What Book Genre is Your Personality?

 

Everyone can appreciate a well-crafted book in any genre, but sometimes even the most well-read can show favoritism. Take this fun quiz to determine which genre of book most matches your personality!

 

On a rainy day, which book would you rather curl up with?

10 points: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway.

20 points: The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien.

30 points: Common Sense, Thomas Paine.

40 points: The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.

 

Where is your favorite place to read a book?

10 points: By the fireplace at a nearly empty used bookstore.

20 points: In the car on the way to Comic-Con.

30 points: While hiking, camping, or sailing on a lake.

40 points: In my bed, under the covers, with a flashlight.

 

What’s your drink of choice?

10 points: Hot tea, probably something flowery like Earl Grey or chamomile.

20 points: Butterbeer.

30 points: Good old-fashioned water, maybe a slice of lemon.

40 points: Milk, with either Oreos or chocolate chip cookies to dip in it.

 

Which way is the only way to read a book?

10 points: Leather-bound hardback, probably a first edition; smells like old mothballs.

20 points: A great deal you saw at the bookstore – a boxed set of paperbacks with that one illustrator everyone loves.

30 points: The free or $0.99 copy from the Kindle store.

40 points: The signed, personalized copy that cost you a fortune on eBay but is totally worth it.

 

Pick an animal to read with.

10 points: Your dog and most trusted companion.

20 points: A fire-breathing dragon.

30 points: A beaver, but only if he chops wood for your campfire.

40 points: Your fluffy new kitten.

 

Add up your points and compare with the chart below.

 

Literary Fiction Reader (50 – 80 points): You’re a classics lover, through and through. Sympathetic and kind, you tend to focus on the small joys in life. Curl up on the couch, pour yourself a cup of tea, and dig into that Jane Austen novel!

Fantasy/Science Fiction Reader (90 – 120 points): Nothing excites you more than world building, and you can tell when an author does it well. You’re a nerd and proud of it. You probably taught yourself elvish and know the names of every character in the Dune universe. Break out that cosplay and be yourself!

Nonfiction Reader (130 – 160 points): You’re practical and innovative. While you may enjoy a few novels that really speak to you, you prefer the down-to-earth, informative content of nonfiction. Whether it’s a biography of Thomas Edison or a self-help guide to the real estate market, you’ve probably read it. You’re a real jack-of-all-trades!

YA Fiction Reader (170 – 200 points): YA may stand for young adult, but you believe all ages can appreciate the genre. Whether it’s romance, horror, dystopia, or fan-fiction, you can find a group of books that speak to you. You probably have a cute name for your fandom, too!

 

Which genre are you? Comment below what you got, and share this article with your friends!

Arrival: Where Cinema and Poetry Converge

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the film Arrival, so if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you go watch it before continuing reading.

As a piece of art, Arrival is near cinematic perfection. It hits all the right notes for the current generation of viewers: nostalgia for the past, hunger for the future, a strong leading character, and subverted genre tropes. While there are so many ways I could approach this spectacular movie which others have already done (see below for links), I want to look at one of my favorite aspects of the film: its poetic rhythms.

Arrival is all about patterns. From its opening shot, it establishes itself as a movie about beginnings and endings and the cyclical nature of time and life. The lead character, linguist Louise Banks, is called to a military encampment where an alien ship landed. Her job is to find a way to communicate with the creatures and ask their purpose for coming to earth.

The aliens have a special, circular written language with beautiful symmetry and patterns, which fits in well with the overarching theme of the movie. As the plot progresses, Louise realizes that immersing herself in the alien language is changing how she perceives time. Instead of experiencing time as linear, she has the ability to view all of her life at once.

One of the many plot devices available to storytellers, and one of my personal favorites when done well, is the use of setups and payoffs. A setup occurs when the storyteller gives his audience a piece of information as an anchor to set up the payoff. The payoff comes when the storyteller later reveals why the anchor information matters. A good example of this system is foreshadowing, when the storyteller hints at things to come early on in a story and later brings about the resolution. Every good setup must have a payoff.

Arrival is full of such setups and payoffs, arranged in a kind of rhythmic poetry. The order of revelations in the story seems random at first, but is later revealed to be such that the viewer is experiencing exactly what Louise experiences, in the order in which she experiences it. This theme of circles and cycles, of setups and payoffs, mirrors the overarching theme of the movie and melds the plot itself into a circle. The poetic beauty of its patterns sets Arrival apart as a unique modern classic.

Click here to learn how Arrival is an answer to bad movies of recent years.

Click here to learn more about setups and payoffs.

Click here to rent or buy Arrival.

Concerning Stewardship: The Lost Art of Lord of the Rings

The hobbits from Lord of the Rings are lovers of food and earth and hearth, the three greats of life in the Shire. While they may seem simple at first glance, they have a hidden gift: stewardship of nature. As it happens, stewardship in many forms is a major theme woven throughout all of Lord of the Rings.

What is stewardship? It is a character trait not spoken of much in today’s culture. It is a mindset of preservation for future generations, of holding resources in trust for posterity as a legacy. Most commonly, today’s generation might think of environmentalism as stewardship – preserving the earth for our children. But this is only one sense of the word.

In Middle-Earth, nearly every culture is a steward of something. The hobbits are stewards of the earth through building, cooking, and gardening. They are great lovers of the earth and its natural beauty. The city of Gondor, without a king for so many years, has a nobleman as its leader called the Steward of Gondor. His job is to protect the city from invaders and preserve it for when the king returns. The dwarves preserve their own heritage and their gold under the mountains, stewarding their treasure for their children. Stewardship can be about protecting wealth or the earth, but it can also be much more.

Perhaps the most important stewards of Lord of the Rings are the elves. As ancient, immortal creatures, they have a deeply rooted knowledge of history and tradition. They are the keepers and stewards of knowledge in Middle-Earth. They preserve their heritage and the history of the world, and they share their wisdom when it is needed.

Stewardship is concerned with protecting traditions, preserving history and the earth, and passing it all on unharmed to the next generation. In modern culture which is so often focused on now that it loses sight of the future, stewardship is an underrated virtue. The world changes so quickly, so what is the point in trying to preserve anything for the future? As human culture and technology evolve, we have more need now than ever of history and tradition as something solid to hold onto. As long as society exists, stewardship will never be obsolete.

Buy Lord of the Rings on Audible

Buy Lord of the Rings on Amazon

Les Miserables on the Path to Social Justice

In the 18th century, the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau paved the way for the French Revolution to take place. Most of these ideas had to do with the “social contract”, the belief that government was given its power by the consent of the people, who voluntarily gave up some of their intrinsic rights in order to achieve harmony and protection. Rousseau’s ideas were based on the belief that people were basically good and would do good if left in a natural state. He wrote that society was better off without religion, or better still with a pseudo-religion with the government as its object of devotion. Many of his beliefs were used and exploited by French revolutionaries to serve the authors of the Reign of Terror.

The biggest difference between the beliefs of revolutionaries and traditional French philosophies was the introduction of inequality as a vice to be remedied. Prior to Montesquieu and Rousseau, inequality was seen as something that was innate in society, an amoral state where some were born with more or achieved more than others. However, just before the time of the Revolution, thinkers and political philosophers had begun to question this belief. Many began to see inequality as a source of most of the problems of poverty and destitution, and to propose solutions to remedy this evil. The French Revolution was the natural consequence of these ideas.

In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo delved deeply into the politics of 19th-century France, after the French Revolution, depicting mainly lower-class characters crushed under poverty. He seemed to believe some of the same ideas as Rousseau, with some notable differences. A major theme of the book is the evil of inequality and oppression, keeping the common people down. Hugo demonstrated this in the storylines of Jean Valjean, who stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving family and spent twenty years in prison for it, and Fantine, a young single mother who was forced into prostitution to provide for her daughter. However, through his book, Hugo proposed that the solution to the problem of inequality was the power of love, compassion, and Christian morality.

Another major theme of Les Miserables is the failure of the French Revolution to end the evils of oppression and poverty. The revolution of 1789 was a bloodbath, a revenge killing of noblemen and their families for years of perceived oppression. Although the revolutionaries drafted a “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens,” this document was more a statement of beliefs than an actionable plan for achieving their goals. In the end, not much in government changed but the names of the men who ran it. Hugo criticized the Revolution for its failure to change the lives of poor people for the better.

Hugo seemed to take hope when writing about Napoleon and the students at the barricade, since their ideals were more honest and closer to Hugo’s own political stance. However, both these attempts at reformation failed. In the end, Hugo admitted that violence and bloodshed could never solve France’s desperate problems. The true solution shone purely through his writing: Christian love and compassion.

In his preface to Les Miserables, Victor Hugo wrote: “As long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, a social damnation artificially creating hells in the midst of civilization… while the three great problems of this century, the degradation of man in the proletariat, the subjection of women through hunger, the atrophy of the child by darkness, continue unresolved… while ignorance and poverty persist on earth, books like this cannot fail to be of value.” He illustrated these three problems through several storylines in the book.

Both Jean Valjean and Monsieur Thenardier perfectly depicted the plight of the degraded proletariat man, starving and poor, but they took different actions from their common problem. Monsieur Thenardier resorted to a life of theft and cruelty, forsaking morality for money, but Jean Valjean rose above his early crimes and became a changed man who, through honest labor and hard work, was eventually a successful businessman.

The “subjection of women through hunger” was illustrated by Fantine and Eponine. Fantine, after her rich lover abandoned her with their illegitimate daughter, tried desperately to feed herself and her daughter. Even when she was forced to give up Cosette and become a prostitute, she cared for her daughter and tried to make the best possible life for her. Eponine was the neglected daughter of the horrible Monsieur Thenardier. She and her brother, Gavroche, were thrown out onto the streets because their family could not afford to feed them. Eponine was a thief at first, but after falling in love with Marius, an honorable man, she changed her ways and saved Cosette and Marius several times.

Cosette and Gavroche show the “atrophy of the child by darkness,” in similar but different ways. Cosette went to live with the Thenardiers after her mother could no longer afford to feed her, becoming yet another neglected child in their household. She lived in her head for years since she had no friends, but when Jean Valjean adopted her, she became loved and cared for. Gavroche, the oldest Thenardier son, was thrown out onto the street, like Eponine, when his family could no longer feed him. He remained a thief to the very end, yet tried to redeem himself by fighting at the barricade alongside Marius and the other students.

The lesson of the French Revolution and Les Miserables is that often a common problem can be addressed in many ways, and it matters which way people choose to address it. The problems of inequality, poverty, and neglect were all very real, but Hugo tried to show that the solution to these problems was not violent protest, but kindness.

The Ultimate Absurdity of Life

Many books have attempted to make their mark on the genre of satire, but I believe none have done so as well as Douglas Adams’ masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Whereas many media satirize certain aspects of life in bite-sized, boiled-down chunks (think Saturday Night Live or even Don Quixote), Hitchhiker’s Guide pokes fun at life itself.

In the story, Arthur Dent, an average Brit, is saved from the destruction of Earth at the last possible second by an undercover alien. The pair proceeds to hitchhike around the galaxy, exploring and royally messing things up. The book is full of seemingly meaningless and absurd events happening because of an invention called the Infinite Improbability Drive. Adams seems focused on subverting his readers’ expectations of how the world works and what will happen in the story. It is this unpredictability and improbability that causes much of the absurdity of Hitchhiker’s Guide.

The book demonstrates the absurdity and insignificance of each person’s life, especially against the immense backdrop of an entire universe, as well as the meaninglessness of life in general. One of the most recognizable scenes is when a group of philosophers and scientists have a supercomputer built which is supposed to find the answer to the ultimate question of “life, the universe, and everything.” Instead of giving an intelligible answer, the machine spits out the number 42. Unfortunately, no one knew what the question actually was.

Another example of the satire of the story is the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself, a book supposedly containing all knowledge in the universe. However, it is absurdly specific, with articles on how to prepare a stiff drink and alien parakeet anatomy. Arthur must eventually come to terms with the fact that the knowledge of the universe is too broad to ever be collected all in one place. Arthur himself, as the last remaining human in the galaxy, is simultaneously insignificant and of great importance as the last representative for humanity.

At its most basic, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a clear-sighted, humorous take on the world around us and a playful prod at the human tendency to look for meaning in everything. When faced with the ultimate insignificance and absurdity of life, we might as well laugh. Adams certainly is.

To get an audio version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from Audible, click here. If you want to learn about how the themes of meaning and absurdity play out in the TV show Rick & Morty, click here.

1984: How Relativism Halts Social Progress

Note: The following article contains spoilers for both the book and the movie 1984.

In the book 1984 by George Orwell, the character of O’Brien, a Party (government) official, is likely a relativist concerning truth. Relativism is the belief that society creates truth and defines how its members can justify their beliefs. O’Brien reveals his relativist ideas about truth in his interactions with Winston, the main character, in both the book and the movie.

In the movie, when O’Brien is torturing and brainwashing Winston, he asks Winston what two plus two equals. Winston, who believes in absolute truth, replies that the answer is four. O’Brien replies by explaining to Winston that the answer is really whatever the Party says it is; that sometimes it equals five or three, or all of them at once. In the book, he further reveals his beliefs by stating that the sun goes around the earth when it is convenient to believe this, and that other times the earth goes around the sun, according to the Party’s needs. O’Brien’s belief in the truth of the Party is consistent with the relativist’s theory of truth.

There are several reasons for believing in relativism. After all, there are many different cultures with deeply held beliefs that contradict one another. Sometimes these differences in beliefs can lead to violence and war. If the entire world chooses to believe the relative theory of truth, it is reasonable to think that there would be fewer wars and disagreements, since each culture would be allowed to believe only what it deems correct.

The major flaw in relativism comes when the relativist tries to justify his own beliefs. According to his own philosophy, relativism can only be true if a majority of people in his culture believe it to be true. Even if his entire society believes in relativism, other cultures might not accept this belief, and wars and strife would not be lessened at all. Thus, relativism’s own logic is self-defeating.

Another danger of relativism is that it halts social progress. The realist philosopher Dennett gave the example of a primitive culture that believed in witch doctors and magic, which was visited by a group of Western relativists. These Westerners spread the belief in relativism, telling the more primitive culture that their beliefs in witch doctors were just as good as the West’s belief in scientific medicine. Later on when Western doctors visited the country to bring hospitals and medicine, the natives rejected them and continued to practice their ineffective forms of healing. A widespread belief in relativism would be the death of scientific discovery and progress.

To pick up an audio version of 1984 on Audible, click here.

My Pick of the Week: March 13-18

My pick this week is Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.

bravenewworld

This dystopian novel addresses the fears of mid-20th-century Americans about totalitarian and socialistic rule. Brave New World takes place in a society whose inhabitants can experience limitless pleasure without facing moral consequences. This book is my favorite of the dystopian books of its time period, which include 1984, by George Orwell.

To pick up an audio version of this book on Audible, click here.

John Locke and the Emergence of Fake News

Fake news is everywhere. From your friend’s angry post on Facebook to mainstream news sites, the media often outright lies to you. Just look at the varying accounts of the election last year. People still don’t know exactly who got more votes or what happened with the Russians. It’s getting to the point where it is almost impossible to find out the truth. Worse still, this is not a new phenomenon.

In the 1800’s, newspapers used young children to sell their papers on street corners. The children would call out the headlines and hopefully attract a sizable buying audience. In order to keep this system profitable, the headlines had to attract a lot of attention. Newspapers began to sensationalize events and publish poorly researched, often plainly false stories. The age of “yellow journalism” began. (To learn more about the historical trend toward fake news and how to combat it, click here.)

Fast forward to today, when news has become just another genre of entertainment. News media capitalizes on the immediate, emotional responses of its viewers to repost and share stories based on little or no real information. It manipulates people’s beliefs and actions in order to sell more stories and more ad space. But the most dangerous effects of fake news come when they are accepted as fact. When people can no longer discern with any certainty whether the media is lying, it is nearly impossible to tell whether any fact is true or false. This lack of certain truth causes the fabric of society to unravel.

What has caused this trend toward “alternative facts” and fake news? In the 17th century, the philosopher John Locke wrote about two types of people and their relationship to truth. On one hand, he described philosophers, who loved truth for truth’s sake and never put more faith in a proposition than could be proven. On the other hand were those who claimed to love truth, but who were instead ruled by their feelings, accepting anything they thought felt right. These people he called “enthusiasts.”

In our day, many people have become enthusiasts, accepting the convenient answers without putting in the effort to think things through. It is this apathy toward truth that has led to the emergence of fake news and yellow journalism. Many people rant about these problems without addressing their root. Do we, as a society, even want to know the truth?

To pick up an audio version of John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, click here.