The Help

Top Reads – Age 18 to 29 – Historical Fiction

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As part of our series with curiosity brewing over how people choose to read what book at which age, it’s time to put forth some recommendations for the second week… and our focus will be ages 18 to 29 for Historical Fiction:

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Of course, everyone has a different maturity level and might be ready to read certain books sooner than others, as well as vice versa. It’s only meant as general guidelines with a fun spirit — and not any sense of indicating someone isn’t capable of reading something sooner. I’ve linked to my review of the book for any that I’ve read. There are a few I haven’t yet read, and so I’ve linked to its Goodreads book page.

I am also using a more strict interpretation of the the historical fiction genre than commonly understood. For my selections, a few rules:

(1) Book must have been written and/or published at least 25 years after the events in the book actually take place, e.g. written in 1990, the events had to occur before 1965 (basically 1 previous generation).

(2) Its genre needs to be primarily known as historical fiction. A few selections below contain some fantasy or mystery, but that’s a minor component. Just because a book takes place long ago in the past, doesn’t make it historical fiction. I toyed with including Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” but decided that belongs in another Top Reads list, e.g. Classics (Pre-20th Century).

(3) The primary characters need to be fictional or, if they are based on real people, they have to be used only as a foundation from which the author jumps off. For this reason, I didn’t include the book “Victoria” by Daisy Goodwin, although I love it. “Victoria” is based on reality, using verified letters the Queen wrote to family and friends — very little of the book is completely fictional.

Many of these books could be read at any age. I tried to ignore ones that are taught in high school, thus why I started at the age of 18. I wanted to include “The Color Purple,” but I think that’s better when read in your 30s, so it will be on a future list. But maybe you think it should be in one’s 20s. Convince me!

My suggestions are based on some of the content in the books, the written words / level of the language, and/or readers having enough life experience to truly understand what messages are being conveyed. That said, it’s only my best guess and I am very open to hearing different opinions… possibly persuaded to make a change. I also know I missed a few good ones, but I can include them for future years. Let’s have a really great discussion over all these items!

 

Age / Book / Author

  • Age 18: The Crucible by Arthur Miller
    • Throughout high school, you’re often forced to read certain classic literary novels and plays. This play is right on the border of classic vs. historical fiction, high school vs. college read, and forced vs. exploratory/enjoyable about a dark American period. I’ve decided this is a good transition piece to move readers into the genre, showing true history of what’s happened in America, as well as fictional characters who are over-the-top and on a crusader-type mission. Though some may find it a tad boring, I think it’s got elements of everything that represent historical fiction with a great respect. It would be a great one to read, watch a television version and then even see a play in a local theatre.

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  • Age 19: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
    • Arguably part of the Young Adult (YA) section, and perhaps even something to read at a younger age, I would tell readers to hold off until you’re out of high school. Get away from the clique and group sociology. Make your decisions on if you’re going to college, trade school or starting a job. Then settle in one weekend with this book to see how hard life was for other people, as a youngster in the face of a horrific period in history. You’ve learned enough about the Holocaust in school, and sometimes it’s more than any single person can handle hearing. But this book transformed me and moved me to tears. And it’s great for those who love books about books. It’s a “let’s change our life” book, perfect for when you begin your foray post school into whatever path you choose for life.

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  • Age 20: Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
    • Not as well known as The Book Thief, but just as powerful. Few know about this tragedy faced in Hawaii, as an example (since it happened elsewhere too), over a century ago. People are afraid of disease and things that look different than they do. Learning how life changes for these characters over a 30 to 40 year period, understanding the lessons we experience when we’re older versus what we should have known in the beginning can be a game-changer. This tale has a beautiful connection with the characters, where you will love them and be annoyed with a few of them, all at the same time. Few stories take you to a time and place like this one, where things are different yet still so very much the same. Perfect for strting a new decade of your life.

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  • Age 21: Orphan Train by Christine Baker Kline
    • There’s a balance in this book that I’ve not yet found in another. Told both in the current time period and in the past, it’s not only a coming-of-age story for someone who needs to learn how to grow up, it’s also a reflection on a life left behind for a woman near the end of her days. But when they bond, you see something special. Though one of the characters is in her teens, I would suggest holding off until you are embracing life in your 20s… when seeing your grandparents facing issues, looking to connect with their grandchildren, and feeling a sense of story-telling time. And when your mind will be open to accept that the things in this book actually did happen many years ago.

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  • Age 22: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
    • A tough add for me. I considered “Peony in Love” by Lisa See, or one of her other books; but I stuck with this one. Hearing about a heritage other than American, or Anglo, is important. Knowing what women went thru to be able to survive. It’s something you can take a lesson from at any age, but I think one’s mind is open after finishing college (or a few years of work) — having a few years of reading on your own, having chosen fiction that you can connect with each day. Now you have an opportunity to travel to a land on the other side of the world — or maybe close by, if you live in Asia — where feminism and the female voice are treated so very differently.

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  • Age 23: Girl with Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
    • I’ve never read this one, but I know it’s powerful. And important. I’ve read excerpts. I’ve seen some adaptions. The narrator is 16. But 16 in the 1600s is more like a girl in her 20s now-a-days, I believe. Reading it when you’re either settling down into “married life” or your own career, seeing the differences from so many centuries ago… might help give some perspective to where you are in your own life — and what you want to accomplish. And you’ll know more about this genre, including what historical periods and countries you like and don’t like.

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  • Age 24: The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
    • I adore Philippa Gregory’s books and the details on all the English Kings and Queens. I picked this one, though it’s not my favorite, because it’s the debut for the book series about the Plantagenet and Tudor royal families. For most people, it was torture hearing about the royal families… who killed who and who fathered who. People failed quizzes and got their Henrys, Richards and Georges confused all the time. {Maybe not us book nerds… I never did, I loved them}. But it feels like in your mid-20s, you’re starting to want to hear the other side of the facts. What happened behind the scenes? And now with so many TV adaptions of these periods, it’s important to understand how it all began.

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  • Age 25: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
    • Historical fiction wouldn’t be a genre if it didn’t include a story about civil rights and the struggle for equality. It is such an important part of American culture, and we’ve studied so much of it in school. But what about the real people who went through it. The men and women who dealt with the violence and mistreatment on a daily basis. And if you add some humor, passion and familiar connection, in a setting more beautiful than you hear about in school, you’ve got a winner. Another book worth waiting until you’ve finished school and had a few years away from the required reads, studying and quizzes. Some may argue this could be used during school as a way to teach, but it has so many wonderful elements, I’d rather wait until it feels like a natural go-to read to learn about the things we all know happened but have limited experience with. {Plus, if you read it too young, I could see some unruly youngster baking their own chocolate pies for people they dislike! And no, I wouldn’t have been one of them! How dare you… LOL}

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  • Age 26: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
    • This is one of my top five favorite books and Morton is one of my top four favorite authors. Her language is ethereal. Her scenes are breathtaking. Her characters remind us of people we know. You need some life experience before taking on her books. If you’ve had these types of life experiences before 25, good for you. But there’s heartbreak. And pain. And torture. And longing. And it takes years to build that up. I probably should push this until later 20s or early 30s, but I want everyone to be exposed to this author as early as possible without causing any sort of concerns at too early of an age that you are bored by lengthy descriptions. And the lessons I learned about life and people… absolutely phenomenal.

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  • Age 27: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    • Another one where I picked the first in series. And I pushed this towards the end of the 20s purely due to some of the violent content surrounding war, sex and pain. I am ignoring the small component of time travel and fantasy as that’s not the point of the story. The point is being torn between two places, two time periods, and the love you feel for a man who is your destiny but also your potential downfall. I want to read this over and over again, but there are so many in the series, you have to start relatively young to get to them all!

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  • Age 28: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
    • It’s a toss-up for me whether Follett or Morton are the best historical fiction writers in the entire universe. It was also very difficult to just pick one of his books. “World Without End” is my favorite in this series. “Night Over Water” is my ultimate favorite of all his works. Both are also historical fiction. And while I like the setting of Night over Water, it could have taken place in any time period… so I opted for Pillars. The imagination here is intense. The ability to draw so many facets of personalities, as well as the complexities among the different generations over the years is immense. The man’s a genius and his literature is so impacting, I truly set aside uninterrupted time when it’s a Follett novel. Given the vast diversity of the historical periods being covered, it’s meant for a mature reader. Some are ready to tackle this in their late teens or early twenties. And I mean no offense, but I think it’s a better read when you’re older, and you’ve read enough in this particular genre and by this author… so when you pick up this series of books, your amazement will be profound. {Tell me why I’m wrong — totally up for it}

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  • Age 29: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
    • Similar to last week’s mystery choice with Dan Brown, I’m gonna get a little flack for throwing this one in here. But I adore it. The messages in this story. The characters. The loss. The pain. The love. The images. It is so beautiful and it could only take place in the past in another country (other than my own) where life seems so much more cultural and rich. Another book that requires having had a great loss, I’d save this one for later in the 20s. Actually, I’d read it twice. Once in your 20s and again in your mid to late 40s… there’s a different mindset, and you’ll have a different perspective. I can say that from talking to other people about it, as I haven’t quite reached the second age yet, so… that’s where you can slap me around a bit, telling me I should have included “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. I can take it. Hit me.

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Summary

I know I’ve got 1 or 2 wrong… still debating… but if you know anything about me in my 365 Daily Posts — I aim for perfection, don’t get caught up in the vicious circle of analysis paralysis, and I’m constantly in my head thinking too much. So this represents a two-hour research and release process about recommendations for historical fiction in your 20s. OK! Let’s rumble… who agrees? Who disagrees?  Where did I forget something? Keep me focused, friends!

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 Rules If You Want to Do One Too

  1. Pick a genre. You can get very detailed and go into sub-genres, e.g. cozy, classic, etc. I’m starting general and may work my way down into the details.
  2. Pick an age range, roughly covering 12 years. You can add more or start with less, but I figured twelve ages seemed like a good one to start with.
  3. Pick a book for each age that you’d recommend to get someone situated with the genre.
  4. You can’t repeat an author within that age range.
  5. Explain why that author, book and age.
  6. Either show a book cover or provide a link to the book on Goodreads, or if you’ve read it and have a review, link your review.
  7. Start a discussion with everyone, e.g. is it the right age, is something missing…
  8. Tag others if you’d like, but I open it to everyone.
  9. Last week was mystery fiction for ages 13 to 24. See the post here.
  10. I don’t read in all genres. I don’t know every age. I’d love some help. Anyone want to partner with me on this for a different age range and genre? Please!

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About Me

I’m Jay and I live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare! Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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Film Review: Hidden Figures

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4 of 5 stars to Hidden Figures, a drama released in 2017 about three African-American women who fought for the ability to work in a NASA program during the 1960s on the team calculating important formulas and equations being used to help the US launch an astronaut into space. Originally a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, you can read more about it here.

Why This Movie?

The story is fascinating… not only are three women, but three African-American women, fighting for a fair chance to participate when (1) it should have always been an option [don’t get me started on my frustration with all people not having equal rights in the past] and (2) they were the smartest people in the country at the time.

It received several Oscar nominations, but unfortunately didn’t win any of the major ones. It won a few other award shows for acting, etc. And it’s based on reality… where all 3 women are real people, some still alive today.

I usually prefer to read the book before I watch the movie, but I’ve got a backlog of books on my TBR (To Be Read) shelf with some deadlines, and my other half wanted to see the movie. We don’t often go to the movies and it was released last week onto our cable providers “movies on demand.” It became last Saturday evening’s movie of choice.

It is often compared to “The Help,” particularly because of it being the same rough time period, having Octavia Spencer and it being about African-American women fighting for equal rights. But it’s really quite different. You don’t see a lot of victimization in this movie; it’s certainly there, but the overall theme and message is more about how smart they were and what successes they had.

Overview

Katherine, Dorothy and Mary live in Virginia and work at the NASA offices in the computer room, but they don’t work on computers: they are human computers who have vast mathematical skills beyond any reasonable norm. Katherine has a particular genius for being able to calculate extensive formulas using advanced geometry and other sorts of equations. Dorothy, hoping to get the supervisor role she’s acting in but without the title and pay, is very easily able to understand computer languages and engineering, and when the first IBM comes to town, she is the one who makes it work properly. Mary’s specific skills are never volunteered, but she wanted to be an engineer and needed to get advanced degrees at a local university when it was an all-white school. Each of the women struggle in their personal lives (widow, less than supportive family and single mother) as well as at work, but they band together to help fight for the right to be part of the team to help launch John Glenn into space, especially after the Russians beat the US. The movie follows about a 6-month arc of their lives when they are first told “no” all the way to when they get their “yes.”

Notable Stars

  • MY FAVORITE
    • It was a toss up… I love Octavia Spencer, but I think Taraji P. Henson beat her out in this one.
    • Taraji is probably best known currently for her role of Cookie on “Empire.”
    • Taraji plays Katherine, a single mother of three, who lives with her own mother, so someone is raising the girls. She is the smartest in the group and eventually gets a chance to prove it when she gets put on the team to launch John Glenn.
    • Taraji’s performance was very simple and understated for 90% of the film; she was very consistent and conveyed through body language every hurt and frustration over the lack of equal and civil rights, in particular around her scenes when needing to find a “colored bathroom.” When she’s finally pushed to the edge, she unleashes in a verbal storm for about two minutes and really showcases how awful it was for women and for African-Americans during this time period.

  • OTHERS
    • Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy, and has her normal comedic timing down to perfection. Her role is probably a bit more supporting, but she is very strong.
    • Janelle Monae plays Mary, who fights for her right, and all future African Americans and women, to attend an all-white university. She is best known as the singer of “We are young,” a song I think is absolutely beautiful.
    • Kirsten Dunst plays Vivian, a supervisor who stands the line on what the company will allow its “colored” employees to do or not do. She plays her typical character, but did it well.
    • Kevin Costner plays Al, head of the division working on the space launch. He’s very strong in this role. Um… I think everyone knows who Costner is, but he plays a similar role as he always does!
    • Jim Parsons plays Paul, Al’s right hand who struggles with partnering on or stealing Katherine’s work. He’s very different than his role on The Big Bang Theory.
    • Glen Powell plays John Glenn. Glen’s best known for his role on Scream Queens. But he is very different this time – not silly humor as in the past. I liked him a lot.
    • Lots of other strong supporting cast members… in all, a good group.

The Good or The Bad

  • It’s a great film. The story is strong. The acting is good. The setting and scenery is fantastic, especially given they were recreating something almost 60 years old.
  • It got a 4 instead of a 5 only because there weren’t any major stand-out components, where I thought “OMG, new star is born, this is amazing, everyone must see it…” It was a solid movie, depicting a very sad part of American history with great aplomb. A few more dramatic scenes may have pushed it up to a 5 for me. But still very much worth watching.
  • Never any slow scenes where it felt over-played.
  • Although the mathematical formulas were critical, they were downplayed. You could see the characters calculating, but you didn’t worry about it being too advanced. It was minimal screen time. The film was more about what was going on in people’s heads over everything.

What’s Next?

  • I don’t know if I’ll go back to read the book. As much as I loved the film, I get the gist. I’d rather read something else by this author.
  • I would be interested in seeing something else with Taraji P. Nelson in it. It was a very good performance and very different from her other roles from what I understand.
  • I might consider a biography about these women… if it exists. I need to look that up!
  • I don’t know a lot about the “underground railroad.” It might be time to get more educated on this even earlier historical fight for freedom.

About Me

I’m Jay. I am 40 and live in NYC. By profession, I work in technology. By passion, I work in writing. Each week, I will post a summary of a trip I’ve taken somewhere in the world. I’ll cover the transportation, hotel, restaurants, activities, who, what, when, where and why… and let you decide for yourself if it’s a trip worth taking.

Once you hit my site “ThisIsMyTruthNow” at https://thisismytruthnow.com, you can join the fun and see my blog and various site content. You’ll find book reviews, published and in-progress fiction, TV/Film reviews, favorite vacation spots and my own version of the “365 Daily Challenge.” Since March 13, 2017, I’ve posted a characteristic either I currently embody or one I’d like to embody in the future. 365 days of reflection to discover who I am and what I want out of life… see how you compare!

Feel free to like, rate, comment or take the poll for each post. Tell me what you think. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

 

Review: The Help

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The Help
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book at least 4 years ago, before I began to more consistently use Goodreads… and now I’m going back to ensure I have some level of a review for everything I read. It’s only fair… if the author took the time to write it, and I found a few hours to read it… I should share my views so others can decide if it’s a good book for them.

That said… did anyone not love or like this book? I’ll have to check out some other people’s reviews… And I wonder how many people just watched the movie… Oh well… I’ll keep this review short and not in my usual format, as probably everyone I’m friends with on here has already read it! 🙂

The only reason I’m not giving it a 5 is because I felt like some of the stories needed a better or stronger ending. I truly think it is a fantastic book, and it makes you really think about what happened in the not-so-distant past… and probably still happening in some parts of the country today. Scary thoughts, but in the end, at least the right people got something back they deserved, even if it wasn’t as much as it should have been.

The characters are very clear and strong. And when there are upwards of 10 to 12 supporting or lead female characters, an author has to spend a tremendous amount of time creating distinct pictures in a readers mind. Stockett did a great job with this task. Each and every one shows you a different personality: leaders and followers, movers and shakers, smart and silly, strong and weak, tolerant and intolerant, thirsty for all the world has to offer and content to stay the same for an entire lifetime.

When a writer can shuffle this many people throughout a story, they have invested themselves into the book, the characters, the setting, the theme, the future.

I haven’t read anything else by this author, but just thinking about this book, and realizing I haven’t looked at her other works makes me want to run to her profile now and pick one. Perhaps that’s what I’ll go do!



About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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