Book notes: Thug Notes by Sparky Sweets

Thug Notes by Sparky Sweets, PhD book summary.

Thug Notes: A Street-Smart Guide to Classic Literature by Sparky Sweets, PhD


Synopsis: “Sparky Sweets, PhD, and Wisecrack proudly present this outrageously funny, ultra-sharp guide to literature based on the hit online series Thug Notes. In this audiobook you’ll find hilarious plot breakdowns and masterful analyses of 16 of literature’s most beloved classics, including: The Catcher in the RyeTo Kill a MockingbirdPride and PrejudiceThe Color PurpleHamletThings Fall Apart, and more!

Thug Notes has been featured on BET, PBS, and NPR and has been used in hundreds of classrooms around the world. Whether you’re a student, teacher, or straight-up literary gangster like Dr. Sweets, Thug Notes has got you covered. You’ll certainly never look at literature the same way again.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

I ordered this book because it was on a 2 for 1 sale on Audible. It was literally one of the only three books I would buy. However, the synopsis and reviews say that this book is amazing and hilariously funny, so I decided to pick this one up. It is different from what I normally listen to, but i’m sure it’ll be worth the listen.

Key notes:

Reader’s note: Right off the bat, I love whomever is reading this. He is very lively, energetic, and really plays the part of the “Thug” that I image most listeners can picture coming from the author.

  • Classic literature is timeless, ageless, and should be classless
    • The whole point of dropping knowledge is to keep building for the literary OG’s to help the new crew get on their level (or even higher)
  • When it comes to who we are, who we want to be, how we are to treat other people, and the decisions we are going to make, it’s literature that’s going to hook us up
    • They’ve got the ability to put us in another player’s shoes and see the world from different perspectives
    • It teaches us how to empathize and connect with others on a much deeper level, even if they seem different from us
  • To him, a thug is some who “buck the system”
    • Who stands up and try to make their imprint on the world
    • He or she lives how they want to live, and do what they want to do, even in the face of a world telling them they got to act a certain way
  • Some of the best works of literature can be thought of as expressions of rebellion, or great dissatisfaction with the world

Reader’s note: We’re on To Kill a Mockingbird now. Wow, this is such a blast from the past. I remember reading these books in either middle school or high school

  • Theme: If you try to look at the world through someone else’s eyes, you’ll realize that they aren’t so different from you
  • Theme: Courage. Real courage is when you’re licked even before you begin and you see it through no matter what
  • Symbols:
    • Messed up left arm represents messed up justice system
    • Ghosts. You can’t look through people, you have to look AT them
    • Mockingbird: It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because they don’t do anything but sing their hearts out for us to enjoy
  • Lesson: Whenever you’re about to find fault in someone, ask yourself: “What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” – Marcus Aurelius in Meditations
    • Lesson: The courage to do what is right is more important than looking out for yourself
  • Book: Pride and PrejudiceSummary: Mostly about a group of women who are trying to marry rich men
    • Unclear whether Jane was throwing shade at money-grabbing society or if she supported it
    • Theme: Pride. Sometimes it can be a good thing
  • Book: The Great Gatsby
    • Illustrates that just because you have a lot of money, doesn’t mean you can relive your past
      • Having money =/= being a good person
      • Trying to live the American Dream can turn your life into a nightmare
    • The guy who wrote Fightclub said it was an “updated Great Gatsby”
      • A man writing about his hero from his perspective, includes to men and a woman, and hero gets shot in the end
  • Book: FrankensteinTheme: Angels and demons. Angels like Elizabeth and demons like Victor and the monster
    • Theme: Deadbeat fathers
    • An epigraph is a chunk of text or quote supposed to give the reader a heads up about the work’s major theme or themes
    • Theme: The importance of being with others and not alone
    • Idea: Sometimes there is such thing as too much knowledge
    • Similar to Prometheus trying to bring the gift of fire to the world. Victor Frankenstein thinks he’s giving a gift of life to the world but really brings death and destruction
    • Theme: “I act like a demon because you treat me like one
  • Book: Invisible Man
    • Summary: About a man being unseen in society. Overtime, he sees this as being the most powerful weapon he has
    • Theme: Invisibility. People don’t see him because they refuse to. They only see what’s around him, themselves, or some idea they impose on him
    • Theme: History vs. Reality. History isn’t necessarily the truth because it is written by the winners, who are usually the oppressors
      • The white people in the novel write the reality that everyone else has to suffer through
    • Theme: Identity and existence. Not knowing yourself is like a living death
      • Trying to figure it out is tough but the narrator gains freedom when he does
    • Symbols:
      • Masks – being what the world tells them to be
      • Blindness and seeing
      • Sleeping and waking up to reality
  • Book: Lord of the Flies
    • Theme: Good and evil
      • Even though mankind is always scared of other things doing harm, the truth is that the most harmful beast comes from within humanity
    • Theme: Civilized living vs. savage living
      • Society is like a big dam holding back humanity’s evil tendencies
      • Every time society’s rules start to crack, all of that anarchy, chaos, and savagery come seeping in
      • Perspective and context
        • People change when you put them somewhere else
    • Symbols
      • Glasses – represent knowledge, intellect, reason, and society
      • Pig head – devil and the darkness inside our hearts. Some say represents the “Id” or the part of us that only thinks of survival
      • Conch shell – man’s attempt to keep things orderly
      • Fire – both savagery and their connection to the outside civilized world
      • Falling & tripping – man’s fall from grace metaphorically and physically
  • Book: Moby Dick
    • Themes of class structure, race, good and evil
    • The whale also represents the pain, indifference, and the unknown mess going on in this crazy universe
    • We are just a bunch of sailors floating in a big ocean searching for meaning
    • Theme: fate vs freedom
    • Theme: pride before the fall
    • Theme: riding solo versus having a crew
    • Theme: accepting people of difference
    • Symbols:
      • The unknown
      • Orphans
      • Moby Dick – unknown things in the world, messed up things about humanity, evil and frustrations inside and out, God, etc
  • Play: Raisin in the Sun
    • Idea: everybody deserves an equal shot at the American dream
    • Theme: the power of dreaming
      • Without dreams, a person isn’t really a human being
    • Symbols:
      • The house
      • Mamas plant
  • Book: Hamlet
    • Images and symbols:
      • Ears and listening – And how all this leads to a darker, emptier life than you’ve ever seen
    • Theme: what your eyes tell you isn’t necessarily true
    • A foil is when you have a character contrasting with another so you can see better what someone is like
    • Theme: Indecision
  • Book: Fahrenheit 451
    • This story is about what happens when people try to pursue a life where there is just one answer to a question
      • Where everything is painless and easy, where the combination of mass media and trying to keep people from getting butt-hurt means you can say or do anything
    • Themes: two sides to every coin
    • Idea: All art has duality, a contrasting of opposite things like light and dark
    • Theme: only having one cultureThis society was perpetuated by all the sensitive people
    • Theme: slowing your roll
    • Image and symbols:
      • Knowing others
      • Fire – It can be destructive or give life and warmth Fire changes shape, has many different uses, and can mean many different things
      • Tiger – as a symbol for the human imagination. It can be creative, destructive, and complex
    • Theme: ignorance may look like glass on the outside, but in reality it just makes you hollow on the inside
    • Theme: man is a walking contradiction that has an never ending war raging on inside
      • This war against two sides on the inside is exactly what makes you a whole person
  • Book: The Catcher in the Rye
    • This book discusses the ideas of loneliness, loss, and the lies of society
    • Theme: being lonely
      • The main character tries to connect with all of these phony people, but it never ends well. This is one of the biggest reasons why he hates on everything
    • Theme: trying to fight change
      • It’s like a tug-of-war where he is trying to stay young, but he keeps getting dragged into the adult side
    • Theme: the catcher in the rye
      • A constant theme is people always falling and disappearing
      • The main character feels like he wants to catch all of the kids falling off the cliff and save them from going into the world of adults
      • He doesn’t want kids to lose their innocence and turn into fake adultsThis is why he is the catcher in the rye to prevent kids from falling off the cliff
  • Book: Crime and Punishment
    • Theme: just another cog in a man machine
      • But he learns living in a world that’s all logical and materialistic is going to create a terrible place
      • If all there is logic, then we don’t have to take responsibility for anything since we don’t have a choice
    • Theme: thinking you are above the law
    • Theme: thinking versus doing
    • Theme: suffering
      • Sometimes suffering is this something to be avoided. Truly great people must experience great sorrow on earth
      • Suffering is how we find truth, suffering is the sole origin of consciousness
  • Book: Things Fall Apart
    • While imperialism is messed up, life in other places like Africa still isn’t any better
      • Even despite colonialism, things are never perfect and they always fall apart
    • Imperial colonialism basically when another nation goes into another place, claim it as their own, and start telling the natives they have to live the way they live and think the way they do
    • Themes: paying for the sins of our fathers
    • Theme: we have to have a community at our back
      • Realize the power of having people who have your back, because failing together is better than failing alone
      • This is why Okonkwo killed himself
    • Theme: Acting tough
      • Sometimes it is not all about acting tough. Sometimes you need to have compassion and show vulnerability
  • Book: The Color Purple
    • This book brings up themes of love, hate, and forgiveness
    • It also talks about self acceptance, Christianity, family life, racism, and womanhood
    • Themes: coming together and unity
      • The story is about a woman like their transformation and a change in perspective based on her experience
    • Idea: we are all connected and united
      • No matter what we’ve been through, the only thing that can get us out of the trap is love
    • Theme: God and spirituality
      • God was more of a thing inside of everyone and will show up when you need it after you’ve been through some intense suffering
    • Theme: whooping some ass
      • The protagonist needed to stand up for her self and fight back
        • She learned from other people that she has the power within her to fight back and learn to have respect for people who could power through pain by fighting
    • The novel breaks down gender stereotypes and tries to disrupt the misogynistic male way of thinking about gender stereotypes
    •  Symbols:
      • The color purple – this has a whole bunch of different meanings: royalty, sexuality, confidence, and being fine AF
        • The title is basically saying that there is beauty inside everyone and everything, and it is a beauty best recognized if we are to give God the credit he deserves
        • The color purple also represents bruises which connects to suffering and how God shows up during those times
  • Book: The Scarlet Letter
    • This book discusses ideas of slut shaming and empowering sexuality
    • Theme: rolling solo versus dealing with society
    • Theme: change
      • All three main characters go to some sort of change because of that Scarlet letter
    • Theme: feeling guilty and ashamed through falsehood
    • Symbol:
      • The scarlet letter “A” – could represent multiple things, because it later was interpreted as “Able” as she was strong and helpful to others
        • It also could stand for “Ambiguous” as we don’t know exactly what it stood for
    • The main character has been to places real and figurative that other people don’t have the courage to go. Because of that, she has a lot of street smarts and perspective that is very valuable

Closing thoughts:

This was such a great experience. Half of these books really were a blast from the past as they bring me back to taking AP Literature and various English classes in middle school and high school. I really wished I had this analysis when I was in school!

For the other half of the books/plays that I’ve never read but heard about, it was really insightful into the themes, symbols and common threads that we can learn from as readers.

Would highly recommend for practically anyone. Classic literature is a must, and this breakdown of these classics is very enjoyable.

Nutshell: Sparky Sweets, PhD breaks down classic literature that’s hilarious, easy to understand, and fun to listen to.

Rating: 4/5

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