This is the first summer where I’ve actually devoted a significant amount of time to reading. Even though I would marry a good plot twist if given the chance, the summer is normally the time when I take a break and let my brain rest. However, since I’ve been out of school this year and my brain is on the brink of turning into lime jello, I’ve got a summer reading list to rock the ages.
Maybe not “rock the ages”, but at least shake them.
Give them a good toussle…
The post I had planned to publish today isn’t ready yet, so instead I’m going to give you a list of seven books and one play you should read this summer. I will also rate each book on a scale of 1-10 haughty upturned noses for how smart you will look reading it.
“Still Alice” by Lisa Genova (6 haughty upturned noses)
Not to sound like a bum, but this is a great lazy weekend read. It’s a page turner that you’ll probably finish in a day and a half. “Still Alice” tells the story of Alice Howland, a psychology professor at Harvard, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. The novel follows her through her diagnosis, up to the point where she doesn’t even recognize her own children anymore. I suggested this book to my book club based on a review I read and everyone was stunned at how acurately Genova manages to portray the thoughts and feelings of someone who is slowly losing her mind. It’s equal parts haunting, humbling, and inspiring, because even though she loses a big part of herself, Alice still manges to be Alice.
“Much Ado About Nothing” by William Shakespeare (5 haughty upturned noses)
My English major friends will probably want to hang me by my toes like a pinata and beat me with a stick for only giving Shakespeare 5 haughty upturned noses, but here’s the logic behind the madness: everybody has to freakin’ read Shakespeare in highschool. Unless you can quote his sonnets backward through your vocoder, it’s not that impressive.
“Much Ado About Nothing” is probably my favorite Shakespeare comedy. Why? Because it’s the one with Beatrice and Benedict. Those two define the phrase “witty verbal sparring.” Ten pages in you’ll laugh at the ridiculously well thought out barbs these two through at each other.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” byLionel Shriver (7 haughty upturned noses)
There are several reasons ( outside of the haughty upturned noses) why you need to read this book. I’ll give you three: 1) The ending 2) The conclusion 3) The penultimate chapter. Can you tell that I love a book with a good ending? “Kevin” is an epistolary novel told from the perspective of Eva Khatchadourian. Eva is Kevin’s mother and she writes the letters to Frankin, his father, in order to make sense of the recent tragedy in their lives. Kevin, without rhyme or reason has massacred 11 of his classmates in a school shooting.
When I become a brilliant novelist (yes, that’s the dream), I hope that I’m able to write characters as compelling and thought provoking as Shriver.
“Please Look After Mom” by Kyung-sook Shin (8 haughty upturned noses)
Originally published in South Korean, this book has become an international bestseller in a short time. The New York Times and NPR have given it glowing reviews, but you shouldn’t read it based on their suggestions…even though I did. You should read it because it’s an example of how the use of a pronoun can make a world of difference when it comes to a narrative voice. It’s original, lyrical, and wonderfully written. Also, when you break it out on the beach and people ask you about it you can say casually, “Oh, it’s this new Korean novel that the NY Times reviewed.” You will look like a freakin’ genius.
“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (8 haughty upturned noses)
A literary classics, LTC is one of those I keep going back to because no matter how many times I read it, I can’t come up with an original thesis about it. Garcia Marquez is the master of magical realism, but outside of that I got nothin’. The story is about the love affair between Florentino Ariza, Fermina Daza, and Dr. Juvenal Urbino. It perfectly captures the time and place of its characters and, if you’re like me, every sentence will frustrate and delight you. It’s also considered a lierary classic so merely being in the presence of such a great book is bound to give you an I.Q. boost.
“LIfe of Pi” by Yann Martel (9 haughty upturned noses)
I’m not going to lie: this book will probably piss you off. When I was reading it I went through moments of “this is brilliant!” to “where’s my lighter? this suckers gonna burn.” Much like LTC, “Pi” is one of those books that stays with you. It’s also one of those books that is so ambiguous that you’ll be able to come up with brilliant, if not somewhat outlandish, theses about it. I know I have. My book club still talks about this book and we read it about 2 months ago.
“Fear and Trembling” by Soren Kierkegaard (10 haughty upturned noses)
Reading an kind of philosophy automatically makes you a genius in my book. If you understand it, you’re the reincarnated Einstein. Any kind of philosophy usually renders me a slobbering mess (my brain just doesn’t work that way), but “Fear and Trembling” was really easy to follow and understand. I’m still working my way through it, so perhaps my opinion may change, but for now I suggest you read it and then start quoting it to make other people cower in the wake of your superior intellect.
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison (10 haughty upturned noses)
In my opinion, this is the great American novel. It needs nothing more and nothing less. When you finish this book you’ll feel as though your heart has just been wrung out like a dirty dishrag. Some people think “great” novels are only the ones that make us think, but for me, a novel that causes me to feel (you know how I loathe the feelings) is literary gold. However, don’t think this book isn’t challenging. I could write paper after paper about “Beloved.” As I was reading this book I scribbled nonsensical notes in the margins. How Morrison manages to combine thought, power, feeling, history, folklore, and imagery into one short book I will never know.
If you take my list to heart and actually read one of these, I’ll write a blog post about the wonder that is you.