Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty-One Books for 2011

For those of you who don't know what to get me for Christmas yet (kidding... unless you are, of course, looking for gift ideas for me...), let's compile a list of must-reads for 2011:

1. Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone--So a few months ago I read I Know This Much Is True... Can I just say this was an amazing, beautiful novel? I can't wait to read something else by Lamb. Friends have recommended She's Come Undone, which I believe was his debut novel. As an aspiring novelist, I am always interested in reading successful authors' first published works.

2. Speaking of first published works, as much as I love Jodi Picoult, I have never read her debut novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale. Almost everything I've read by Picoult has grabbed me and not let go, from the very first page--with two exceptions: Keeping Faith and Harvesting the Heart. Harvesting the Heart was another early work (her second novel, I believe), so I'm interested to see how I would feel about her first book. While I did enjoy aspects of Keeping Faith, it didn't leave me breathless in the way The Pact, Nineteen Minutes, or My Sister's Keeper did.

World Lit Classics: As a teacher of world literature, I feel obligated to read the following, which are listed in many compilations of college bound reading lists. Not to mention it feels as though there are gaping holes in my education for having not read some of them:

3. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Required reading for 9th grade honors students at my school. I've started it, but never finished it. Still with a title like that, sounds relevant regardlesss of culture, time period, etc., eh?

4. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. This was assigned reading for a film lit class I took in college... but I found out pretty early on we weren't actually held accountable for doing the reading, therefore, like any diligent college senior, I didn't... um... do the reading. Now, yes, I know, for an English teacher who loves to read, this is a terrible admission to make. But in fairness to me, I was taking 18 credit hours that semester, most of them coming from classes in which we WERE held accountable for the reading (and had to write long, in-depth papers in response to such readings). So I don't feel too bad for skipping this one back then, but I've heard such great things about it, that I do feel inclined to pick this one up now. Plus, I probably owe it to Dr. Lidh. Sorry bout that.

5. Feodor Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment. Another piece of evidence pointing toward the gaping holes in the education of an English major with a B.A. and M.A. Never even picked it up. (And no, it wasn't ever assigned, either).

6. Hermann Hesse--Sidhartha

7. Franz Kaftka--The Trial (I have read Metamorphosis--point for me!)

8. Orwell--Animal Farm (I have NO excuse for not reading this. I'm currently rereading 1984 as I teach it with two of my classes. I love 1984, and I can't think of a good reason as to why I've never read the much shorter Animal Farm).

9. Erich Maria Remarque-- All Quiet on the Western Front

10. Sir Walter Scott--Ivanhoe

11. Jonathan Swift--Gulliver's Travels

12. H.G. Wells--The Time Machine

13. Laura Esquivel--Like Water for Chocolate

14. Charlotte Bronte--Jane Eyre

15. Gabriel Garcia Marquez--One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read Love in the Time of Cholera a couple of summers ago. It was fairly enjoyable.

16. F. Scott Fitzgerald--The Great Gatsby

17. Stephen Crane--The Red Badge of Courage

18. Amy Tan--The Joy Luck Club. I've started it probably no less than a dozen times. I will finish it next year!

19. Ernest Hemingway--The Sun Also Rises.

Wow, the classics I've been shirking took up an awful lot of space on my list!

20. Jeanine Cummins A Rip in Heaven. I went to one of Jeanine's readings for her novel The Outside Boy, which I would highly recommend, by the way. A Rip in Heaven was her first work-- a memoir. I have heard only amazing things about it.

21. Mark Winegardner--The Godfather Returns. I loved, loved, loved, Winegardner's Crooked River Burning. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. And I also loved The Godfather (the book, not the movie(s), which I've never really given a chance, to be fair). Therefore, this is a must read for me this year.

I can think of others, but let's keep this list manageable. After all, seventeen classics might be a fairly lofty goal, considering I still have a job, and a daughter, and, you know, a life.

What must-reads am I missing? Comment and let me know!

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