Now that summer is here, I have begun to think about what I would like to read. Typically I set a goal of at least five books each summer. Today I am going to publish my list for this year, as well as a list of books I have read in the past which I highly recommend.
My 2011 Summer Reading List:
1. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
I read A Wizard of Earthsea several years ago when I was in college. It is one of the best fantasy books I have read. Actually, it is one of the best books I have read, period. Since then I have wanted to continue the series, but as things go, I never got around to it. Then, recently, a friend brought a few books over to our house for my wife to read while she is at home with Atticus. I took it as a sign that I should fulfill my intention of completing The Earthsea Cycle.
2. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
I have read many, many selections from this landmark work by America’s most beloved poet, but I have never read it in its entirety. It is with intention to more fully understanding the birth of American poetry that I will begin reading this book.
3. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard
4. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins
This is Billy Collins’s latest work. I have yet to pick up my copy, but I have recently come into a little cash, so I think I will soon be buying it. I have read the first several poems in the book, however, and I am extremely excited about completing it. The subject matter is similar to Ballistics, but while Ballistics was a bit morose and melancholy, Horoscopes for the Dead returns to Collins’s more familiar style of inserting humor and scathing sarcasm into his musings over heady topics.
5. The Chronicles of Narnia by John C. S. Lewis
I have read this entire series many times before, but it is a summer tradition for me. I read through all seven books in one big go, usually in about a week. My favorite books in the series are The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Horse and His Boy, and The Last Battle. My wife loves The Magician’s Nephew.
That’s it for my intended summer reading list. To finish today’s post, I would like to include a list of books I have read during previous summers. I recommend these books for any taste and preference in literature. I list them here in no particular order:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I believe that this is one of the most important American novels ever written, next to only Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. If you have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, I recommend that you do so promptly. My son’s name was inspired by one of the principal characters in this book.
2. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I believe this book definitely deserves a spot on the list of most important books ever written. Samuel Clemens was writing during and after the American Civil War, and he was one of the most outspoken abolitionists of the era. He has a sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek way of making his points, which has lead to him being accused of racism, and his most successful book to be protested in many, many schools and libraries. However, if one reads the book carefully and knows a bit about the author, his message becomes apparent: slavery and forced subservience is an abomination.
3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This is a fantastic Dust Bowl-era novel, and it is a quick read. If you want to enjoy (?) a very sad story, this is the book for you.
4. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
I know that the market is saturated with supernatural, and especially werewolf, stories. Even so, you should give this book a chance. It is nothing…nothing…like the current most popular supernatural romance story. I promise. It takes place in south L.A. and is written in the style of old detective noir stories. There are gangs of werewolves who use their ability to run a methamphetamine ring, an unsuspecting and down-on-his-luck dog catcher, hippie surfers, confused detectives, dangerous romance, and lots and lots of violence. Oh, and the werewolves could more accurately be described as werepitbulls.
5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
I am not recommending this book because the film is scheduled to be released next month; I am recommending it because it is a really good book. The only drawback is that if you haven’t read the entire rest of the series, this may not be a great place to start. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, though, because Rowling’s treatment of her characters is meticulous, and the way in which she deals with the subject matter (primarily mortality, the fear of death, and the afterlife) is profound and mature. It is the perfect climax and resolution to a series as magnanimous as Harry Potter. And if you like a good villain, the Dark Lord Voldemort is probably my favorite antagonist ever written. He is truly malignant, cold, and vicious, and he really shines in books six and seven of the seven-part series. Make no mistake: Harry Potter may start out as children’s literature, but by the end it is as dark, deep, and original as any of its canonized peers. Yes, you should certainly read them before you see them.