Dystopian Worlds: Reader’s Advisory

August is just beginning here on campus. It’s hot, humid and, oh yes, HOT! For those of us wishing we were elsewhere, have you ever wondered what the future is going to be like? Or how the present would be different by the changing of a past outcome? There’s a whole genre of books that deal with these types of ideas and thoughts, they’re called Dystopian Worlds.


We here at the UGL wanted to recommend some of our favorite, lesser known books that give human past, present and future a different spin.


The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

The Eyre Affair is heaven for those loving puns, books and adventure. A literary cornucopia of inside jokes for readers of any classic literature, Jasper Fforde gives us Great Britain, circa 1985. In this version of 1985, time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What if the Puritan lifestyle hadn’t faded away? What would the consequences of this be for both men and women? Atwood gives us just such a world, creating an extreme of the gender hierarchy in today’s society. In the novel, certain women are nothing more than brood mares, and signs are all pictures because women are no longer allowed to read.  Filled with scathing satire and dire warning, The Handmaid’s Tale is a book for those who question the need for continued feminism in society.


Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Fans of the Hunger Games rejoice! Here is a book that can fill the void. In this world, society is coded by color, with Gold being the highest caste in society and Red being the lowliest. Yet even young Gold’s are challenged amongst themselves for dominance. If you’ve ever thought of which Greek god you’d have an affinity with, how you’d fare in a Lord of the Flies type situation, or the lengths you’d go to in order to end societal imbalance, then read the story of Darrow, a Red in a Gold’s body, and how he faces these challenges and more.


When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

If you’ve ever felt ostracized by society and had your values questioned, you might relate to the story of Hannah. In a not-too-distant America, Roe v. Wade is no more, and the lines between church and state have been eradicated. Here, prisoners are not kept in cells, but thrown out into society with markers showing all the world their crimes. There are interesting parallels to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in both the heroine and subject matter explored. When She Woke reads like a thriller, but puts a spotlight on the politicizing of the church and how that affects society.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This book looks toward the next step in role playing technology and adventure. In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts (his name has alliteration due to the influence of Stan Lee) really feels alive is when he’s plugged into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize.


These are just the tip of the dystopian world iceberg, so go ahead and feel free to search our catalog for other books with a subject search using the word dystopia to see what all is available in our collection. Dystopian worlds fill the imagination with questions such as “what might have been” or “how will this affect society”, if you’re a curious soul, take one out for a spin before it’s time to buckle down for the fall semester.  See you in the alternate reality!

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Summer Music Festivals: Reader’s Advisory

Summer music festivals have been around for over half a century here in the United States, and they’re currently more popular than ever. Seemingly every city has some form of music festival these days, whether it be a commercial behemoth like Lollapalooza or one like Champaign-Urbana’s more modest, yet still excellent, Pygmalion Festival. If you’d like to learn more about the history of music festivals, get some insights into some of the biggest festival draws playing today, or would just like to enjoy some music festivals on DVD without having to brave the heat and crowds, look no further than this carefully curated list of DVDs and books from the UGL’s popular music collection.

Monterey Pop

The Complete Monterey Pop Festival (DVD)

directed by D. A. Pennebaker

One of the first rock festivals in the United States, Monterey Pop took place in 1967 in California. Masterfully shot and recorded, this concert film shows how vibrant rock music, and the accompanying hippie subculture was in its early years. Notable moments include The Who demolishing their instruments, one of Janis Joplin’s first major performances, Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire, and soul legend Otis Redding tearing down the house. If you’re a Dylan fan, you may also be interested in Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker’s documentary of Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK.

Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter (DVD)

directed by David and Albert Maysles

This film covers The Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour of the United States which culminated with a free concert festival at the Altamont Speedway in California. This concert is often considered the moment when the idyllic dream of the 1960’s began to sour (particularly in contrast to the Woodstock Festival which took place four months earlier), with several people dying, including an 18 year-old girl who was stabbed to death. Gimme Shelter depicts a great rock band at the peak of its powers, and the culture that is beginning to fray around it.

Living with The Dead

Living With The Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead (Book)

by Rock Scully with David Dalton

One of the most acclaimed touring bands in rock, The Grateful Dead were notorious for their long, improvisational performances and their insanely devoted fanbase (known as Deadheads) who would follow the band across the country from festival to festival.  The band’s manager, Rock Scully, recalls his wild time on the road with the band in this memoir.

you don't know me

You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Two of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes (Book)

by Nathan Rabin

In this book former AV Club writer Nathan Rabin explores two subcultures of modern music fandom; Phish fans and Juggalos. Although Rabin was not a fan of either group before beginning work on this book, he attempts to understand their cult appeal by following the bands on the road. Throughout his journey (during which he is diagnosed as bipolar), Rabin discovers that these critically reviled bands provide the deep-rooted human need for community. An excerpt of the book is available from NPR.

Mo' Meta Blues

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove (Book)

by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

Although it’s too late to catch The Roots Picnic in Philadelphia this year (there’s always next year!), you can still get a feel for the eclectic brilliance of hip-hop drummer Questlove in this memoir of his career and musical passions. Questlove is both an incisive music critic, cultural commentator (check his Vulture column on hip-hop), and an unabashed fan, making this book a must-read for hip-hop, soul, and R&B fans.

There are tons of other books on music in the UGL’s collection (you’ll want to look for the section beginning with ML), if you want to delve further into the stories of popular music. If you’re a fan of live music, you may also want to visit Smile Politely, a Champaign-Urbana culture website that provides coverage of the local music scene, including upcoming concerts. Pitchfork also has a handy guide to 2014 Music Festivals if you’re still looking to attend one. Stay cool and keep rockin’!

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