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THAT CHANGED THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT LITERATURE
BY TALYA SOKOLL AND EMILY TRAGERT, LIBRARIANS
As librarians, we know the power of books—their capacity to open new frontiers to their readers and to change the way we see, think about, and experience our world. Reading has been essential to both of our lives and to our development as people, so much so that we chose a career that allows us to work every day with books and readers. Because we, as a people, have read approximately 8 trillion books combined, it is a rare and satisfying experience when a book surprises us. That is why these five books aren’t just books we love. They are books that have surprised us and changed the way we think about literature and about the written (or in some cases illustrated) word. They are books that have rocked us with their innovative formats, creative narrative structures or perspective-shifting content. STATION ELEVEN, EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL Station Eleven, the story of a post-apocalyptic United States where the majority of the population is killed by a virulent flu, could well have been just another in a long line of dystopian novels. But Station Eleven stays on the periphery of the violence and madness of its central cataclysm, preferring to spiral backward and forward from this event to celebrate the act of storytelling itself and its power to save, damn, humanize and fundamentally change us. It makes its argument for the importance of art to human survival in a beautiful marriage of form and content, and stands out to us as a book that rises past the tropes of its genre in a way that redefines the genre itself. PERSEPOLIS, MARJANE SATRAPI The first graphic novel both of us read, Satrapi’s tale details her childhood in Iran during the war between Iran and Iraq. Its expressive, rounded images and dynamic panels give a youthful, grounded feel to the story. While we have both read many graphic novels since Persepolis, we agree that it sticks with us not only because of its novelty, but because its form feels so essential to its storytelling. This is not a novel made more interesting with pictures, it is a novel told in words and pictures—and the two are, in our opinion, inseparable. GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE, A.S. KING In this arresting young adult novel, the main character has lost her mother and just graduated high school and has no plans for what’s next. One night, however, she is magically given a gift: Whenever she looks into a person’s eyes, she can see their entire past and future, stretching generations in both directions. And what she sees is not good. A boldly told, beautifully written and heartbreakingly realistic story of a girl who is at a crossroads in her life in more ways than one, this book tells a wholly original story of feminism, fate and liberty. It
is by turns surreal, grounded and baldly insightful in a way that young adult novels do better than most other books. Its originality lies in the way it disregards the barriers of genre, form and function to tell its powerful story.
EMILY: PARABLE OF THE TALENTS, OCTAVIA BUTLER I read this dystopian novel when I was 13 and just starting my foray into adult fiction. In its powerful protagonist, I found a complex heroine worth admiring; in its dystopian portrayal of late 21st-century America, I saw a vision grown from the seeds of our nation’s contemporary ills. Butler’s book changed the way I saw fantasy fiction: Much of the fantasy I had read before this was set apart from our world and served as an escape for me as a reader. But Parable of the Talents frightened and thrilled me; its dystopia seemed so immediate and so, so possible. This book changed the way I thought about fantasy and science fiction and made me realize its potential to provide new perspectives on our current world. While this seems obvious to me now, to 13-year-old me, it was nothing short of a revelation. TALYA: ECHO, PAM MUNOZ RYAN Three separate stories about children across the world during World War II intertwine through a shared harmonica. I read this book recently, after hearing about it from a number of other librarians. I wasn’t expecting much, perhaps just another well-told story about the horrors of war and its effects on young people. But I was blown away by the intricacies with which the author connected three vastly different experiences through the lens of music. Woven throughout the stories is an almost magical narrative of fate, friendship, suffering and hope. What changed the way I saw literature was the ease with which the author brought magic to a story so grounded in historical realism. She found a new way to tell an old story.
FALL 2016 Nobles 17