Atlas Shrugged

The book is based on the not-too-farfetched premise that all of the producers of the world – producers in the sense that these are the hardworking, brilliant, movers and shakers and people of ideas in the world – get fed up with carrying the metaphorical burden of society. “What if Atlas shrugged?”

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Love in the Time of Cholera (El Amor en los Tiempos del Cólera)

Dr. Urbino eventually passes away and Florentino, having waited sixty-odd years to be near Fermina Daza, re-enters the picture. In their old age, they are able to tentatively explore the romance that she denied them in their youth.

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Naked Lunch

” ‘Well,’ Doc says, ‘there was a feller in here this morning. City feller. Dressed kinda flashy. So he’s got him a RX for a mason jar of morphine….Kinda funny looking prescription writ out on toilet paper….And I told him straight out: “Mister, I suspect you to be a dope fiend.” ‘

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Toru learns one day that an elderly acquaintance of theirs, Mr. Honda, has passed away and left a remembrance for him. Delivering the package from Mr. Honda is a Lieutenant Mamiya, a prisoner of war during WW2 who was tortured by the Soviets. Lieutenant Mamiya tells Toru a fascinating story about how he came to know Mr. Honda, and gives him cryptic advice: When the time comes, go down into the deepest well and stay there.

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Reasons to Live / The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

When I go to sleep, I sleep on the side of the bed my mother used to sleep on. Sometimes, at dawn, I wake up and find myself in the pose my mother died in — lying on her side, her arm reaching from under her head as though she were doing the sidestroke in a pool, the pills she had swallowed weighing her down like so many pebbles in her pockets.

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

During a snowstorm in late 1964, Dr. David Henry and his wife rush to his small clinic in the middle of the night to give birth to their first child. The delivery unexpectedly produces boy / girl twins, and David immediately recognizes the signs of Down’s Syndrome in the little girl.

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The Book Thief

Death explains that there are certain humans that he takes special notice of, and that he first saw Liesel when he came for her brother’s soul and witnessed her stealing her first book. Dubbing her “The Book Thief”, Death keeps an eye on her throughout her life as he comes for other people that she is close to.

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High Fidelity

Using a device which has been employed countless times in such stories, Rob decides to revisit each of the women who made the list of his top five breakups and discuss the reasons that it ended with each of them. The results are fairly enlightening, and Rob begins to rediscover his own autonomy and the ambition he had when he was just himself. He begins to open up to the potential friendships in his life, and hate himself a little less. Using a breakup as a means to self-discovery is certainly not a ground-breaking setup for a story, but this one is witty, endearing, and well-done.

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Life of Pi

Pi tells his story to the authorities (who are looking to understand why the ship sunk), but they don’t believe a word of it. Undaunted, Pi makes up a second story; this one much more believable including his mother, a ship’s cook, and a sailor substituted for the animals, and asks which they prefer. They prefer the story as told the first time (although they still do not believe it), and Pi remarks that it is much the same way with God – that those who choose not to believe miss out on the better story.

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The Reader

It has been argued that Hanna’s literal ignorance (illiteracy) is a metaphor for our generation’s ignorance of the enormity of the Holocaust. Once she remedied her ignorance, she was unable to live with herself when it was coupled with her real-life experience of the Holocaust. While I agree with the aphorism ‘those who remain ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it’, I disagree that Hanna would be unaware on a human level of the atrocities being committed.

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