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Unassigned Reading: Books (and Periodicals) You Might Enjoy

We get it.  Books can lose their luster the minute they become assigned reading.  After all, it’s harder to appreciate Chaucer if your Brit Lit teacher is forcing you to read him.  Okay, it can be hard to appreciate Chaucer regardless.  However, there are a myriad of fantastic books (and periodicals) available that are quite accessible and relatable.  And you might be surprised at how often stories can move you, force you to question ideas and beliefs and generally stretch your brain.  Additionally, reading can help boost your performance both in the classroom and on the SATs/ACTs.  Indeed, avid readers often have sharp analytical skills.  They also tend to be stronger writers and usually have a great vocabulary.  And who knows?  Along the way you might even discover that reading can simply be fun.  Gasp! 

To help encourage you to put down the iPad or television remote and pick up a book, we decided to compile a reading list that might not necessarily be a part of your curriculum.  Here they are in no particular order:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon) – Winner of a handful of prestigious literary awards, Mark Haddon’s touching novel is written from the unique perspective of a person on the autism spectrum.  His protagonist’s distinctive and eccentric voice engages the reader almost immediately.  And it’s a mystery to boot!

Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides) - Eugenides’ beautiful, sweeping novel chronicles three generations of a family as it moves from Asia Minor to Detroit and attempts to assimilate into American society.  Oh yeah, there’s a shameful family secret too.  Trust us - this lyrical novel is truly engrossing.
Liar’s Poker (Michael Lewis) – Written by the same author who wrote Moneyball (which you might remember as a movie starring Brad Pitt), Liar’s Poker explores Lewis’ time as a bond salesman on Wall Street during the 1980s.  The book offers fabulous insight into the trading culture.  And given the turbulence of today’s economy, it could be an educational and informative read.

New York Times – You’re probably already familiar (at least in name) with the paper of record.  However, skimming a handful of articles every day is a great way to stay informed.  And with pieces ranging from the styles section to the science section, there’s something for everyone.

Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer) – Have you ever been trapped in Algebra class and begun daydreaming about taking the path less traveled?  Saying no to convention and conformity and going off in search of adventure and yourself?  Well, Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction book chronicles the wondrous and tragic life of Christopher McCandless who did just that.
Wired – This is definitely the magazine for all you tech nuts out there.  Wired features all sorts of fascinating articles about the interplay between technology, politics, culture and the economy.  You can thumb through a few pieces and still have time to kick back with your X-box.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Michael Chabon) – Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of two cousins navigating their tumultuous lives as they create a popular comic book.  The novel is set against the back-drop of WWII (though begins before and extends after) and features everything from magicians and escapology to refugees, anti-Semitism and family secrets.  And even Salvador Dali makes an appearance.  What’s not to love?

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency – The brain child of author and editor Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency is the (daily updated) literature and humor website of McSweeney’s publishing house.  Full of fun and quirky prose, you can bring a little levity to your day by reading a few of these (short!) pieces.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) – Hitchhiker’s Guide is Adams seminal sci-fi series and comedic masterpiece.  The story follows the adventures of Englishman Arthur Dent and is sure to leave a smile on your face!

Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera) – Kundera’s stunning novel is set in Communist Prague in the 1960s.  His poetic prose is a stirring meditation on love, existentialism and the fleeting nature of life.
Happy reading!


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Don Munce