….even if you no longer get “summer vacation.” So here I go, making summer reading plans. Even though, you know, I still have to wake up every day and clock in and out and all that stuff. I can’t get used to the idea that I actually won’t have any more free time than I have now, so I’m looking for guitar lessons and drawing classes and all sorts of things I don’t have the time or money to do. But I can afford to read, since I already own books and have a library card, and I have been getting better at carving out more time in my day for reading. Television is getting really boring. So. I’ve been considering my reading, thinking about the interactions I have with colleagues, trying to get in the heads of my characters in the novel I’m writing, and keeping track of conversations I have with students so that I can come up with a good list of books/authors/genres I need to read in the next few months.
- Literature originally published for grown people. I recently started reading some fiction for adults (just occasionally), and I have to admit it’s actually not terrible, and probably everyone should read it sometimes. So I think I’ll make it a point this summer to read a bit more of it, especially a few of the “classics” and the popular literary fiction out lately that people like. I’m going to be picky about it – I will never be someone who reads shit like The Help, but there are authors I should probably be familiar with and who aren’t the usual white guys in New York or graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, so I might even be able to stomach them and not want to throw things at them. So based on colleague (and friends outside of work) recommendations and stuff that we buy at work that looks good, here is what has made the shortlist: Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Black Girl in Paris by Shay Youngblood, Girl Trouble: Stories by Holly Goddard Jones, Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
- “Classics,” or “shit that you would likely see on an English course syllabus that I never read.” I’ve never had a problem not having read many of the classics, because the thing about classics is that you can still participate in culture having not read them. And also because I’m a librarian, so I know a lot about A LOT of books while never having read them. But sometimes I feel like a hack and a loser, and also, in my novel I’m writing about kids in an AP English class and I can’t remember what those classes are even about. And sometimes classics sound interesting, unfortunately. So, the shortlist here consists of The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts (serendipitous discovery while weeding; looks fascinating), The Portrait of a Lady or What Maisie Knew by Henry James (I really liked “Daisy Miller” when I read it during a summer course), Othello by William Shakespeare (I know – it does seem like of all the Shakespeare plays, it’s a shame I have not read this one), Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (a colleague lent it to me a hundred years ago and I suck), Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (because I read We Were Liars), and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. I like to think that this is a respectable list that will give me more clout in the parts of society where they aren’t into the literature I’m rather expert in, but I think it’s also pretty clear where my political and other affiliations lie with regards to the canon.
- Dystopias and speculative fiction with more diverse content. I had pretty much given up on dystopias, because they’re all derivative of The Giver and about white girls with flowy hair. But having written that article for Lee & Low’s blog (see “read me elsewhere”) and participated in #diverselit chat, I realize I’m missing a lot of stuff that I would probably really enjoy, since there was a time when dystopian stuff was my jam. And while I’m willing to do this, I’m still not really willing to start new trilogies because officially I still hate them. So I’m only going for standalones or series that are complete. Some titles that have been brought to my attention: Legend by Marie Lu, Tankborn by Karen Sandler, Diverse Energies (an anthology that I was given ages ago and never read – have I mentioned enough that I feel terrible about doing such things and I’m trying to be a better person?), Partials by Dan Wells, Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, and the much belated (but hopefully not unwarranted) sequel to The House of the Scorpion, The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer.
- Nonfiction in print. I’ve started doing audiobooks, which is great, because it has helped me get through my nonfiction TBR (I just can’t seem to focus on fiction audiobooks). I like learning things, and in another life, I would be a neurologist. But I do own some nonfiction books in print already, and I want to read them, so here’s to Gulp by Mary Roach, The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales, and Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer.
- Books students are astonished to find I haven’t read. Because I really do respect and admire so many of them that I’d like to take their book recommendations seriously. So I think I’ll go for The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau, and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.
That’s to say nothing of the books I’ve preordered and that I will probably drop everything to read whenever they land in my mailbox. And, you know, books I might pick up and discover. I’m doing some reading into screenplay writing, and I always try to throw some poetry into places.
And things. Stuff people have lent me. Things that I fall over and realize I must have. Probably some ARCs that I have lying around.
There will be books. Lots of them. But at least those five themes are going to be a thing. I think I’ve been really good about two of my three reading challenges (and I already knew I was going to suck at the third), so I can clearly handle adding something new in there. I will make it feel like summer vacation, even if I’m just a working stiff. And if any of you out there in the world are planning on reading any of those things, please let me know and we can co-read and co-blog and stuff?