Book Bingo: Read Out Loud
How to Brainwash Your Boyfriend: Read Out Loud Square
By Julia Cook
With just five weeks left of summer, the “Read Out Loud” square can seem like a huge commitment. Who has time to wrangle readers when the mountains are calling? But before you resign yourself to the white lie of audiobooks, try raising the stakes. Grab a friend, a relative, a significant other—maybe even a hammock—and flex your rhetorical muscles.
Laced with compelling characters and pulsing with conflict, these five novels set the stage for discussion, even if the topic’s unfamiliar at first. Whether it’s the semantics of anti-federalism or the relative merits of eighties comic book heroes, reading’s much more fun with some friendly sparring. You’ll nab a bingo in no time—and you might just learn something along the way.
Hoopla by Harry Stein
Griffey recently made the hall of fame, but our national pastime is more than a home run derby. Hoopla’s told through the eyes of real life Chicago whitestocking Buck Weaver and the journalist bent on busting him for throwing the 1919 World Series. There’s countless forces at work in this tragic true story; mobsters and wives and cheapskate commissioners converge to muddy our morals. Raw from the losses of World War I, the result is enough to break a nation’s heart.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigeria in the 1960’s is home to a new elite—“big man” leaders and the educated who fill their bureaucratic ranks. Young, well-bred, and perfectly situated, sisters Olanna and Kainene nonetheless find themselves on conflicting sides—emotionally and politically—as the country sinks into turmoil. When war lands on their doorstep, each woman must ask herself what’s most important: her country, her man, or each other.
Burr by Gore Vidal
The forgotten founder employs a New York journalist to tell his story, and together they examine the personalities that shaped our modern republic. Washington’s depressing, Jefferson’s a pretentious jerk, and the rest are both insipid and egomaniacal (in his humble yet informed opinion.) “What a hagiography for the Nixon era!” The New York Times exclaimed, but Burr’s themes hold just as true today. How is one to fight for the people, when politicians only represent themselves?
She Weeps Each Time You’re Born by Quan Barry
And speaking of the seventies, how can leaders grapple with debris they’ve left behind? Barry’s protagonist Rabbit could tell them, if given the chance—she’s able to hear voices of the dead, and navigates the Vietnam War as she plays witness to its casualties. A Vietnamese-American poet, Barry explores her metaphor with the ease of verse, out loud it becomes a hauntingly beautiful picture of a conflict where by its very nature, there could be no civilians.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Peppered with footnotes, Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel paints parallel histories—that of his protagonist Oscar (a fat comic book nerd trying to get laid) and Rafael Trujillo (a Dominican dictator, dangerous to his country and the women who lived there.) Any reader will sympathize with Oscar’s quest to be loved, yet perhaps disagree with the approach that he uses.
Julia Cook is a freelance content creator based in Capitol Hill. You can find her writing on the pages of Seattle Weekly, Seattle Review of Books, and Pittsburgh City Paper, plus a forthcoming short story collection. A Junior Civil War Historian and Junior Ranger at several National Parks, Julia recommends you complete the worksheet even though it’s harder than you think it will be and rangers will almost always give you a strange look for doing so. Follow her on Twitter.