Month: October 2008

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Date of Publication: 2006, Vintage Books

Number of Pages: 427

Synopsis (from back cover): The Audacity of Hope is Barack Obama’s call for a new kind of politics – a politics that builds upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. Lucid in his vision of America’s place in the world, refreshingly candid about his family life and his time in the Senate, Obama here sets out his political convictions and inspires us to trust in the dogged optimism that has long defined us and that is our best hope going forward.

Review: To be fair, I should say up front that I am a very enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. This bias of course affected my reaction to this book, so please take that into account when reading this review. First of all, this book is superbly written. Obama has an immense talent for writing and for clearly putting forth his views. There is no more doubt about who the real Barack Obama is…all you have to do is read this book. It’s easy to get a sense of his intelligence, his thoughtfulness, and his idealism, all of which have affected the way he approached politics. He comes across not as a perfect person, but as a real person, someone to whom all Americans can relate.

In this book, Obama explores all aspects of American politics, like race, family, and relations between the two major parties. It’s obvious that he’s a Democrat, but it’s also apparent that he respects Republicans. His approach to politics isn’t one of exclusion and strict party loyalty. He knows that all Americans, no matter their beliefs or political leanings, have worth and he fights for all of them. He doesn’t just represent Demorats…he represents Americans.

All this may sound like an endorsement of Obama’s presidential candidacy (you can take it that way if you want), but this book truly opens one’s eyes to who the real Obama is (a funny, friendly, intelligent, and thoughtful man), what he stands for (liberty, freedom, and opportunity for everyone), and how he thinks politics should be exercised in America (with an open dialogue and a real debate of the issues). If you want to get to know Obama, or if you simply want to be inspired and believe that America is still a great country, then you have to read this book!

Rating: 10/10

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Date of Publication: 1818 (my edition: 2003 by Penguin Books)

Number of Pages: 225

Synopsis (from back cover): Obsessed with creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life with electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. Mary Shelley’s chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley near Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. It would become the world’s most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity.

Review: I was lucky enough to be assigned this book in my Modern Europe class. It’s a quick read, moving along at a nice pace, but not jam-packed with too much action. Instead, this horror novel is one that reaches the reader on a deeper level. Victor takes an emotional journey, from the happiness and security of his childhood, to his fevered and single-minded pursuit of the creation of life, to the horror and despair at the realization of what his dream will cost him. He is the consummate Romantic hero: tragic, boldly and blindly following his own ambition, and agonizing over the loss of his own soul.

There was really only one thing that bothered me about this book. One is the fact that every time something tragic happens to Victor, he falls into a debilitating fever. I know that this sort of illness was a favorite of the Romantics, but after a while, it seemed formulaic. Other than that, the book is nearly perfect: tragic hero, sympathetic yet terrifying villain, beautiful and innocent heroine, and a landscape that is just as important to the story as Victor and his monster are. I would recommend this book to any fan of contemporary horror fiction, and also to any fan of Romantic fiction or poetry. Also, if you’re going to watch one of the many film adaptations of this book, I suggest watching Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 version, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Robert De Niro plays the monster, and you can’t get any better than that. Besides, it’s the one movie that stays almost completely true to Mary Shelley’s original story.

Rating: 9/10