A Backlisted Reading List | Summer 2006 with a Classical Bent

Do yourself a favor this year and dip into some of the classics you may have missed—even if it was intentional.



literature.jpgAs the publishing industry loves to remind us, summer is a great time to catch up on reading. Unfortunately, this usually entails gulping down the literary equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup or taking one too many hits on the Oprah pipe. Do yourself a favor this year and dip into some of the classics you may have missed—even if it was intentional. You get a pass on Shakespeare for now, but only if you promise to attend one of the many summer productions of the Bard’s work. This list is a perfect warm-up for next summer’s thrilling All-Russian Spectacular.

  1. The Catcher in the Rye | J.D. Salinger
        Everyone has had a problem with this book at one time or another: feminists, culturists, conservatives, liberals, Marxists, deconstructionists, et al. While it hasn’t escaped completely unscathed from the constant embattlement, the book still has legs. Haven’t you ever had the strange sensation that you were surrounded by nothing but phonies?
    2. Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen
        Really, almost any Austen will do. With so many film adaptations of this one, though, it’s bound to be readily accessible for even the tepid.
    3. The Crying of Lot 49 | Thomas Pynchon
        Harold Bloom named Pynchon one of the four major novelists of his time, and this frolicking, paranoid masterpiece is still riveting four decades later.
    4. Don Quixote | Miguel de Cervantes
        The “big book.” It’s not only reading material, but also a statement that “you mean business.” Inside, it’s the song of an original raconteur.
    5. In Praise of Idleness | Bertrand Russell
        Our president once told a woman that having three jobs was “fantastic” and “uniquely American.” Listening to Russell is infinitely wiser, and better for your health.
    6. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson | Emily Dickinson
        Sublime reading at its apex, whether you inhale it all at once or sip it like a bottle of first-growth Bordeaux perfection.
    7. A Room With a View | E. M. Forster
        As Mr. Beebe says: “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her.”
    8. The Importance of Being Earnest | Oscar Wilde
        A comedy of manners as funny, witty, and biting as it was more than 110 years ago.
    9. The Complete Essays | Michel de Montaigne
        An unrivaled and engrossing collection of wisdom, philosophy, observation, and humanity. The nonfiction of today is a pallid imitation next to such a masterwork.
    10. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair | Pablo Neruda
        These poems were published when Neruda was 19 and contain some of the most passionate verse you’ll encounter. Ideal nighttime reading.

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