Screw summer reading lists. Those are for chumps. They’re also for people who never read, because (with the sole exception of Fahrenheit 451 from my freshman year of high school) the only books on them are books that no one in their right mind enjoys. Throughout high school, I asked my teachers if I could substitute books for ones on the list. Instead of some boring ass Isabel Allende that my lunatic teacher liked, I wanted to read Catcher in the Rye. Instead of doing my literary analysis (ahem, prep school) on War & Peace, something I’ve never even wanted to read and I was positive my teacher had never opened, either, I lobbied for (and won, gladly, because Kurt Vonnegut is why I’m so awesome today) Slaughter-House Five.
I’m glad that my love for books overpowered my distaste for authority. I wish my love for art had done the same. I flourished in my literature courses, but I failed high school art because I was told to do this certain thing in this certain way by this certain time. That’s not art, that’s structure.
But I always read because I loved it so much. I read during the summer not because of the list, but because it was so goddamn miserable outside and what am I gonna do, get a tan? I think not.
Now that the days are shorter and I dislike snowy roads about as much as I dislike any SPF below 45 (surely you jest, SPF 30), I’ve made up a Winter Reading List for myself. Nothing too ambitious. I still have two jobs, you know.
1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. Supposedly, Susanna Clarke spent something like 15 years researching and outlining this book about magicians in 1805. The Internet says there’s a movie based on it, but it’s British and has Kenneth Branagh in it so it might be limited to the BBC. Anyway, it’s 1007 pages long and I’ve been neglecting fiction lately. I think I’ll be well into this sometime in January.
2. Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller. I know I’m supposed to have read this by now. It’s sexy and controversial and it’s a classic. But I’ve never read it, and now I’m going to because I found it for $3 at the secondhand used bookstore.
3. The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff. More fiction. This one is kind of a female book, but more like Oprah will probably pick it in a few years and less like actual chick lit. Plus it got blurbed by Stephen King and, as far as I can tell, is only barely about monsters.
4. The Overseas Press Club Cookbook, by Sigrid Schultz. Another used bookstore find, this one for only 50 cents! Published in 1962, it’s a combination cookbook-essay collection-memoir from press club members. The first chapter is titled “High Echelon Banqueting.” Wooooot.
5. No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July. I love story collections. I devour them. I’m hesitant to even put this one on the list, because I’ll probably finish it standing up in two days.
6. Bitten, by Susie Bright. Same as above, only this is gothic erotica so I’ll probably finish it lying down.
Speaking of books, when my sister was knocked up with my nephew, I bought her some books. Well, I bought him some books. I bought books that I’d loved when I was a kid, some that I love even more now that I’m an adult. The Giving Tree, Goodnight Moon, Where The Wild Things Are. Anyone want to see the wild rumpus with me on Sunday?