Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5 College Books That Need to Be On Your Summer Reading List

Most of the time, the books you have to read for school are pretty unexciting. Fortunately, I've taken some courses in my day that actually provided me with some amazing reads-- like stuff I'd read again. For fun. It's craziness, I tell you!

Wanna know five books that will make you feel highly educated at the beach this summer?

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Read for: Terror of the Gothic

Enough with this Twilight bull-crap, okay? Dracula is an amazing novel. It has creepiness, mystery, suspense, homoeroticism (all kinds of eroticism), and it's just... gah. Don't read Twilight. Read this. Please. Dracula doesn't sparkle and is really badass, okay? Please, my soul is crushed by the wimpy teen vampire craze sweeping the nation-- nay, the world.

The White Boy Shuffle, by Paul Beatty

Read for: African-American Novels of Satire

This book got some press a few years ago, and was relatively new when I read it for class. Gunnar Kaufman is "an awkward, black surfer bum" who faces racism with humor and wit. He becomes a star basketball player, and then a star poet who resents the bourgeois fans who see him as a messiah of the ghetto.

One of his poems reads:

the full may moon
Christopher Walken's forehead
finally has competition.

If that doesn't convince you....

Fanny Hill, OR Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, by John Cleland

Read for: Topics in 18th Century British Literature: Gender

If you love something steamy for the beach, try this novel on for size. This short, fast-paced porno is worth a read purely for its amazingly hilarious, graphic descriptions of the male anatomy, but also if you'd like a look into how 18th Century Brits talked dirty and got it on. It's way more graphic than I expected. This is a great way to read a por-- I mean romantic novel while still being able to argue you're high-browed and totally not a perv. Just say something about how its an interesting depiction of gender roles way back when (it is).

As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

Read for: William Faulkner Seminar

This is another short but great read. If you're intimidated by Faulkner's long, confusing sentences, this is the book for you, since there's little of that here. The text is written in chapters from the perspectives of each character, so the form is still a bit experimental, but it's definitely accessible. The Bundren family journeys to bury their dead matriarch, bringing out the best and worst in all of them. It's an interesting study of different personalities. While there's humor sprinkled throughout, the book gets pretty heavy as it goes on, tackling topics like abortion and the nature of sanity. This was probably my favorite read for the course, so I'd recommend it. You could probably get it done in a night, after which you can say why yes I do read Faulkner and laugh haughtily.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

Read for: Intro to British Literature

If you have not yet read this and you enjoy looking at the follies of humanity, amazing wit, and Oscar Wilde, you haven't lived. This is one of my all-time favorites, in part because Oscar Wilde is an impeccable writer with so very much to say. The novel follows Dorian Gray, a handsome young man who essentially trades his soul for beauty, as he changes from nobleman to monster. Wilde's only novel shows the hideousness of debauchery and vanity through the effects Dorian's actions have on the portrait he so loves-- but grows to hate. Suspense, murder-mystery, and satire abound in this excellent piece.

What's the best book you had to read for class? What are you reading this summer?


Kelly said...

I got Dracula a couple years ago when I lived alone and I had to stop in the middle of the book because I was getting too scared reading it all alone at night! I definitely have to revisit that. I'm reading The Hound of the Baskervilles now and while it scary too, it's much more tolerable with my boyfriend sleeping next to me!

Thanks for the other recs, will have to check them out!

Jessica said...

Love this post, and cannot believe you were assigned Fanny Hill for school. Very cool.

The best book I was assigned - The Awakening by Kate Chopin, about a 'good' woman seduced into following her dreams. Gorgeous book, wrote tons of papers on it.

Next best would have to be The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

And I was also assigned to watch Fight Club for gender studies - that was pretty cool.

thanks for the list :-}


Zmaga said...

I am intrigued. I'll definitely try reading at least one of these, probably Dracula, because I am a Twilight fan *blushes*

k. davis said...

hmm, I'll have to look into these... I'm a big reader and haven't picked up any of these.

Vanessa said...

Kelly: I was really surprised by how scary just reading that book was. I've never thought of myself as someone who'd be freaked out by an old timey horror novel, but it was awesome. Luckily I was in college living with a roommate, so it wasn't TOO freaky. Definitely give it another look.

Jessica: My school is pretty darn liberal. I know our professor said that her friends who've read it were always shocked she was teaching it. Of course, the class we spent discussing it dissolved into giggles every time we read a passage....

Zmaga: I won't judge... TOO much. But definitely try out Dracula just to see how different it is. I think you'd find it interesting!

K.davis: glad I could be of help!

Vanessa said...

Also, if you guys really like this, I'll try to think of more of these (there probably would've been if I didn't have such a bad memory)... or maybe you could share some of yours and what course you read them for and we could do another installment with YOURS too!

amanda said...

I read a fantastic online discussion about Dracula and the gender roles and how subversive the novel really is/was. It made me desperate to get my hands on a copy and finally read the damn thing.

I don't know one person who didn't L-O-V-E 'The Portrait of Dorian Grey'.

My History of Las Vegas had the best reading list: 'The Rat Pack', a book on the mob, and a total gem called 'BROTHEL' -- in all caps.

Anonymous said...

It took a few years, but I'm glad I had to read "Great Gatsby" in high school. I love it now and I have a few other Fitzgerald books on my shelf waiting to be read.

Also, I really enjoyed Willa Cather's "O Pioneers." I don't really know why - really strong, interesting female protagonist, I guess.

Rachel Elizabeth said...

Being an English major I have had to read some really incredible stuff to class. I have yet to read Picture of Dorian Gray though which I've been meaning to check out. Also, I've never read anything by Faulkner so that may be on my summer reading list as well. Just finishing up The Memory Keeper's Daughter which is making me fall in love with my soon to be born daughter more and more everyday.


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