Tag Archives: Suzanne Collins

Books that Mattered in 2013: Extraordinary Books by Women

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The last 12 months were crammed with great and celebrated books. The Flamethrowers. Men We Reaped. The Goldfinch. Life After Life. Vampires in the Lemon Grove. The Interestings. Lean In. MaddAddam. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin. Booker prize winner The Luminaries. Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal. Tampa. Night Film. Bough Down. The Lowland. Speedboat. The Woman Upstairs. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roose­velt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  

If you’re not too busy trying to read them all, you might want to go see the adaptation of Catching Fire in the theater. While you’re out, you may also feel the urge to pick up some Alice Munro following her well-deserved Nobel Prize in Literature.

Then, if you get a chance, you might see if any of the books written by men in 2013 are worth reading.

As we suspected back in August, 2013 was the Year of Women. This year, offerings from Thomas Pynchon, Dave Eggers (both of whom, FYI, wrote books with female protagonists), and even the darling George Saunders we’re overshadowed by the excitement around The Luminaries, by 28-year-old Elanor Catton, or The Flamethrowers, the second novel from Rachel Kushner. Allie Brosh had ’em laughing, and dressing up in costume, at readings of Hyperbole and a Half around the country, and Joyce Carol Oates’ annual novel The Accursed was said by many to be one of her best, or at least one of her strangest. The trend was so strong that J.K. Rowling tried to release The Cuckoo’s Calling under a man’s name, only to be swiftly revealed as her true female self.

Strangely, no one seems to have much noticed The Year of Women, or wagered a guess as to why so much of the interesting and ambitious writing of the past year came from women. We welcome your ideas, but for now we’ll go ahead and take this as a good sign. The books above were never labeled or categorized as “great women’s books” — they’re just great books that people loved. It’s the best rebuke to all the Sad Literary Men and Great Male Narcissists since, well, Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., and has made for an extraordinary year of reading.

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Books that Mattered in 2013: Catching Fire

Catching Fire

Because an original work of American fiction earned $730 million at the box office.

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Cornucopia: The Hunger Games and Catching Fire

One copy each of “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” are now in my possession. They could be yours, if the odds are in your favor. My thoughts on each below.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Read if you liked The Running Man and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Status: Yours if you want it.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

IN A PREVIOUS ERA, a popular young adult character was assured that “Life is a game,” to which he replied: “Game, my ass.  Some game.  If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right – I’ll admit that.  But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it?  Nothing.  No game.”  Given the chance, Katniss Everdeen, the sixteen year-old heroine of “The Hunger Games,” might have identified with Holden Caulfield’s thinking, though in a considerably more literal way.  As it is, there is no indication that any copies of “The Catcher in the Rye” exist in her district of Panem, “the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.”  Panem is your standard dystopia: distant future; post-war society; impoverished districts held under the thumb of a shiny, sophisticated and paranoid government.  Suzanne Collins, however, adds some interesting tweaks, most notably (for me anyway) that instead of a bleak post-nuclear landscape, Panem is a grim post-climate change world where instability and scarcity have led to massive bloodshed.

Read the full review.

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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins
It’s a deep burn, so deep.
Status: Available

“CATCHING FIRE” IS A CLASSIC second entry in the sci-fi, fight-the-power-trilogy tradition. Whereas in the first round people must begin to resist and reluctant, unlikely heroes must come into their roles, the second must show the battle essentially started, with sides chosen and things at their most grim. The full might and cruelty of the bad guys must be demonstrated and the good guys must realize and be daunted by how hard it is to chew what they have bitten off. In the model of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the middle entry is usually also the best of the three.

“Catching Fire” meets most, if not all of these criteria.

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