17 May 2012

Ten books I must read this Summer

I’m sure this goes for most people: every summer, in the ridiculously long summer break, I say that I’ll do this or do that. Much akin to the useless New Years’ Resolution, it very rarely gets done, and instead day after day goes by and I have little to show for the three months. However, now that I’m at University, I suppose I should get round to doing something. And what’s easier than sitting down in the sun, with a refreshing drink and a great book?
Rather than revising, I’ve produced the following list of books I will read over the break. Recommendations of others would be gratefully received.

  1. Brave New World – Being a fan of dystopian novels such as Orwell’s 1984, I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. It has avoided me this far, but this summer will definitely be the time when I finally tackle Huxley’s futuristic text and its political messages.
  2. Ulysses – James Joyce published this in 1922; a piece of Modernist writing that is ranked as the best novel of the 20th century by the Modern Library. I suppose that alone justifies it as an essential read.
  3. Sons and Lovers – one can’t avoid the classics. A favourite of my English teacher at school, this is another book that I’ve had in a mental list to read but never got round to. This post, however, will remind me of my resolution and therefore not allow me to put this text on hold for another year (that’s the idea, anyway) 
  4. 'General Prologue' and the Franklin's Tale – from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. We need to get away from the twentieth century. There are two main reasons for reading this: I’m studying it on my course next year, and I find Chaucer’s short tales entertaining. I know many will read this and grimace at the prospect of Chaucer, but it’s alright once you get by the Middle English language.
  5. The Waves – Okay, most will think, after studying Virginia Woolf and her complexities for a year, that I’m mad to be going back to her novels. However, I actually quite enjoyed some of her work, after I recovered from my headache over the first chapter of To the Lighthouse. Be prepared to say ‘I told you so’; I may well put the book down after a couple of chapters.
  6. The Sea – I also will be studying texts after 1945 next year, and where better to start than John Banville’s 2005 novel? Recent novels are often overlooked (by me, as well as others), so I am looking forward to properly diving into twenty-first century fiction for the first time.
  7.  Jerusalem – For similar reasons this time, as well as variety: this is a play. Butterworth’s work received great reviews when it was played at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2009.
  8. Trainspotting – A classic, and no denying it. Most people have heard of this story, and it is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Irvine Welsh’s novel was adapted by Danny Boyle, which reached global success.
  9. Vanity Fair – Victorian texts are a particular favourite of mine, so it’s only fair that they grab a spot or two in my Summer to-read list. Thackeray’s novel satirises society in early 19th-century Britian, and there’s very few things I prefer to satire and sarcasm. The characterisation of the wonderful Becky Sharp is, I’m told, another thing to look out for.
  10. New Grub Street – Set in the literary circles of 19th century London, I’m looking forward to reading a book with about literature and journalism in George Gissing’s time. I only came across the concept of Grub Street in my studies this year, and I’ve only come across this book through my research for this post. Hopefully, it will have been worth the looking for it.

Below are several other texts I am meant to read for my course, but didn’t make it onto my list. It is optimistic to say that I will read half of them:

Langland's Piers Plowman; the first female autobiography in English, The Book of Margery Kempe; poetry by Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, courtiers to Henry VIII; the work of Anne Askew who was burnt at the stake for her Protestant beliefs.

Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty; Daljit Nagra, Look We Have Coming to Dover!; Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching; Caryl Phillips, A Distant Shore; Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and F***ing; Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet.

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