Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More on Summer Reading

As I've talked to students this week about my plans for the summer (basically trips to Nashville to visit Avery and Stuart and a big stack of books), some have asked me for suggestions. Ariel said she wanted a book to read on the beach but that she didn't really like to read. I am always torn when asked for this kind of advice.

For example, I know how much hundreds of girls--and grown women--devour the Nicholas Sparks books. We've had a raging controversy for years in the North Carolina English Teachers Association. Some members of the board would like to bring in Sparks (a Tarheel) to speak at our conference, while others turn up their noses. He is, after all, a confessed author of formula books. He studies what makes women read (or cry) and he writes just that.

Am I doing a disservice to the cause of great literature when I recommend James Patterson or John Grisham, authors who write engaging page turners, but who will probably never win the Pulitzer Prize? I am a confessed book snob, so I am always on a quest for the next great American (or international) novel, but does an appreciation for fine cuisine keep me out of the Whoppers and French fries? (Well, actually yes.)

I can share some books I found impossible to put down: Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, Yann Marterl's Life of Pi, Markos Zusak's The Book Thief. I haven't read anything yet by Jodi Piccoult, but she comes highly recommended. Do I pass along an untested tip?

For those who haven't read them, I suggest the books that every human being should read:

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird heads my lists for students who somehow made it through middle and high school without reading that wonderful, timeless classic. I haven't read Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca in many years, but I loved it so much that I read everything else on that shelf in the library growing up. I kept going back to see if perhaps she had written something new. I mentioned Richard Adams' Watership Down in an earlier post. I stand by that recommendatin. One book I could read over and over is T. H. White's Once and Future King. I love the Arthurian legend, but this is absolutely the most moving, the most readable. He has little sections I go back and read again and again (the sons of Margawse killing the unicorn, hoping to gain their mother's approval--or at least attention). I love Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine as a summer read. (I suggest a recent discovery, his From the Dust Returned, for Halloween season.)

I'll post some reading lists--mine and those of others as well--before summer officially arrives. I am always eager for others' suggestions as well.


Laura said...

Summer of the Monkeys and Where the Red Fern Grows will always be favorites, but I always appreciate books like TKAM and WD.

Avery and Stuart can't wait to have you hear to read Goodnight Moon, though.

Laura said...

HERE to read. Not HEAR to read. Sorry!

Amber said...

So much pressure when a non-reader asks for a suggestion! I both love and hate it. For folks I suspect won't be frightened by its length, I offer The Time Traveler's Wife. For those with shorter attention spans, I loan out copies of essays by Laurie Notaro or David Sedaris. I find most folks can make it through a Mitch Albom (even my sis who only reads in the hospital after bearing children), and that a lot of women like Jennifer Weiner and Jane Green for the beach. For dog lovers, Marley and Me. Lately I'm recommending two by Marisa de los Santos-- Love Walked In and Belong to Me.
My vote is for whatever gets someone reading. If they want to forever stick with sap or page-turners, I don't really get it, but I guess it takes all kinds. There are plenty folks who can't fathom why I can't work up an interest in Harry Potter. (I know, I'm sorry, but I just don't care!)