Heyyyyyy! Welcome back to Young Voices, quarantine edition. Throughout the months at home, Young Voices has featured articles written by me, the column’s sole editor, and other teenagers in New York. If you haven’t checked those out, make sure you do!
In all honesty, the pandemic has stretched longer than I initially anticipated. It has shaped my perspectives in ways I didn’t imagine. I have consistently found more time in my hands as a result of quarantine, and if you’re like me, someone who is always searching for worthy books to occupy my day, then you’re in luck! Without further ado, I present to you the best book to read based on the season of the year. Enjoy!
Winter: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Ah, the frosty, bone chilling season of the year. As someone who has a perpetual fear of the cold, winter time is the period of the year where I become strongly attached to the warmth of my bed and hot porridge. This is the time of the year where you need a moving book to warm your heart. Pachinko is Min Jin Lee’s second novel. It was a National Book Award Finalist in 2017 and well-received by critics.
This book was a gift to me, both literally and metaphorically. I finished this roughly 500 page book in two days, engrossed in it every spare moment I had. I love the vivid narratives of every single character, the complex, rich, and heart wrenching historical backdrop, and the poignant stories these elements combine to tell. It warmed my heart, forced me into thought, and opened my mind.
This book paints a moving narrative of a family of four generation Korean immigrants in Japan, struggling through the toughest circumstances as law and public attitude stand against them. Here, you will meet loving mothers, kind priests, dedicated fathers, troubled guilt, fruitless love, and faith. They defend their honor and write their own story in a foreign land. Min explores the questions of sexuality, marriage, love, and family while telling this story. It is the best book to cozy up in a chilling winter afternoon.
Spring: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
The season where flowers bloom, songbirds chirp, and love blossoms. The romantic season, so what better than reading a romantic comedy? This satirical, amusing, and norm shattering play by the one and only Oscar Wilde is sure to keep you entertained on a sleepy spring day. Wilde’s play is set in the Victorian period and features Algernon and Jack, the protagonists who borrow the name Ernest and fabricate a second identity for themselves. Both use this name to court their lovers. This sets off a dramatic turn of events.
Wilde questions social norms, the traditional views of marriage, morality, and the restricting nature of the Victorian period. Earnest, which typically implies honesty, is used ironically in this play as both male leads use this name deceptively. Upon finishing the play, I found myself questioning the quality of being earnest as used in this play. Being Earnest is one of Wilde’s most influential pieces of work, and one reason for that is the nuanced messages Wilde tries to convey or make us ponder. So buckle up and enjoy this thrilling comedic play!
Summer: Educated by Tara Westover
A two month-long summer break is the time when we can forget school and enjoy a vacation, attend summer programs, and give back to our community through volunteering. Tara Westover’s Educated weaves together an intricate and resonating narrative of a woman who travels from the mountains of Idaho to the campus of Brigham Young University and the gates of Cambridge.
Tara’s vivid accounts of a daughter born into a survivalist Mormon family allowed me to peer into the values and life of a family that drastically differs from everything I’ve known. I was nonetheless touched by the moments of familial bond even though there were also many troubling instances. Educated forced me to reconsider the definition of education, something my family has always taught me to appreciate, and discover its significance to me. On a beautiful summer, this book will bring your mind back to the whiteboards and desks in school.
Fall: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Death. An inevitable verdict to everyone’s life, but during this pandemic, human life seems all the more vulnerable and powerless. When Breath Becomes Air is one of the few novels shortlisted for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Biography & Autobiography category. It follows the tracks of the author, Paul, a neurosurgeon who learns that he has been diagnosed with terminal illness. He lives and dies. This story tells us his journey in between.
By the time I closed this book, my face was wet with tears. I cried for the life that once thrived, struggled, and fought, against his death sentence. As I read further into the book, I grew more attached to the narrator that was slowly slipping away from life. I don’t like death, but thinking back, it wasn’t just about death. It was also about life; to make use of every moment.
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