I wrote my last exam of the year on Wednesday, and the best part of four-months-off for me is the freedom to read for fun. I spent a lot of time trying to decide on the right book to kick the summer off with; the wrong choice would be akin to waking up on the wrong side of the bed, which is akin to seeing a dead clown baby joke scrawled on the wall of a bus shack -- unsettling. After weeks of preparation and research, I've picked up Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie and although I'm about three pages in, it's looking really, really promising. I love his short fiction and the movie Smoke Signals (his screenplay, based on some of his stories -- kind of like Altman/Carver's Shortcuts, but more hope...) so I think I'm off to a great start. But would I be a neurotic weirdo if I didn't have a rather strict list of other books I am going to try and get to this break? Yes, but I'd be less charming!
Book of Fairy Tales by Angela Carter -- Classic fairy tales re-imagined with a feminist lens? Yes, please! I'm really interested in mythology, fairy and folk tales and the possibility of reinterpretation/modernization so I kinda feel like this is right up my alley. Could be written off as research for my own writing projects but the joke's on them, I'm going to enjoy it!
Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin -- I'm vacillating between forgoing my major in the Classics for a major in Russian studies or just keeping it a minor but either way, studying Russian literature and not having read Pushkin would be like driving a car off a cliff and hoping it will fly.
Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison -- Oh baby, Invisible Man made my year when I read it a couple summers ago and actually changed my world-view. Ellison illustrated perfectly privilege and the racism that springs from the 'good intentions' of white liberals. So raw and visceral and just utterly perfect, it should really be required reading. I am really excited to read Juneteenth!
Dante's Inferno -- I feel like while I am pretty well-read in terms of 19th and 20th century fiction, I am sorely lagging in 'great books'. Considering how much of the Western canon Dante and other greats have influenced I'd best get on that. (If I get through everything else I may tackle Don Quixote, too.)
Anything by William Styron -- I keep meaning to read something of his, and considering that between my roommate and I we have half his novels there's nothing stopping me. I tried reading his memoir on his battle with depression while I was also dealing with serious depression and, although I could only get a few chapters in -- cursed loss of concentration/interest -- his writing really spoke to me.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë -- Mainly because I really also want to read Wide Saragossa Sea by Jean Rhys (this counts as two).
Suttree and/or The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy -- I wish that Cormac McCarthy was some kind of terrifying parasitic bug so he could burrow in my ear and lay eggs in my brain.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa -- Death in the Andes, my first foray into Llosa's work has haunted me for years; I love novels that end with some kind of horrific taboo reveal (to be documented in a list coming soon to a Friday near you...) and I can only hope that Aunt Julia lives up to that initial impression. But, given his prose style, characters and pacing, even if it's only half as good, it'll be a win.
In the book journal I've kept for the last six years there are sections at the beginning of each new year that list the books I hope to read and rarely do I get through all of them, two maybe three at most so I guess I will reconvene at the end of summer to recap and compare my read list to my want-to-read list.
What books are on your lists? What would you recommend to be on my list?
Happy Friday! May you live long and read lots of books!
Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer, a Contributing Editor for the Little Red Umbrella and the co-creator of the Once Again, To Zelda blog, which is where a version of this post originally appeared. You can read the rest of her posts here.