By Danny McArthur
It can be hard to find that perfect place between reality and fiction where you are so enmeshed with a book that you forget where you are. Between the stresses of school, extracurricular activities and the social scene, finding the time to sit outside and relax with a book can seem like an impossible task. Sometimes, however, it is just what you need. Think about the last time you sat outside and relaxed with a book. If you draw a blank, then here are seven books to get you out of the house and into nature.
“Grasshopper Jungle” by Andrew Smith: To say this book defies a category would be an understatement. Reading the very weird Amazon.com summaries might make some people reluctant to pick this book up, but those who are brave enough to give it a chance will not regret it. The premise is strange: a freak encounter with some bullies leads to protagonist Austin and his friend Robby accidentally setting off the end of the world. This could easily be scary, but Smith takes a humorous route instead. One would think that a literal bug apocalypse would be enough of a storyline, but Smith takes it further by making it a coming-of-age novel at the same time. Though the combination seems a little random, it actually works because it gets the reader inside the protagonist’s head. Austin has a distinct voice that makes one aware that the inside of a teenage boy’s head is a very scary, yet fascinating thing to encounter. This is definitely a book that will make you forget about your surroundings; just make sure no one is standing over your shoulder while you read it.
“These Things Hidden” by Heather Gudenkauf: This is one of those books that starts off with characters that seemingly have nothing in common and slowly shows the connections between them. The story revolves around Allison Glenn, who has just gotten out of prison for committing a heinous crime. Secrets abound in this story, forcing the reader to study the other characters’ point of view until finally, the truth is revealed. “She allows us to see two sides of the story,” says Arianna Smith, a junior psychology and criminal justice double major from Lithia Springs. The multiple perspectives provide a unique way to experience the story as you wait for all the loose ends to be tied up. This is definitely a book to add to your reading list, as it reflects the damaging effects secrets can have.
“Sweet, Hereafter” by Angela Johnson: At 128 pages, this book is one that won’t require a lot of time. All the same, this little gem makes use of every single word. Johnson’s main point of interest in the book is Shoogy’s relationship with a war veteran named Curtis, who is even more enigmatic than her. With short chapters and lyrical language, readers are forced to keep their focus on the characters rather than what is going on around them. The many scenes at Curtis’s cabin in the woods make you wish you had a similar place to disappear to; sitting under a tree would be a nice way to disappear inside this book.
“What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty: Moriarty provides an interesting look at how one woman copes with being given the chance to start anew. “The story is about how she [Alice Mary Love] is thrown into the present while still acting like her past self,” says Jada Lewis, a freshman health promotions major from Marietta. As she navigates her new life, she must contemplate the choices she’s made. “It is really interesting seeing her try to fit inside the life she didn’t really think she wanted,” Lewis says. Moriarty designs this book to get you thinking. After reading, you will consider your own life and the directions you want it to take.
“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell: Rowell wrote the bestseller “Eleanor and Park.” Though that book had a very definite style, “Fangirl” is a little more down to earth. It follows protagonist Cather’s journey to find who she is without either her father to babysit or her twin to shield her, mirroring many other’s experience during their first year of college. Her passion with fanfiction makes her relatable to anyone who uses their creative talent as a way to cope. This book is one you want to pick up whenever you have a free moment and need a character whose problems will either mirror your own or make you feel less alone. For anyone who is really interested in the fanfiction itself, Rowell is releasing “Carry On” this October.
“Born Confused” by Tanuja Desai Hidier: If “Fangirl” is a find-yourself novel, then “Born Confused” ups the stakes by throwing culture into the mix. Protagonist Dimple Lala is an American born Indian who struggles with feeling both too Indian and not Indian enough. It is fascinating to watch her growth as she explores her culture and meets others who are doing the same. Hidier’s description of Dimple’s photography adds an extra element to the novel. It is through the lenses of her camera that Dimple is able to see the world for what it is. While it is a lengthy read at 512 pages, it can be spread out over a period of time rather than all at once. “Born Confused” is a book you will come back to again and again.
“The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man” by James Weldon Johnson: “The biggest thing about the book is that it talks about how socially constructed race is,” says Nicollette Lewis, a junior biological sciences major from Birmingham, AL. The book describes one man’s struggle with his black background post-Civil War. It is truly thought provoking, making you question what really defines race and how much society affects the way we view our own. If you are one of those people who likes serious reading, this is the book for you.
With all these choices, readers of all tastes have the excuse to lay out in a quad and enjoy the weather, so just pick one and enjoy!
By Katie Story
“Magic is a community of people who either like card games or like to be very competitive,” says Alex Cullen, a senior finance and management information systems major from Atlanta. “It’s kind of made up of all different kinds of people. It’s a very deep, intellectual game.”
Magic the Gathering is a fantastical trading card game that has been around for more than twenty years. Debuting at a gaming fair in Dallas, Texas in 1993, it was a huge hit among players. The language of the game is very epic. The website online talks about a “legendary story” and calls its players “Planeswalkers.” The game creates an aura of excitement, other-worldliness and fun. “I kind of figured it would be like chess where if you know how to play you’ll win 100 percent of the time,” says Alex Newman, a senior mathematics major and Magic player from Alpharetta. “There’s a lot of different combinations.”
Walking into the store on a Friday night, one of a few Magic nights hosted at Dragon Star Hobbies, the atmosphere is exciting. Tables are set up, mats are arranged on the tables to protect the cards and a large countdown clock is positioned in the corner to let people know when the next round will start. The store even has a special program to sort players. This is based on a system used nationwide. Theoretically, you could walk into any store and, so long as you have an account, could play with that rank anywhere. This creates a huge network of Magic players.
“Since Friday Night Magic is the most popular night, there will be about 45-50 people,” says University of Georgia alumnus and store owner Joe Teskey. The makeup of the crowd is usually locals and mostly males. Though Teskey says this game has a fairly better mix of people than other games, he would still like to see more students playing.
Another aspect of the atmosphere is the lack of hostility. People are friendly; the staff isn’t giving curious glances to a newcomer with a notebook asking questions to people and jotting down notes. Teskey explained that the store prides itself on being welcoming to everybody and having a friendly atmosphere. The store’s ambiance determines the clientele.
New players are especially welcomed. You can receive two packs of magic cards for free because the company that owns Magic, Wizard, wants new players. “Yeah, I was actually kind of surprised [at the friendliness]. I was intimidated to come here. Because we play this game, you start opening up to people. They’re really nice,” Newman says.
Going into Friday Night Magic at Dragon Star isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Though professional players do play the games, this shop is very friendly to newcomers, and everyone is encouraged to come. There are about three gaming stores in Athens, but Dragon Star is the biggest.
Like any sport or pastime that develops a cult following, people bond over the experience and can vent over the frustrations of the game. This creates a community that, at least fostered at Dragon Star, is welcoming and open to new players and is a unique, interesting way to spend a Friday night.