The Hunger Games

img_6217Book: The Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins

Rating: 5 (of 5) stars

I recently revisited The Hunger Games, after having read the trilogy quite a few years back—about a year after the final book was published. I remember enjoying the series quite a bit, but many of the details of why have become rather fuzzy over the years. I remember the general plot of each book, many of the major events, and feeling invested in Katniss and her revolution. Beyond that, many of the particularities of the series have faded into a broader feeling of “I am glad I read that, and I would read it again.”

Well, as I said in my last post, I have always been a re-reader. While I do not re-read as often as I would like, there are a handful of books that I have read at least a dozen times. Reading the next new thing on the shelf is certainly exciting, but there is a thrill that comes with re-reading a good book that cannot be replicated. The story, vaguely familiar, comes into sharper focus. Details that seemed insignificant the first time through suddenly jump out with meaning. It is been quite some time since I have done any re-reading, and I am so happy that I chose to start here.

This series were the first books that I chose to re-read via audio book. The format is well suited for the first person narrator, and it was really interesting to actually hear the story in Katniss’s voice. It kind of felt like something somewhere between a book and a movie—there is a liveliness added to the story when hearing a character relay their first hand experience, but we are still able to hear the thoughts and emotions that can get lost in a movie adaptation.

The first thing that stuck out to me this time around was the wealth of rich details in the text. Katniss has a unique set of survival mechanisms that lead her to be very in tune with her surroundings, especially in the forest. This makes the details in her descriptions fit with her as a character, adding a nice balance to the scene setting. For me, the scene setting often feels forced with the first person narrative. Everyone notices their surroundings, but it’s not a typical line of thought to describe them in great detail. This all helps to make her story feel grounded in reality, despite the extreme differences in her world.

While I say extreme differences, I suppose I should also comment that there were a few moments that felt a little too real to me. I could not help but twinge a little as some of the characters were voicing their concerns about their government—on both sides. At the same time, I think this could be a fair introduction to some of the realities of politics and war, especially since this is aimed toward young adults. While the first book seems to pretty clearly align the sides of Districts versus Capitol as Good versus Bad, this becomes increasingly blurred coming into the end of the series. Life is complicated, just as their war is complicated. There are good and bad people on both sides; no system or side in disagreement is perfect.

Lastly, I noticed much more depth in the character of Katniss than in my initial read. She is a more powerful, yet damaged character than I remember. One thing that really impressed—and frustrated—me about her portrayal is how very clear it was that she was experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Of course, this makes perfect sense: she had a history of trauma even before being thrown into the Hunger Games, and then a series of continuing traumatic experiences after. I felt that Collins did an excellent job of depicting this, both in Katniss’s behavior and her thoughts at trying to cover for herself. The frustrating aspect for me was how every single other character seemed completely unaware of the extent of her struggles, perhaps with the exception of Peeta. Even those who appeared to understand that she was not well also seemed to brush off the severity, or act as if circumstances make it unimportant. I suppose, while frustrating, this may be an accurate representation of what many experience when dealing with similar mental health issues. While certainly not the main focus of the book, I think this aspect of the story provides a good glimpse at the thought processes behind such an illness. Perhaps there is room for some to find some understanding of others.

Boris’s Thoughts: “If you listened to these books instead of reading them, how did I still end up in a pile of them?”

Bookish Things – Audio Books

img_5962I have never considered myself an audio book person. I like to hold my books in my hands; I like to see them sitting on my shelves. Being surrounded by books makes me feel warm and cozy. I find books comforting and magical. Of course, I realize that a huge and important part of those books is the stories that they contain. I have always appreciated the existence of audio books—they are certainly an amazing thing, to allow those with visual impairments or reading difficulties access to these stories that might otherwise be out of their reach. Of course though, I can see. I can read them myself. Why would I need an audio book?

For most of my life, the line of thought stopped there. Once, when I was younger, I got an audio book from the library when there was a long waiting list for a book that I wanted, but the audio version was available. This was back in the day of cassette tapes, which I must say gave me a bit of a distaste for the genre. I gave them little further thought until this previous New Year’s Eve—I very much wanted to finish my book by the end of the year, and had a long drive to make. I had only a few chapters left in the sixth book from A Series of Unfortunate Events, and was able to find the audio book for free online. I decided to give it a try. What a treat this turned out to be! The book was narrated by Tim Curry who was a perfect fit for the series; I was really impressed with his voice work in bringing life to the story.

Since I enjoyed the first part from A Series of Unfortunate Events, I listened to parts of other books in the series as well. Unfortunately, I ran into some trouble. I am a little distractible, and often found myself needing to replay parts. I discovered that it was nearly pointless to listen at certain times or when doing certain activities. Even though folding laundry or doing dishes seemed like perfectly thoughtless tasks, I found my mind drifting. And of course, I frustrated myself quite a bit with switching back and forth between books and audio every few chapters. After thinking through some of these kinks over the last several months, I decided that I would listen to at least 5 audio books as a sort of trial run, before putting the format on the back burner again.

img_5954As it turns out, I did not need all five books before making a decision: I have no desire to replace reading with audio, but there is a perfect place for audio books in my life. For me, audio books are an ideal way for me to revisit books. I have always been a re-reader, but often struggle justifying the want to re-read when there are so many new books waiting on my shelves. There are a few times that I have found I can work in audio books during my routines without interfering with my other reading, which has worked out really well for me. I frequently walk the parks in my neighborhood, and this is the perfect time to get in a couple chapters most days. It is also a great option for longer car trips, as long as I do not need to concentrate too much on navigating—this summer I have gotten in many hours of listening driving between home and my family’s cabin in Northern Michigan.

I very quickly made it through the five books that I committed myself to, and have kept going. It has been fun for me to get the chance to revisit quite a few previous reads, and I have been lucky that the books I have chosen have had well matched narrators. While I intend to keep this blog primarily focused on physical books and new reads, I do hope to sprinkle in a little bit of audio every once in a while.