1) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
It’s a coming of age story of two Mexican teenage boys, dealing with their families and coming to terms with their sexuality. This YA fiction has a really captivating cover page, and the story doesn’t let you down for a moment either. It deals with finding your own place in a family and the complex relationships of a teenager with friends, lovers, and parents. There are certain paragraphs which are really emotional, which for me are the marks of a good book, the way it can make you relate with it, and not just sympathize but empathize and feel those emotions yourself in real time. Moreover, it’s really interesting to find book recommendations within the book. And the dialogues are too aesthetic to be expected of a young adult fiction. I read this book for Pride month and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.
2) Sorry I’m late, I didn’t want to come (One Introvert’s year of saying yes) by Jessica Pan
This one is an autobiographical account of Jessica Pan, who calls herself a shintrovert (shy introvert). While sunk in the gloomy depths of loneliness and finding herself without any friends in London after recently moving there, she decides to say yes to all social events for a year in order to find the extrovert side of herself. The book is a witty account of her travails as she talks to experts for advice, asks people on the street ‘Who is the queen of England?’ and finds interesting replies (All hail Queen Victoria!), to giving a public talk, doing improv, stand-up comedy, going alone on a surprise vacation, to finally hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 friends made over the course of the year. The situations that arise are witty and funny but not rolling on the floor funny.
I would recommend this book to any introvert looking for a relatable book.
3) Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelly
Before reading this book, I wouldn’t have yet known that Frankenstein is not the name of the well-known monster but the name of his creator- Victor Frankenstein. The story makes the reader see the two main characters- the creator and the creature in both positive and negative light. The story of Victor’s childhood makes him seem like an inspiring, intelligent man, who ends up learning and discovering science in college and reaches a level even higher than his professors. Thereby, he plans to give life to an inanimate object. He decides to create an 8ft man. He pieces together all the body parts, nerves and veins and stitches it all together to endow it with life. But the moment the creature becomes alive, he hates the sight of him. He is filled with abhorrence and hatred for this vile looking creature that he himself created. The creature thus becomes an orphan. The creature goes into the wilderness and slowly discovers the world and his own place in it, he realizes that men can never accept him because of his appearance. Everyone is afraid of him, even his own creator. He seeks Victor to make a female companion for him, who would understand him so that he won’t feel so alone in the world, but Victor refuses and so he vows vengeance towards him.
Victor and the creature both appear likable and cruel by their various thoughts and actions. Victor appears likable because of his intelligence and his loving relationships with family and friends. It’s hard not to pity him when the creature wrecks havoc in his life. But he also appears cruel when he hates the sight of the creature he brought to life and fulfills no duty towards it. He himself made the creature appear the way he does and yet he hates it and wants nothing to do with it. He doesn’t even fulfill the only wish that the creature asks of him.
The creature appears likable because of his several acts of kindness to people even without their knowledge, his intelligent and eloquent reasoning, and persuasive arguments. But he also appears cruel in the way he takes the lives of the near and dear ones of Victor and destroys his life. He also rouses sympathy. His arguments are convincing, he feels alone, and everyone is afraid of him, they call him a monster, a vile creature and not even one person treats him kindly. All this lack of kindness compels him to do heinous acts which are unpardonable. In the end, I was left wondering what could have happened had their differences been reconciled and the creature got some kindness and acceptance from humans, and love and warmth from his creator.
Being different than the others in appearance is a harrowing experience even in today’s age. Such people often face bullying in all areas of life and the loneliness and lack of acceptance often leads to depression. And Frankenstein’s monster is no exception.
Shelly subtitles the book as the Modern Prometheus. Here Victor Frankenstein is certainly compared with Prometheus. Prometheus in Greek mythology created man from clay and gave him fire stolen from the gods. This was his crime and for this he was condemned to a life of eternal damnation, being tied to a rock while an eagle ate his liver. Being immortal, he couldn’t die and thus had to suffer eternal pain. Similarly, here the monster destroys Victor’s life and causes him extreme emotional agony but Victor had to endure it all. His life became a living hell. There was no escape for him. His life’s mission became putting an end to his own creation who continued to elude him till the very end.
(I listened to this book on Librivox read by Cori Samuel and thoroughly enjoyed the narration.)