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How I'll Spend My Summer Vacation

The book list for fall term arrived this week. Actually, there are two of them, one that's required and one that's recommended. The first is a list of seven novels that will be discussed during the first 10-week term of literary criticism. The recommendation is that you have at least the three novels under your belt before the term begins. And those would be ...

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (boxed ticked, 17 June)
The Accidental, Ali Smith (boxed ticked, 22 June)
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway (boxed ticked, 13 July)
Shame, Salman Rushdie (box ticked, 23 August)
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende (box ticked, 07 September)
The Night Watch, Sarah Waters (box ticked, 18, September)
Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh

I haven't read any of them, which I think's a bonus. Some of them have been on my meaning-to-read list, and I've either read or studied four of the authors already. So that's a plus too.

I slipped into Lolita ... no, wait, that sounds wrong ... this week (btw, I finished Alternatives to Sex in two days and absolutely loved it) and reckon I'm gonna have to read it a couple of times. Once just to get the feel of it, and then a second time to try and understand the complexities. There's an annotated version and the endnotes take up about as many pages as the text itself. I don't enjoy the stop-start that's entailed in trying to soak up all that extra information, so I'll just read it straight through and see how over my head I get.

I think I'll try to have all seven of them read a first time before the term starts and then maybe re-read as required. I remember the "read twice" rule from some of my lit classes -- once for pleasure, a second time for study. I say this now, during my initial period of pre-school excitement (and I sort of feel like a pre-schooler, all eager to have a new notebook and lunch box, maybe I'll even get to go to Sears or Penney's for new school clothes!). We'll see what happens once it all becomes a reality.

The second list is far more extensive, but not by any means required. It's divided into sections, and the recommendation is to have at least one book from each section. I'm already ahead of the game on this, I think.

List 2, recommended reading

This is not an exhaustive list of novels worth reading; it is, inevitably, idiosyncratic. Nor is it suggested, for a second, that you should read every title below. Nonetheless, they’ve been chosen because they chart how key novelists have used the form since its invention, and it would help you both with the programme and as a novelist to read at least one from each section (assuming you haven’t already).

Note: A strikethrough means I've already read it.

The earliest novels

Don Quixote (Books 1 & 2) by Miguel de Cervantes (1st published 1605)
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1st published 1719)

18th-century novels and satires

Pamela by Samuel Richardson
Shamela (a satire on Pamela) by Henry Fielding
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
Candide by Voltaire

19th-century novels

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Middlemarch by George Eliot (I really must finish that book one day)
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

20th-century novels

Howards End by EM Forster
The Waves by Virginia Woolf
Ulysses by James Joyce
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Tin Drum by Günter Grass
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
A House for Mr Biswas by VS Naipaul
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
Devil on the Cross by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Late 20th/early 21st century novels

by Toni Morrison
The Human Stain by Philip Roth
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Life & Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Money by Martin Amis
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Small Island by Andrea Levy
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Crime fiction and thrillers

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle
Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers
Farewell my Lovely by Raymond Chandler
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard
Fleshmarket Close by Ian Rankin
The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

Science and “speculative” fiction

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Time Machine by HG Wells
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Books about the novel (and about fiction writing more generally)

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
Aspects of the Novel by EM Forster
Literary Occasions by VS Naipaul
The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera
The Art of Fiction by David Lodge
How Novels Work by John Mullan
Searching for the Secret River by Kate Grenville

About crime fiction

Write Away by Elizabeth George (crime novelist)
Teach Yourself: Writing Crime & Suspense Fiction by Lesley Grant-Adamson

About children’s fiction

Boys and Girls Forever by Alison Lurie

So I'm gonna be having some bookylicious fun, aren't I? Any you would add or delete?

On the non-academic side (all work and no play, etc.) I got David Sedaris' new book in the mail the other day. I was really surprised to see how thick When You Are Engulfed in Flames ended up being, and that the UK had it out in paperback already. Then I realized that The Book Depository (which we love, love, love) sent me the "large type" edition.

Great, I'll be able to read it without my glasses.

At least that's what I thought. Even without my glasses, 18-point type is a blur. So I can either pay my tuition fees or get lasik surgery.

Which makes me wonder once again, am I too old to be going to grad school?