Let’s face it. How much of what we read is based on the New York Times bestseller list? Or what we think makes us look smart? So many books sit on my shelf simply because I felt like I should read them. I suppose there is a time and a place for those types of reads. We should keep our lists current and be educated.
But this is summer. Shouldn’t our summer reading lists be simply for pleasure?
So here are my top ten favorite reads, devoid of pretense or pretension:
A Clockwork Orange, Burgess: Simply, this book fascinated me. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the author pretty much invented a whole new language. Perhaps some found this frustrating, but I found great pleasure in decoding conversations between characters, learning the language as I went along.
And Then There Were None, Christie: I am a sucker for mysteries. And Agatha Christie was truly the queen of mystery. This was one of the first Christie books I read, and it’s one of those books that I picked up and didn’t put down until I’d finished it. Also, I took great pride in having guessed the killer before I’d reached the end; but it was so well written that I did still often have to pause and question my prediction.
This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald: It’s just a true coming-of-age tale. I’ve always preferred Fitzgerald to Hemingway, though when they are often compared, Hemingway wins out for most. And for those who love Fitzgerald, it’s about Gatsby they rave. But not me. I love this book so much that I’ve read it more than once; and I rarely do that.
The Forgotten Garden, Morton: This read was a guilty pleasure. It’s mindless reading with scandalous thrill. I read it on a roadtrip. It’s one thick novel, yet I read it easily in a few days. History, mystery, romance. It’s so salacious, you can’t help but eat it up.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde: I like most of Wilde’s work, despite how dark and controversial it all is. And of all of his writings, I think this to be the most clever. Of course we all wonder what it would be like to live life free of consequences, and Wilde expertly portrays the dream as well as the repercussions.
Atonement, McEwan: I think I love this book because I loved the movie–one of the rare instances where I’ve seen the movie before reading the book. And because I adore the Knightley–McAvoy combo, as well as a lovely English, WWII era setting, I envisioned just what I’d seen on the big screen as I read.
The Bell Jar, Plath: You know when you pick up a book and it just resonates with you? Plath writes about her struggles with darkness during her transition from youth to adulthood. I read this in my early 20s, as I was finishing school, getting married, and trying to find my way through the world. Though classified as fiction, many believe Plath’s novel to be autobiographical; and it was nice to know that I wasn’t the first to experience the dreaded “quarter life crisis.”
Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert: Somewhere deep down, we’ve all wanted to do as Gilbert did and shuck responsibility for adventure. Maybe you wouldn’t have picked traveling the world, but I would have. And what I like most about the book is that Gilbert seems to love traveling for the same reasons I do–it’s not just about seeing a new place. It’s about discovering new parts of you made obvious by new surroundings.
Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro: I’ll admit, this is a weird one for me. It’s pretty sci-fi. But then, the story is so gripping, so moving, so true to life at some points, I often forgot the science fiction side of it. I was consumed with the characters and the setting.
The History of Love, Krauss: This novel is full of the most lovely surprises. The characters are very realistic, and the story line is perfectly plotted. I love knowing that Krauss must have put much thought and heart into the story.