The Thirty Day Book Challenge: Day Twenty-Five

“Ah, you are stubborn yet.”

Stephen Donaldson

Firstly, an L-space rant. Yesterday was, as well as the Doctor Who 50th anniversary (SQUEE!), also the day upon which the World Book Night book list was announced.

And…it’s a little disappointing.

This year, the books I have read on the list are Robert Muchamore’s The Recruit, which, while rather good, is a piece of YA and therefore not a work I would relish handing to actual adult strangers on the street, and Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, which is not really very good.

True, there’s also Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl’s short stories and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, but I can’t help thinking: where are all the classics? All the books we know and love? The first WBN featured books by Margaret Atwood and Dickens and Cloud Atlas and POETRY. Not just good books, but great books.

All of 2014’s books, on the other hand, look decidedly average.

WBN says that these books are chosen because they are “easy to read and accessible”. And I’m sorry, but this feels a lot like condescension. I believe that reading a truly great book – a book like Cloud Atlas or Life of Pi, neither of which, I might point out, are exactly dense – is much more likely to encourage new readers than an averagely good crime novel like the ones on the new list.

Oh, and the most infuriating thing from WBN: “We constructed this year’s list to encourage more men – who we know are more likely to read books by men – to take part in WBN.”

WHAT?

Just put more books by men on the list, because that will make everything better? Because it’s somehow all right that men only read books by men? Just WHAT?

Anyway.

Day Twenty-Five: A Character Who You Can Relate To The Most

Urgh. The grammar of some of these questions is terrible.

As a matter of fact, I think Thomas Covenant, the titular character of Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, is remarkably relatable, because his responses to the world into which he is suddenly thrust are so believable, and because those responses are so often framed as psychological struggles. Certainly I think he is more relatable, because in many ways more human, in the Second Chronicles; I’ve found myself thinking of him a lot since I read that book. We may not be able to relate to his specific circumstances – his leprosy, or his Being a Writer – but in Thomas Covenant there is something that everyone can relate to: the fear of failure, of letting others down, of losing control. And who said fantasy wasn’t about real life?

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