11.9.2012

More favorite British books

By Josh

UNBORED is jam-packed with lists of our favorite songs, books, and movies. These lists weren’t exhaustive, though — because of space constraints, we couldn’t include all of our favorites.

We’re working on a British edition of UNBORED now — it will be published in 2013 — and one of the fun things about this new project is the opportunity to swap out some of our favorite American books and movies, on the book’s various lists, for some favorite British ones.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of the books we’ll include in British edition of UNBORED

BANNED BOOKS YOU SHOULD READ

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE
By J.K. Rowling, 1997

When Harry, a bespectacled eleven-year-old orphan, learns of his magical destiny, he enrolls at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, he and friends Ron and Hermione thwart the evil mage Lord Voldemort’s attempt to steal the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. Some feel that the novel contains occult or pagan imagery — for example, in the scene where a hooded figure drinks a dead unicorn’s blood. In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope later that year, described the Harry Potter series as “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”

REVOLTING RHYMES
By Roald Dahl, 1982

The author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach puts a macabre twist on six folk tales. Dahl’s rhyming version of “Goldilocks,” for example, concludes with the title character being devoured by the three bears as well-deserved punishment for stealing their food and breaking their furniture. Note that the original folk tales on which these stories are based were intended for an audience of grownups as well as kids; not until the Brothers Grimm collected them in the early 19th century did they become associated only with kids! Almost all of Dahl’s books have appeared on a banned or challenged book list, at some point, but this title more than the others — because some feel it is too gruesome.

BEST EVER SCIENCE FICTION

1952
ISLANDS IN THE SKY
By Arthur C. Clarke
In this early novel — about a teenage space enthusiast who wins a trip to an orbiting space station, only to encounter space pirates and a runaway rocket ship — the British author of 2001: A Space Odyssey offers plausible details of life in outer space… years before humankind actually voyaged there!

1979
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
By Douglas Adams
Hapless Englishman Arthur Dent, humanoid alien Ford Prefect, and a depressed robot named Marvin, among others, escape Earth’s destruction and discover that the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” is… 42.

2007
THE H-BOMB GIRL
By Stephen Baxter
Laura, a thirteen-year-old girl who moves to Liverpool in 1962, discovers that her teacher, her divorced mother’s new boyfriend, and an unhappy waitress are time travelers from dystopian future… and they each want to steal a key that Laura’s father gave her. Only the Beatles, it turns out, can save the world from nuclear holocaust.

BEST EVER GRAPHIC NOVELS

1951–52 series
THE RED MOON MYSTERY
Created by Frank Hampson

Colonel Dan Dare, chief pilot of the Interplanet Space Fleet, was the hero of a beautifully drawn British science fiction comic set in the then-future era of the 1990s. Along with his gormless sidekick Digby, and the brilliant professor Jocelyn Peabody, Dare explored outer space in his spaceship, Anastasia, and battled his arch-enemy the Mekon, an evil Venusian scientist with an enormous green head. In this thrilling adventure, which was reprinted in a single volume in 2005, Dan is asked to investigate a mysterious asteroid that turns out to be inhabited by space locusts… who threaten to destroy all life on Earth!

1987
FRED
By Posey Simmonds

Schoolchildren Sophie and Nick’s ancient cat spends his days sleeping; when he dies, they sadly bury him in the backyard. Late that night, however, they are awakened by dozens of top-hatted cat mourners who have assembled to eulogize “Famous Fred.” Sleepy old Fred—it turns out—had spent his nights singing “Meeyowley-yowley-yowl!” with his cat rock band, the Heavy Saucers. The mourning party soon turns into a wild celebration… which is what all funerals should be like.

PS: Simmonds, who is England’s leading newspaper cartoonist, is also author of such kids’ graphic novels as Bouncing Buffalo (1984), Lulu and the Flying Babies (1988), and The Chocolate Wedding (1990). The 1996 film adaptation of this book, titled Famous Fred, was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Comedian Lenny Henry voiced Famous Fred.

2010
SLOG’S DAD
Written by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean

This short but intense story — a collaboration between a well-known British author of Young Adult fiction (Almond) and a well-known British comic-book artist (McKean) — is part novel, part graphic novel. Before Slog’s dad dies of cancer, he promises he’ll be back for a visit in the spring; in the spring, Slog becomes convinced that a homeless man is a reincarnation of his father. Slog’s friend isn’t so sure, though” Is the man really who he says he is, or is he a dangerous nut? Or is he just trying to make Slog feel better?

PS: Almond and McKean also co-authored The Savage (2008) and, most recently [in early 2013], Mouse Bird Snake Wolf.