When two papers are due tomorrow and a calculus test awaits in two days, the last thing on most students’ to-do list is to read a book for enjoyment. In the age of PSPs and iPods, where all the entertainment one could want is available in the palm of a hand, it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm to curl up with a good book. Even if you do find the time, what book should you read? Here are a few that will snag your interest and not let it go.
1. Shopgirl by Steve Martin. Who knew that the comedic actor could write as well as he performs? This book is the story of Mirabelle, an employee in the glove department of Neiman’s who meets an older and wealthy man, Ray Porter. This is not a love story. It is a story about relationships. Martin’s writing is smooth and sensual. Reading the book is like gliding into someone else’s life, and it’s short, so the reader does not have to invest much time into it.
“She looks like a puppy standing on its hind legs, and the two brown dots of her eyes, set in the china plate of her face, make her seem very cute and noticeable.”
2. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This book is a modern classic. The story is told in first-person from the point of view of Charlie Gordon, who has an IQ of 68. However, after volunteering for a brain operation, his IQ rises. Keyes does an amazing job in changing the writing level slowly from the thoughts of a mentally impaired person to the musings of a figure beyond genius. The story brings up the argument, is ignorance truly bliss?
“Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on.”
3. A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farquhar. Most everyone thinks their family is strange, but no one is as strange and bizarre as the royal. This book is a historical tabloid filled with the most outrageous tales, from Roman emperors who slept with their sisters to a pope who was actually a woman and was only found out when she went into labor on the street. Farquhar writes in a casual, intellectual tone that is almost playful. The reader does not have to read the book thoroughly; it has many different stories, so the reader has the choice of picking vignettes.
“Catherine the Great loved horses. She also loved sex. Contrary to popular legend, however, she never managed to unite the two passions. Still, the autocratic empress of Russia brought all the enthusiasm of a vigorous ride to her extremely busy bedroom.”
4. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. Ira Levin is one of the best horror writers in history. Rosemary’s Baby is his best novel. Rosemary is a newlywed, desperate to have a child with her actor husband. However, when she becomes pregnant, she has reason to believe that her unborn child may be the son of Satan. She believes her neighbors are witches and her husband made a deal with the devil for success. The book puts readers on edge, since it is unknown whether Rosemary is telling the truth or is just paranoid, and the ending will leave readers breathless.
“Everything came back: the dreams, the drinks, Minnie’s chocolate mousse, the Pope, that awful moment of not-dreaming.”
5. Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner. Garner combines 12 famous stories and puts a modern spin on them. No longer are there damsels in distress or witches, who are referred to as “kindness-impaired.” This is a clever, quick, funny book that will remind readers their childhood was far from politically correct.
The wolf said, “You know, my dear, it isn’t safe for a little girl to walk through these woods alone.”
Red Riding Hood said, “I find your sexist remark offensive in the extreme, but I will ignore it because of your traditional status as an outcast from society, the stress of which has caused you to develop your own, entirely valid, worldview. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way.”
6. The Lost Girls: A Novel by Laurie Fox. This is the story of Wendy Amelia Darling Braverman Ullman, the great-granddaughter of the original Wendy Darling. When she is 13 she gets a visit from Peter Pan, just like the girls in her family before her. However, Wendy grows up and starts to live a loveless, self-destructive life. This book is full of heartbreak and angst, and shows life doesn’t have to be a fairytale to be good. Fox does a brilliant job intertwining the stories of five girls.
“And there he was: the figment, the scalawag, the dreamboat. I am not fond of crying boys. It’s not that I’m stoic; other people’s tears undo me.”
7. See Jane Date by Melissa Senate. Jane is a 28-year-old woman living in New York City who happens to be single. When her younger cousin announces her engagement, Jane makes a promise that she will have a date for the wedding. This book is filled with zany characters and interesting blind dates. It isn’t going to be a literary classic, but it is a fun read.
“Depending on where you got your information (say, Cosmopolitan magazine, the hostesses of the View or my aunt Ina), there were well-documented ways to go from single to married in New York City without A) kissing 50 frogs, B) unwittingly sleeping with a serial killer or C) settling.”
8. Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman’s Inspirational Story by Jodee Blanco. This is an autobiography about a troubled girl. Some people say that kids will be kids, but this book shows it can go too far. Blanco was teased and sometimes physically abused by her classmates. What made it even worse is that she also had physical problems. This honest memoir is heartbreaking but inspiring.
“… sound of my classmates from long ago – the very people who are now gathered less than one hundred feet away from me – laughing at me, beating me down. They destroyed my self-worth so much that it’s taken me 20 years to stop hating …”
In the Washington Post article “Odds Stacked Against Pleasure Reading,” writer Valerie Strauss said, “Allowing students to pick their own books is more than a democratic reading experiment. Studies show that reading achievement is significantly improved when students have an opportunity to choose from a selection of interesting texts rather than being dictated to.” Reading for fun is a helpful and enjoyable experience that will help you in more than one way.