The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

by Chris Van Allsburg et al. | 192 pgs, published 2011

Please tell me you’ve read The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

It’s a collection of drawings by Chris Van Allsburg – well, allegedly by Harris Burdick. The editor’s note in the book says a children’s book editor named Peter Wenders had a man named Harris Burdick bring the drawings and captions for 14 stories in to his office one day, promising to bring the complete manuscripts if Wenders was interested. But Burdick never came back, so eventually Wenders published the drawings as “mysteries” in hopes it would lead to Burdick.

The drawings and captions are exquisitely enigmatic.

So I thought when 14 well-known authors each wrote a story for The Chronicles last year, they would be the 14 best short stories I had ever read. Sadly, I created too much hype. I hate to say it, but the book was a disappointment.

Please go read The Mysteries of Harris Burdick if you haven’t yet. Buy me a copy, too, because right now I only have The Chronicles and it’s kind of a letdown.

Buy The Chronicles of Harris Burdick on Amazon


Divergent

by Veronica Roth | 487 pgs, published 2011

I haven’t figured out yet why exactly I like dystopian novels so much. But I love them, definitely. Maybe it has something to do with my background in sociology?

Divergent takes place in dystopian Chicago, divided into five factions: Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), and Abnegation (the selfless). The city was initially divided because it was believed that the presence of each of the five traits would lead to peace; the main character, Tris, is raised in Abnegation, but the obligation to be selfless does not come naturally to her. At age 16, everyone is allowed to choose their faction, though it is assumed most will stay where they were raised. Tris shockingly does not remain in Abnegation – and neither does her brother, Caleb.

This is the author’s first novel, and it is phenomenal. The plot took a turn from where I expected it to go early on, so it was a while before I was convinced that the story would play out well. It was good writing, though, and the story was captivating.

If you like dystopian literature, pick this up! The second in the series, Insurgent, was released earlier this year.

Buy Divergent on Amazon