From classic literature to modern popular fiction, some works of phenomenal popularity just don’t resonate with every reader. When I tried to read Anna Karenina, it was a 2004 selection of Oprah’s Book Club. The title enjoyed a surge in popularity as people revisited a classic “considered by some to be the greatest novel ever written…tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg” (quoted from the back cover blurb of the Main Library’s copy). I was not impressed. After a justly famous opening line, the book bored me to death and I set it aside after only a couple dozen pages. It was boring, it was stilted, it was old and it was stuffy: above all, it was long! Most editions finish somewhere between 850 and 950 pages. If you are like me, intrigued by the novel but unimpressed by it, you might like to read these novels instead.
What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn: This steamy novel re-imagines the plot of Anna Karenina in modern Queens. Much like Tolstoy’s Anna, the titular Anna K. seeks an escape from her lifeless marriage in a reckless affair with a dashing young author. This brisk, enchanting novel compares favorably to the original at 244 pages.
Dinner With Anna Karenina by Gloria Goldreich: This tender novel of friendship examines the lives of 6 modern women as their book club reads Anna Karenina. As they discuss the classic, they make individual and group journeys toward improving their own lives.
Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters and Leo Tolstoy: In this embroidered version, Winters adds to and alters the original text of Anna Karenina to include cyborgs, space travel, and robots, adding a distinctive and imaginative twist to the story.
If you want to give Anna Karenina a go, place a hold on it at any of the three Davenport libraries. If the going gets tough, online reading guides may help you get more out of the text.
With the movie version of the book Eclipse due to hit theaters any day now, everyone is checking out what came before it to get pumped up for the film’s release. After the mega-success that was her first book, Twilight, Stephenie Meyer penned its sequel, New Moon. This book starts off with a bang: while celebrating her 18th birthday, Bella gets a papercut, and her blood fuels an attack by Jasper. This attack leads Edward and the rest of the Cullens to decide that it is time for them to leave Forks, and Bella cannot come with. Bella spirals into a depression, which she is only brought out of through her blossoming friendship with Jacob Black. Bella once again finds herself caught up in supernatural occurances that she never expected to face, including finding out that her new best friend is a werewolf and racing through an Italian city filled with celebrating vampires. This book is a good follow-up to Twilight and contains a bit more action, though Edward fans might not enjoy his limited appearances in the novel.
Following the success of the movie version of Twilight, production was immediately started on the next film. New Moon follows along very closely with the book, including the birthday party, Sam rescuing Bella in the forest, and and the confrontation between Bella and Laurent. One of the biggest changes from the book is that not only does Bella hear Edward’s voice when she is doing something dangerous (as she does in the book), she also sees him. This was no doubt done to keep Team Edward fans happy, since his character didn’t really appear in the book much. The movie includes some very intense fight scenes, especially once Bella, Alice, and Edward reach Volterra. The special effects have greatly improved over the first movie, likely the result of a higher budget due to the massive success of Twilight. As in the first movie, some of the dialogue comes across a bit cheesy, but true Twilight Saga fans won’t mind. Overall, I think that fans of the book, and even those who wish Edward had been featured in it more, would enjoy this movie adaptation.
Though the book and its companions are often found in the Young Adult section of the library, this series is not just for teens. People of all ages are engaging in heated debates of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob, and they’re all clearly invested in who Bella ends up with at the end of the saga. This series is guilty pleasure reading at its best, and the movies have so far stuck to what is in the books, making them a lot of fun to watch.