Holiday Reading: The Hunger Games

My post tonight combines Abbie and Jeannette’s commentaries on their Holiday traditions and Sarah’s post on being kind to yourself.

Although my family has a variety of Christmas traditions, such as (in the last 5 years) having Christmas Eve dinner at our house, going to a party with my Dad’s big, extended Lebanese family, and going to my Grandma’s sister’s “big old house” in Mill Creek Park on Christmas Day, one of my personal Holiday traditions is to read as many novels as possible.

I could…should…be working in earnest on my Master’s thesis, and although I will, I need, after a long, difficult, and extremely stressful semester to be kind to myself. I do this by losing myself in fiction.

I have no shortage of fresh novels to read, largely due to the 30+ books that I bought in the Fall as a result of Borders going out of business. But, I also own a Barnes and Noble Nook and was going to a conference in Washington, DC that I didn’t feel like dragging a bunch of books to, so I decided I needed an e-book or three to take with me.

So, in a effort to “be kind to myself” and uphold my holiday tradition, I bought the first  book from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and had at it. A week and a half later (today) I’ve bought and read all three and am so glad I did.


I admit, I’m notorious for “coming late to things.” I didn’t start watching Grey’s Anatomy until it was well into its later seasons, I was obsessed with The West Wing and didn’t start watching it until it was almost over. And, though I’m a “great reader” (anyone catch the Pride and Prejudice reference? lol), I tend to find a lot of books once they’re made into movies —  although I do make an effort to read the book before seeing it acted out. Good examples of this: “Water for Elephants,” “The Pillars of the Earth,” anything by Nicholas Sparks, “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “The Da Vinci Code,” etc, etc, etc.

The same story goes for “The Hunger Games.” I’d heard of it before, certainly seen the buzz on Facebook and other places online, and noticed that they were making it into a movie. I like to watch the MTV Movie/Music Awards and saw the teaser trailer over the summer on one of the broadcasts. Similar to the way I had no plans to read Twilight (for various reasons) but did (also for various reasons), I had no plans to read The Hunger Games.

I thought the movie trailers looked good, knew the film was based on a book, and figured I’d watch it eventually, but really didn’t understand what the book was even about.

So, I did a little research: Found out the the main characters had funny names (Katniss, Peeta, Effie, Haymitch, etc, etc, etc), learned it was set in a dystopian post-United States North America, that its characters lived in an oppressive dictatorship, and that the premise of the story was that the main character was involved in some kind of sick, twisted “sporting event/reality show” that involved kids fighting to the death. I was intrigued, but not sold.

Did I really want to get involved in another series? Wasn’t I a little too old to read this kid’s stuff? Didn’t I hate these sad dystopian stories?

I thought I didn’t/was/did. But I was wrong.

The first book was cheap to buy as an e-book, so I got it. What was there to lose?


The books are great. End of story. To not spoil the experience, should you decide to read the trilogy, I won’t say anything about the second and third books except that their titles are “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” respectively, and will limit what I say about the first book, simply titled “The Hunger Games.”

You meet Katniss Everdeen, the main character, and her mother and little sister Prim, as they do what they have to do to survive life in District 12 in the country of Panem. You meet her friend and possible love interest Gale, who helps her hunt (illegally) and to whom she shares a special bond since their fathers were both killed years earlier in the same mining explosion. Peeta is her fellow District 12 Tribute whom she has known all her life and to whom, in a way, she owes her life — and whose interest in/relationship to Katniss is more than it seems.

It is the day known as “The Reaping,” when 2 (one boy, one girl) children between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen to represent their district (there are 12 in all) as “Tributes” in the annual “Hunger Games.” The 24 tributes chosen will travel to the Capitol, whose people hold the country’s wealth and whose children are exempt from the Games, to train and prepare to fight to the death. The Victor will win glory and enough money/supplies/prestige to keep themselves and their families alive in the largely impoverished District where they live.

The Hunger Games aren’t about glory though. They’re about punishment — a reminder of a previous uprising amongst the Districts which annihilated a 13th District. And, the Games aren’t a noble battle. They’re entertainment, and the “Gamemakers” who orchestrate them will do anything to ensure the citizens of the Capitol are entertained and the power of Panem is maintained. Victory in the Hunger Games isn’t purely based on skill, though more often than not skill helps immensely, but also on luck — and District 12 has neither. The smallest and arguably the poorest of the Districts, 12 has only had one victor — Haymitch, a drunk who is the biggest ally/aid District 12’s tributes can rely on.

This is the atmosphere in which Katniss and her peers enter into at District 12’s reaping. In which Katniss’ sister Prim’s name is called, in which Katniss volunteers to take her place, in which Katniss Everdeen becomes the girl tribute for her District.


The Hunger Games is a story of power. Of politics. Of what it means to adapt to and manipulate forces outside of your control that are shaping your destiny. Of playing to people’s emotions and getting caught up in them yourself.

It is a love story. Love of family, friends. Romantic love. Love of self.

It is about denying and coming to terms with self worth.

It is about imagining a world that is so contrary to our own in so many ways, but also like it in ways that startle and frighten deep down.

So, ask yourself:

What would you do if once a year, your government gathered you and your peers together to choose two of you, one boy and one girl, to represent your region in a battle to the death?

What if you were not chosen, but your younger sibling was, or your best friend, or the love of your life? Would you volunteer?

Would you fight as hard as you could to survive, or give up?

Or would you try to beat the Game itself?

I suggest you read The Hunger Games and find out.

“May  the odds be ever in your favor.”



Happy Holidays!

A Quote and Some Books…aka, 2 of my Favorite Things!

I hope everyone had a good Monday! Yesterday was a tough day for America, and I for one spent the day remembering where I was on September 11, 2001 (in 8th grade and at school) and reflecting on how the world has changed since then. But, alas, life has to move on and we need to continue living to honor the memories of those who lost their lives on that tragic day.

So, in order to do that, I thought I’d give you a quote about one of my favorite things, books/reading, and follow it up with some book suggestions.

If you’ve been watching the news, then you’ve most likely seen that Borders bookstore chain is closing all of their stores. This has been both a good and a bad thing. Good, because over the last month they’ve slowly liquidated their stock and I’ve gotten some great books on the cheap (important for us poor grad students). Bad, because I’m afraid of what the disappearance means for the publishing industry and books.

Going to the Border’s liquidation sale was seriously like Christmas, my birthday, Fourth of July, and summer vacation all wrapped in to one. (For the most part.) I went several times to see what the deals were, and although I did buy a few books early on, I bought the most towards the end when things were 70% and 80% off retail price.

Here’s some of the books I bought and ones I generally recommend for a great read:

(Warning – you may notice a historical fiction trend below – I am a historian after all, lol)

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Wild Rose is the third book in Donnelly’s Tea Rose Trilogy. Set mainly in London’s East End during and after the horror of Jack the Ripper’s murderous rampage, the series also travels to the United States, Africa, and Asia. The trilogy spans nearly 30 years and follows Fiona Finnegan as she survives the destruction of her family at the hands of Jack the Ripper (in The Tea Rose), lady doctor India Selwyn-Jones as she befriends Fiona, and Fiona’s brother Seamie as he explores the world and pines after his lost love.

The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig

Lauren Willig is one of my role models because of what she has accomplished. She finished writing her first book The Secret History of the Pink Carnation during her first year of law school at Harvard. The rest is history, and since the Hardcover edition of that book was published in 2005, Willig has written 8 additional Pink books. The most recent, The Orchid Affair, was released in January. The next, The Garden Intrigue comes out in February 2012. The series follows modern-day Harvard graduate student Eloise Kelly as she does research in London on spies during the Napoleonic Wars. What she finds is a whole network of 19th century “flowery spies” that weren’t quite what they seemed.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours is a stand-alone novel by Kate Morton and follows Edith Burchill as she tries to discover the secret about a letter her mother Meredith receives 50 years after it was first mailed. Also by Morton and not to be missed: The Forgotten Garden.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders tells the story of Anna Frith and her experience in a plague-ridden English village in 1666. After the village’s inhabitants decide to quarantine themselves, their strength and very humanity are tested in this tale of life and death. Also by Brooks and not to be missed: People of the Book, March, and Caleb’s Crossing.
If you have a question on a particular book, let me know!

Have a great week and happy reading!