Books you just OUGHT to read
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I'm a high school student, and I enjoy reading. However, ever since I have entered high school, the amount I've had to spend reading non-required books has vastly decreased. I'm going to the beach for a couple weeks soon (the perfect place to get lots of reading done!), and I want to put together a collection of books to work on. What are some books that you just ought to read. And I'm looking for a variety of books, so not just classics. I also don't want to read something that's super incredibly long (so not War and Peace) because of time constraints. Any suggestions?
Thanks in advance :)
I'm not sure whether you intended to limit your request to non-fiction only? If not, Haruki Murakami is quite popular, though his books can be quite long. However, I'd recommend trying After Dark as an introduction to him since it's relatively short. His stuff is quite quirky, so you won't be bored.
If you're actually looking for non-fiction, that's tough as a quick "must read".
Presuming you want non-fiction books...
Anything by Anne Fadiman:
The Spirit Catches You and Fall Down
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays
Or, since you're going to be at a beach, try this one written by her husband, George Howe Colt:
The Big House: A Century of Life in an American Summer Home
There's a "user" here - The_Big_House_Books - that catalogs all the books mentioned in the abovementioned.
Seajack: Yeah, I'm looking for both. I figured I'd start with non-fiction and ask for fiction recommendations as well. If you have fiction recommendations, I'd love to hear them. The more books I have to choose from, the better! And I'll check out After Dark. It looks interesting, and my local library has it!
WholeHouseLibrary: I'll check those out. Thanks for the suggestions :)
asabel: Right now I'm in the middle of The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross. I've always been a big fan of music, so that is definitely a current interest. However, I'm pretty open minded when it comes to books, so I'd be willing to look at pretty much anything.
If you're going to hang out online with reading sites like this (we certainly hope so!), you might want to check out Bill Bryson, if you haven't read him yet, perhaps start with A Walk in the Woods? His most recent book At Home is terrific, but it might be too large for you to tackle at present.
Another one I read this year that might interest you if you'd like to read about offbeat careers: Down Among the Dead Men (A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician). Quick enough read, and the author's a regular person who sort of stumbled into the job, so it's not all techno-scientific.
For fiction, if you like suspense, try Sharp Objects - twisted and weird, but a well-plotted story, not just shock (thrills) value. Flynn has written a second book (not a sequel), and I think she's in it for the long haul as a "name" author.
I'm impressed by your library. Good start! I must say. I've taken a couple of titles to check out myself.
I recommend Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, which is laugh out loud funny at points.
Also Witold Rybczynski writes entertainingly, mostly about architecture, but his Waiting for the Weekend would be a good vacation topic.
I see that you have read about the holocaust (or at least own a book). A book on the subject that was profoundly moving for me is The Heart Has Reasons. I was honored to meet the people interviewed who had worked in the Dutch Resistance.
Have a great vacation.
Two short but excellent and essential nonfiction reads: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Maus by Art Spiegelman.
I second the recommendation on Bill Bryson, and add Sarah Vowell to that, particularly The Partly Cloudy Patriot.
Michael Pollan's The Ominivore's Dilemma and Philip Gourevitch's We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families are both on my list of books that everyone absolutely must read.
Another absolute essential---but maybe not for summer reading, unless you are a total grammar geek like me---is On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
Oh my, so many good looking books! Thank you, everyone, for all the suggestions. I just saved a whole slew of these titles on my "Potential Reads" list. So far, I think I'm going to get Sharp Objects, A Walk in the Woods, Everything is Illuminated (recommendation from another place), Fight Club (I've always wanted to read it), and After Dark.
Ah . . . short non-fiction! One of my favorite forms of recreational reading! :-)
Some of my all-time favorites . . . distinguished by the fact that I could happily pick up any of them again tomorrow for a rereading:
Take the Cannoli and The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
The Panda's Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould
Endurance by Alfred Lansing
Giving Good Weight, The Control of Nature, or virtually anything else by John McPhee
Outside Lies Magic, by John Stilgoe
The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman
Everything Bad Is Good for You by Steven Johnson
From Front Porch to Back Seat by Beth L. Bailey (trust me!)
Where The Girls Are by Susan J. Douglas (again, trust me!)
I would recommend Little Brother by Cory Doctorow to any high-schooler. Ideal beach read.
re: Sarah Vowell
So far (I haven't read her latest on Hawaii yet), I liked Assassination Vacation best.
Here's another vote for John McPhee. If you have any interest in Alaska, his book Coming Into the Country, although a bit dated (pipeline days in the 70s/early 80s) is excellent.
If you have any interest in nonfiction outdoors/adventure stories, Jon Krakauer will keep you on the edge of your seat. Into Thin Air (Mount Everest disaster) and Into the Wild are two of his best.
Secondng Krakauer. He has a new book out, but I haven't read it yet. If you're into (auto)biographies, I'd recommend Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda was one of the first Hindu yoga masters to come teach in the west (in the early 20th century), and spend the rest of his life here after growing up in India.
It's a little long, but absolutely gripping: Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks, about his work in WWII as a codemaker for the British.
How has everyone interpreted "ought to read"? Is this like a "what books should I read before I die" or "when I was your age, I wish I had read the following books . . ." question? Or just a solicitation for good book recommendations? A few of the books mentioned here, while certainly good reads, are probably not "ought to read" recommendations, at least as I understand the phrase.
That said, I would consider "ought to read," in the context of a high school student, as books that can fundamentally change the way you view the world. I would recommend maybe the following:
Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond
A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
The Demon Haunted World, by Carl Sagan
Zinn and Diamond are probably too long for a beach read, but these are the types of books I consider "ought to be read."
oregonobsessionz: I read Into Thin Air awhile back, but I didn't really care for it much. The content itself was interesting, but I remember finding the writing rather dry. I think it could have been better. But maybe his other books are different, so I'll check them out :)
asabel: Yeah, I was pretty much just trying to get good recommendations. To explain it fully, I need to share a little story. From basically 8th to most of the way through 10th grade, I barely read at all. I had been an avid reader before that. Then, this spring/summer, I started reading a little bit. I was thinking about trying to get a job, and I had the idea of working at my local bookstore. It ends up that their minimum hours is more than I have right now, but it got me thinking about booksellers. The people who work at independent book stores are so damn SMART, and extremely well read. So then I got the reading bug. I want to read as much of the compulsory stuff as possible, but also be exposed to some lesser known books. And that's why I asked about books that one "ought to read".
And I've been thinking about reading Guns, Germs, and Steel; they showed some of the movie in school.
Its good, but I'd recommend reading Collapse first. GGM has a tendency to be a bit of a dense hard read. I've tried getting through it twice, and fianlly decide to read Collapse before giving it another go (this is actually what a number of people have recommended I do).
#17 A huge nudge here for Between Silk and Cyanide - one of the most fascinating books I've ever read.
I'd also throw into the mix (knowing next to nothing about your tastes or interests):
A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf (for perfect prose in individual essays)
A Fish Caught in Time - Samantha Weinberg (for one of those odd little books you never dreamed you'd want to read)
Stiff - Mary Roach (for another subject you never thought you wanted to know about but packed with laughs)
Ex Libris - Anne Fadiman (for lovely writing on our favourite subject: books and reading)
Misogynies - Joan Smith (if you're a girl, for why so many men make you feel uncomfortable/if you're a guy, for why women constantly bleat on about men)
If Not Now, When? - Primo Levi (for the reality of man's inhumanity to man)
84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff (for sheer charm and humour)
Not so short
Do They Hear You When You Cry - Fauziya Kassindja (for every time you think "It couldn't happen here")
The Age of Absurdity - Michael Foley (for what makes a truly happy life - and the things that don't matter a bit)
The Purity Myth - Jessica Valenti (for the dangers of well-meaning nonsense)
The Greatest Show on Earth - Richard Dawkins (for why the world is amazing without a god)
Columbine - Dave Cullen (for so many reasons)
De Profundis - Oscar Wilde (for prose that sings)
Travels with Charley in Search of America - John Steinbeck (for an introduction to one of the most brilliant and humane writers of the 20th century)
Offering a counterpoint to the Diamond recommendations: Most historians, anthropologists, and other respected scholars have long dismissed Diamond as a hack. His books give an oversimplified and flawed view of the world as he attempts to force everyone into a grand narrative of Culture.
At this point in your intellectual development, ninjafinity, I think you would be better served by reading about specific peoples and places (in both fiction and nonfiction), which will equip you later to read the Big Idea Books with a well-informed, critical mind.
I'll try to think of some recommendations (in addition to the ones I gave above); at the moment, I'm drawing a blank, and my bookshelves are mostly filled with dry-as-dirt theory and ethnography---stuff I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
That's my 2 cents, anyway.
Would you care to reference any material that support your views on Diamond? I know gets much flack from the right wing but what are the scientific criticisms?
#23 Here are two links to reviews (apologies that they are both pay-to-read):
The first is by the late anthropologist Clifford Geertz; the second is by University of Chicago historian William McNeill.
To be fair, the academic views on Diamond were more generous---an intriguing theory if overly materialistic and generalized---until he overstepped his limits in a 2008 New Yorker article, in which he framed himself as an anthropologist (which he is not) and made some rather specious claims about a New Guinea tribe (which led them to file suit against Diamond and the magazine). Contemporary chatter in academic halls about Diamond's prior work has been much harsher since this scandal.
For nonfiction, one title I really enjoyed was The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. A few years ago, I made an effort to read a number of various perspectives on Iraq and Afghanistan past & present, and this was one of the few titles that I think could be interesting beach reading. It's definitely first and foremost a travelogue, so I don't think you can make any real sweeping conclusions about the region based on it, but it's a good story & a start at filling in the map...
For fiction, Neal Stephenson is a current favorite of mine; I think Snow Crash is a good (and relatively short) representative of his work.
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