The Book of Three

A pig, dark riders, and heroes! Oh my!

Book of Three

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

First Line: “Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.”

Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, is what every great kid hero ought to be. He’s got humble beginnings, fierce loyalty, and a little bit of a stubborn streak. This is the kind of book that even non-readers will plow through because it starts with a bang. By page four we’re hearing about the Horned King (he’s the bad guy–duh) and we’re gripped with fear. By chapter two, Taran’s already gone and started his adventure.

The pace is quick yet steady and Taran’s solo quest gradually turns into a band of misfits story. Even if the characters seem a little familiar to more experienced readers (i.e., one guy sounds an awful lot like Gollum), they’re still entertaining.

In a sense, this novel is the ideal Intro to Fantasy. It’s a little more rugged and action-oriented than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it’s at a comparable reading level.

Even better–this novel isn’t some fleeting 21st century “bestseller.” The Book of Three is a classic–it’s definitely going to go through dozens more reprints and re-releases. Until then, this 50th Anniversary Edition is pretty great to hold.

Want to encourage a love of reading? Give a kid a lux hardback with gold leaf. Because yes, the cover matters. Cloth and buckram bindings make the reading experience rich and epic and better suit the King Arthur-adventure-hero vibe. From Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series (this is book one), they can graduate to Narnia, then Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and eventually The Lord of the Rings.

Bottom Line: It’s fiction and “make believe,” but having kids read stories like this can still build character.

In Cold Blood

I Am Become Overwhelmed


In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

First Line: The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there.”

I don’t frequently turn to this genre, which I suppose is why I picked up the title that started it all. I mean, In Cold Blood is the epitome of true crime, right?

Then again, this is more than a true crime read. It’s a psychological study of violence in America, a historical novel, a horror story that gets under your skin in a twisted, emotional way. Our sympathies are naturally inclined toward the Clutter family, then to investigator Alvin Adams Dewey. But as we delve deeper with Capote’s narrative, allegiance becomes blurred. I leave this book with a complicated sense of pity for the murderers. It’s a disgusting tragedy through-and-through, but the writing sure is done well.

I feel compelled to recommend this book because it challenges the reader. Like Lolita, it’s confusing…we try to create answers for why these characters choose this, or do that, but there is no true, concrete explanation.

The ending only emphasizes this sense of loss. The histories of the death row inmates lodging next-door to Dick and Perry are a strong parallels to the boys’ own downward spiral leading to the Clutter family murders. Since mental health is a highlighted theme here, everyone affiliated with these various crimes becomes a victim in some form or other. Quite unsettling.

Bottom Line: Read it because it’s classic and difficult–then follow it with something light.