Friday, 6 June 2014

Lit Nerd Recommends: Moral Dilemmas

Recently I've been reading a lot of books that completely skew my morality and the way I see the world. There are some books that have left me in a state of utter despair as I try to figure out right from wrong. There are others that have left me thinking (exclaiming) 'what is life?!'. I do love a good moral dilemma and those books which really force you to consider your own position as a human being in a world full of other human beings. It can get deep. I had a drunken conversation about Lolita a few weeks ago and ended up going round and round in circles trying to figure out where I stand in relation to that book and the dilemma it poses. There's a moral to that story actually, which is to not discuss morality when inebriated.

Here are a few of the novels that have recently had me questioning life, the universe and everything in between.

1. The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

I really did not care that she was not the biological mother. That could potentially make me a bad person. My head was all over the place with this one.

2. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

This had me up and down and round and round trying to decide just what I'd do if stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean surrounded by water and a few select people. I guess that's one thing I'll never (hopefully) know.

3. Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam

The dilemma was pretty clear here, and the morality, but that didn't make it any easier to read.

4. The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

Another 'what would I do?' situation. I think I'd do the same.

5. Antigone by Sophocles

Ah, the oldest dilemma in the book - do I defy authority to bury my brother or leave him to rot in the sun and stay loved by all?

6. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

This had me trying to figure out whether evil is an inherent trait and whether there can be good in everyone. Never made it to an answer on that one. Help me out?

7. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

See 'Lamb' with added gross moments.

8. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

In my head, even if she was guilty, I was in love with her from the start.

9. The Undertaking by Audrey Magee

This is a truly shocking and harrowing novel that really made me consider where the line is between right and wrong and who determines whether something is wrong.

10. The Testimony by James Smythe

As well as scaring the actual bejeezus out of me, this dystopian novel pulled my head in so many directions.

For every recommendation here I could probably list another twenty more. What can I say, I like mind games.

Did you have similar reactions to me with any of these? Which book made you think deeply about morals and morality?



  1. I ADORE these sorts of books! The ones that make you dig deep. :D You've given my mental tbr pile a big boost.

  2. I guess the strange beauty of reading these books is that they really make you think about your own morals and what boundaries you would be willing (or not willing) to cross. I just finished The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld which was about prisoners on death row and cycles of violence. It was darker that I expected, but looked at questions like who deserves to die? What could be behind the decision to die?

  3. I just finished The Light Between Oceans. It made me crazy trying to decide what was "right" and what was "wrong..."

  4. Moral dilemmas make for really great books -- and can really mess with your head! I tend to think these books most often show us that most people are not completely good or completely evil -- it can be disconcerting to get to know an "evil" character as a real person -- it is easier to condemn them when all you know is about the bad thing they did -- but books paint a bigger picture than that most of the time.

    Can't wait to read The Undertaking ever since learning about it from the Bailey's Longlist...and I'm way overdue to pick up Burial Rites --

  5. I love a good moral dilemma too, especially when the author really shows the complexity and there's no easy answer.
    Have you read Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch? It takes the same scenario as The Lifeboat but pushes it much, much further.

  6. That's the exact reason I want to read The Lifeboat - because I LOVE books that have a 'what would YOU do?' angle to them to make me think and worry. I've added a couple more books to my wishlist from this list as well, thank you! :)

    I thought V for Vendetta walked a fascinating line between terrorism and activism, which was quite thought-provoking and morally ambiguous. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, about a brother and sister, pretty much left to play parents to their siblings in a difficult household, who find themselves falling in love, was a big 'moral dilemma' novel for me. It makes you consider the nature of a sliding scale of morality, of the innocent ways that difficult situations can sometimes come about and that people who shouldn't be together can find happiness, and that's really what it boils down to - you want them to be happy. Knocked me for six for a while, that one...

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  8. 'liked' you! Or I think I did... I don't really understand Facebook pages either :)

    I loved The Reader. Partly because it has the only character EVER that has my name, but hey ho. It's actually one of the few books I've managed to reread in the past few years, which is saying something. I keep meaning to watch the film, but I haven't gotten round to it yet.

    Sorry, the deleted comment was me - I'd logged in using my work account by accident.


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