Category Archives: book of the week
This week’s book-of-the-week is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This review is brought to you by Nicholas Novine, Library Intern, Class of 2014, Double majoring in art history and arts management.
The Alchemist is an allegorical novel that follows the journey of a young shepherd boy named Santiago after having recurring dreams of finding a great treasure in Egypt.
The main theme of the book revolves around this the idea of a Personal Legend, which asks “what you have always wanted to accomplish.” Shortly after embarking on his journey, the Personal Legend concept is introduced to the main character by a mysterious old king who adds, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” This is essentially the core philosophy of the novel.
During Santiago’s pursuit of fulfilling his Personal Legend, he encounters an Englishman with whom he travels through the Sahara Desert. He meets and falls in love with an Arab girl named Fatima. When he asks for her hand in marriage, she tells him she will only marry him until once he has found his treasure; she explains that true love will not stop one’s Personal Legend, or otherwise it is not love in its truest form.
Santiago eventually meets a lone alchemist in the desert who tells him that people want only the treasure of their Personal Legend but not the Legend itself. The alchemist states, “those who don’t understand their Personal Legend will fail to comprehend its teachings.”
The Alchemist, due to the method in which it is written, becomes more of a guide than a work of fiction. Despite it’s setting, the concepts and themes are applicable to any person, because, in a way, we are all in pursuit of some form of meaning or significance within our lives, our own Personal Legend.
The main character becomes a placeholder for the mind and experiences of the reader. It is through Santiago’s journey and experiences that aspects of our own lives become translated, and we begin to consider ourselves, and our place, within the vast interconnectedness of the universe.
When reading this book I was traveling through Italy to various ancient monuments and cities. Walking on stones that countless others have stepped, and breathing the air of antiquity, I could not help but draw parallels between my journey and the events of The Alchemist.
What I learned while reading this novel can be considered nothing less than enlightening; as I traveled through the ruins of Pompeii, Paestum, and the wonders of Rome, I came to a realization, very much like that of Santiago, that what I gain at the end of this journey is ultimately meaningless if I cannot appreciate and understand the wisdom and knowledge cultivated along the way. Thus, appreciating the journey over the destination becomes pivotal in gaining anything from The Alchemist. Otherwise, like many aspects of life, it becomes anti-climactic, disappointing and the wisdom forfeit.
This week’s book-of-the-week is Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. This review is brought to you by Riley Dixon, Student Library Assistant, Class of 2017, Majoring in Creative Writing.
Super Sad True Love Story is located in the Main Stacks, along with many other literary novels, call number: PS3619.H79 S87 2010
Gary Shteyngart’s New York City in Super Sad True Love Story is absurd. Telephone poles read credit scores. Paper books are worthless artifacts. Thanks to your handheld äppärät, which functions as a non-stop social networking device, your most private thoughts are on public display. Everyone knows how desirable you are: fiscally and physically. It is in this New York City that Lenny Abramov, 39-year-old self-deprecating second generation Russian immigrant and the younger, beautiful and equally self-loathing Eunice Park begin a strange courtship. Eunice is of Korean descent, troubled by her familial obligations and brought up in a generation where students simply “scanned for data” and did not read. Together, they play an unlikely Juliet and Romeo, fumbling in the belly of a New York City that has begun to dissolve into chaos. Super Sad has a clear trajectory from the very beginning. Lenny is hell-bent on being united with Eunice and despite the collapse of society as he once knew it, his goal does not falter. As the city collapses into seemingly both a state of martial law and a new world order, Lenny is not fazed. Eunice Park is his destiny. He wholly convinces himself as he writes in his diary, “…things were going to get better. Someday. For me to fall in love with Eunice Park just as the world fell apart would be a tragedy beyond the Greeks.” As the microcosm of New York City shifts irrevocably towards dissolution, Eunice and Lenny fight to hold onto themselves and a quickly disappearing sense of normalcy.
Shteyngart’s prose, while dense, suits the purpose of Super Sad perfectly. At no point is the reader bombarded with unnecessary language, though Shteyngart’s clever use of branding and acronyms sometimes read as uncomfortable as a punch to the gut… if only because they are so recognizable. Super Sad True Love Story reads as a shrill satire on the dangers of greed and capitalism, while at the same time expounding on the painful beauty of learning how one fits into one’s own self, fits into a relationship, and fits into society.
You can check out Super Sad True Love Story and other books by Gary Shteyngart at the Purchase College Library.
Looking for something to read or listen to during Winter Session? Try a new arrival! We’ve added a “New Book Shelf” widget to our homepage so you can browse through items recently added to the library’s collections.
You can also check out this list of newly added materials to find new books, CDs, and DVDs. Note: these titles are new to our collection, but not necessarily newly published. Either way, check out one of these great reads!
November 22, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. This tragic event was a watershed moment in the lives of many Americans and has spawned countless investigations, conspiracy theories, and many works of fiction including a novel by Stephen King and a film by Oliver Stone. What is it about the Kennedy assassination that continues to capture Americans’ fears and imagination for fifty years? Do some investigation of your own to learn more about John F. Kennedy’s life and death…
11/22/63 : a Novel by King, Stephen.
Popular Reading Collection. POPULAR COLLECTION.
JFK with Costner, Kevin. dir. by Stone, Oliver.
Academic Film Collection. DVD 3072. (3 hr loan)
An Unfinished Life : John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Dallek, Robert.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E842 .D28 2003.
A Thousand Days : John F. Kennedy in the White House (1965) by Schlesinger, Arthur M.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E841 .S3 c. 2
Jacqueline Kennedy : First Lady of the New Frontier by Barbara A. Perry.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E843.K4 P47 2004.
Investigation & Analysis:
Zaprudered : the Kennedy Assassination Film in Visual Culture by Øyvind Vågnes.
Main Stacks – Circulating. E842.9 .V35 2011
Conspiracy in Camelot: the Complete History of the Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (2003) by Kroth, Jerome A.
ONLINE RESOURCE. eBook.
JFK, Breaking the News, featuring Hugh Aynesworth, Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer and other journalists.
Popular Film Collection. DVD 2652
Looking for some spooky stories? Check out these terrifying tales by Washington Irving, the classic American author from Tarrytown, NY. It’s Halloween with a Westchester twist.
The Halloween classic about Icabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is now an ebook!
Call Number: Main Stacks – Circulating. PS2050 .C6 1975.
Classic, creepy tales like Rip Van Winkle or The Spectre Bridegroom or Strange Stories from a Nervous Gentleman.
3. Tales of the old Dutch graveyard : a walking tour of the burying ground of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow
Looking for something to do for Halloween weekend? Take a walking tour of the historical Old Dutch Church graveyard in Sleepy Hollow. Just watch out for the Headless Horseman…
- photo from VisitSleepyHollow.com
Many Americans are familiar from high school and college classes with Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a sci-fi classic about a dystopian society where fire-fighters are agents of government censorship who burn books.
But did you know that Bradbury himself felt his novel was less about censorship and more an indictment of the decline in reading and literature due to the growing influence of television in the 1950s?
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
Call Number: PS3503.R167 F3
I had the privilege of learning this and other fascinating insights about the publication of Fahrenheit 451 at a special panel presentation at the American Library Association, held in July 2013 in Chicago, IL. The panel included a biographer who met biweekly with Bradbury for almost 12 years before his death in 2012, a literary critic who traced the publication history of Bradbury’s novels, and a librarian who helped prevent Fahrenheit 451 from being banned at a Texas high school in 2007.
Yes, this anti-censorship novel has had its own brushes with censorship over the years. “I don’t think he saw the irony at all,” Librarian Lois Buckman said of the Texas man who tried to ban the novel from his daughter’s high school. The father claimed it was a “filthy book” that “insulted our firemen.” Buckman added: “I don’t believe he read the book at all, and if he did read it, I don’t think he understood it.” Following protests from educators, parents, and high school students, the school board ultimately voted to keep Fahrenheit 451 in the classroom and the school library.
The panel was full of interesting and enriching tidbits. Here are some highlights:
- The novel was expanded from a short story called “The Fireman,” published in Galaxy Magazine in 1951.
- Bradbury wrote the book in 1951-52 in the “typewriter room” at the Powell Library at UCLA.
- Seeking a flashier title for his novel, he called the UCLA Chemistry and Physics departments asking at what temperature paper burned. The scientists couldn’t give him an answer. Finally, he called the local Fire Department, and they found the number in a specialized reference book (This was 1953, folks, so there was no Google). The fire department gave him both Celsius and Fahrenheit temperatures….so his iconic book could have been called Centrigrade 233.
- In the novel, Guy Montag’s wife is a soap opera zombie, spending all day in front of three giant, wall-sized TV screens. By the 2010s, Bradbury had a big-screen HD TV in his L.A. home. (Bradbury, who also wrote screenplays for films and television shows like the Twilight Zone, Playhouse 90, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, told his biographer that he wasn’t against all TV, just bad TV.)
- The 1971 reprint of Fahrenheit 451 by Bal-Hi was accidentally switched with a redacted version that had been “sanitized” for use in public schools. The editors cut out or altered “offensive” phrases, mostly mild swearing or passing references to sex. In the 1970s, the only new edition of Fahrenheit 451 you could buy was a censored one. When Bradbury became aware of the censorship, he made sure that a new edition was reprinted with a “coda” at the end by the author. He also rescinded his initial approval of the redacted/abridged version.
- Bradbury usually pronounced the title “Fahrenheit four-five-one” but sometimes said “Fahrenheit four-fifty-one” instead.
Sixty years later, this book is still generating conversations about censorship, literary culture, and free thought. You can check it out from the Purchase College Library, Call Number PS3503.R167 F3 or borrow a Ray Bradbury biography from Interlibrary Loan.
–This article was reposted from an eariler entry this summer, in celebration of Banned Books Week.
Banned Books Week draws attention to both classic and modern novels censored or removed from schools and libraries in the U.S. We have a tendency to treat book-banning as a thing of the past, something that happened during World War II or the McCarthy Era. But book banning continues even in 2013.
In March 2013, the Chicago Public School district removed Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi’s acclaimed graphic novel about her childhood during the Iranian revolution, from all seventh grade classrooms in the city.
There was an outcry by the public, ACLU, and by Chicago teachers unions, but the school district defended its policy, claiming that it hadn’t actually “banned” the book from schools but merely removed it from the curriculum because the book: “contains graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum.” The school district’s letter advised “If your seventh grade teachers have not yet taught this book, please ask them not to do so and to remove any copies of the book from their classrooms.”
It’s a long-standing debate: Should censorship be allowed to protect children or teens from explicit or offensive materials? Who gets to decide what qualifies as offensive or explicit?
The irony in the case of Persepolis is that the graphic novel, based on the author’s life and Iranian history, describes the hardships of living under a fundamentalist regime that routinely bans certain types of books, clothing, music, and activities and uses censorship– and more violent tactics– to intimidate its people. Iran, incidentally, has also banned Persepolis.
Perhaps not so ironically, the school district’s ban of Persepolis lead to increased sales at local bookstores in Chicago.
You can check out Persepolis and other banned books from the Purchase College Library. Check out our display on the library’s main floor.
This week, the Library is celebrating banned, censored, or challenged books as part of national Banned Books Week, Sept. 22nd through Sept. 28th.
Thousands of Libraries across the nation are celebrating. Here’s how you can participate:
- Stop by the Library and check out our banned books display.
- Tell us what your favorite banned book is via Twitter, @SUNYPurchaseLib, #bannedbooksweek.
- Watch like “Read-Outs” and interviews with famous authors on YouTube throughout the week (here’s a taste below…)
- Read a banned book!
Here’s a list of the Top 10 most frequently challenged books in America last year (2012):
The 10 most challenged titles of 2012 were:
Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence
(Just a disclaimer…. Purchase College Library does not ban or remove books from our shelves. But many books have been banned by schools and libraries elsewhere in the United States)
Seamus Heaney, poet and Nobel Laureate from Northern Ireland and widely recognized as the greatest Irish poet of his generation, died today at age 74. A Harvard professor from 1985-2006, Heaney authored a prize-winning translation of Beowulf and translated Greek plays as well as epic poems, but he was best known for his poetry and was described by many as the most influential Irish poet since W.B. Yeats.
Remember or rediscover Seamus Heaney by checking out his works at the Library, including the following prose and poetry:
New to campus? New to New York? Whether you’re a freshman, transfer student, or new faculty or staff member, you can get to know Westchester County through the Library!
The Library has books on local history, tourist attractions, architecture, retail, local parks, and walking tours. Check out one of these titles and get acquainted with your new home.
Click on the bookcover for more information!
Call number: Main Stacks – F127.W5 W47 2006
2. Picturing our past : National Register sites in Westchester County / by Gray Williams ; introduction by Kenneth T. Jackson.
Call number: Main Stacks F127.W5 W5 2003.
6. Walks & rambles in Westchester and Fairfield counties : a nature lover’s guide to 36 parks & sanctuaries / Katherine S. Anderson
Call Number: Main Stacks GV199.42.N652 W473 1993