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Need some reading recommendations

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Last summer, I had a ton of recommendations I'd been storing up, and just devoured a bunch of books. I haven't had much time to read since school's been in session, but I'm planning on getting it on over Christmas holiday. So I need some recommendations. To give you a taste of my taste, here's a blog post I made, summarizing what I'd read and what I thought about it:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Isiguro. This book was amazing. It
Edited by solishu

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I thought we had a thread devoted to self-culture, but it looks like not. So I'll hijack this one to share a link: John Jeremiah Sullivan over at the Paris Review got a request for recommendations from a young person who's trying to become "an educated, well-read, cultured, critically thinking person." Sullivan prefaces by saying:

My only piece of advice before recommending some titles would be: don’t fall for the inferiority/superiority racket. We’re not on a ladder here. We’re on a web. Right now you’re experiencing a desire to become more aware of and sensitive to its other strands. That feeling you’re having is culture. Whatever feeds that, go with it. And never forget that well-educated people pretend to know on average at least two-thirds more books than they’ve actually read.

His recommendations are pretty interesting, too (Willa Cather, anything by Borges, Speak, Memory....). My favorite bit is the conclusion, though:

Ignore all of this and read the next cool-looking book you see lying around. It’s not the where-you-start so much as the that-you-don’t-stop. I was reading Phoenix Force novels until I was like thirteen. These days a lot of people I know are into Murakami. I should have said more novels. If it’s by a Russian, read it.

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John Jeremiah Sullivan over at the Paris Review got a request for recommendations from a young person who's trying to become "an educated, well-read, cultured, critically thinking person."

Excellent little article. I read and highly enjoyed Sullivan's 2011 Pulphead and I have Blood Horses sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. He's a young and upcoming author worth keeping track of. Two paragraphs from that article made me laugh.

... Come up with a system of note-taking that you can use in your reading. It’s okay if it evolves. You can write in the margins, or keep a reading notebook (my preference) where you transcribe passages you like, with your own observations, and mark down the names of other, unfamiliar writers, books you’ve seen mentioned (Guy D. alone will give you a notebook full of these). Follow those notes to decide your next reading. That’s how you’ll create your own interior library. Now do that for the rest of your life and die knowing you’re still massively ignorant. (I wouldn’t trade it!) ...

I underline and write in the margins and keep a series of reading/writing notebooks myself. This, in turn, has led to beginning a bibliography document of "must read" authors that is currently over 70 pages long. The number of books I dearly would like to read is in the thousands. Even I live to be a hundred and read two books a week, I'm already not going to make it.

If you get into a writer, go all the way and check out everything he/she has written. This summer I fell into a Defoe hole. Started with the major stuff, the best novels and the good journalism, and then read everything down to the poems and the tedious political pamphlets, since by that point I was equally interested in him as a human being and wanted to have as accurate a map of the inside of his brain as possible. His is one of the minds that helped shape the modern world—we’re literally still telling his stories—so there’s a vital interest. I read Maximilian Novak’s super-solid biography of him, Master of Fictions. That sort of questy reading ends up enriching your experience of each individual book and piece, and it lends a sense of adventure to the whole business, which after all involves a lot of lying down or sitting on your ass.

This is quite true. There is a great pleasure in finding an author whose writing you decide you love and then collecting and reading every single available (and sometimes out of print) book, story and essay that the author wrote. I'm currently in the process of doing this with Mark Helprin, Russell Kirk and Geoffrey Hill.

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That second bit you quote is another thing that I loved about the piece. The truth is, with some exceptions (David Peace--and I've still not read GB84), I tend to avoid falling in the hole for fear of...well, falling in the hole. But it's something I aspire to, anyway.

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It's simply not credible that Auden could have required students to read all of each one of those works. They may have worked students harder in those days, but not that much harder. Literature students were human in 1941 just as they are now.

Perhaps some of the works were read in excerpt only? The Open Culture post and the New York Daily News article seem pretty sure that's not the case, but they don't say why.

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It's simply not credible that Auden could have required students to read all of each one of those works. They may have worked students harder in those days, but not that much harder. Literature students were human in 1941 just as they are now.

Perhaps some of the works were read in excerpt only? The Open Culture post and the New York Daily News article seem pretty sure that's not the case, but they don't say why.

One of the commenters at OC suggests that much of the stuff would have already been read by that point (the Shakespeare, for instance) and so the students could just skip it/skim it. I dunno. It does seem pretty unreasonable.

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It's simply not credible that Auden could have required students to read all of each one of those works. They may have worked students harder in those days, but not that much harder. Literature students were human in 1941 just as they are now.

Perhaps some of the works were read in excerpt only? The Open Culture post and the New York Daily News article seem pretty sure that's not the case, but they don't say why.

But he did.

I don't think it's that unreasonable of a list. This would be for what - about 4-5 months? Most plays, even Sophocles or Shakespeare can be read in a two-hour sitting. When you are a student - and your full-time job is to be a student, then you tear into writing like Dostoevsky's and Baudelaire's.

After consciously forcing myself to read more over the last couple years, I can't help but notice that I'm simply starting to get through books faster than I used to. I don't think it's beyond possibility that, a couple generations ago, they read books much faster than we do now.

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Sure, it would be possible to read all that in four months. If 6000 pages is accurate (and it sounds about right), 50 pages a day seven days a week would do it. But to what end? It would certainly not be possible to discuss or lecture on all of them in class in any depth (notice the class met for two hours a week). It would not be possible to write worthwhile papers on all of them. All you could do was say you had read them, achieving broad reading at the expense of depth. If the reading was done at breakneck speed, that would be even worse. Faster reading does not mean better reading. This is especially true of poetry, which should always be read out loud or at least with the lips moving. Reading Hamlet or even Othello in two hours is akin to playing the Minute Waltz in one minute - it's just too fast to give it the expressive treatment it deserves.

It's not the plays that strike me as unreasonable, though, but the longer works. The Divine Comedy, The Brothers Karamazov, and Moby Dick all in one semester? Those are very rich books. I've spent an entire semester studying Dante and another on Augustine's Confessions, and you could reasonably do the same with Dostoevsky and Melville. Those books aren't meant to be gobbled down faster than they can be digested.

I'm sure it's true, as the commenter said, that students would have already read many of the books on the list. I certainly believe that upper-level literature students back then were more likely to have read most of Shakespeare, probably all the classical authors on the list, many of the poets, etc. That they simply read faster, however, is not an acceptable solution. Our own age is too prone to the superstition of ticking books off lists for the sheer joy of it, and I would hate to think Auden was doing the same thing back in 1941.

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David Bowie's top 100 books

 

Got some Bulgakov, Delillo, Capote, and Nabokov. And I'm sure there's a line from Bowie's discography that I could use here, but my mind is blanking.

Edited by NBooth

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Not books, exactly, but fiction--and poetry--and critical work--and, in short, just about everything stopping just shy of being a novel--is now available at The Partisan Review Online. For free and fully searchable, though a functional table of contents would be nice.

 

Founded in 1934 , Partisan Review magazine was one of the most significant cultural literary journals in the U.S. Throughout its 69-year history (with a brief interregnum in November 1936 to Nov. 1937), Partisan Review editors and contributors have viewed critically both liberal and conservative agendas. Apart from an early connection to the Communist Party, it has eschewed party affiliation.

 

In addition to art and book reviews, Partisan Review contributors wrote on the cultural and political subjects of the day, ranging from psychology and political theories to feature columns from intellectuals who reported on World War II and the Holocaust, the reintegration of Europe, September 11 and the global rise of terrorism, among other topics. For almost seven decades, the magazine published firsthand accounts of American and European arts and culture, and the political scene of various countries.

 

Edited by NBooth

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[sigh] James Franco's reading list for his oral comps.

 

I'm actually more annoyed that I can't find anything to be annoyed about here. Except for the introduction.

 

Ask the lovely Kate Hudson if I didn’t read to her from Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas and brushed up on the gossipy (but still informative) Hollywood textbooks by Peter Biskind like Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood; the follow-up, Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film; and Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America.
 
OK, none of those were on the exam. I just read a lot

 

 

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Allen Ginsberg’s “Celestial Homework”: A Reading List for His Class “Literary History of the Beats”

 

It’s a particularly Ginsberg-ian list, with a healthy mix of genres and periods, most of it poetry—by Ginsberg’s fellow beats, to be sure, but also by Melville, Dickinson, Yeats, Milton, Shelley, and several more. Sadly, it’s too late to sit at Ginsberg’s feet, but one can still find guidance from his “Celestial Homework,” and you can even listen to audio recordings from the class online too.

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