One thing that bothers me as a literature teacher is my students’ general disinterest in reading.
Now, before you dismiss me as a disgruntled college professor who is just tired at the end of a long semester, a professor who may have taught one student too many who just doesn’t understand why he/she has to read James Joyce to be an enlightened individual.
It is just a simple fact of life; my students do not read like they should.
When I say should, I am claiming that as educated individuals, we not only have a responsibility to sharpen our intellect and expand our knowledge by reading, but as creative human beings made in God’s image we have a mandate to immerse ourselves in the wonderful and fundamental act of relating and receiving stories.
If I can get my students to dive into just one great story during the semester, lose themselves in one piece of fiction, then I have at least a modest sense of satisfaction in my chosen profession. I feel this way because I know first-hand the power of a good book. The truth is, when you get down to it, I teach literature because I love to read. I always have. Ever since my mom made me struggle through tears to read my first Clifford the Big Red Dog book I have been hooked on books.
Here’s the kicker, though. I rarely sit down and read a good book anymore. Shhh. Don’t tell my students. Or my colleagues, for that matter.
That is what a career in higher education will do for you, though. Between the reading I do for class, the reading I do when I grade, the films I watch to stay relevant in my discipline, the books I read over the past few years for my dissertation, and the ones I am trying to read to continue to develop as an academic, I rarely leave time for “fun” reading.
So, in an attempt to remedy that problem I am making a summer reading list.
Now, you will see that I have divided the list into three categories—Non-Fiction, Film, and Fiction. I have chosen to include film because I believe films are texts, just like books are. And, there is a certain amount of discipline that one must maintain to view all kinds of films. Some of the films are ones I need to see, some are ones I want to see, some are films that I need to see again. I will leave it to the reader to guess which one is which.
I have chosen to include a Non-Fiction category because real life is better than fiction sometimes, and I do enjoy books that push me as an academic.
I will also admit that a few of the texts are works that I may teach in class someday. That does not undermine my ability to relish the act of reading them, though. Ultimately I always try to teach texts that I enjoy myself. So, here it is:
Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, Benjamin P. Thomas
The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice, David Morgan
Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, Diane L. Eck
Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealedin Radiohead, The Simpsons, and other Pop Culture Icons, David Dark
The World in a Frame: What we see in Films, Leo Braudy
The Idea of the Holy, Rudolph Otto
The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade
Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Ken Robinson
Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
One Big Soul: An Oral History of Terrence Malick, Paul Maher Jr.
Theology of Culture, Paul Tillich
Imaginary Homelands, Salman Rushdie
The Great Dictator
Mad Max Trilogy
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
There will be Blood
Once Upon a Time in the West
The Bicycle Thief
The Good, the Bad, the Weird
. . . This list could go on ad nauseum.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Dubliners, James Joyce
Wild Girl, Michelle Roberts
The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis
The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolano
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis
The Odyssey, Homer
The Brook Kerith: A Syrian Story, George Moore
The Collected Stories of Stefan Zweig
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
True Grit, Charles Portis
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick
. . . . I reserve the right to add more, of course.
Have a great summer.