June 7th: Books For Your Hogwarts House: Show your Hogwarts House Pride, and tell us the top 5 books that represent your house!
“Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind.“
I know there’s nothing particularly original about being a book nerd who identifies as Ravenclaw, but oh well. I’ve always been decently ‘book smart’ (except where Chemistry is concerned, but let’s not talk about that), but more important than any innate intelligence I may or may not possess, I never seem to be satisfied with merely consuming media without engaging with it on a critical level. That’s why I started writing book reviews in the first place – primarily to have somewhere to get all my thoughts down, because regardless of whether I loved or hated a book, my mind is always racing when I read. I may have gotten really burned out with school toward the end there, but I’m always going to love learning.
(If you’re interested, the order that I identify with each house is: Ravenclaw > Slytherin > Hufflepuff >>>>> Gryffindor.)
Anyway, let’s get to it! I think these books would be Ravenclaws, too.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt: This is an obvious one, but I had to include it. Donna Tartt’s intelligent prose alone would earn this book a spot at the Ravenclaw table, but then when you throw in the subject matter – a group of pretentious classics nerds at an elite liberal arts school who want their lives to play out like a Greek drama – it’s hard to argue that this book belongs anywhere else.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin: The Awakening is an early feminist novel about a woman who becomes dissatisfied with her marriage. While the subject matter isn’t particularly innovative or shocking today, Kate Chopin is one of the first authors to lend such a daring portrayal of independence to her female protagonist. I think this book belongs in Ravenclaw because the ‘awakening’ that the heroine Edna undergoes has to do with questioning the limitations of her own life, as well as the role of women in late 1800s society. It’s not a book about action, but reflection, and how quiet reflection leads to a change in the way Edna lives her life.
Ransom by David Malouf: What, a top 5 Wednesday where I don’t include the Iliad??? The Iliad is clearly a Gryffindor. Alas. Fortunately though, we have found a loophole, which is: being able to talk about the Iliad anyway. Hooray! Ransom is Australian writer David Malouf’s retelling of books XXII-XXIV of the Iliad, which focuses on the conflict between Priam and Achilles. Achilles has killed Hector, Trojan prince, and has been dragging Hector’s body around the city walls of Troy, so Hector’s father, Priam, crosses battle lines to approach Achilles and ransom his son’s body. While the Iliad is all rage and bloodlust and battle scenes, Ransom puts a quiet and contemplative spin on this famous tale.
The Crazed by Ha Jin: Do you ever finish reading something and think ‘I am too stupid for this book’? That was me and The Crazed. This is one of the most erudite things I’ve ever read. Steeped in Chinese literary history, the intertextuality in this book is layered and masterful. It’s hard to understand everything Ha Jin is trying to say in a single reading of The Crazed – this is the kind of book that could probably use five re-readings, as well as an intimate knowledge of multiple other texts before approaching it.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang: The Vegetarian is one of my favorite books that I read last year, about a South Korean woman who stops eating meat in reaction to a violent dream. This book is complex and layered – it raises questions about violence, sexuality, mental illness, social norms – and it gives no easy answers. This is a book meant to stimulate and challenge the reader to think critically about the questions it poses, and my Ravenclaw brain loved the sheer amount of thematic complexity here.
So, what’s your Hogwarts house? And which books do you think belong there? Comment and let me know!