What I have loved about studying the 20th century
- It's generally fascinating. There are so, so many important things that happened during the 20th century, and leaning about them all is highly interesting.
- It helps you make sense of the world today. What happened during the previous century has massive ramifications on today. I loved gaining a deeper understanding of my world by studying the recent past.
- It's mind-opening. Studying the 20th century has opened my eyes to a deeper reality than that I face day-to-day. I've been faced with events that have left me utterly appalled, disgusted, or numb with grief. I've been faced with things that have made me smile with joy. My mind has been stretched like never before.
- A lot of the literature is incredible! I don't know about you, but I'm an avid reader. My curriculum was very literature-based, both for English and History. By the end of this year I had read 40ish books, and most of them are amazing. Being exposed to fantastic literature from the 20th century has been awesome.
What I have learnt studying the 20th century
- The stories we hear probably aren't the full picture. Boy, that's a recurring theme in the 20th century! There's a back-story to almost everything, and studying the 20th century has both alerted me to that fact and helped me be able to dig it out.
- I have learnt more about humanity. In truth, probably mostly about humanity's depravity, but also about what a light in history those who strive for good can be. In amongst the dank, horrid truth of our corruption, truth and love shines.
- I have learnt more about God. When I feel like screaming because of the grief and anger that tears my heart into shreds as I read of Stalin's atrocities, I suddenly remember that I, too, am just as deserving of wrath as Stalin. And yet God, in his unfathomable mercy, has forgiven me. "No-one is good but God alone" has indeed be proved true throughout studying the 20th century. That's only a few of the things I've learnt (or re-learnt) about God through this year's school.
- A whole range of other things from the books I've read. Every single one of the books I've read for school this year have themes (obviously). And so I've learnt stuff from every one.
My top 20th century book list
(Note that this is only from the books I've read this year. Obviously many other books were published in the 1900s that I have not read, and so cannot include in this list. Also note that this list is in chronological order, not in order of enjoyment.)
- The Road from Home. Topic: a young girl's journey through the Armenian holocaust of 1914-1918. (Anyone else have no idea this holocaust occurred?) Why: Shattering from it's first page. Maybe the only thing I can use to describe it properly is the fact that the very word 'genocide' was coined to describe this atrocity. So, so many truths this book brings out.
- All Quiet on the Western Front. Topic: a young German solider's journey through WWI. Why: I often say that this is the most literarily perfect book I have ever read. It's shattering too. There are no words to describe what your heart goes through as you read this, what unspeakable horror fills it. Absolutely heart-rending, but absolutely flawless (in my opinion). Warning: I'd get your parents to look at this first. It's fairly graphic.
- The Great Gatsby. Topic: the obsession of Jay Gatsby with old flame Daisy Buchanan, told from Daisy's cousin's perspective. Why: while some love this book and some hate it, I found it a great read in terms of literary quality. It is quite a tragic, pathetic story, but that in itself is eye-opening. It's a classic of the 20th century, and give you a great feel of the 1920s.
- Brave New World. Topic: Like Orwell's 1984, it's a grim description of a 'utopian' society that warns of a similar future for our world. Why: this book is intense, and in many ways scary, but incredibly eye-opening. A bit of a slap in the face, delivered with fine literary skill. Warning: DO NOT read before letting your parents check it out. It's highly graphic.
- Cry, the Beloved Country. Topic: the journey of an old South African parson whose son has gone off track. Why: it's a rich, deep, beautiful book, and an awakening look into racial injustice, especially in South Africa.
- The Moves Make the Man. Topic: explores the friendship of a basketball player and an emotionally troubled baseballer across racial boundaries. Why: my goodness, the style of this book is so cool! Down-to-earth and quirky, and the themes make you think. You don't have to like basketball, or baseball, or even sport in general to like this book.
- The Wednesday Wars. Topic: On Wednesday afternoons Holling Hoodhood has to say at school with Mrs Baker, who he believes hates his guts. She makes him read Shakespeare, through which he ends up learning a lot about the world he lives in. Why: Fantastic fiction. Funny, and serious, and beautiful. And if you love, or even just know a bit of, Shakespeare, you'll love it even more.
- Fallen Angels. Topic: the journey of a young solider in the Vietnam War. Why: while different from the almost-lyrical style of All Quiet, this book is just as shattering. The Vietnam War was a tragedy, and this book shows you exactly why. An incredible depiction of the thoughts and feelings of US soldiers in Vietnam. Warning: DO NOT read unless your parents say it's OK! It's highly graphic (gory) and also has a lot of swearing.
So that's what I've loved about and learnt from studying the 20th century, along with my favourite 20th century books from those I read this year.