A few people have asked me to recommend books for winter break. While I tremble at the difficulty of knowing what other people might enjoy, there are perhaps some titles many might see as the sort of thing an educated young person might wish to be exposed to while still in high school. So here goes.
1. Read something from the other class’s list. Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Slaughterhouse-Five, Time’s Arrow, The Metamorphosis, The Death of Ivan Ilyich—these are all titles some of you tell me you found both pleasurable and meaningful during this semester.
2. Pick up one of the often-taught high school classics which we either skipped over in our curriculum or which you missed along the way: Of Mice and Men, A Separate Peace, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1984, Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. They’re all terrific books.
3. If you became a Kurt Vonnegut fan because of Slaughterhouse, try one of his other novels from that period: Cat’s Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, or Mother Night.
4. If you like magic and sorcery, a la Harry Potter, you might be ready to “graduate” to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Same premise, a wizard school, only the students are 18, not 12, so the situations are somewhat more, well, adult in nature.
5. If Game of Thrones is your cup of tea, try one of the books (they’re rather long but fast reading) or Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a novel that combines romance, history, warfare, and time travel (also long, recently made into a TV series on STARZ).
6. Want more variations on Time? Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life gives 20 or more possible life and death stories of the same character, a middle-class Englishwoman born in 1910 who may or may not find a way to prevent World War II.
7. Sports? Baseball is by far the most literary sport, and great baseball fiction includes The Natural (also a movie, but quite different from the novel), Shoeless Joe (turned into Field of Dreams), The Celebrant (combines baseball and early 20th century American history) and too many others to name here.
8. And since I always like to pass on recommendations I got from former students, I highly recommend City of Thieves by David Benioff (one of the creators of the Game of Thrones TV series) a suspense novel that takes place during the siege of Leningrad in 1941. It was like a book on anti-gravity; I couldn’t put it down.
9. I just began Hyde by Daniel Levine. The other half of the story. Decidedly not Jekyll's version. Looks like it will go quickly. But I wouldn't recommend it without knowing the original first.
Let me know if you find anything appealing, either here or on your own. I always enjoy talking about books.