Off Season Reads // Reading for Pleasure

When school’s out for summer – especially after graduating from my undergrad – I put reading on hold for a couple of weeks. SHOCKING I know. You’d think I’d be dying to read everything I wasn’t able to during the school year, but when your major is English Literature and you’re reading 3 novels a week, some poems, and scholarly articles/essays daily for your papers YOUR BRAIN IS FRIED.

Once that breather period is complete – stuffing my brain with trashy reality television – and I stumble upon my first “good read” the reading commences. I let my mind flutter inside and around fictional novels, Adbusters, Fashion magazine, Poetry, and the Quill & Quire mag. Most often I gravitate towards the books that I was assigned to read, but didn’t have time to read during the school year. I am always open to suggestions, and have a new found interest in Canadian Fiction.

Here is a list of my “good reads” so far:
(In order of when I read them starting at the end of February 2011 to today – no favouritism here.)

1. Canadian author Douglas Coupland’s fictional novel Hey Nostradamus is about a highschool shooting set in 1988. Rather then depict the view-point of the shooters Douglas divides the book into four parts, and so four different voices of people who were affected by this tragedy.

It is an  easy-going read, but one of interest. My girlfriend Suni recommended it. This was my transitional book bringing me back into reading for pleasure vs. study. I loved it, and have further recommended it to my Zia Connie and cousin Isabella.

2. I had a reason for reading this book. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for my ‘Studies in the Novel’ fourth year seminar, and fell in love with the protagonist. A young boy whose father died in the September 11th tragedy, and having stumbled upon a key his father used to own he adventures around New York to discover more about the key and ultimately about his deceased father.

That being said I had to indulge in Foer’s first novel Everything is Illuminated. This American writer is incredible in creating a non-linear, fictional world, with more than one voice guiding you, and with a post-modernist flare. This tale is about a young Jewish American boy’s journey to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his deceased grandfather’s life during the Nazi attacks of Trachimbrod. The story intertwines the actual journey, written portions of the story, and letters between two key characters. I loved this book and its fictional account of Nazi terrors on innocent Jewish villages.

3. Love Poems byPablo Neruda was an impulse buy that I grew to love. Purchased on my vacation in Miami, South Beach with the girls at the end of February 2011 I had to grab it for aesthetic purposes. It is a beautiful coffee table book, and the combination of words inside match its contextual being. You know I’m a romantic at heart, and I felt I needed to coax my romantic optimism back to life. These short and long poems are remarkable and have rekindled the hope for love inside of me.

Born in Chile Pablo’s original text is in Spanish. My copy has Spanish on the left-hand side & english on the right. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

4. An article printed in the Globe & Mail Nov. 2010 entitled “Non-Toronto team to push out Giller prize winner,” was assigned as a reading in my Culture & the text fourth year seminar. The problem was that once Johanna Skisbsrud’s novel The Sentimentalists won the Scotia-bank Giller Prize copies were scarce because Gaspereau Press – a small Nova Scotia based press house – would only print a higher quality version. This hype surrounding the book immediately sparked my interest.

I later had an interview with Cynthia Good – the director of Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program – and she showed me one of the originally printed copies released from Gaspereau that she received as a gift. I was in awe.

I was expecting a traditional linear story, and yet what I got was much better. Ultimately this novel is about a broken family, and a son’s rediscovery of his father as a person, and a Vietnam War veteran. This journey depicts the childhood of two siblings, their life as a result of the war, and adulthood with a father deeply disturbed by the war. Even though the Vietnam war isn’t referred to until closer to the end of the novel it is a dominant, and looming aspect of the tale. I highly recommend this book!

5. I can’t say how or why I love this novel, but I do. George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic, and that’s undeniable. I was never assigned this book, and almost EVERYONE in my undergrad had read it. I indulged in this text for the sake of comparing it to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which I read last summer. Both of these texts haunt me in a way that is indescribable except by my mentor a past history professor Dr. Mayor who I had the pleasure of learning from at Carleton University. To summarize his wise words the most eerie part of both books is that technology has advanced society immensely, but in order to do so humanity has lost part of its “soul/spirituality in the process”.

I know that this review is short, but it does not mean that I did not love this book. I read this within a week, and my life will be altered forever as a result of my exposure to Orwell’s powerful conception of a world lost to totalitarianism.

6. I give this book a READ, but not after you’ve read 1984. The pace of each book is completely different as well as the contexts. Emma Donoghue’s book Room is told in the perspective of a 5-year-old boy named Jack who has never seen the outside world. It was a slow start getting into this book, and I complained for days about it. Then it switched and I couldn’t put it down until it was done.

This book resonates within you once you’ve finished it, and you just don’t quite know what to do with yourself. It is based on various true accounts where women have been kidnapped and held captive in a man-made room, raped, and forced into a life of captivity. You will look at your living space as a sanctuary after experiencing the confinement of Jack & Ma. Their escape, and lifestyle once released is even more captivating then their daily activities within the room. This Canadian authored book is unlike anything else I’ve read, and is unforgettable.

7. MY CURRENT READ. Although not complete I am thoroughly enjoying this book by James Frey. This is one of my cousin Isabella’s favourite books, and she turned me onto it.

A Million Little Pieces at times drags, but there is something about it that keeps you flipping pages. You can’t help but support James who has entered a residential treatment centre with a success rate of 15%. The intense and graphic descriptions of continuous vomiting, the violent ripping off of a toe nail are both scenes that made me gag. Cringing on the subway to and from my internship as a result of my devotion to reading through each passage has made me look like a lunatic to strangers – I’m sure – but I have to see the outcome. Based on Frey’s own dark life experiences this book is definitely a must read.

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6 Responses to Off Season Reads // Reading for Pleasure

  1. Nous et Vous says:

    If you liked “Everything is Illuminated” PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read his newest book called “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” It is so amazing! I’ll lend it to you!!! 🙂

    – Tina

  2. Nous et Vous says:

    OOOOOOPS haha I just re-read your post and realized you already read Extremely Loud…. SORRY 🙂

  3. Cammie says:

    My thoughts and reflections on reading after completing an English Lit. degree are:

    1. I was really confused as to why I couldn’t finish books with the same amount of speed as I did while in school….then it dawned on me that because I didn’t HAVE to finish a book by a certain date, I subconsciously took my sweet, sweet time…..it took me a year to finish a 1000-paged book (that was amazing), while it took me a week to read The Iliad (a 1000-paged POEM haha).

    2. It is really hard to separate yourself from the “but what does it all mean?”… you ask yourself this over the smallest things, which is annoying because you can’t concentrate on the story. “Ooooh he walked through a RED door, 3 times! Why did the author include the colour…what is the symbolism of the number? It must mean something!” …and then you have to re-read the whole page because you’ve been thinking too metaphorically while trying to continue the story and miss key happenings.

    3. You feel obligated to continue reading classical literature…it took me about a year to realize that it’s OKAY to read stories by contemporary authors. Dickens is not the end all/be all of good literature! I had to come off my high horse and release myself from the shackles of pretension that I earned from reading too much 18th and 19th Century works.

    Anyway,
    I am jealous that you’ve read so much this summer! I need to read more… I’ve only read a couple of books this summer, but they’ve been solid gems:

    The Beach, by Alex Garland (a story about backpackers trying to recreate a Utopian society on a beach that is removed and unknown to “touristy” travellers…amazing.)

    The Disappeared, by Kim Echlin (a devastating love story about a girl who tries to track down her lover after he leaves her to find his family in Cambodia 11 years prior…takes place during the Cambodian genocide. If you’ve ever loved someone you should read this book).

    • Dee says:

      Ah! Those 3 points are very true! I can’t come down in speeds though. Hence, why i’ve read so much in such a short amount of time. Plus i’ve discovered that reading on the subway is the best way to pass time and I can easily get through 30 pgs in less than an hr. I do analyze everything in books, regardless of if it’s an important detail or not. I tend to re-read the parts that move me and highlight or make a note as well. I HAVE TOO it’s the english lit student deep within me. I DID NOT feel obligated to keep reading the classics lol but I can completely understand where you are coming from. I also like more challenging books most of the time b/c i feel so wonderful and proud once i’ve finished reading them.. THANKS AGAIN for commenting I love hearing what you have to say Miss. Cherbel!

  4. Pingback: “The Disappeared” | deeholmes

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