SOMEWHAT LITERATE'S TOP TEN FAVORITE READS
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I've started to read this book every summer. This is a book that demands to be reread. When I was originally assigned it in a terrible high school English class, I truly didn't like the book. Thank goodness I decided to give it another whirl a few years later because now it is one of my favorite books. The language is just perfect. One of my favorite lines in literature is in this book ("You look so cool...you always look so cool"). Gives me chills every time.
2. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I am in love with this man. No, really, I am. Except I would never want to marry him and ruin his absolutely perfect marriage with fellow writer Nicole Krauss (she's coming up in a bit) because I love her too. I kind of just want to live with them and their perfect, awesome, literary power family and try to absorb their amazingness. This book is beautiful. Original, but not at all gimmicky, striking prose, inventive story lines. Oscar is one of the best characters in literature and I would like to adopt him.
3. Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare
I have an intense love affair with Shakespeare, and I am often asked what my favorite play is of his. I think I finally have an answer: Much Ado about Nothing. It's outrageously funny, but definitely dramatic. I love Beatrice so much, she is definitely a dream role of mine. I directed this play in high school, so it also is very dear to my heart. This is Shakespeare at his finest. Like Gatsby, I have parts of it memorized that still give me chills.
4. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Nicole Krauss is the lovely young wife of Safran Foer, and to be honest, their novels are EERILY similar. They both focus on child protagonists lost in NYC, they both contain elements of magical realism. Even though the two books are bizarrely similar, they both are great enough that it doesn't bother me at all. Though I think Foer is the more inventive writer, I believe that Krauss is perhaps the more gifted. Her sentences are so lyrical, often reading like poetry. "Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." Oh lord. Swoon!
5. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
I need to read this again. I read it last summer, put it down, and my face was blown off. I really loved the attention to detail, the gorgeous pacing, the eeriness of the whole thing. I read it so fast, though, I need to slow down this time around to pick up more.
6. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
I read a lot of memoirs for one reason or another, and this is by far my favorite. Walls' story is incredible. I've been through quite a lot in my life, but I can't even imagine the strength it must have taken to live through her childhood. It's beautifully and bravely written. I was so enthralled while reading this that I actually took it to a party while in high school and read it there. Yeah, I was a real cool kid.
7. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I really like everything I've read of Steinbeck. I haven't read this for five years, so I'm reluctant to still include it. However, I am so in love with Tom Joad that I feel he still deserves a solid place on this list.
8. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
What a weird book. Surreal and magical, Bender pushes the limits of dream and reality and creates bizarrely whimsical stories. She isn't for everyone, but I have fallen in love with her. Each story in this collection is a treat.
9. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
I. Love. Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five was my first Vonnegut, and I think it remains so, with Cat's Cradle a close second. This book completely changed my way of thinking about time and mortality. I still think about this book often, and it's been over a year since I've read it. A lot of people dismiss this as "just another anti-war book" but those people obviously are missing the entire point. Sure, it's obviously against war. But more importantly it shows that it is inevitable, as is death. So it goes.
10. No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Another great book of really strange short stories. Not all of them are great, but when July hits the mark, she REALLY nails it. This collection, like Bender's, is heavily surreal and may require the reader to let go of certain expectations. Her stories are truly beautiful and her writing is fantastic. I definitely recommend her.
Honorable mentions: Circling the Drain by Amanda Davis, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, Shakespeare's Cannon.