The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
By Douglas Adams
Grade Levels: 7-12 and Adults
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a piece of media with an unusual history. The book began as a radio show in 1978 on BBC Radio 4. It was wildly popular, and was shown several more times, and the first book in the series followed shortly after in 1979. The book was equally well-received, and it topped the 1979 Sunday Times’s bestseller list. The book wears its campy, 70s-radio-show influences on its sleeve, and is an endearing and endearingly-British satire of modern life that remains surprisingly relevant over 40 years later. The book was followed by a barrage of visual media - a TV series, computer game, and full length movie, none of which quite did the original justice.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy follows the adventures of British everyman Arthur Dent and the eponymous Hitchhiker’s Guide, a repository of galactic knowledge on how to see the universe for cheap. The novel begins with the destruction of the entire planet Earth to make way for an interstellar bypass highway, and proceeds in an equally irreverent fashion. Poking fun at science fiction conventions of the time, the story explores how callously indifferent the universe is, how small we are in it, and ultimately how meaningless everything seems. Despite the bleakness of the themes, the book is filled with enough jokes and adventure to keep the tone light and comical.
For those students interested in science fiction and comedy, this is a book they’ll love. It’s also a subtle way to introduce them to some deeper themes of existentialism and political satire in a way that’s palatable to younger audiences or for students who aren’t as humanities-minded. It has been and will continue to be one of the great modern English satires, and a hearty recommendation!