Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Year of Reading Dangerously, 2009

Welcome to the 2009 edition of the My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge! We had a great time in 2008, and I hope many of you will join us for the next installment.

We're making the challenge EVEN EASIER this year! I know, we didn't think it was possible either! Instead of hosting a list of "dangerous reads" this year is all about you.

Your job: Read 12 books you deem "dangerous." between January 1st and December 31st 2009. They may be banned or challenged books, new-to-you genres, books that seem to inhabit a permanent space on your stacks, or authors you're afraid of. The possibilities are endless! If it's dangerous to you, it's challenge-worthy to us!

Instead of breaking the year down into monthly Mr. Linky's, we'll be hosting one ongoing Linky this year. We'll post updates and notices to participants in sticky posts at the top of the blog, but your reading will be the centerpiece of this site. Whenever you finish a dangerous book, come leave the link to your review so other participants can ogle your accomplishments.

In the meantime, if you're interested in joining us, leave a comment on this post, so we can start building a list of participants on our sidebar. And while you're here, take a gander at our "recommended" list for 2009. These are books we love or want to read for ourselves!

Recommended, 2009

  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (feminist)
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstoncraft (feminist)
  • A Passage to India by EM Forester (classic)
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (classic)
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (contemporary/literary)
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (dystopia)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (sci-fi, among other things)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (classic, african-american)
  • On the Blue Shore of Silence by Pablo Neruda (poetry)
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (southern lit)
  • Persepolis I and II by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel/memoir)
  • Night, Dawn, and Day by Elie Wiesel (holocaust)
  • Inferno, by Dante (classic/poetry)
  • Beasts, by Joyce Carol Oates (contemporary/novella)
  • My New York Diary, by Julie Doucet (graphic novel)
  • Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster (contemporary/literary fiction)
  • Hotel World, by Ali Smith (contemporary/stream of consciousness)
  • Lysistrata, by Aristophanes (classic/Greek)
  • American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel/race and ethnicity)
  • Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott (young adult)
  • The End of America, by Naomi Wolf (politics)
  • The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot (poetry)
  • O Pioneers!, by Willa Cather (classic)
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs (classic/slavery)
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers (classic)
  • Contact, by Carl Sagan (contemporary/sci-fi)

You can link to your blog post about the challenge here!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November and December 2008

Did you read any "dangerous" short stories in November? How about The Grapes of Wrath for December? Share a link to your review in the comments section!
Watch for more information on the Year of Reading Dangerously, 2009! Coming soon!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

September and October

Use this space to post links to your September and October books: The Secret Lives of People in Love and The Human Stain. If you'd like, you can also post general discussion in the comment section. Thanks for playing these months!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Maus I and II

Proper discussion questions for August's books, Maus I and II, will begin to appear below this post around August 20th. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in August.

Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of Maus I and II the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Proper discussion questions for July's book, The Chocolate War, will begin to appear below this post around July 20th. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in July.

Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of The Chocolate War in the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Proper discussion questions for June's book, Lolita, will begin to appear below this post around June 20th. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in May.

Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of Lolita in the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, May 9, 2008

May: Other Voices, Other Rooms

Proper discussion questions for May's book, Other Voices, Other Rooms, will begin to appear below this post around May 20th. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in May.

Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of Other Voices, Other Rooms in the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April: Transformations, by Anne Sexton

Proper discussion questions for April's book, Transformations, will begin to appear below this post soon. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in April.

Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of Tranformations in the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Discussion 1 - "The Gold Key" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

1. Does anyone remember--and this is partially a selfish question--if "The Gold Key" corresponds to a particular Grimm fairy tale or if she's purely using this as a way to set up the speaker, etc? I think I found a story titled "The Gold Key" once, but I don't have my complete Grimm with me in North Carolina.

2. How would you describe the tone Sexton establishes from the beginning of this collection? Is it pretty consistent throughout or do you see subtle changes?

3. Talk about some of the imagery Sexton uses, in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" particularly. What did you think of lines like "cheeks as fragile as cigarette papers" and "rolling her china blue doll eyes open and shut?"

4. Why do you think she chose to retell "Snow White?" What does this poem accomplish as a literary work? Do you find it particularly innovative as far as retellings go?

Anne Sexton Biography

Click HERE to read about Anne Sexton's life.

Friday, April 4, 2008

March Winner!

The winner of a Book Lover's Magnetic Poetry collection, bookplates, and a bookmark:

Cathy from Butterflies Used to Be Caterpillars!

Congratulations, and thank you for discussing Cat's Eye with us!

Monday, March 31, 2008

March: Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood

Proper discussion questions for March's book, Cat's Eye, will begin to appear below this post soon. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in March.

Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of Cat's Eye in the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cat's Eye Discussion Questions, Round 2

4. Discuss the impact of the type of parenting received by Elaine, Cordelia, and their third friend, Grace. At one point Elaine's mother tells her that she does not have to be with the girls that are tormenting her. Is her mother in any way responsible for what happened to Elaine?

5. Early in the novel, Elaine is warned by her first new friend, Carol, not to go down into the ravine: "There might be men there." Discuss the significance of this warning, taking into account the later incident between the girls at the ravine. What does this say about our ability to apprehend danger? If you're read other Atwood novels, in what way does she explore the nature of evil and its relationship to gender?

6. Why do you think Elaine became an artist? What is the significance that she did so? Do artists use life experiences in ways nonartists do not?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cat's Eye, First Round of Questions

1. What does Margaret Atwood's novel Cat's Eye say about the nature of childhood and the development of adolescent friendships? Is there a gender influenced difference in cruelty between boys as opposed to cruelty as expressed by girls?

2. In the opening line of the novel, the narrator, artist Elaine Risley, who returns to the city of her birth for a retrospective of her painting, observes: "Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space . . . if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once." How do you interpret this statement?

3. Elaine is haunted by Cordelia, her "best friend" and the tormentor of her childhood. All predators must have a motive. What benefit did Cordelia receive out of tormenting Elaine? What weakness in Elaine made her particularly vulnerable to Cordelia? Why did she continue to play such importance in Elaine's adult life?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

February Prizes!

SO sorry I'm late posting this month's prizes. For those of you who read my blog you know that I'm teaching college, and mid-term was a killer this time around. Without further ado, the prizes for February are:

"Slavery is terrible for men, but it is far more terrible for women," Harriet Jacobs wrote in 1861. At that time she was an escaped slave living in the north, but the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 meant that she could not longer consider being in the northern states a guarantee of freedom or safety. Her book is an eloquent recital of the suffering that is slavery. Families broken apart; promises of freedom made but never kept; whippings, beatings, and burnings; masters selling their own children - all are recounted with precise detail and a blazing indignation.

A 101-year-old retired laborer who enrolled in a literacy class near his Dallas, Tex., home at the age of 98, George Dawson now reads and writes on a third-grade level. From Dawson's eloquent words, co-writer Glaubman, a Seattle elementary school teacher, has fashioned two engrossing stories. First is the inspiring saga of how someone who was the grandson of a slave managed to navigate the brutally segregated small Texas town of Marshall, where Dawson was born, without losing his integrity or enjoyment of life.

That's right...two great books--one of my favorites and one of Heather's--going out to two lucky Year of Reading Dangerously Participants. And the winners are!

Incidents: Lisa
Life is So Good: Kim L.

Ladies, if you would, please send your contact info to estellabooks(at)gmail(dot)com.

If you've already read the book you were chosen for just let me know and I'd be happy to substitute another book, Blood Done Sign My Name, by Timothy Tyson.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Bluest Eye - Sticky Post

Proper discussion questions for February's book, The Bluest Eye, will begin to appear below this post soon. Feel free to link your reviews via Mr. Linky below or link to any other "Dangerous" titles you review in February.
Have fun!

Feel free to discuss general points of The Bluest Eye in the comments section of this post, post questions you're interested in getting opinions on, or just talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bluest Eye Discussion Questions - Volume 2

WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead!

5. At a certain point in the novel, Morrison, through her narrator, states that romantic love and physical beauty are "probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought." How do the lives of individual characters bear out that statement? Where do the characters first encounter ideas of romantic love and beauty—ideas which will eventually torture and exclude them? What positive visions of beauty and love does the novel offer?

6. The novel is set in a Midwestern industrial town, Lorain, Ohio, Morrison's own birthplace. Pauline and Cholly Breedlove are transplanted Southerners and several key scenes in the novel are set in the South. How does Morrison set up comparisons between a Northern black community and the Southern black way of life? What values have been lost in the migration north?

7. Consider Morrison's characterization of Cholly Breedlove. While she clearly condemns his actions, she resists dehumanizing him. If rape of one's daughter is an "unimaginable" crime, can one at least trace the events (and resulting emotions) that made it possible for Cholly to commit this brutal act? Is there a connection between the white hunters' "rape" of Cholly and the sexual aggression he eventually turned on his daughter?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bluest Eye Questions - First batch!

1. The novel opens with an excerpt from an old-fashioned reading primer. The lines begin to blur and run together—as they do at the beginning of select chapters. What social commentary is implicit in Morrison's superimposing these bland banalities describing a white family and its activities upon the tragic story of the destruction of a young black girl?

2. How does Morrison's powerful language—both highly specific and lyrical—comment on the inadequacy of "correct" English and the way in which it masks entire worlds of beauty and pain?

3. "Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow."

With these lines Morrison's child narrator, Claudia MacTeer, invites the reader into a troubling community secret: the incestuous rape of her 11-year-old friend Pecola Breedlove. What are the advantages of telling Pecola's story from a child's point of view?

4. In what ways does Morrison show how Pecola's environment—and American society as a whole—are hostile to her very existence?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Meet Toni Morrison

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford, in 1931 in Lorain (Ohio), the second of four children in a black working-class family. Displayed an early interest in literature. Studied humanities at Howard and Cornell Universities, followed by an academic career at Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale, and since 1989, a chair at Princeton University. She has also worked as an editor for Random House, a critic, and given numerous public lectures, specializing in African-American literature. She made her debut as a novelist in 1970, soon gaining the attention of both critics and a wider audience for her epic power, unerring ear for dialogue, and her poetically-charged and richly-expressive depictions of Black America. A member since 1981 of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has been awarded a number of literary distinctions, among them the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1991-1995, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

For a more extensive bio, click HERE.

Friday, February 1, 2008

And the Winner Is! (January Prizes)

The winner of the January prize pack...a "Reading Woman" calendar, the "Thai Gems" journal, and a hand-painted bookmark is Alicia from Slightly Lively! Alicia, if you'll send your mailing address to us at the address below, we'll get your prize in the mail.

Thanks so much to everyone who's discussed with us so far. You can certainly continue to discuss Great Expectations at your leisure and post January links if you have them, and if you'd like to see any questions posted that we haven't covered, drop us an e-mail at estellabooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

We'll go ahead and post the sticky post for February later in the weekend.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Great Expectations: Sticky Post

NOTE: Proper discussion questions are now beginning to appear below this post! Questions are spoiler-free, but the comments section is open season!

This brief sticky post will remain at the top of the page until the end of January. Post links to your reviews of our January book or any alternates you may have chosen via Mister Linky down there. In the comments section...

Feel free to discuss general points in the comments section of this post, or just talk amongst yourselves. Feel free to answer the discussion questions, if they strike your fancy, at your leisure.

Note: Please don't feel like you need to rush if you haven't even started the book yet. Jump in when you have a chance and feel like it. We're very free-flowin' around here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Characters...some pretty detestable ones!

What did you think of the characters in Great Expectations, both collectively and individually? Was Pip such a pipsqueak that you found it impossible to like him? Was Miss Havisham just cracked enough to drive you batty? Was Estella just a wench at heart or evilly alluring?

Friday, January 25, 2008

A few more questions

1. What significance does the novel’s title, Great Expectations, have for the story? In what ways does Pip have “great expectations”?

2. For much of Great Expectations, Pip seems to believe in a stark division between good and evil, and he tends to classify people and situations as belonging to one extreme or the other: for instance, despite their respective complexities, he believes that Estella is good and the convict is evil. Yet, both socially and morally, Pip himself is often caught between extremes; his own situation rarely matches up to his moral vision. What is the role of moral extremes in this novel? What does it mean to be ambiguous or caught between extremes?

3. Discuss the character of Miss Havisham. What themes does she embody? What experiences have made her as she is? Is she a believable character? How does she relate to Pip and Estella?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

January Discussion Prizes!

If you discuss Great Expectations with us on or before January 31st, you will automatically be entered to win....

January prizes include:

  • 2008 "Reading Woman" calendar, a collection of paintings of women reading. Very Victorian. Very pretty.
  • A "Thai Gems" mosaic journal. Lined pages.
  • A hand-painted bookmark!

Good luck to everyone, and thanks for all your participation so far! I'll draw the winning name on February 1st!


Three More GE Discussion Questions!


4) Why do you think Miss Havisham manipulates and misleads Pip into thinking she is his secret benefactor? What, if anything, does she derive from this action?

5) Given Dickens's portrayal of Estella, what do you think attracts Pip to her in the first place and what, when he learns of her cold-blooded manipulation of men such as her husband, keeps Pip devoted to her until the end, loving her, as he says, "against reason, against promise, against peace?"

6) In the final chapter Estella says to Pip: "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching." Discuss the theme of suffering in this book.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Great Expectations Discussion Question #3

If Pip had not received his "Great Expectations" and never left Joe's forge, how do you think his life would have been different? Are the lessons he learns during his physical and emotional journey necessary for him to arrive at the wisdom he arrives at in middle age?

Great Expectations, Discussion Question #2

Why do you think it is one of Pip's benefactor's principal conditions that he "always bear the name of Pip" in order to receive his financial support?


Discussion Question 1

In this novel, Great Expectations, things are often not what they seem. Discuss how "expectations" play a role in the book. For instance, how are expectations illustrated by and through the various major characters in this book.

How are Pip's expectations different and similar from those of:
Miss Havisham

Pick a few or address 'em all! Whatever blows you skirt up.

Beware possible spoilers in the comments section!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I almost forgot!

OK, I did forget. I TOTALLY forgot. I meant to tell you all...

If you find yourself hating a book, changing your mind about a book, utterly terrified of a book--whether it be one you picked or one we picked--feel free to change your mind. Substitutions to your lists of books for the year are completely welcome at any and all times. I'm a ridiculously finicky reader, so I understand! Flexibility is next to Godliness. Or something like that.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Let It Begin!

Welcome to the first day of 2008 and the beginning of your Year of Reading Dangerously! Heather and I are thrilled that so many people have signed up already, and we're looking forward to the discussion to come.

First, a few reminders and clarifications:

1. You can read any 12 "Dangerous" books, the 12 we've chosen, or a mixture of the two to complete the 2008 Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge.

2. We will set up space for you to report in with your links to reviews and thoughts on the books you read by month (look for the January post to appear soon).

3. If you discuss the official book of the month with us, you're automatically entered into a drawing for the month's prizes.

4. We will set up posts with varying discussion questions throughout the month. Feel free to discuss at your own pace in the comments sections.

5. You may read ahead for months to come or read a chosen books only within the month it's chosen for. It's up to you.

6. Latecomers may join at any time! Just go below to add your name/link to Mr. Linky.

I've been steadily visiting everyone's blog that's joined the challenge, and I've enjoyed meeting everyone. In the spirit of community, consider posting an introduction in the comments section of this post, so we can all get to know each other a little better!
Be sure to check back here often for prize, question, and other updates!

Happy 2008 everyone, and good luck!