Book Review: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien


Genre: Fiction
Ages: 14 and Up
Rating: 10/10

     What a powerful read. This book is quite honestly one of the best I've ever read. O'Brien's powerful storytelling connects readers to the deeply emotional experiences of the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War, in a way that no documentary or history textbook ever could. More importantly though, this anecdotal work of fiction carries a timeless message about grief and hope, which is certainly applicable to any individual that just so happens to pick up a copy of this book. If you are unfamiliar with the writings of Tim O'Brien, I highly recommend that you check out The Things They Carried. The deeply heartfelt truths displayed in this novel are unlike any I have ever read before, and I know that anyone who wants to better their understanding of themselves and the world will genuinely appreciate it.

     Tim O'Brien was just a boy when we was drafted into the Vietnam War. Within a matter of months, his entire world was turned upside down. The distinction between reality and fantasy suddenly become blurred, and before he knew it he was surrounded by a sea of memories, some terribly melancholic, and others triumphantly joyous. As O'Brien recounts his stories from the war, he simultaneously reveals the heat-rending effects that tragedies can have on an individual.

Memorable Quote: 
"War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead."

     Have you read The Things They Carried, or any other war story before? If so, tell us what you thought about it right here at Reading Soup! It's always a pleasure to hear your literary thoughts and opinions. Have a great day, and keep on reading!

-The Soup Chef
Continue Reading

I, Too by Langston Hughes


As most of you know, Langston Hughes has always been one of my favorite poets. This powerful poem, entitled I, Too was one of three poems that I recited at a regional Poetry Out Loud Competition (along with  A History Without Suffering by E.A. Markham and Often rebuked, yet always back returning by Emily Bronte). I hope you all enjoy this piece as much as I do. Although it is short, it speaks a compelling message of hope.

- The Soup Chef

I, Too
By Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.
Continue Reading

Poem: A History Without Suffering by E.A. Markham


A couple months ago I had the opportunity to compete in a regional Poetry Out Loud competition. For those of you that don't know, Poetry Out Loud is a dramatic poetry reading competition for high-schoolers, and is sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. I had so much fun meeting new people, while also getting to hear some pretty awesome poetry. That being said, at the competition each contestant shared three different poems, and I've decided to share one of my favorites from the ones I presented. A History Without Suffering by E.A. Markham is a powerful poem for all of us, and I love how relevant it is in our world today. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on it, or another poem that you love. Have a great day, and keep on reading!

-The Soup Chef

A History Without Suffering

By E.A. Markham

In this poem there is no suffering.

It spans hundreds of years and records

no deaths, connecting when it can,

those moments where people are healthy

and happy, content to be alive. A Chapter,

maybe a Volume, shorn of violence

consists of an adults reading aimlessly.

This line is the length of a full life

smuggled in while no one was plotting 

against a neighbour, except in jest.

Then, after a gap, comes Nellie. She

is in a drought-fisted field 

with a hoe. This is her twelfth year

on the land, and today her back 

doesn't hurt. Catechisms of self-pity 

and of murder have declared a day's truce

in the Civil War within her. So today,

we can bring Nellie, content with herself,

with the world, into our History.

For a day. In the next generation

we find a suitable subject camping 

near the border of a divided country:

for a while no one knows how near. For these

few lines she is ours. But how about

the lovers? you ask, the freshly-washed 

body close to yours; sounds, smells, tastes;

anticipation of the young, the edited memory

of the rest of us? How about thoughts 

higher than their thinkers?... Yes, yes.

Give them half a line and a mass of footnotes:

they have their own privileged history,

like inherited income beside our husbandry.

We bring our History up to date

in a city like London: someone's just paid

the mortgage, is free of guilt

and not dying of cancer; and going 

past the news-stand, doesn't see a headline

advertising torture. This is all

recommended reading, but in small doses. 

It shows you can avoid suffering, if you try. 
Continue Reading

Book Review: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket


Genre: Fiction
Ages: 8+
Rating: 8.5/10

     I may seem redundant saying this, but I genuinely feel as though this Series of Unfortunate Events gets better and better with each book I read. This 10th chapter of the Baudelaire's story explained many questions from the previous nine novels, while at the same time creating more mysteries in need of being solved. I've said it once, and I'll say it twice: if you have yet to read these books, please do so RIGHT AWAY! Readers both young and old will find something to appreciate in Snicket's satirically comical writing style.

     Surrounded by a gang of sinister villains at the top of a desolate wintry mountain, the Baudelaire orphans must once again have all their wits about them as they concoct a plan to save their skins. Just when all hope seems to be lost, the siblings confront an unlikely ally, who just might have the answers to questions that have haunted the three children ever since their parents died. What results is a trying battle of good versus evil, in which the Baudelaire's must come to terms with the moral consequences of their own actions.

Memorable Quote:
"I know that having a good vocabulary doesn't guarantee that I'm a good person, but it does mean I've read a great deal. And in my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil."

Have you read any of the books in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events before? If so, please tell us what you thought of them, right here at Reading Soup! It's always a pleasure to hear your literary thoughts and opinions. Have an amazing day, and keep on reading!

- The Soup Chef
Continue Reading

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde


Genre: Fiction
Ages: 15 and Up
Rating: 9/10

     I picked up a copy of this book without knowing what it was about. I genuinely had no idea what to expect at the outset of the novel, but by the end I found myself fascinated by the complex set of events in the story. A darkly poetic novel, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, presents a compelling message regarding sin and redemption. Riddled with paradoxes, satire, allusions, and social commentary, this book has something for all of us to relate to, or learn from, despite the fact that it was written over 100 years ago.
     Unlike my other book reviews, I will refrain from sharing what this novel is about. Personally, I feel as though not knowing any information about this book prior to reading it helped enrich my understanding of the story, while increasing my appreciation of Wilde's writing overall. I hope you all go and pick up a copy of this entrancing and powerful read, as it is a timeless literary classic that I believe we all should be acquainted with.

- The Soup Chef 

Continue Reading