East Literature Club’s February Recommendations

East Literature Club is a club at Cherry Hill East dedicated to people who love reading.

Eric Li ('23)

East Literature Club is a club at Cherry Hill East dedicated to people who love reading.

February-the month of love! East Literature’s love for books shines through every month, but especially so in February. To celebrate our community’s love for books and reading, we bring you three peer reviewed author and book recommendations. You’ll surely find new loves within these pages! Happy Reading!

Author Recommendation: Madeline Miller (Review by Katherine Li-’23)

Madeline Miller is a renowned American novelist, best known for her books The Song of Achilles and Circe. Born on July 24, 1978, in Boston, Massachusetts, Miller grew up in New York City and Philadelphia to classicist parents who instilled in her a fascination with ancient Greek mythology that would later inspire her literary career. In The Book Smugglers blog, she reported that inspiration for her award-winning novels The Song of Achilles and Circe originated at childhood with her mother’s bedtime readings of Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey

Miller received her BA and MA in Classics from Brown University, where she studied under Mary Lefkowitz, a renowned scholar of Classics. After completing her studies, she taught high school Latin, Greek, and Shakespearean literature for several years before pursuing a Ph.D. in Classics at Yale University; during this time, she began writing her first novel, The Song of Achilles, a retelling of the myth of Achilles and his companion Patroclus. With directing, teaching, and her studies on her plate, she was left with little time to actually write, and the writing process for her first novel spanned ten years. After years of revising with the help of her now-husband Nathaniel Drake, Miller finally published The Song of Achilles in 2011 to critical acclaim. The novel went on to win the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012.

Following the success of The Song of Achilles, Miller began working on her second novel, Circe, which was published in 2018. The novel tells the story of main character Circe, goddess of sorcery in Greek mythology, who is banished to a deserted island for using her powers to turn a mortal into a god. Another critical success, Circe was named as one of the best books of 2018 by numerous publications.

From left to right; James Patterson, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Madeline Miller

Book Recommendation: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Review by Andrew Aeillo-’23)

In 1979, one of the most iconic films in America was released, Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now, directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola and starring the legendary Marlon Brando, focuses on a man named Kurtz who isolated himself with a local tribe during the Vietnam War. However, this movie happens to be based on a classic novel, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. 

Heart of Darkness follows the narrative of a man named Marlow telling a story to others on a boat sailing on the Thames. Marlow went to the Belgian Congo with hopes of making it big in rubber tapping. However, he soon realizes that it’s not what he expected. Marlow soon becomes the captain of a steamer, and sets sail for a long journey deep into the wilderness. As him and his crew sail deeper into the jungle, they encounter the beautifully described suspense of the jungle and eventually encounter a native tribe. The tribe attacks them with bows and arrows, killing the helmsman, while the crew’s rifles seem to be useless. Soon after, they encounter another white man, a Russian who has lived with Kurtz and the tribe. The natives prepare to fight Marlow and his crew, but they are told by Kurtz to yield. Kurtz is then carried into the cabin of the ship. Kurtz fears that the rubber company is planning to kill him, since he sabotaged the business and had “unsound” methods. Kurtz gives Marlow papers containing a commission report and photograph that he must keep from everyone else. When Marlow returns to Europe, he feels contempt for the “civilized” world. Several people come to collect Kurtz’s papers, but Marlow refuses since they are not the rightful owners. 

At the time, Heart of Darkness was groundbreaking in its message. Written during the time of mass imperialism and a strong belief that non-white groups were inferior and uncivilized, this book portrays little difference between the civilized and uncivilized. By exposing the harsh conditions of imperial ventures, and the toll it can take on one’s mental and physical health, Heart of Darkness was an avid criticism of European Imperialism. What can be taken away by reading Heart of Darkness? Even if two people appear very different, they can be very much the same, and one will go mad when left alone in the wilderness. 

Author Recommendation: James Patterson (Review by Naresh Vasudevan-’26)

James Brendan Patterson, one of the most renowned authors in the world of literature, was born on March 22, 1947, in Newburgh, New York. He grew up in a family of the working class and later attended Manhattan College to earn his Bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, he earned a Master’s degree in English from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin. From here, Patterson went on to achieve greatness, ending up with over 300 million copies of his literature sold and counting. 

His journey to this greatness started with his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, which he published in 1976. It earned great recognition, as it won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, which is not bad for a novel that was initially turned down thirty-one times by publishers. From there, he has written over 150 books spanning a variety of genres, from thrillers to young-adult fiction. Patterson is most renowned for his Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club series, which have been adapted into popular movies and television shows. 

What makes Patterson a unique novelist is his writing style, which makes his storytelling fast-paced and suspenseful. It is intended to make readers stay at the edge of their seats. Moreover, his ability to create intricate yet connectable characters for the reader, combined with his skill of weaving complex storylines, makes his books ever so interesting. 

Numerous awards and achievements can back up Patterson’s great intellect in literature. He has received the International Thriller of the Year Award, the Children’s Choice Book Award, and the Edgar Award, among many others. In 2015, the National Book Foundation awarded him the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community for a lifetime of literary excellence and for giving birth to countless amounts of avid readers. 

Patterson is also the holder of numerous world records. He had gotten his place in the Guinness World Records as the author with the most New York Times bestsellers, as well as the first author to sell one million ebooks. From 2009 to 2019, Patterson accumulated the most earnings out of any author in the world, with about $836 million. 

On top of his literary prowess, Patterson is avid in philanthropy. He and his spouse, Susan, have donated millions of dollars to various causes, including literacy initiatives and education. In 2015, the couple created the Patterson Family Foundation, which provides necessary funding for scholarships and literacy programs for students. His contributions to the world got him recognized as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people on the planet.