Summer Reading

As I work on compiling my summer reading list, I will post my “short list” of books that you “have to read.” Below is a list of works from my favorite novelists; I’m just kind of browsing through my bookshelf. I’ve used kind of specific criteria to shorten the list.

1. They must be novels. This excludes all verse, drama, epic, collections of short stories; many religious or metaphysical or autobiographical discourses that are novel-like–i.e., The Confessions, Consolation of Philosophy, Plato’s Dialogues, Sartor Resartus, Lavengro and the Romany Rye, etc.; and generally, anything Bakhtin might label as a monologic, rather than a dialogic novel–The Napoleon of Nottingham Hill, Till We Have Faces, Tom Brown’s School Days, etc. (the first two are more pure allegory than monologue–whatever).

2. This kind of follows from number one. They must be “great” novels, or “canonical” in Bloom’s sense, by which I mean they add much to the genre of the novel. Much as I love, say, Greenes, Amises, Wodehouses, Chestertons, Smolletts, Kiplings, etc., I can’t say that their novels are seminal to the genre of novel. Some considerations: A. Are they included in core English studies at UD? B. Should they be? Rather subjective, I admit, and perhaps hard to back up with a few of the selections: The Satyricon, The Dangerous Liaisons, The Pickwick Papers, etc.; but, oh well.

3. They must be novels that I can pick up at just about any time, open to just about any point in the story, and read and enjoy. Thus, while I at least should love Beloved, The Return of the Native, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Emma, The Stranger, etc., I have reservations about the extent to which I love that stuff.

4. This kind of follows out of number three: I must know the novel itself well enough to enter discourse with it wherever I pick it up. Thus, though things like Anna Karenina, Jacques the Fatalist, On the Road, The Immoralist, Henderson the Rain King, Things Fall Apart, etc., probably should be on the list, I can’t say that I intimately know them.

5. I have listed only one novel per novelist–thus excluding many works that meet the four previous criteria. Most notably, this excludes novels of Garcia Marquez, Faulkner, Dostoevsky, Kundera, McCarthy, Fielding, James, and Kazantzakis (each of these novelists should have at least three novels that make the list).

Pre-Eighteenth Century: Don Quixote–Cervantes; The Satyricon–Petronius; Gargantua and Pantagruel–Rabelais. Eighteenth Century: Joseph Andrews–Henry Fielding; The Dangerous Liaisons–[Choderlos??!!] de Laclos; Tristram Shandy–Sterne. Nineteenth Century: The Pickwick Papers–Dickens; The Brothers Karamazov–Dostoevsky; Madame Bovary–Flaubert; Moby Dick–Melville. Twentieth Century: Light in August–Faulkner; One Hundred Years of Solitude–Garcia Marquez; The Ambassadors–James; Zorba the Greek–Kazantzakis; Mrs. Dalloway–Woolf. Contemporary: Slowness–Kundera; All the Pretty Horses–McCarthy; Gilead–Robinson.

Some works that I suspect I could add to the list after this summer: Remembrance of Things Past, Jacques the Fatalist (reread), Henderson the Rain King (reread), The Moviegoers, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (reread), A House for Mr. Biswas. Also, I hear that Dr. Whalen really digs him some Alice Thomas Ellis, who I remember annoying me (27th Kingdom), so I probably need to appreciate her novels too.

Hopefully, I haven’t been neglecting anything too important. Apologies to those senior novel(ist)s I’ve rejected. Suggestions? Objections? Disagreements over which novel from which novelist?

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