Back to the Future Day: Three Time-Travel Books

backtothefutureday
Video conferences, check. Video glasses, check. Hoverboards? Still waiting!

In honor of Back to the Future Day, the day Marty McFly travels to in Back to the Future 2 — yep, I saw it in the theaters in 1989! — I will give you a super short list of three very different time-travel books. I happen to love the time-travel motif, and often choose it as the superpower I would choose in those lovely ice-breakers. But I’ll tell ya, there is a lot of mediocre time-travel fiction out there. I consider the three in today’s list worthy of your time (nyuk nyuk) for different reasons.

A_Yankee_in_the_Court_of_King_Arthur_book_cover_1889
What the 1889 edition looked like.

[1] A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (1889). We’ll start exactly 100 years earlier, in the other 80’s, the 1880’s. Most people have only read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. And maybe The Prince and the Pauper. All good books, all good books. If you’re looking for a “classic” to read, and you’re a fan of Twain, you can expect social satire in this novel about a man from 19th-century Connecticut who, after a blow to the head, wakes up to find himself in King Arthur’s Camelot. Twain’s darkly comical commentary on the vestiges of Middle Age mores in his day make for a book that makes you chuckle as well as go “hm…” It’s funny to think of this book as a kind of “science fiction” or time travel, since in our 2015 minds, the 19th century “present” is so far back in the past. Apparently, there were several time-travel books published right around this book. So you see that there were fads in fiction even back then!

WrinkleInTimePBA1
The first edition cover. Very 60’s.

[2] A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (1963). I’m including this in the list, only because I’m interested in your opinions on this book. I confess that I’ve never made it all the way through the book, though I’ve started several times ever since I was a young girl. I can name-drop Tesseract, Meg and Charles, and I know what the wrinkle in time refers to, but I can’t have a discussion about this book with my friend Christina. I also know that this book is a common class read aloud in schools, and that it is considered a “classic.” I also know that L’Engle is Christian, but that her books are considered somewhat controversial. This book has moved up my TBR pile, and today being BttF Day, I will move it up a few more slots, since a lot of kids have read or are considering reading this book.

kindred
Not your typical sci-fi novel.

[3]  Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (1979). This is a lesser-known book, but one I liked quite a lot back in 2001, when I had to read it because it was one of the lit circle/book club options for the 12th-grade English class I was teaching. Octavia Butler wrote science fiction, and her story as an African-American woman writer coming up during the Civil Rights Era is fascinating in its own right. Kindred is cool because it is difficult to classify in one genre. Is it realistic time-traveling science fiction? Historical fiction slave narrative? A mystery? Dana is a lawyer living in 1976, and she starts traveling back to a plantation in antebellum Maryland. You find yourself pulled into her story, just as she is discovering her own connections to this past. This book is not sparing in its depiction of slavery’s dehumanizing cruelty, and for that reason, this book is definitely upper high school to adult. This might be a good book for someone who isn’t that familiar with slave narratives, but isn’t up for reading denser, though very compelling memoir accounts like Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

How about you? What are your favorite books featuring time travel? Do you want to chime in about A Wrinkle in Time

7 thoughts on “Back to the Future Day: Three Time-Travel Books

  1. Hello! I’m from the Austin church, and I just wanted to say I love your blog! I hope one day we can establish a library like this for our church plant.

    I’m sorry, I’m no English major, so I can’t critique books with your eloquent language (hahah). But I can say that I’ve read A Wrinkle in Time a few times. I think I read it perhaps in 7th or 8th grade, and then again as a senior in college. When I was younger I remember being very confused at some of its contents (like the angel beings singing “Holy, holy, holy” on some distant planet) or the description of the fourth dimension (still trying to wrap my brain around that!), but it was an enjoyable read.

    I do hope you can read it some time and provide a book review!

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  2. I read A Wrinkle in Time last year and I really enjoyed it, I think it’s the way it’s written, it brings you into Meg’s world and the way the relationships between the people are described, especially Meg and her dad (#tearjerker). I would definitely reread it again.

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  3. I remember reading Kindred in college because my younger brother recommended it to me. He’s not a natural “reader” so I knew it was good. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in a matter of days and I still think about it from time to time. I was a history major so this book was interesting on multiple levels for me.

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  4. I actually just read A Wrinkle In Time a few months ago. A co-worker highly recommended it and said the audiobook saved his family’s boring car ride to Yosemite. I read the actual book and really liked it! My favorite part is reading about Meg’s relationship with her younger brother. Of course the time traveling aspect is cool too. I heard there is a movie version which I haven’t seen.

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  5. Echoing sentiments from Jennifer (thatissogoogoo), I love your blog! (And I am also from the Austin church!) Kindred is definitely not for youth, but the novel irresistibly pulls you into Dana’s life just like she is irresistibly (and terrifyingly!) pulled into another time and place. By the end of the story, you feel a little haunted, like you just woke up from a dream and the imagined pain of her scars echo on your back and arms. I couldn’t stop thinking about Kindred for weeks after reading, and the novel paints a picture of slavery unlike anything I could have imagined in my history classes or college discussions on race, slavery, Birth of a Nation, etc. If you ever get your hands on a copy of the 25th anniversary version, check out the commentary! Though it’s a little dry, there were some interesting insights about the sudden, jarring ending of the story and how it reflects the emotionally unsatisfying conclusion of slavery that demands justice for all the suffering throughout history, one that is never answered… Chills!

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