Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Off The Grid Summer Reading

The iconic literary and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Philip Roth says that he has stopped reading fiction, altogether. I happen to believe that good fiction is still out there. I’m not going to be a prude and say that mainstream fiction isn’t good. I might make criticisms for a living, but I am by no means a snob. At least, I try not to be. That’s always the danger of professional criticism. For example, if Harry Potter and John Grisham are your homeboys, that’s fine. One thing that does annoy me about people’s reading habits is often they don’t look off the grid for some good reads. We see this often with summer reading lists. I mean, if you want to read popular novels that amount to soap operas, I have nothing against that. Whatever floats your boat is my motto when it comes to reading. At least you’re reading something. Though, I feel that supplementing that with some off the grid reading when you go to the beach isn’t a bad thing. Perhaps you might find the following suggestions for summer reading enriching, life affirming and thought provoking as have I over the years. Just because you’re reading on the beach doesn’t mean that your brain turns off. As I said, light reading is fine. I rather you read anything than stare at a phone, a laptop, texting, watching films on your cell phones or said computers (seriously, stop streaming movies. Go to a damn theater and pay the eight bucks. Jeez) but I digress. Hope these suggestions prove memorable reading experiences. Let me explain a bit how this reading list is going to work. It’s going to go from heavier reading to lighter reading. Let’s start with…

1. Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Recently, a picture was snapped of Harry Potter’s Emma Watson reading this book, or as my brother puts it: his future wife. Anyway, back to the book. ‘Perks of Being A Wallflower’ is one of America’s most banned books, because it is a YA novel that deals with sex, drugs, and suicide. It’s one of the most memorable books I’ve read. This one can be read by both adults and teenagers. I would suggest you buy your teenager this book instead of a ticket to see the most recent summer blockbuster. The story is a series of letters by a kid named Charlie addressed to someone. We don’t know who he is writing these letters to, but he does have a secret that we don’t know till the end of the book. At times shocking and at times, life affirming, this book has been one of the most beloved of my suggestions. Charlie is a depressed teenager who with the help of his two friends, experiences what it’s like growing up on the edge. Oh, yeah, the film is Emma Watson’s first project, post-Harry Potter.

2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a story of a nerd before the time it was cool to be a nerd. He starts out a slim, good looking kid that everyone thinks will go a long way. Such a good looking kid, they suggest he’ll be breaking hearts. But soon that all goes wrong, as he become overweight and obsessed with being the next J.R.R. Tolkien, writing his novels and becoming involved in nerd culture. Though, that’s not all the book is about. The book is also about his mother’s time in the Dominican Republic. His sister’s problems. His friend’s observations about him. It all accumulates into a story just as much about being different in America as it does about legacy, heritage and the culture that engulfs our lives.

3. Any book by Nick Hornby- the British master of light, fun books to read, he also makes memorable characters. Mostly known in the states for books that get made into American movies, like ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘About A Boy’, are something that are wonderful. Because Hornby doesn’t write big epics (like Oscar Woa) or life affirming dramas (like Perks), he instead writes about people and their lives. I don’t want to fill this list up with a ton of books that might depress you. Nick Hornby is funny, honest and writes books about people you might know. And as I try not to depress you too much, I move onto…

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. I suppose a lot of you are looking for something to read after Harry Potter, but probably don’t want to go through an ordeal with a villain as evil as Vodemort. You can read my review of ‘Percy Jackson’ on this blog, but let me summarize it for you in this article. Rich Riordan brings a funny wit to a story of a dysfunctional kid from New York City who discovers at a camp the son of a Greek God. He ends up going on adventures with his two friends as they fight evil and try to stop the Gods from starting another war. Ok, this sounds like Harry Potter, but so what? It’s a well written YA novel.

Hope you all have a good summer.

No comments: