Flashback Friday: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

(published 1966)

How crazy is it that a Google image search came up with all of these different graphics and book covers for Flowers for Algernon? That’s not even counting the various stage productions with their posters, playbills, and other paraphernalia. Clearly, this is a book that has staying power.

From Amazon:

With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

I first read this book many moons ago when I was a senior in high school, very keen on all of my AP classes and avidly interested in intellectual pursuits. (What a geek, I know…) Written as a series of diary entries, Flowers for Algernon tracks Charlie’s progress from low IQ to the upper limits of genius. What totally gobsmacked me in reading this book was that Charlie’s new-found intelligence enabled him to predict and track his own downward trajectory. Prior to the operation, Charlie leads a fairly contented life. After the operation, Charlie is elated by his mental powers but ultimately is plunged into despair as he realizes that he is destined to lose everything he has gained. Flowers for Algernon raises an interesting question: Would you rather be blissfully ignorant, or achieve intellectual super-abilities but only for a short time? If gaining a terrifically high IQ also brought you the certain knowledge that your intelligence would soon plummet to below average levels, would you still want the high?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read Flowers for Algernon, but I still remember the impact it had on me. I found it thought-provoking, moving, and disturbing — and I think the fact that it’s still widely read and that the stage version is still frequently produced is a testament to the power of this book.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

2 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

  1. Great pick for your Flashback Friday!!!

    I’m adding in a book that was a fantastic read for me and was released in 1911.
    It still has appeal today and can rival books being written now in its timelessness.
    What I loved were all the little details that this writer gave the reader to bring you right into the scene.
    She wrote many other books and some were made into movies, yet this book remains one of my all time favorites! I just checked and still available on Amazon.

    The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Harvester-Gene-Stratton-Porter/dp/160459473X

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