Summer Reading – What say you?

I have to admit, I don’t read very much.

That isn’t true. I read so much (primary science literature) that I no longer want to read when I don’t have to. Seven years ago, university attached itself to the mental teat responsible for feeding my curiosity of fictional literature. Six years later, that teat dried, withered and was no longer able to rear interest in creative writing beyond crass online comics and bizarre news stories of two headed goats and such things. Instead, I was steeped in non-fiction. Last summer, I had dedicated a few months of bus-time reading to the +1000 page epic armchair history book “Ideas” by Peter Watson.

However, I was determined to change all that. Halfway through Ideas, I shelfed it and decided to read 52 classic novels in 52 weeks. I compiled a list from a number of “Top 100” lists put together by various publishing companies. I started out great – two books in two weeks:

  • Camus’ The Stranger
  • Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

Both are relatively short, but I thought, “C’mon champ – get in there, bob around, lure him in to the ropes and smoke him with a solid kick to the groin” (i.e. I would start out easy and work my way up). I then began All the King’s Men by Robert Warren Penn at the end of August. It was a great book – well, what I finished of it was great because it’s bloody long. Two weeks passed and I was only half way done. September arrived, and with it came classes, TAing, and research. That was it: Willie Stark and Jack Burden were put to shelf as well, as was the rest of my list.

Now, I think it would be silly to make a similar resolution for this summer, but I’m an ambitious reader and I am determined to right my mistakes. However, perhaps my mistake was in the list itself. I wasn’t interested in many of these modern classics and couldn’t find myself able to relate to their stories.

So, dear reader, I ask you to help me with my summer reading – apply Vaseline to my mental teat, and pump its juicy sustenance into my head (i.e. please list a few modernish books that you highly recommend)!

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: davidsemeniuk.com

15 Responses to “Summer Reading – What say you?”

  1. David Ng

    One of my favourite books ever is Douglas Adams’ “Last Chance to See.” Great book – science-y too!

  2. Brenda

    Arcadia by Tom Stoppard – very witty, short play, combines a whole lot of ideas brilliantly… literature, mathematics, sex, physics… gardening… I kid you not. It’s fantastic!

  3. Nick

    ‘Much Depends on Dinner’ by Margaret Visser. It’s one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read, possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read period. Broadly speaking, it’s about the anthropology of food, but she goes through an entire dinner and weaves a story about each ingredient. It’s a fairly strange book, but wonderful.

  4. Timon

    Read “The Boat” by Alistair McLeod. It’s a short story, but it’ll stay with you (well, it did with me anyways). It can be found in his “The Lost Salt Gift of Blood” and “Island” collections.

  5. Kerrie

    I second the Arcadia recommendation, and I also recommend “So Long a Letter” by Mariama Ba.

  6. Kerrie

    The above recommendation got me thinking about more African lit, so check out I Saw the Sky Catch Fire by T.O. Echewa.

  7. Vivian

    I third the Arcadia recommendation, as well as Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. It’s time to blow your mind with the best of what English literature has to offer.

    The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s about Dracula, Vlad Tepes, whatever name you prefer, but without the cheesiness and Francis Ford Coppola. It’s an adventure through academia! Ahohoho…

  8. Leigh-Anne

    I fourth Arcadia. Absolutely brilliant.

    I would also suggest Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. Also, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

  9. Angie

    You definitely can’t go wrong with anything Kurt Vonnegut – my favorite is Hocus Pocus, closely followed by Bluebeard.

    Also Ten Little Indians by Sherman Alexie (short stories) and Bee Season by Myla Goldberg.

  10. Brett Banks

    Definitely check out:

    John Updike- The Centaur
    or -Brazil

    Bruce Chatwin- the Songlines

    Milan Kundera- well anything by him but especially Immortality

  11. George LeBoeuf

    Madame Bovary-Gustave Flaubert
    The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass
    Papillon – Henri Chaullier

  12. Maria

    If you’re into Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere is quite good- recently finished it and loved it.

  13. Chris

    (Almost) anything by Vonnegut, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. And don’t be alarmed if you feel like you’re missing an inside joke, Heller invites you in around Chapter 10.

  14. Dorothy

    Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is an amazing account of his real-life epic from escaping maximum security Australian prison to becoming a slum doctor and gangster in Bombay, and on top of all the wonderful content he writes beautifully. Plus Johnny Depp is making a movie based on the novel so you know it must be good.

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