Now that I have a summer of free time staring at me, I suddenly have a desire to revisit some good books I’ve enjoyed over the years. I used to read all the time, but somehow, over the last four years, I’ve lost sight of this focus. As an English Literature graduate student (wow… It still feels bizarre to call myself that), I feel like a summer dedicated to reading is a great way to prepare myself for a whirlwind two years. I have a few favorites in mind to start with and a few books I’ve picked up over the last few weeks, months (eek), that I want to finish, but I’m unsure how to proceed with the rest of my list. I have a pretty extensive collection of classics on my bookshelf at home, many of which I’ve been planning on reading for a while, but where to start?
I’ve never really been a huge fan of many great American writers, strange I know, as an American, but for some reason the Brits seem to strike my fancy a little bit more effectively. So, do I start there, or do I accept the fact that I am going to be studying British literature for the rest of my life and, therefore, dedicate my summer to reading the great American novels I have missed in my pursuit of misty moors and snobby aristocrats and dreary London?
Books are so crazy in a way. I can carry around whole worlds and time periods in my purse. Crazy. They never tell me to come back later or schedule any black out dates. A book will always love me. I know my poor neglected copies of Sula and Hard Times and Anna Karenina will still be more than willing to spend some quality time together even though I haven’t looked at them in over a year…. or two.
So, summer project: read. Read often and read much. Read for fun and read for knowledge. Read inside, outside, in the rain and in the sun. Many of my friends have dedicated their summers to spending some quality time at the beach. I should probably have joined this trend too. Last night, I made the mistake of typing “Seton Hall campus winter” into a Google search. Scary. I’m still shivering just thinking about it; however, I have decided that Orlando is not the most beach-friendly city. Reading it is.
Now for the plan:
First, the books I’ve started and have yet to finish.
1. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
My best friend gave me this book for my birthday…. in August. I was so excited to start reading it, ready to let Elizabeth Gilbert’s voyage of self discovery fill me up and rescue me from my own terror about my life and the future and missing out on life experiences. I was. I promise. However, life got in the way as it always seems to do, and I just started a few weeks ago. I’m already about 1/3 of the way through. She’s done the eating. I’m about to enter the praying portion. I have loved every bit of her story so far: her adventure, her sense of self-confidence even in the midst of a life that seems to be falling apart, her writing and the way it takes me on a journey through each sentence, the way it captures my sense of comfort and adventure at the same time. Everything. So, first and foremost, I will finish this book. :)
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
I started this book sometime in…… November, maybe. I hadn’t read much Wilde in the past, but he had come highly recommended by so many of my friends. After mentioning it about a hundred times, I received a copy of this book from my parents for Christmas two years ago. Sadly, even with all my good intentions of reading it immediately, thesis research and full-time teaching and whatever other handy excuses I can list got in the way, and I never opened it. This November, I decided I needed something to save me from the stress of my constant thesis work, so I decided to finally visit the famed words of Oscar Wilde, and I was not disappointed. I found myself underlining and starring line after line. I carried Oscar with me to the lake, the park, the mall, class, the library. Everywhere. I loved his simple yet elegant writing, but somehow, one day, he was evicted from my bag to make room for thesis research and never found his way back. Until now.
Next, the ones I’ve read and loved or have meant to read and love for a while.
3. Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
Yet another I’ve been meaning to revisit. I skimmed through this one in high school, got a jist of the story, and moved on. I was intimidated. I had read Jane Eyre after all and was not ready to repeat that experience any time soon. So what if this one was written by the other sister? How could it possibly be better? Now, I see that I probably did myself a disservice. I never should have thumbed through, broken the magic of an undiscovered story. Now, I am dedicated to reading it all the way through, word for word. Hopefully Emily will not disappoint me.
4. The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger
Of course I’ve read this one already. Of course I’ve fallen in love with this book already. It might seem silly to spend my time, my limited free time, rereading when I have so many books on my shelf I’ve never opened, but I can’t help it. I simply cannot let Holden have all the fun on his own. Something about this story spoke to me the first time I read it. Something about it helped me realize that I had to dedicate my life to studying the words and stories and recorded experiences of others, fictional or not. Sometimes I believe Holden and I are kindred souls. We’re both desperately searching for our places in the world, clinging to what feels comfortable while truly hating those who exist rather than live. So what do I say to the people who call my silly for this crazy plan? …. Phonies.
5. The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
While this exact anthology is sitting on my shelf at home, I have to admit that I probably won’t read the whole thing. Not immediately anyway. I will probably break it up with other delightful literary adventures, but I do want to begin. Holmes has got to be one of the most quintessential characters of all time. I need to at least meet him. Besides, it’s such a beautiful book, how can I leave it neglected any longer? Also, who doesn’t love a good mystery story?
So those are the five I have in my plan for now. For some, that might seem adequate, but I have a feeling I will need more. I guess I’ll see where my desires take me. I have a shelf full of worlds, experiences, characters, and opportunities. Let the adventure begin.