What Book Would You Choose To Be?

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fahrenheit-451

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One of the central themes in the Young Adult novel I am writing is the issue of who controls knowledge and of book banning. I was thinking about it this morning, and I remembered an assignment I used in several classes that reflects this question. I have taught Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the most recently in a class on Banned Books.

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Montag, the fireman book burner turned book lover, finds a group of people living on the outskirts of society, who are dedicated to the preservation of books by becoming living copies of the books. They choose a book, commit it completely to memory, and then find another young person to pass this knowledge to until the time comes when the books can be once again printed and read.To have my students understand this idea personally, I assign them to choose a book they love and to memorize a small passage of 1-2 paragraphs, which they then give to the class at the end of the semester. I, too, perform this exercise.

So, as I was thinking about this today, I was wondering what books other people would choose to be, if we lived in such a terrible world. What book would you choose to become? If you can’t decide on one, then suggest a list of 1-5 books.

My choices, in no particular order, are: Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Don Quixote, by Cervantes, A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin, and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.  Yes, I know these are huge texts!  Please offer your choices.

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63 thoughts on “What Book Would You Choose To Be?

  1. Ben said he would chose Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. I would have a harder time narrowing it down to one, I’ve read more books. I’m going to rethink this a million times, but The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, 100Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

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  2. The “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón because it has everything I could ever crave from a story: adventure, mystery, drama, comedy, tragedy, European history, romance, and amazing prose. But at the same time, I’d be willing to learn all of Rumi’s poetry too!

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  3. If I had to choose one book to commit to memory: It would be “Nine Coaches Waiting” by Mary Stewart. A beautifully written mingling of Gothic romance and mystery set in 1958 in the alpine French countryside near Geneva, Switzerland. I have read the book many, many times and still enjoy it as much as the first time but what is particularly enticing is how Stewart employs chapter epigraphs with quotes from the works of numerous poets, playwrights and authors that fit the themes or actions of each scene. There are lines from Macbeth, King John, Hamlet. Among others are lines from John Milton, Charles Dickens, John Keats, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and so many more. This keeps with the heroine’s background in poetry and literature; its interwoven expertly well by Mary Stewart. “Nine Coaches Waiting” was re-released in 2006 with a beautiful forward by author, Sandra Brown, and in her own words: “Readers are placed in the center of the action and kept there by the vivid word pictures Ms. Stewart paints… Its the kind of haunting novel that one rereads every year or so.” As a young girl and now a writer I am inspired by Mary Stewart’s style and know I am not alone. Her incredible use of language can never be duplicated. (Sorry so long.)

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  4. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien and that choice is clear and obvious, I didn’t have to think about it at all. I was thinking it before I even finished reading your post, and then I saw you had put it in your top 5 – I couldn’t help but think “YES”! 🙂

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  5. I couldn’t possibly commit to any one book. I thoroughly enjoy every genre, except romance, which I find has the same story – just a different location with different names from book to book.

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  6. All good choices but if I were to become a book it would be an odd one that you’ve probably not read. I carry it around in my mind daily. “Breakfast with Buddha” by Roland Merullo. A light, easy to read novel that teaches tolerance. I’ve never had a book stay with my like this one.

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  7. I narrowed my choice down to two books: ‘How Green Was My Valley” (Richard Llewellyn’s deeply moving novel about a family in the depression years) and ‘The Celestine Prophecy’ – not for its great writing but because the book helped me to see this physical life more clearly. It was a life changing experience.

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  8. I’m one of those who likes too many books to choose one. If I were a student and had to choose, I guess one option would be Middlemarch, good English major that I am :-).

    Your post got me thinking about what “banned books” means today. We don’t know what will happen with technology as controlling it becomes more and more important to governments, but could a government “ban” a book today, when people everywhere can post whole volumes online? Have China and North Korea fully succeeded in banning books or controlling information? I don’t know the answer to that.

    But I did start thinking about the “trigger warning” phenomenon, wherein teachers are enjoined not to talk about certain subjects or assign certain readings because some students might be offended or upset. Is that equivalent to “book banning” in the historical sense we all think of (books yanked off library shelves, burned in the city square, etc)? As a teacher, I tend to think that any book should be on the table for college students–we should be able to talk about any book’s cultural assumptions and messages. So is there any book that should *never* be permitted in a college classroom?

    You made me think, as you can see.

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  9. This is both difficult and exciting. If I lived in such a terrible world, I would choose to become Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, or The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Thank you for this!

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  10. Hi Charles: First, thank you for your steady support of Bookshelf, written for bibliophiles and fans of literature like you. This is a wonderful assignment. When I was in boarding school, the Jesuits made us memorize many key passages from novels and lots of poems. It really made appreciate the beauty of the English language in the hands of the greatest English writers. To me the choice is an easy one: Shakespeare’s sonnets — the most beautiful poems in the English language by the greatest writer of all time. They speak to us as passionately and eloquently today as when Shakespeare first wrote them more than four centuries ago. Cheers. Alex

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  11. This is quite a challenge for I’ve read so many and tragically, can’t remember all the titles except for the obvious classics. I like them all! I know that I like all of the Jane Austen’s books, the Brontes’, Cheevers, some of Dickens’. Of course, Tolkien’s! This is tough, so I will choose one that I actually think about when faced with this kind of question. ONE of my all-time favorites is Voltaire’s Candide.

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  12. Love your blog – and the mental juice you expend in preparing it. This said – Today there is a censoring of books before they have a chance to be published. Publishing is becoming more and more in bred. Commonality of thought , ideology, and purpose are becoming the norm. That’s not good the industry or the reader.

    Self-publishing is a hope. BUT, realistically, what % of the top 100 lists of books are self-published?

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  13. Assuming we can call it a “book,” the Bible. If pressed to be specific, then the Gospel of John or the Book of Acts. Nothing else has such transformative, ennobling power. Outside of those, perhaps C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy (yeah, I know, it’s 3 books). Or Cry the Beloved Country. Or The Great Gatsby. Or…must stop!

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