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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Books to read during the school year

No, your class reading doesn’t count

An oft-quoted complaint during the school year is the limited amount of time for pleasure reading. This interest tends to battle with the demands of being a young adult and student and ultimately loses the fight. Yet sometimes all it takes is a little motivation and a reading list to rediscover that love of reading. Allocate the time; it’s rewarding and it’s important. Below is a list of engaging, intellectual and worthwhile literature to get you started.

“Reincarnation Blues” by Michael Poore

While reading “Reincarnation Blues,” the reader must accept the following reality: humans have 10,000 lives. Ten thousand do-overs and chances to reach a perfect life. Yet what does that perfection entail? Living through the final five lives of Milo, the main character, he and the reader explore this concept, as well as the complications of being in a 100,000-year love affair with Death (talk about commitment). Featuring witty, creative and masterful character descriptions, “Reincarnation Blues” explores what is important about being alive. Indulge in your existential angst.

“Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim” by David Sedaris

To be quite honest, any Sedaris book is perfect for this list — his work is entertaining, lighthearted and digestible. Specifically in this collection of personal essays, his sharp humor and satire concerns the trials and tribulations of his own upbringing in upstate New York and during modern early-adult life. Yet beyond the comic relief, Sedaris embeds his conceptions of the human experience; how our childhood impacts our future self, how significant the relationships with our siblings are, how complicated romantic relationships can be. He finds a unique way for the reader to delve into the bigger picture. Sedaris makes you think without even realizing it.

“South and West” by Joan Didion

Joan Didion is notorious for her ability to observe and describe her surroundings, and more precisely, her ability to observe and describe California and its lifestyle. Born in the Sacramento Valley and a student at UC Berkeley, her works are centered around California living — her feeling of home is simultaneous with her feeling as a stranger in the state. Yet I find “South and West” so intriguing because she moves her location of interest to the Deep South. The first part (and majority) of the book is simply her observations, notes and interviews during an extended road trip to the South with her husband in the 1970s. Coupled with her shorter essay and the remaining portion of the book on California (the West), along with her various other works, the reader finds Didion in a vulnerable state. She knows just as little about the South as many of her readers do. Although written almost 50 years ago, her analyses reign true today. I will say she could have written with a greater amount of empathy — she is rather judgmental of southern life and its citizens. Perhaps this flaw can be excused due to the personal and observational nature of the book itself. Nonetheless, the reader can prescribe empathy on their own, and her work stands as a valuable effort to grasp a region of our country with some of the greatest anxiety and judgement. In a time of turbulent political partisanship, considering the other side is of serious importance.

“The Flick” by Annie Baker

Plays can serve as a quick read, and I often find them most enjoyable to read in a single sitting as if viewing it on stage. This play won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and follows the working lives of three movie ushers in an old-school, run-down New England movie theater. The beauty of this play is in the simplicity of its plot and the the characters, who are frequently overlooked as viable persons of interest. The first scene, in fact, opens on two of the ushers sweeping spilled soda and popcorn after a movie has ended, allowing the reader to realize they have possibly never heard such conversations or been in said social dynamic. Despite the quirks of simplicity, there is a level of tragedy in the play. With a cast of three, the reader intimately gathers the personal history of each usher. While one employee is the young movie buff, the others are adults whose career aspirations seem confined to the movie theater. Questions of practicality versus passion, old versus new therefore arise — ideas worthy of reflection for the college reader.

Written by: Caroline Rutten — arts@theaggie.org


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