Quick Book Reviews – Classics

When I started writing on here, I told myself I’d like to write a review every week or two, but it’s tough for me to read a new book every two weeks while in school. So I decided to just write some quick reviews over some classic books to fill the gaps while I’m reading other books. All of these books are great, so there is no need to give them a grade (they all get an A). If you haven’t read any of these books, I would HIGHLY recommend it – they’re classics for a reason.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell

Hailed by most critics as one of the greatest books of all-time, 1984 tells a gripping story about the immense power the government can have over us. The book is narrated by the protagonist of the novel, Winston, who works in the Ministry of Truth essentially changing the words in news and historical writings to make the all-powerful government party, led by the infamous Big Brother, look even better. The country in which it is set, Oceania, is perfect and always getting better, at least the government makes the people think everything is always great. The people are under constant surveillance to make sure that they stay in line, and people are rewarded for turning others in when they suspect them of not supporting the government (even children are praised for turning in their own parents). Even with the government constantly watching them, the people are forced to act like they love the government – to a point where many actually do love the government and believe they are pursuing the greater good. Winston secretly despises the government and seeks to lead a revolution. He finds a remote location free from the surveillance of the government to take the woman he has fallen in love with and confides in a friend within the government in hopes that he will help him lead the revolution.

This story was written in the 1940’s but has an extreme amount of relevance to today’s society. With GPS on everyone’s phone and debit and credit cards tracking a civilian’s every move, it’s scary that the government does have a way of maintaining constant surveillance over citizens. With the powerful influence that the news media has over people, even well educated civilians’ thoughts can be manipulated to a point. So even though Orwell’s novel addressed the dangers of a totalitarian government, it still has a lot of application to a democratic, capitalist society such as the United States. This book is one the great ones where you get something new out of it each time you read it.

To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

One of my favorite books and another one of those books that usually makes it onto lists of the best of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird is a great story that tackles the issue of racism in the South and the destruction of innocence. The book is told from the perspective of a young girl, Scout, who lives in a small town in Alabama. Scout has the naivety of any other six year old kid and starts school relatively clueless to the normal prejudices of the town. Throughout the book, Scout is forced to defend her dad, Atticus Finch, who is a lawyer that has been assigned to defend a black man that allegedly raped a white girl in the town. Her dad teaches her to remain compassionate and courageous even in the face of so much racism in the town and hate and bitterness towards her dad.

Though the book tackles some pretty morbid issues like racism and rape, it still manages to be pretty humorous and enjoyable to read. But the best part of the book is Atticus Finch, Scout’s dad. He is, without a doubt, my favorite character of any novel I’ve read. Atticus is what every man hopes to be – an extremely compassionate and honorable person (and a great dad to boot). He fully accepts the responsibility of representing a black man even though he knows that pretty much the whole town is going to hate him for it, because he knows it’s what is right. Even though the townspeople call him some pretty horrible names when they get a chance and even make attempts to hurt his children, he maintains his composure and integrity. This experience would likely turn anyone else into a bitter person, but Atticus stays strong when his faith in humanity is shaken and even teaches his children to be compassionate to everyone, no matter who they are.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

This book is quite a bit different from the other two novels. How to Win Friends and Influence People is what every self-help book hopes to be. The title is kind of misleading since it sounds pretty manipulative (sounding like it’s a book on how to get people to do what you want), but it’s really a book on being a better friend and better leader. While the book doesn’t come to any revolutionary conclusions or reveal any deep secrets to influence people, it combines a lot of great little nuggets of wisdom. Carnegie goes through short lessons on things you can work on to be a better conversationalist, inspire people, be a better businessman, etc. through his, and other successful people’s, experiences. Carnegie also relies a lot on teachings from various religious leaders, like Buddha and Jesus, to provide some really helpful tips on improving yourself and to make you a happier person.

Carnegie writes the book in an extremely practical way that makes it really easy to implement into everyday life. Each chapter contains a summary on what you should get from each chapter and how you can go out and start doing it. While I don’t like reading most self-help books because they tend to get overly sentimental, this book is realistic, and effective. I try to read it once a year just to try to make some of the lessons stick, because I need all the help I can get. Also, the book is pretty short so you won’t get bogged down in a bunch of information. It’s a book every person should have on their bookshelf, even if it is almost 80 years old.

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