Introducing a new Writers’ Hub editorial, dedicated to books and bookish news.
The Divergent movie has just come out, which seemed like a good enough reason to catch up on this bestselling YA dystopic trilogy written by Veronica Roth. I pride myself on ALWAYS reading the book first—yes, I am one of those smug, annoying people who has read all of the Game of Thrones books and knows exactly which characters are going to be brutally dismembered week by week in the TV series.
This week I read all three books: Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant. Mainly because I have a major deadline coming up that I was trying to avoid.
The Divergent series is billed, as all YA dystopic trilogies are at the moment, as ‘The Next Hunger Games’. Unfortunately the books are not quite ‘The Next Hunger Games’ but they are compelling and the world-building is vivid and thorough. The most memorable feature of this series is the division of society into five factions; Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. Your faction represents your personality—a bit like Hogwart’s houses, and you are directed to your faction via a series of virtual reality aptitude tests, though, like the Sorting Hat, there is element of personal choice involved too.
In fact, it was a Buzzfeed Quiz, Which "Divergent" Faction Do You Actually Belong In?, that led me to the books in the first place. Turns out I’m ‘Erudite’, which sounds good—but it’s not really. You want to go for ‘Dauntless’—they’re the cool group that wear black, get tattoos and jump off buildings. The heroine Tris (continuing the long-overdue trend of strong, female YA protagonists) is ‘divergent’ because she doesn’t fit neatly into any of the distinct categories. Cue dilemma, conspiracies, rebellion and war.
I do aim to read a page-turner trilogy before every major deadline. This helps to maintain a productive level of anxiety. Having to finish one compelling book before you can get on with your work is a challenge, having to finish three takes it to the next level of procrastination. On Fiona Melrose’s recommendation I think I might attempt Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Vols. 1-3 before my next deadline.
In other, very sad news, Sue Townsend, author of the Adrian Mole diaries amongst other books, died this week. There can be little doubt about the influence that Sue Townsend had on a generation of teenagers through her iconic character, Adrian Mole.
I read an article in The New York Times this week called ‘What Were the First Books You Felt You ‘Should’ Read?’ This is an interesting question, particularly for anyone old enough to remember the days before we had access to the plethora of internet-based ‘Books To Read Before You Die’ lists. I do love reading but if I was about to die, not having read War and Peace would probably not be my primary death-bed regret.
I first read and enjoyed The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ as a young teenager, and it did have an influence on me—the books that Adrian read gave me my first aspirational reading list. Looking back, it’s as good a list as any you’ll find on the internet. (There is also a Jane Eyre reference that I always appreciated: Adrian writes to a Holloway prison inmate called ‘Grace Pool’—in prison, naturally, for arson.)
Of course, there would be one more book to add to the list—if you’ve never read it then you really should read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, it would be a fitting tribute to a wonderfully funny and talented writer.
Without further ado I give you Adrian Mole’s Reading List (Aged 13¾):
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Origin of the Species – Charles Darwin
The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Second Sex – Simone De Beauvoir
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Man in the Iron Mask – Alexandre Dumas
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
Mill on the Floss – George Eliot
Hard Times – Charles Dickens
The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Apart from my Knausgaard intentions, I’ve just started reading Nathan Filer’s Costa Prize winning novel, The Shock of the Fall, I’ve nearly finished Ivan Vladislavic’s very funny The Restless Supermarket, published by And Other Stories this month, and I’m looking forward to Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites—shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’ll have to get a paperback copy of that one though—it has one of the most strikingly beautiful cover designs of the year, as well as atmospheric black-edged pages—very ‘Dauntless’.