TIME movies

John Green Is This Close to Having All His Books Made Into Movies

John Green attends the New York City premiere of "Paper Towns" on July 21, 2015.
Taylor Hill--Getty Images John Green attends the New York City premiere of "Paper Towns" on July 21, 2015.

The Paper Towns author is well on his way to seeing all—or at least most—of his books adapted for the big screen

The New Yorker dubbed him “The Teen Whisperer.” One headline described him as “Teenager: Aged 36.” And his name has become synonymous with a phenomenon in young adult fiction — the so-called “John Green effect” — which describes a trend toward honest, relatable characters he’s said to have inspired (though some have argued his share of the spotlight is disproportionate).

With five books to his name (one co-authored with David Levithan), John Green is riding the young adult fiction train to the bank, to the hearts of teens everywhere and, perhaps most notably, to the movies. His first book-turned-movie, The Fault in Our Stars, published in 2012 and released in theaters in 2014, was an instant sensation, helping to propel several of his years-old titles onto bestseller lists. Produced on a $15 million budget and grossing more than $300 million in ticket sales, that adaptation thrust Green from best-selling author and Internet personality to king of the YA box office.

Many of the moviegoers who cried their way through The Fault in Our Stars will return to theaters this weekend when the adaptation of Paper Towns, Green’s 2008 novel about a teenaged boy searching for his elusive dream-girl gone missing, lands with a highly anticipated star turn from model/actress Cara Delevigne.

With those two adaptations under his belt, that leaves just three more to make Green to YA movies what Nicholas Sparks has been to the romance genre. Here’s the status of the rest of Green’s novels vis-à-vis silver screen reimaginings:

Looking for Alaska (2005): Paramount Pictures bought the rights to Green’s first novel, about a teenaged boy who leaves his boring life for boarding school and meets an enigmatic young woman, the same year the book was published. The project has cycled through a few different screenwriters and directors, but the latest reports suggest that the script will be penned by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who also wrote Fault and Paper Towns, with emerging director Rebecca Thomas at the helm.

An Abundance of Katherines (2006): Green announced in a 2007 vlog that a small production company, East of Doheny, had optioned the rights to his second novel, about a boy consistently dumped by girls named Katherine, and asked Green to write the screenplay. Ultimately, the movie didn’t come together with East of Doheny, but Green reports on his website that he is working with a different production company now, though the actual movie is “a long way off.”

Will Grayson Will Grayson (2010): Green’s novel with Levithan is the only one of his books that has not been optioned for a movie. Though there doesn’t appear to be any kind of grassroots campaign to make it one—surprising, given the fervor Green’s fans feel for his work—the story of two teens who share a name did at least get the spin-off treatment. In March, Levithan released Hold Me Closer, a musical novel which offers fans the full script of a musical one of Grayson’s characters is writing in the book. Levithan didn’t release sheet music with the script, but said he hopes fans will share their own renditions of the songs online.

Bonus: Fox 2000 Pictures announced this week that it has entered into a first-look producing deal with Green. The details of the deal are vague at best, but it will apparently allow Green to collaborate with Temple Hill Entertainment, which produced The Fault in Our Stars, on several projects. At 37, Green shows no signs of slowing his roll — and may well give us reason to write a variation of the very same article, a decade from now, about his next five books.

TIME Books

The 5 Biggest Mistakes All Leaders Make

Geoff Smart, Randy Street and Alan Foster are the authors of Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success.

How not to be the Donald Trump or Michael Scott in your office

Imagine if there were an Uber for hiring. Instead of trawling through résumés and endless interviews, you could just open an app and order yourself a new data scientist or marketing analyst. Then you could track their expected arrival time and only accept them if they are 4.5 stars or greater. It’s a nice idea but, despite the hype, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Well, not for senior hires, at least. And although everyone agrees that hiring is tough, most managers struggle with an even more prevalent leadership mistake. It’s an affliction as prevalent as the common cold and one of the least recognized in the workplace today.

Over the last 20 years at ghSMART, we have been able to empirically observe where executives excel and where they get in their own way. We have conducted five-hour interviews of more than 15,000 leaders across every major industry, producing more than 9 million data points. So, what is the number one most common mistake that holds leaders back? The complete inability to remove underperformers. New managers struggle with it. So do CEOs, CFOs, COOs, you name it – it’s endemic. And why do we all struggle with this? Here are the top five reasons that we see:

  1. You are an eternal optimist. You somehow believe that you will fix poor Mark in Finance or Emma in Marketing. Or, even better, perhaps they will magically fix themselves.
  2. You don’t want to rock the boat. You believe in accepting the cards that you are dealt. You have been taught to make do. As kids learn at daycare today, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
  3. You dislike conflict. Difficult conversations are difficult. So it is easier to suffer through it even if your whole team can now get less done.
  4. You will look bad. You may have hired or promoted them into the role. You don’t want to just pass the buck.
  5. You excel at procrastinating. Why do today what can safely be put off for another day? Besides, who knows? He or she might resign, and that would make it easier for everyone.

You may suffer from just one, or more likely a combination, of these reasons. And yet our research found that executives who excelled at removing underperformers from their teams are more than twice as likely to have had a successful career than all other senior leaders. Yes, that’s right: twice as likely.

The best leaders we meet tell us that it makes all the difference. Panos Anastassiadis is one who does it very well. He was the CEO of Cyveilance, which grew over 1500 percent in five years. Panos shared how he thought about the “who” in his business: “Every quarter I start with a blank sheet of paper and I design an organizational chart based on my biggest priorities. I make the assumption that I have to operate with only 50 percent of my staff. Who would be on my team? Then I increase my assumption to 70 percent, 85 percent and 95 percent. Immediately, I know who my stellar personnel are and who are key and indispensable. Whoever is not in the 85 percent group is very dispensable, and I average up on the first occasion. As a result of that, our involuntary attrition has been less than 2 percent.” What was the result? “The team we built has been the single decisive factor for our success. I have simply been constantly averaging up who is on the team.”

And yet many of us have watched Ricky Gervais’s or Steve Carrel’s portrayal of the appalling boss on The Office and sympathized. Yes, David Brent and poor old Michael Scott are terrible managers, but we identify with their deep-seated need to be liked. Like them, we also seek approval from our co-workers and teams. We don’t want to be a narcissistic Donald Trump shouting, “You’re fired!” That’s not what we signed up for.

There are ways you can do it and still do right by the individual in question. You can set them clear goals and craft the role to play to their strengths. But when it is clearly not working, it is time to take action. Run a fair, objective talent management process; tell them that their performance is not where it needs to be; and give them 30, 60 or 90 days to turn their situation around. But if that does not work, it is time to have that tough conversation that deep down you know you should have had 6, 12 or maybe 24 months ago. And only then you can get out your Uber-like hiring app and order yourself the A player that you need.

Geoff Smart, Randy Street and Alan Foster are the authors of Power Score: Your Formula for Leadership Success, published by Ballantine in June 2015.


TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Travel

8 Travel Itineraries for English Literature Lovers

Plan a literary pilgrimage with this guide to storied travel destinations around the world

Reading can be an escape from everyday life. Some writers—J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, and C.S. Lewis come to mind—created entire worlds only accessible through the pages of their books. But other authors choose to base their stories in the real world, giving fans the opportunity to follow in their favorite characters’ footsteps. Read on for eight vacation itineraries written with book lovers in mind.

  • Dublin


    Even if Dublin’s only literary son was James Joyce, the Irish capital would still deserve a spot on this list. Once a year on June 16, fans of Ulysses—often decked out in period costume—retrace the fictional Leopold Bloom’s journey through the city. Visiting another time? Celebrate the stream-of-consciousness connoisseur with a walking tour curated by James Joyce Centre, then stop in the Dublin Writers’ Museum or sneak a peek of The Book of Kells, housed at Trinity College, to celebrate the bookish history of the city. Prefer poetry to prose? Celebrate the life and works of W.B. Yeats at The National Library of Ireland’s interactive exhibit.

  • New York City

    Sandra Baker / Alamy

    Practically every neighborhood in New York, from The Bronx to Brooklyn Heights, lays claim to an iconic author, so consider this an abbreviated itinerary for the city:

    Make the most out of a quick trip by checking into the Library Hotel, a Midtown boutique that caters specifically to book lovers, with a reading room, poetry garden, and a collection of texts organized by—what else—the Dewey Decimal System.

    Start your day with a bite to eat outside Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue, in honor of Truman Capote’s much beloved short story. Then, make your way uptown to Central Park with stops at the Alice in Wonderland statue, the literary walking path, and—unless you’re a phony—the duck pond made famous by Holden Caulfield inCatcher in the Rye.

    Recreate From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler at the Met, then head to Harlem for a Renaissance walking tour or grab a seat at The Algonquin Hotel’s storied Round Table.

    Finish with a stroll around Washington Square Park paying homage to poets and writers from Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.

    Want to take home a bit of bookish goodness? Pop in the Strandand pick up a worn copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or pose for a snapshot with Patience and Fortitude outside the New York Public Library.

  • Bath

    Jeff Morgan 15 / Alamy

    Once a fashionable escape for the London elite, Bath has long claimed tourism as a major industry. After walking through the town’s namesake attraction and sampling the healing spa waters, visiting English lit nerds should duck into the Jane Austen Centre for a look into the novelist’s life, a talk from a costumed curator, and tea service at the restaurant upstairs—the Champagne Tea with Mr. Darcy and the Lady Catherine’s Proper Cream Tea, which includes warm scones served with locally sourced jam, both come highly recommended. True Pride and Prejudice diehards should plan a trip around the town’s Jane Austen Festival, which features a Regency costume ball.

  • London

    Pawel Libera

    Like in New York, the literary sites in London are too numerous to see in a short trip, but here are a few can’t-miss attractions:

    Fans of The Bard should head straight to The Globe, a replica of the theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed during his heyday. Too cold for an outdoor show? The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse next door offers a schedule of indoor performances and concerts by candlelight.

    Old-school mystery buffs and legions of Benedict Cumberbatch fans can both be seen stopping for a selfie with the sign at 221b Baker Street. While there, check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum for a full exhibit on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective.

    If you’re in England’s capital around Christmas time, stop by the Charles Dickens Museum. It’s open year-round, but during the holidays, they go all out with Victorian decorations, mulled cider, and readings from A Christmas Carol.

    English majors the world over can pay tribute to their idols at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, where writers like Lord Byron, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, William Blake, and many more are memorialized.

    Have time for a day trip? About an hour and a half outside the city lies Ashdown Forest, the original 100 Acre Woods where A.A. Milne’s son Christopher Robin used to play.

    And finally, no London vacation would be complete for Harry Potter fans without a photo op at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station.

  • Oxford, Mississippi

    Martin Norris Travel Photography / Alamy

    Part of the genius of William Faulkner is that most of his stories are set in the same fictionalized version of Oxford, Mississippi. Known in the author’s universe as Yoknapatawpha County, the real-life college town boasts not only Rowan Oak, the now open-to-the-public abode of the Faulkner family, but also the author’s final resting place in Saint Peter’s Cemetery, where literary academics and co-eds alike leave half-empty bottles in offering to the Southern storyteller (and notorious whiskey drinker). Throughout the city, be on the lookout for plaques bearing passages of the author’s text or stop by the Thompson-Chandler house, which served as inspiration for the Compson home in The Sound and the Fury. If Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness style gives you a headache, hop down I-55 to explore the Eudora Welty House, filled with the short-story writer’s personal library, and her stunning garden.

  • Edinburgh

    Zsolt Hanczar / Alamy

    Named UNESCO’s first “City of Literature,” Edinburgh offer travelers a taste of bookish history upon arrival; the main train station in town is named after Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, and the literary attractions don’t stop there.

    London may lay claim to Baker Street, but Edinburgh is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have dreamed up the eccentric detective—purportedly based on one of Doyle’s medical school professors. His childhood home is now the site of a school; a statue of Sherlock himself stands across the street.

    If money is no object for your journey, book room 652 at the Balmoral Hotel, where J.K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series—and left her mark on a bust of the Greek god Hermes—then pop in The Elephant House for hot cocoa and a peek at the view that is said to have inspired Hogwarts in the first place.

    Stop in to Deacon Brodies, a traditional pub honoring the real-life inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for a stronger drink or frequent The Oxford Bar where Ian Rankin is a local.

    Prefer to hear about from the rising stars of the literary world? Plan a trip to Scotland during the International Book Festival; it’s the largest in the world with hundreds of events like discussion panels, book signings, and author meet-and-greets.

  • Key West

    Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO

    Hemingway’s former haunt welcomes fans of Papa year-round, but when the island shines is during its annual Hemingway Days Festival. Scheduled events include a lookalike contest, readings, a literary competition, and a quirky take on Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls. Can’t make it to this year’s celebration? Stop by theHemingway House during visiting hours to see the author’s former home and the feline legacy he left behind. Not a fan of Ernest? Key West also lays claim to Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, and Shel Silverstein.

  • Baltimore

    Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

    Few cities are so tied to a single literary character as Baltimore. From its football team, The Ravens—complete with an aptly named mascot—to The Annabel Lee Tavern, whose drink menu features cocktails like the Mesmeric Revelation and Morella, the Maryland city fully embraces its former resident, Edgar Allan Poe. True Tomahawk Man enthusiasts should stop by the poet’s house for a tour, raise a glass to The Raven writer at his gravesite à la the “Poe Toaster,” or order a round at The Horse You Came In On Saloon, a Fell’s Point bar that claims to be haunted by a spirit named Edgar.

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Entertainment

Exclusive Clip: Rainn Wilson Narrates the New Dr. Seuss Book

Random House

Sarah Begley is a culture and breaking news reporter for TIME.

The Office star lends his voice to What Pet Should I Get?

For the second time this month, readers are getting a new book from an author beloved whose work was supposedly finished. Children’s book fans perhaps thought they’d gotten the last of Dr. Seuss when Theodor Seuss Geisel died in 1991. But in 2013, his widow, Audrey, and longtime friend and secretary, Claudia Prescott, discovered a box of material that included, among other snippets of imagination, the draft for What Pet Should I Get? The book features the same brother and sister from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish shopping at a pet store for a new friend to take home.

What Pet, which goes on sale next week, has already generated serious interest—the initial printing is 1 million copies. Random House VP and associate publishing director for children’s books Cathy Goldsmith says, “My guess is that it won’t be very long before there is a second printing.”

Goldsmith, who worked with Seuss on his art in his later years, explained the decision to publish What Pet posthumously, noting that if Geisel were still alive “he’d be giving us new books. And I think we’re also respectful enough and grateful enough for what he did write to have not published this if we thought it wasn’t worthy.”

The legacy of Seuss was plenty shored up by Geisel’s 44 illustrated volumes (What Pet will make 45), which have sold 650 million copies worldwide. As Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight put it, “The lasting characters that are born in children’s books become part of our culture, and better still, part of our lives. Ted Geisel’s did all of that with his totally original style.”

And Hollywood actors are among his fans, too: they’ve lent their voices to Seuss characters on the big screen for decades, from Boris Karloff’s 1966 Grinch to Jim Carrey’s 2000 version, to Mike Myers’ Cat in the Hat (2003) to Danny DeVito’s Lorax (2012). Now Rainn Wilson joins their ranks, voicing the audiobook version of What Pet Should I Get? Listen to The Office star in this exclusive clip:


TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

35 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime

From The Little Prince to East of Eden

Books have the profound capacity to stay with us for the rest of our lives.

Whether they’re written for children, sci-fi lovers, mathematicians, or fiction aficionados, certain stories transcend their genre and should be read by everyone.

In a recent Reddit thread, users were asked what is a book that everyone needs to read at least once in their life?

Here are the top 35 books based on Reddit responses.

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig


    The story of a father and son’s summer motorcycle trip across America from Minnesota to California, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” is at its heart a philosophical journey.

    The travel narrative is filled with fundamental questions on how to live your life and conversations between the father and his son: “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user Exit_Smiling.

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams


    First told to his daughters as a bedtime story, Richard Adams weaves the tale of a band of rabbits who abandon their comfy holes in the English downs after one of the rabbits has a vision of it being destroyed by tractors.

    Watership Down” follows them as they encounter evil rabbits, crows, a fox, rivers, and countless other dangers as they journey to find a new home.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user joeallenrealty.

  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow

    Hachette Books

    An American professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, Pausch became famous after giving an upbeat lecture titled “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” after learning he had pancreatic cancer and had three to six months of good health left.

    After the success of his lecture, he co-authored the book “The Last Lecture” on the same theme of enjoying every moment in your life.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user kkup.

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

    Broadway Books

    One of the best rough guides to science, and written so that it could be accessible to the general public, Bryson describes everything from the size and history of the universe to the rise of human kind in “A Short History of Nearly Everything.”

    He also spends time talking about the eccentric archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians who have contributed to the world’s greatest discoveries.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user I__just__cant.

  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

    Beacon Press

    Published in 1946, “Man’s Search for Meaning” was written by Viktor Frankl about his experience as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during WWII.

    Filled with a rich understanding of the psychological experiences of his fellow inmates, Frankl ruminates on the meaning of life, and how every society has decent and indecent human beings.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user Nugatorysurplusage.

  • The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

    St. Martin's Griffin

    Written by a Vietnam veteran as an allegory of the Vietnam war, “The Forever War” follows reluctant soldier William Mandella as he leaves earth to battle the mysterious alien race, the Taurans.

    But because of time dilating during his spaceship travels, he ages 10 years while 700 years pass by on earth. Mandella then returns to a completely different planet that he can no longer recognize.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user brokenscope.

  • Cosmos by Carl Sagan

    Ballantine Books

    Sagan somehow manages to explain 15 billion years of cosmic history while touching on philosophy, religion, and our society.

    This book is written so even those without a strong science background can understand it, and manages to convey the profound unity of the cosmos.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user Jeff_richardsss.

  • Bartleby The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street by Herman Melville

    CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

    A short novella, “Bartleby The Scrivener” is an absurdist tale of a man named Bartleby who works at a New York law firm. Bartleby is a great worker, until one day he is asked to proofread something and simply says, “I would prefer not to.”

    That becomes his stock, passive response as he slowly ceases all activity much to the chagrin of the flabbergasted narrator.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user flagrance.

  • Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman


    A Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel, “Maus” tells the story of a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and his son, a cartoonist who is trying to come to terms with his father’s story.

    Illustrated with cats and mice to represent the Nazis and Jewish people (respectively), Maus is both about the bleak and horrifying truth of life under Hitler, as well as the son’s relationship with his aging father.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user waluvian.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    Charles Scribner's Sons

    This graphic war story follows Robert Jordan, a young and idealistic American demolitions expert, fighting in the 1937 Spanish Civil War with the antifascist guerrilla forces.

    For Whom the Bell Tolls” takes place over 68 hours while Jordan is trying to find a way to blow up an enemy bridge, struggling with the passive leader of the guerrilla forces, and falling in love with a young Spanish woman.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user RueKing.

  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami


    This mind-bending Japanese novel blends two interrelated plots between 15-year-old Kafka, who is on a mission to find his mother and sister, and the older Nakata, a mentally-challenged man who has the ability to speak with cats.

    The two characters are on a collision course throughout “Kafka on the Shore,” which is a metaphysical journey filled with magical realism.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by knitALLtheclothes, who also recommend Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and IQ84.

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Mariner Books

    Originally published in French as “Le Petit Prince,” this novella tells the story of pilot who crashes his plane in the Sahara desert and is greeted by a young boy who claims to be from a different planet.

    As the pilot repairs his plane, he learns the life of “the little prince” who yearns to return to his home planet. Though told as a children’s story, “The Little Prince” is one of the most poignant and profound books in French literature.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user StoryDone.

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    Vintage Books

    The Road” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and with good reason. Set in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter, a nameless man and his young son wander through the cold, dark, and bleak world where everyone has turned into their basest selves.

    McCarthy writes in a minimalist style that suits the terrain as the man and boy struggle to find food and stay away from the roaming cannibalistic gangs who enslave the weak. But maybe, just maybe, there is something worth living for.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user spundnix32.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Harper Perennial

    This book, which is full of magical realism, depicts the village of Macondo and its residents. It begins wth José Arcadio Buendía, the man who built the village, dealing with the shadows of a civil war and the ghost of the man he killed.

    The story really does cover 100 years as each generation of the Buendía family is weighed down by past mistakes and spirals towards destruction.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user UselessWisdomMachine.

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck

    Penguin Group USA

    Two families — the Trasks and the Hamiltons — live in California’s Salinas Valley. The novel follows each generation’s struggle with morality, right and wrong, and the bleak issues caused by sibling rivalry.

    Steinbeck considers “East of Eden” his greatest novel. “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this,” the author said.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user tit_juggler.

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Pocket Books

    How to Win Friends and Influence People” was written in the 1930s, but most of Carnegie’s advice remains true today.

    The interpersonal skills he recommends may seem obvious — like smiling and remembering people’s names — but plenty of fans recommend this classic how-to guide as a fundamental book about human decency.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user West4th.

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Dover Publications

    Crime and Punishment” is the story of Rodion Raskolnikov, a poor ex-student in St. Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her cash, arguing that he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime.

    A master at understanding human nature, Dostoyevsky weaves a world set against 19th century St. Petersberg as the murder takes a toll on Raskolnikov’s conscience.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user AimingFor30Days.

  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

    Russia in the 1870s sets the background for this tale of patricide and family rivalry. Part murder mystery, part courtroom thriller, and part social commentary, “The Brother’s Karamazov” follows the lives of three brothers and their father.

    The last book of Dostoevsky’s career, “The Brother’s Karamazov” is worth the 800+ page read.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user ARatherOddOne.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus


    Winner of the Noble Prize for literature, “The Stranger” begins with Meursault learning of his mother’s death. His lack of an emotional response sets the tone for the rest of the novel as events lead to Meursault murdering a man.

    Divided in two parts, the story follows Meursault’s life both before and after the murder, and leads the reader through his trial and impending execution.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user gewikinson.

  • Dune by Frank Herbert


    Dune” is to science fiction what “Lord of the Rings” is to fantasy. Herbert is able to create complete histories, politics, religions, and ecological systems of this feudal interstellar society.

    Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Paul Atreides transforms into a mysterious man known as Muad’Dib as he sets out to avenge the murder of his father, and leads a revolution that earns him the emperor’s throne.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user NikolaTesla1.

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


    In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Atwood imagines a future where the United States has become The Republic of Gilead, where women are strictly controlled. Unable to have jobs or money, they are either forced to be chaste, childless “Wives,” housekeeping “Marthas,” or reproductive “Handmaids” who turn their offspring over to the Wives.

    The tale is told by Offred, a handmaid who can still recall the past and explains how the misogynistic society came to be.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user mandyvigilante.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery


    One of Mark Twain’s favorite books, “Anne of Green Gables” is the story of a couple on Prince Edward Island who send for a boy orphan to help them out on the farm. Instead, they are given the 11-year-old redhead Anne Shirley.

    Her imagination and penchant for trouble inspires plenty of comedic adventures as she ages from 11 to 16, meets new friends, and begins an arch rivalry with Gilbert Blythe.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user mandyvigilante.

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    Simon & Schuster

    Fahrenheit 451” is set in a dystopian future where literature (and all original thought) is on the brink of extinction. Guy Montag is a fireman whose job is to burn printed books — as well as the houses where they’re hidden.

    But when his wife commits suicide and a young neighbor who introduced him to reading disappears, Guy begins hoarding books in his own home.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user Bobtheepicone.

  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    Harper & Row

    “Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.” One of the most-read children’s books, Shel Silverstein tells the story of a tree that loved a little boy so much that as he grew older, she gave him everything she had.

    Both about unconditional love and selfishness, “The Giving Tree” still inspires extremely different interpretations, and remains one of the most powerful stories ever written.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user evolve18.

  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Grand Central Publishing

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “To Kill A Mockingbird” is set in Maycomb, Alabama during the Depression and follows the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, the trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman, and the mysterious character Boo Radley.

    Despite its serious themes of rape, racial inequality, and gender roles, Lee’s story is renowned for its warmth and humor.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user gerwer.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell


    An allegory and satirization of Soviet Communism, “Animal Farm” is about a group of animals who take over a farm after ousting their human master.

    And though everything starts alright as all the animals work together and productivity soars, their new society begins to break down as certain animals start to believe that perhaps not all animals are created equal.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user interrupting_candy.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

    Ballantine Books

    Paul Baumer and his fellow classmates are convinced to join the German army in World War I only to live in atrocious conditions in the trenches years after year, struggling to gain insignificant bits of land.

    The book shows the dark and gritty reality of war, as well as the effect it has on Paul and his young friends’ psyches.

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    Submitted by Reddit user augenwiehimmel.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    Penguin Classics

    Full of intrigue, love, fight scenes, and social satire, “The Count of Monte Cristo” is one of the best revenge books ever written.

    It follows Edmond Dantès, a young sailor in 19th century France who is falsely accused of being a Bonapartist traitor and imprisoned for six years. After acquiring a secret fortune from a fellow prisoner, he remakes himself and sets out to find — and repay — everyone in his old life.

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    Submitted by Reddit user ani625.

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    Del Rey

    The inspiration for the movie “Blade Runner,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” is set in 2021, after a world war has killed millions of people, driving entire species into extinction. Those who remain build simulacra of past species including horses, birds, cats, sheep … and humans.

    Because the androids are so realistic, it’s impossible to tell them apart from real people. But now it’s bounty hunter Rich Deckards job to do just that — and then kill them.

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    Submitted by Reddit user LazySnake.

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    Simon & Schuster

    Catch-22” follows Yossarian, a WWII bombardier whose men must keep flying more and more dangerous bombing missions. Yet if Yossarian tries to excuse himself from the deadly missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22:

    A man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

    What starts as a comedy slowly turns into a nightmarish tragedy as the war becomes increasingly real throughout the novel.

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    Submitted by Reddit user Gyjf.

  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut


    Billy Pilgrim is a man who has become unstuck in time after being abducted by aliens, specifically Tralfamadorians for their planet’s zoo. The book follows his capture, as well as his time as an American prisoner of war witnessing the firebombing of Dresden in WWII.

    Slaughterhouse Five” is a comically-dark novel that combines both fantasy and realism.

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    Submitted by Reddit user ForkToTheLeft.

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    Del Rey Books

    In the first book of the series, Arthur Dent is warned by his friend Ford Prefect — a secret researcher for the interstellar travel guide “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — that Earth is about to be demolished.

    The pair escapes on an alien spaceship, and the book follows their bizarre adventures around the universe along with quotes from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide” like: “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”

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    Submitted by Reddit user Gyjf.

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Harper Perennial

    Brave New World” is about a government that is conditioning and drugging people to convince them they’re happy.

    Set in dystopian London in 2540 AD, the book explores themes of commodification, psychological manipulation, developments in reproductive technology, and the power of knowledge.

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    Submitted by Reddit user -iPood-.

  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

    Mariner Books

    After the success of a surgery that increases the intelligence of a lab mouse named Algernon, the first human test subject, Charlie, undergoes the procedure. Charlie keeps diary entries as his IQ grows from 68 to a stunning 185.

    But then Algernon suffers a sudden and unexpected deterioration. The book follows Charlie’s diary entries and Algernon’s progress reports.

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    Submitted by Reddit user onowahoo.

  • 1984 by George Orwell


    In a dystopian world nearly 40 years after the second world war, what remains of Earth has been split into three superpowers after an atomic war — Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.

    Everyone in Oceania, including protagonist Winston Smith, is closely monitored by the government. Orwell explores issues of censorship, propaganda, and individualism in “1984” as Winston struggles to escape his monotonous existence.

    Buy the book here >

    Submitted by Reddit user ani625. For a full synopsis, click here.

    This article originally appeared on Business Insider

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TIME psychology

Our Young Men Are Telling Us They Can’t Cope

Stephen and Joyce Singular are the authors of The Spiral Notebook: The Aurora Theater Shooter and the Epidemic of Mass Violence Committed by American Youth

What James Holmes, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez and Dylann Roof say about our propensity for violence, and inability to handle emotions

On the day that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was convicted on two dozen counts of first-degree murder, a 24-year-old man opened fire at few states to the east in Chattanooga, Tennessee, leaving five military personnel dead. That same day Dylann Roof was given a trial date. The coincidence of tragedy seemed to send a message: we’re producing twenty-something, male mass killers faster than we can prosecute them. Since the 1960s, mass shootings have risen 10,000 per cent. And since taking office in January 2009, President Obama, wearing an expression of baffled and profound sadness, has stood before our nation fourteen times and addressed the latest massacre. Why is this happening now?

Every one of these shootings has at least one thing in common. The killer, struggling with personal crises, decides that the only answer to his dilemma is to unleash a horrific act of violence. The Chattanooga shooter, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, had recently blogged that “life is short and bitter.” He felt trapped inside a “prison.” He was depressed and didn’t know how to cope. In the spiral notebook that James Holmes sent to his therapist a few hours before going into the theatre with a semi-automatic weapon, he listed the things that he’d turned to help himself and his “broken brain”: going into graduate school to study neuroscience and his own mind; getting a girlfriend in the winter before the massacre; and putting himself into therapy so that a mental health professional could give him her feedback (when he repeatedly told Dr. Lynne Fenton that he wanted to kill “a lot” of people, she prescribed Zoloft).

He took the medication and when it failed to alleviate his symptoms, she doubled and then tripled the dose. When that failed, he began buying guns and ammunition. Based upon what we know today, at no point in his treatment was there any serious discussion about the emotional underpinnings of his torment and gathering rage. Meds were the answer, the system told him, until they weren’t anymore — with the rest of us left to deal with the consequences.

In the weeks leading up to the massacre, Holmes communicated often with his parents in Southern California. He told them what he was buying at the grocery store and eating for dinner. He didn’t say anything about collecting an arsenal and planning mass murder because he didn’t want them to think he was “weak.” He couldn’t show them any vulnerability, so he showed them mass violence. Throughout the trial, his mother and father sat about ten feet behind him with expressions of perpetual shock and grief — for their son, for the victims and for themselves. They didn’t know he wasn’t coping because he was afraid to tell them. They weren’t aware that in his notebook he’d written:

“Violence is a false response to truth while giving the illusion of truth… I have spent my entire life seeking the alternative so that the question of how to love and what to live for may be addressed.”

But he couldn’t answer that question on his own and when he looked for help he couldn’t find it. James Holmes’s state of weakness is our collective state of weakness and confusion as a nation. We force children to learn math and science, but what about penetrating their own their feelings? How many times during the day do you confront your emotions or use some coping mechanism to resolve conflict?

For the past fourteen years, the United States has taught itself and the world that the solution to complex political problems is violence — mass violence that once unleashed will bring those problems to an end. There is no evidence that this is true. Our young men are telling us —screaming at us — that they don’t know how to cope with themselves and they’re turning to the only answer they see around them. When do we start to teach young people how to confront their emotions, how to resolve conflict without violence, and how to see what their real strength comes with acknowledging inner pain and starting to work with it instead of denying it?

Our country has gone through a long struggle to accept gay marriage and other complex social issues. We’re at the very beginning of a similar struggle to understand ourselves emotionally and to find solutions. Our young men are trying to tell us something critically important. It’s time to listen.

Stephen and Joyce Singular are the authors of The Spiral Notebook: The Aurora Theater Shooter and the Epidemic of Mass Violence Committed by American Youth.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Here’s What Would Happen If Animals Could Talk

Henry Holt and Co.

Carl Safina is the author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.

Actually, if you really listen, you may be able to hear what some of them are saying...

One century ago in the 1915 trenches of World War I, a young engineer named Hugh Lofting was moved by the sufferings of innocent horses and mules drafted into the horrifying vortex of human destruction. Needing something to say in letters home to his small children, he invented a certain doctor to minister to the beasts. This remarkable man could, Lofting explained to his children, talk with animals. He would name his doctor “Dolittle” and place him in Victorian England amidst all that period’s rich discoveries of the living world.

The last century has been the worst in history for relations among humans and between humans and non-human animals. Perhaps we might look ourselves in the mirror and ask whether we should still aspire to talk to the animals—who doesn’t share Lofting’s dream?—or whether we should aspire instead to turn down our chatter and do a better job of listening to what animals need us to hear.

The 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously said, “If a lion could talk, we wouldn’t be able to understand it.” He implied that lions inhabit a world unintelligibly different. Yet if a lion could talk, he’d likely bore us with the mundane: the waterhole, the warthogs, wildebeest ad nauseum. Lions’ concerns—food, mates, children, and safety—are our concerns. After all, humans are animals.

Millions of species communicate using body language and instinctive calls. Humans have instinctive calls, too—our distress scream, laughter, crying. Additionally, humans have a brain template for acquiring language. Onto this template we learn Italian, Malagasy, and so on. Chimpanzees can learn to sign things like, “Give me apple” (apes cannot form human-like sounds). But extensive vocabulary with grammar and syntax appears unique to humans. Complex language allows storytelling. Not simply a monkey or bird’s present-tense, “Danger! Snake!” but a human’s ability to convey, “I saw a snake there yesterday; be careful.”

When a human child says, “I thinked,” instead of “thought,” they’re intuitively applying a grammatical rule. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker believes that human brains come preprogrammed with a language instinct to create verbal structure, acquiring grammar and employing syntax. So human language comes as naturally to humans as rumbling and trumpeting come to elephants, howling and growling to wolves, and clicking and whistling to dolphins.

The implications are unsettling. Perhaps we are as truly, deeply, and constitutionally incapable of understanding the richness that other species perceive in their own communications as they are incapable of understanding human conversation. What if their communication modalities are borders we can smudge but never truly cross? “Talking with the animals” may be impossible.

And yet. There’s a little more to it. Orangutans sometimes pantomime what they would like from a human. When the human seems to partially understand their meaning, orangutans repeat gestures. But when misunderstood, an orangutan tries new signals. Asked to find an object that isn’t in their pool, dolphins and sea lions either look extra hard or don’t bother looking. They know that what they’re looking for, and understand whether it’s there. Dolphins can understand the difference between, “Get the ring from John and give it to Susan,” and “Get the ring from Susan and give it to John.” They understand that order can change meaning; that’s syntax—the hallmark of human language.

When someone insists that we cannot know another species’ thoughts because we can’t talk to them, there is a large dollop of truth here. But words are at best a loose cargo net of labels that we throw over our wild and wooly perceptions. Speech is a slippery grip for capturing thoughts. People lie. “I love you,” is enough said, but more reliable if silently shown. Visual arts, music, and dance continue ancestral conversations when words cease.

African elephants have one particular alarm that appears to be their word for, “Bees!” A friend of mine saw impalas run away when they heard elephants scream at a pack of wild dogs; her guide said that impalas never run when elephants are screaming at people or each other. That means elephants say some specific things that impalas understand. Baby elephants have two very different “words” expressing contentment or annoyance. They respond to being comforted by going, aauurrrr, and to being annoyed—pushed, tusked, kicked, or denied their mother’s breast—by going, barooo. Certain rumbles by mothers have the immediate effect of bringing a wandering baby back to her side. It seems fair to interpret them as saying, “Come here.”

Vervet monkey use calls with distinct meanings. In other words: words. If a dangerous cat is detected, the alarm sends everyone up a tree. When a dangerous eagle flies over, the monkeys’ alarm call causes other monkeys to look up and run into ground-cover (not up a tree). They don’t utter alarms for eagle species that don’t prey on monkeys. A monkey who sees a dangerous snake gives a ‘chuttering’ call that causes other vervets to stand up, scanning the ground for the snake. All told, vervets have words meaning ‘leopard’, ‘eagle’, ‘snake’, ‘baboon’, ‘other predatory mammal’, ‘unfamiliar human’, ‘dominant monkey’, ‘subordinate monkey’, ‘watch other monkey’, and ‘rival troop’.

Titi, putty-nosed, colobus monkeys, and some others add information by the order of calls. If the threat is far-off, Campbell’s monkeys introduce their alarm call by a sort of adjective, a low-pitched “boom” that means basically, “I see a distant leopard and am keeping an eye on it. Just be aware.” Without the boom the alarm means, urgently, “Leopard—here!” They have three call sequences for leopards and four for crowned eagles. When a capuchin monkey in Trinidad left his withdrawing group, came into a tree over our heads, and started breaking branches and throwing them at us, he was clearly communicating, “Go away.” One morning, our guide said he heard a bird known as a motmot saying “snake!” Sure enough, we soon found the excited motmot up in some high branches, fluttering around a Cook’s tree-boa, alerting other birds and blowing the snake’s stealth. Rutgers professor Joanna Burger’s Amazon parrot, Tiko, gives different calls for hawk, person, cat, or a dog in the yard. “I know what’s there,” she tells me, “before I look.”

When I’m at my own desk, I can tell by the barks whether my two dogs Jude and Chula are barking at someone walking past alone or with a dog, or at a delivery person, a squirrel they’ve treed, or each other in mock combat. Our coarse words—“screech,” “bark”—for their nuanced voices and vocabularies hobble our understanding of their understanding of what they mean. It’s not as if they’re not telling us. But we remain tone-deaf, mostly.

We happen to be talkers. But most of what we jabber about is so trivial. Think of the words wasted. Think of the way truly important things can be expressed with open arms, a fingertip, a smile—no need for sentences or syntax. Trillions of creatures survive in highly demanding lives, clearly signaling their intentions, with neither adverb nor gerund. The silent power of true intent.

A breakthrough in translation was recently announced by researchers. Turns out, all species of free-living great apes use gestures to communicate. The gestures used are understood by all members in the group. They’re directed at specific individuals, who understand them, and they’re used intentionally and flexibly.

A woman named Dawn Prince-Hughes, who as an autistic child had difficulty acquiring language, found a kind of identity in the Seattle Zoo with a group of gorillas, eventually getting employment as their care-giver. She calls the gorillas, “the first and best friends I ever had … people of an ancient nation.” When the bonobo Kanzi met Prince-Hughes, he watched her mannerisms for a brief while, then he signed, “You gorilla, question?”

Perhaps the Dolittle dilemma has been miscast. Maybe instead of wanting to learn to talk to the animals, our greater need is to quiet down and learn to listen.

Excerpted from Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina, published by HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY, LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Carl Safina. All rights reserved.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Living

How Trauma Can Change You—For the Better

Jim Rendon is the author of Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth

The silver lining of suffering: part of the healing process might bring about positive change

Everyone hopes they’ll avoid the worst life has to offer—accidents, illness, loss or violence. Unfortunately, few of us will get through life unscathed. According to recent PTSD research, 75 percent of people will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. These traumatic events will inevitably cause great suffering. But it’s not all bad news. Trauma can also be a powerful force for positive change.

In the 1980s two psychologists, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, discovered that trauma was changing people in fundamental ways. Some of those changes were negative, but to their surprise, the majority of trauma survivors they interviewed reported that their lives had changed for the better. Survivors of all kinds—they contacted more than 600 people—said they had much greater inner strength than they ever thought, that they were closer to friends and family members, that life had more meaning, or that they were reorienting their lives towards more fulfilling goals.

This mirrored what the pair was hearing from their clients, many of whom had experienced the death of children or suffered from cancer or survived terrible life-altering accidents. The suffering that resulted from these horrible experiences was not an endpoint. Instead it acted as a catalyst, pushing these people to change for the better. In a 1996 paper Tedeschi and Calhoun coined the term post-traumatic growth to describe what they had found.

Since then researchers around the world have begun delving into post-traumatic growth. Studies have found that more than half of all trauma survivors report positive change—far more than report the much better-known post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic growth can be transformative. Post-traumatic growth can be powerful. Many people I interviewed for my book told me that despite the physical pain they suffered, the daily struggles they faced, their lives were unquestionably better today than before their traumatic experiences. Trauma sent them on a path they never would have found otherwise.

One woman, a professional extreme skier, was even thankful for a wingsuit flying accident that nearly killer her and almost cost her a leg. She lost her career as an athlete but it opened up an entire part of her identity she never would have known about otherwise. She was forced to change and the change was overwhelmingly positive.

Growth begins with healing from trauma—it is not a free pass to avoid suffering. But, as researchers now know, people have the capacity to do far more than just heal. Given the right environment and mindset, they can change, using the trauma, the suffering and struggle that ensues, as an opportunity to reflect, to search for meaning in their lives, to ultimately become better versions of themselves.

Jim Rendon is the author of Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Go Set a Watchman Reveals America’s Constitutional Conundrum

Harper Lee's "new" novel "Go Set a Watchman".
Portland Press Herald/Getty Images Harper Lee's "new" novel "Go Set a Watchman".

The book presents a very real tension that many Americans were grappling with in the 1950s

The brave, solitary figure standing up for justice against all odds has a claim on the heart. Meanwhile, the conservative traditionalist using legal arguments to cling to the past is justly forgotten.

That likely explains why a number of reviewers have treated Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman like a dead rodent to be held at arm’s length while taken to the trash.

For unlike Mockingbird’s Atticus – a lone hero who represented a disabled black man falsely accused of assaulting a white woman – the Atticus in Go Set a Watchman opposes Brown v Board of Education, which overturned segregation. He supports the White Citizens Council, argues that African Americans haven’t earned their citizenship and worries what will happen if voter suppression efforts aren’t successful.

Yet this shouldn’t be a reason to disparage the novel; if anything, it presents a very real tension that many Americans were grappling with in the 1950s: how should they interpret the Constitution? And should the rule of law take precedent over justice being served?

In this sense, Atticus represents the past: strict adherence to the law, above all else. Meanwhile, his daughter Jean Louise (the adult Scout) represents a new strain of legal interpretation that’s devoted to justice for all.

Set in the fictional Maycomb, Alabama in the late 1950s amidst the push for integration and voting rights, the novel centers on a deep disagreement between Jean Louise Finch and her father, Atticus, over these civil rights issues.

In Jim Crow Alabama – where the law denies African Americans voting rights, limits their jury service and segregates them in school – this is what complicates the character of Atticus, who supports a Jim Crow society and thinks that the Constitution does, too. And it may explain the shift in Atticus’ character, from a lawyer defending a wrongly accused black man in Mockingbird, to a supporter of the White Citizens Council.

In Watchman, when African-American lawyers from the NAACP work in a neighboring county to challenge the exclusion of African Americans from serving on a jury, Atticus fears they may show up in Maycomb, too.

Here, the novel rings true to history. Stretching back to the 1930s, Alabamans had a deeply held fear of outside lawyers. One response was to run them out of town. Another was to lynch their clients. For example, in 1933, after two African-American men were shot to death in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the NAACP asked the US Department of Justice to prosecute local officials who were complicit with the lynchers.

Karl Llewellyn was a Columbia law professor and leader of the “legal realist” movement, which sought to understand what was actually happening between laws, enforcement of laws and the delivery of justice. In 1933, he argued on behalf of the NAACP that the intimidation of lawyers and their clients in Alabama – with the tacit approval of those in power – was hindering the proper enforcement of the law. Lynchings, Llewellyn said, were designed to intimidate the entire African-American community and to stop them from asserting their rights.

In Watchman, the efforts to stop African Americans from asserting their rights are somewhat more subtle. Atticus offers to represent a young African-American man accused of running over a drunk white man, but only so NAACP lawyers will not take on the case themselves – and then start asking questions about African-American jury service.

Alabama lawyers like Atticus still read the Constitution through the lens of white superiority. Jean Louise, recalling Atticus’ defense of Tom Robinson in the 1930s, tells him his ideas of justice “have nothing to do with people.” She calls his ideas “abstract justice written down item by item on a brief, nothing to do with that black boy.”

That’s just how many judges before the civil rights movement viewed constitutional law. For example, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes defended forced sterilization along similar terms when he dismissed the equal protection claim of a young woman about to be sterilized.

Jean Louise’s uncle tells her that Atticus will “always do it by the letter and by the spirit of the law.” Atticus’ version of the law was informed by the “separate but equal” doctrine, which had been the rule – up until Brown.

But it’s a vision of the law rooted in the past. On the one hand, Atticus won’t defend lynching, which was against the law (even if officials sometimes failed to enforce it). On the other, his narrow conception of the Constitution doesn’t extend to equal rights in schools, the voting booth or at the altar.

It isn’t just on race that Atticus is out of step with the times. He opposes social security, too. And he worries that even the “time-honored, common-law concept of property…has become almost extinct.”

Even Jean Louise is skeptical of Brown v Board of Education. She tells her father she thinks it’s inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment (which deals with states’ rights). This is an argument that was popular with states’ rights advocates and segregationists in the 1950s.

However, she also realizes that the Supreme Court has no choice – they “had to do it.”

“Atticus,” she says, “the time has come when we’ve got to do right.” She is, like the famous Karl Llewellyn, a legal realist when it comes to constitutional interpretation: she realizes that strict interpretation isn’t compatible with social realities.

There was a sense for Jean Louise, as for so many Americans of that era, that constitutional arguments about states’ rights were subordinate to grander principles of justice. The equal protection clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment was a principle that supported civil rights; but those who opposed civil rights found only principles of limited construction and state sovereignty. Jean Louise referred to the equal protection principle when she told Atticus she believed in the slogan “Equal rights for all; special privileges for none.”

In the 1950s, the world was changing. So was the meaning of law. The character of Jean Louise reflects the thinking of many Americans during the civil rights movement: that the Constitution was designed for equality, for voting rights and for better schools. Much has been written about how Watchman demotes Atticus from hero status. But the novel also demonstrates the idea that the Constitution stood for principles of equality.

The train that brought Jean Louise back to Maycomb also brought new ideas that would become central to the civil rights movement. In that respect, Watchman is more inspirational than Mockingbird, for it supports the view that the Constitution is forward-looking, and that our nation – not just some heroic lawyer – is doing something about civil rights.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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