarcerated individuals.

  2. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal & Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, both by Jeanette Winterson 
    First published in 1985, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is based on the author's life being adopted by a very conservative, evangelical, Christian couple and discovering herself in that context.  When she develops romantic feelings for a female classmate, for example, her family and their religious order subject the girls to exorcism.  She grows into a woman seeing her self both in opposition to and in the context of this kind of upbringing.  Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is Winterson's memoir of the same time in her life.  Comparing life through fiction and non-fiction would be a fascinating project.

  3. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf & This Is Sylvia by Sandy Wilson 
     Did you know that Virginia Woolf wrote a fictional biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's spaniel Flush?  Well now you do, and you should go read it!  Flush: A Biography is written as though the dog itself is penning its memoir.  It intertwines non-fiction from Browning's letters and journals, and Woolf's imaginative writings on class, gender, and European society.  This Is Sylvia is the fictional memoir of a show business star cat.  Fictional memoirs of a dog and a cat...yes please!

  4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank & An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum 
    These are two diaries, written by young Jewish women living in Amsterdam during World War 2.  Anne Frank was 13 when she started her journal, and continued writing it up until her capture by the Nazis in 1944 at age 15.  Etty Hillesum was 27 when she started keeping her diary.  She discussed the increasing Nazi presence and crackdown of the Jewish population, as well as romantic relationships and work that she was involved in before she was finally deported to a concentration camp in 1943.

  5. Middlemarch by George Eliot & My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead
    Rebecca Mead has read and loved Middlemarch, and her book My Life in Middlemarch gives readers not only information about her life, but also about George Eliot's life, her classic Middlemarch, and how it relates to her own life.  A life in books book that is thoughtful, well-written, and really interesting.

  6. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg & Girl and Flame by Melissa Reddish 
    A horrific, murderous, destructive fire might seem a risky subject for a work of fiction, but both Bill Clegg and Melissa Reddish take it on in masterful ways, and in entirely different forms.  Girl & Flame  takes the form of flash fiction and prose poetry, following a woman whose family is killed in a fire, and who saves an ember from the fire and keeps it burning as a visual representation of her memory and her feelings.  Did You Ever Have a Family is a more traditional fiction story of a fire that kills everyone in a family except one, and how so many people in a community are affected.

  7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott & Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante 
    In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott presents a family that, because the father figure is away fighting in a war, is maintained by their mother - Marmee.  Eve LaPlante's biography of the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her own mother would give readers some context and insight into the creation of the characters, as well as details about her own life that would enrich the reading experience of this classic, American novel.

  8. The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber & Catch-22 by Joseph Heller 
    Both of these books focus on the ways people relate to bureaucracies, and how those complex systems impact their lives.  Graeber, an economics professor and social anthropologist, examines the mechanics and impact of bureaucracies, and includes references to Heller's satirical novel Catch-22.

  9. The Vegetarian by Han Kang & Animal Liberation by Peter Singer 
    A touchstone of vegetarian/veganism writing, Animal Liberation is Peter Singer's manifesto on adopting a less animal-product-centric existence.  He argues that humans and other animals are differentiated only slightly, so should be valued and treated the same.  In The Vegetarian, the main character decides to no longer eat meat after a series of violent nightmares.  This puts her at odds with her family in particular and her Korean society at large.

  10. The Liszts by Kyo Maclear and Julia Sarda & So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors 
    The Liszts, protagonists of this children's picture book, are a family of people who love to make lists for everything.  One day someone comes to visit who is not on anyone's list.  What will the Liszts do about their lists?  Dorthe Nors' novel is a work of experimental fiction, in that it is made up of long lists.  It looks like poetry, but is truly a series of lists.

  11. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville & Railsea by China Mieville 
    Moby-Dick is a part-adventure and part-encyclopedic story about a ship captain's manic quest to kill the white whale Moby-Dick, who took his leg on a previous journey.  Railsea is basically Moby-Dick, with trains instead of whales, if Moby-Dick was written as a Young Adult novel.

  12. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky & The Mirador by Elisabeth Gille 
    Irene Nemirovsky wrote Suite Francaise about the exodus of Jewish and non-Jewish Parisians during the Nazi occupation during World War 2.  She, herself, was a Jewish woman living in France at that time.  She was arrested by the Nazis in front of her daughters at age 39, and lost her life in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Her youngest daughter Elizabeth wrote The Mirador as a way to give her mother the life that she never had.

What books would you like to read together, especially combinations that -at first- might seem unrelated?

Librorum annis