Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Summer Reading List

Okay, I lied.  Technically, this is not the list of books I intend to read that summer.  I dare not give you that list, because there are only two confirmed titles on it (Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon and Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin), because man would that be a boring post and look, I already managed to convey all necessary information.  Instead, I'm giving you my custom summer reading list for incoming college freshmen, as inspired by Cassandra's summer reading list outline over at Book Riot.  No, really, click the link; I don't think I explained that very well.  So I chose my favorite book for each category, and now I just have to wait for some poor soul I know to graduate high school, looking forward to an academic-free summer before entering the hallowed halls of some overpriced academic center that spends all of the aforementioned excessive tuition on football stadiums instead of proper heating*, so that I can dump ten books on him or her and demand book reports before Labor Day.

1) One of Shakespeare's plays: As You Like It: I wish I could tell you why this is my choice, but all I can remember, having read it nearly ten years ago, is that it's my favorite.  And that's that.  Also, this is where that "All the world's a stage / And all the men and women merely players" line comes from.  So don't go trying to tell me it's from Hamlet.  Or was it Macbeth?  NEITHER.  Wow, this just made me realize how long it's been since I've read one of Shakespeare's plays (too long).

2) Biography of a historical figure: The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir: Okay, so technically, Cassandra said it should ideally be the biography of an American person, but I don't read that many biographies, okay?  I'll get on that.  In the mean time, I'll be that niche person in the common room rambling on about these old dead queens while everyone else is talking about Frederick Douglass.  That's what college freshmen do in their free time, right?

3) Book about a historical event: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh: Epic in scope, this is a fictional tale of the opium trade and its effects on the Indians who were forced to produce it, among many others related to this bit of history.  Not only is this a great book, but it's all about how much the West sucks and how long it has sucked for, which really should score any incoming college freshman points for self-loathing.  I will not, however, be making the sequel required reading.

4) Classic novel (pre-1910): Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Does this really need an explanation?  Dark, romantic, disturbing, and oh yeah, you'll be mocked if you don't know what everyone's talking about in your lit class.  READ IT.

5) Modern classic (post-1910): Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Challenging without being inaccessible, this will force those wee freshmen to use their noggins without pushing them over the edge.  A skillful execution of a strange and compelling story, this classic of Virginia Woolf should be read by all.

6) Dystopian novel: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: Not only is this a disturbing and compelling tale of what happens when a government has gone wrong, it eerily echoes what's going on in the United States today.  A great lesson in what not to do with that college education.

7) YA novel: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: This one was tough for me because I don't read much young adult fiction and I'm blown away by even less of it.  However, this book about a teen boy trying to figure out his present while avoiding his past meant a lot to me when I myself was a teen heading off to college, and I would gift it to any adolescent, regardless of their college plans.

8) Nonfiction re: science, medicine, or technology: Okay, I don't read much in any of these categories (read: anything).  I have been interested in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks though, so that one!  Sure.  I'm open to suggestions as I clearly need to round out this cobwebbed corner of my reading life.

9) Political: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan: So you might not think this is a political book but it totally is.  When you challenge the way people eat, it goes far beyond a mere question of meat, but of what their ethics are, their independence of thought and behavior, their ability to look beneath the surface (or just hide their heads in the sand).  I think that the way we eat, and the conditions to which we condemn our food, animal or vegetable, says a lot about who we are on a grander scale.  Plus, this is a nice soft book that challenges without attacking.  The tougher stuff comes sophomore year. :]

10) Graphic novel: Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse: This is a story in comics of a man accepting his homosexuality in an intensely racist community.  Okay, I'm not sure about this one because it's been a while, but I remember really loving it.  Plus, it's also got politics and history, so it's a triple whammy.

*No, I'm not bitter and resentful at all.  Why do you ask?


  1. I LOVE that you did a post filling out options for each of these categories. I might steal this idea (with credit to you of course)

    Now I need to add some of these to my own TBR list. Not necessarily for the summer, just in general. (Especially Sea of Poppies, which sounds excellent.)