Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reading List

Disclaimer: Sorry, I think this is a boring post. Yawn... Blame it on April being National Book Month.


The new students in my graduate writing program at PSU are being presented with a Reading List upon acceptance into the program. They are expected to read all of the books during the time they are in the program, even though most of them will not be required course reading.

Because I started the program eons ago, I don't have to meet this requirement. But it does look like a good list. I've read 11 of the 31 books on the list already. (Although I think I should be able to count John McPhee, because I've read 4 or 5 other books by him.) I've marked the ones I've read in red (haha - word play!) with a comment or two.

Have you read any of them? Any favorites? Recommendations?


Baker, Nicholson.  U and I (1991).
Baldwin, James.  Nobody Knows My Name (1961) OR Notes of a Native Son (1955).
 Baldwin always seems deep and dark to me. Am I smart enough to be a good Baldwin reader? Not sure...
Capote, Truman.  In Cold Blood (1965).
 Read this last year, just as Kendra was getting ready to move to Kansas (where the story is set). It kept my interest better than I thought it would, and there was less blood and gore than I thought there would be...although there was still plenty...
Conover, Ted.  Newjack (2000).
Didion, Joan. Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968) OR The White Album (1979).
Another author that makes me think I'm not much of an intellectual. The constant L.A. artsy scene was hard to keep reading and reading and reading...
Eggers, Dave.  A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) OR Zeitoun (2009).
Ehrenreich, Barbara.  Nickel and Dimed (2001).
 I thought this was a fascinating book. Ehrenreich tries an experiment to see if she can live on minimum wage for several months. Of course, she still had her "real" life to go back to after the experiment, unlike people who have to live on that kind of income all the time.
Fox, Paula.  Borrowed Finery (2001).
Gornick, VIvian.  The Situation and the Story (2001).
 I may have read this, but I'm not sure. I've heard about it a lot. It's definitely on my "must read" (re-read?) list. A solid, thoughtful book for writers.
Mitchell, Joseph.  Up in the Old Hotel (1992).
Herr, Michael.  Dispatches (1977).
Hersey, John.  Hiroshima (1946).
 I've read Hiroshima several times. I used to teach it in freshman English. Moving. It looks deceptively's short, the language isn't deep, but the content shakes me every time I re-read it.
Kapuscinski, Ryszard.  Shah of Shahs (1985).
Kerrane, Ken and Ben Yagoda.  The Art of Fact (1997).
LeBlanc, Adrian.  Random Family (2004).
Lopate, Philip.  The Art of the Personal Essay (1994).
 I read Lopate's "how to" essay book several years ago. Probably time to read it again.
Malcolm, Janet.  The Journalist and the Murderer (1990).
Mailer, Norman.  The Armies of the Night (1968).
Markham, Beryl.  West With the Night (1942).
 This was a fascinating memoir of growing up in Africa. Markham was a bush pilot at a time when few women were flying. It was really interesting to read.
McPhee, John.  The John McPhee Reader (1977).
 Like I said, I've read a lot of McPhee, but I don't think I've read this one. I like his writing. He explains complicated-but-interesting things, like geology, in an accessible way.
Murakami, Haruki.  Underground (2001).
Orwell, George.  Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).
 Orwell seemed to drag on and on in this book. I read it because it was assigned, but I don't think I'll go back to it.
Royte, Elizabeth.  Garbage Land (2005).
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis (2003).
Skloot, Rebecca.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010).
 I've heard a lot about Skloot's book, too, and I'd like to read it. I wonder if she is related to the Oregon writer, Floyd Skloot?
Smith, Zadie.  Changing My Mind (2010).
Stewart, Rory.  The Places in Between (2004).
Thoreau, Henry David.  Walden (1854).
 Thoreau does tend to go on and on, and I couldn't help but be irritated by the artificial construct of his life at Walden - he couldn't have lived there without the help of the people in town - and yet, that ideal of simplicity, of a turning away from superfluous trappings, is so enticing...
Twain, Mark.  Roughing It (1872).
 I enjoyed this Twain book much more than I expected to. He is such an engaging liar, but even then he's telling about places in the West with such beauty and reality. I would gladly re-read Roughing It.
Wallace, David Foster. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997) OR Consider the Lobster (2005).
Wolfe, Tom.  Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby (1965) OR The Electric-Acid Kool-Aid Test (1968).
I read The Electric-Acid Kool-Aid Test last year, and I still think about it. It was interesting, repulsive, sad, all at the same time. Parts of it made me really angry. It gave me a much fuller understanding of Ken Kesey, a revered Oregon writer, than I had before reading Wolfe's book. I can't make up my mind about Kesey, and I feel that way even more after reading this book.


Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

Most of the time when I see book lists, I've pretty well familiar with 1/3 to half of them and have heard of most of them...I haven't even heard of most of these. Eric would probably do better than me though. :)

Dorothy said...

I had the same thought! Usually from any given list I've even read a number of them. This one is ALL new to me.

Bryan Lewis said...

I haven't read any of these books, either. Good luck with the reading!

Mike Koponick said...

I don't think I have read any of these books. I suppose I would have to read the last few pages to see if I would like them or not.