Friday, November 10, 2017

Six Degree of Separation: Less Than Zero

I've seen this on Wilde on My Side, and she pointed me to Books Are My Favorite and Best as the originator.  Basically, everyone starts with the same title each month, and then using your own personal trains of thought, lead your readers through six books, one to the next to the next.  It could be authors, covers, time of life when you read the book, or any other connection that comes up in your mind.

We start this month's journey with Less Than Zero, which I actually read as a teenager in the 1980s. (I also read Bret Ellis's American Psycho  because apparently teen me was a glutton for punishment.  There's no way I'd plow through two books with unlikable narrators and a cynical view of life now.  So that's not my next pick!)

Instead, I'm taking the Zero over to Holes, the beloved MG novel by Louis Sachar, starring the palindromic Stanley Yelnats and his underrated fellow camper, Zero.

I read Holes to my classes years ago. Around the same time, I also read Ruth White's  Belle Prater's Boy to one class. Turned out to be a weird choice for my students, and I learned my lesson that just because I love a book doesn't mean it's going to be a good fit for my students.

Belle Prater's Boy is set in 1920s Appalachia. It's actually kind of surprising how many books I've read with that setting. For a few years in my late teens, my favorite book was A Vein of Riches, written by John Knowles of A Separate Peace fame. It details coal mining and the push for unions in that time and place. It also is a love story, in which a young man falls in love with his wealthy father's kept woman.

Something about that forbidden love, plus the role trains play in the book, reminds me of John Irving's modern classic, A Prayer for Owen Meany, in which the narrator's mother gets pregnant with him by a man she claims to have met on a train.

At the climax of A Prayer for Owen Meany, the narrator and the eponymous character save a group of Vietnamese children who were airlifted out of Saigon. This brings me to the only 21st century entry on today's list, Thanhhai Lai's Inside Out and Back Again, a novel in verse narrated by a girl who immigrates to Alabama from Vietnam in the early 1970s.


From one of the most distasteful books I've read to one that is decidedly more optimistic about the human condition. Other than Holes, we stayed pretty far east for the whole time.

Feel free to play along! Next month's starting title is It. Creepy!


  1. I haven’t read Less Than Zero, but I read Holes when I was in middle school, Owen Meany when I was in high school, and I read Inside Out this year. I remember liking all of them.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. What an interesting chain! I read and loved A Seperate Peace for the first time a couple of years ago, so I'm intrigued by A Vein of Riches - I think that one will have to find it's way onto my wishlist. That's the problem with these Six Degrees posts - they're a killer for the old TBR...

  3. What a great journey of books! I am always amazed at how well read you are (and what a diverse field of books you've read).


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