I’ll admit it. I completely overloaded myself this past semester. I took far too many classes. Sixteen credit hours at Rollins while working full time pushed me right to the brink. If it was just stress that it added to my brain, I could deal with that. I have a feeling, though, that it affected my performance. Why blog about that? Warning story, mainly. I’ve blogged a number of times about handling your classes responsibly, being wise about how you’re studying, etc. I pushed it too far, though. The load has to stay balanced on your back if you’re going to carry it the whole way.
But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about something better. It’s almost summer, and with my increase in time and less to do, I’ll be struggling to occupy my time. I’ve already resolved to work on some music stuff (maybe I’ll finish those songs?), and I’ve got some projects that have been waiting for when I’d have time (cleaning all of the garbage out of my car?), but every summer I also make myself a SUMMER READING LIST OF DOOOOOOM.
Summer reading lists are great because they remind you that you’re not a kid anymore. I used to dread summer reading lists when I was in grade school, but now that I’m populating the list with books I want to read, and now that reading isn’t a required activity, I find that I enjoy it a lot more. Plus, you don’t want your brain to go all mushy during the summer.
I can’t make a post up here without saying something “tip-wise,” so here’s my quick tip (which you can hear more about in the video): Take notes when you read. Not while you’re reading (at least, I don’t), but after you’ve done some reading, take a few minutes to pull out a piece of paper and write down some thoughts. It won’t take long, and you will absorb more if you decompress what you read onto a paper, putting it into your own words by way of a summary, and adding some notes on your first impressions of the section, or where things are going, or something interesting that struck you.
People don’t really write by hand as much as they used to, of course. Don’t believe me? Let me know how your arm feels after taking a final in a bluebook. Ouch. Still, I find that writing by hand helps me remember better. Even with my notes taken in class, I tend to re-write the important parts. Writing all the time requires good tools, of course, something else I discuss in the video (I collect fountain pens, and I use them constantly for note taking and writing).
Yeah, so, blah blah blah. Everyone should make their own reading list, but here are a few suggestions from my own (possibly too ambitious) reading list:
What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us by Laura van den Berg
Laura, a Rollins graduate, spoke last semester about this book. I have, sadly, not had time to read it yet, but the excerpt she presented from it was rather beautiful, and I’m interested to read this text from a grad of our school. She has been receiving some notable applause on this particular work.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
I’ve never actually read this before, at least I don’t think I have. I’ve seen a movie based on it, but this will be my first time reading it. I’m sure I’ll appreciate the subtlety of the novel and will enjoy it immensely. I like texts that present perplexing situations and characters.
A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi
I could argue with you that graphic novels are a legitimate literary field now and point to all of the schools examining them in a critical manner, but instead I’ll just admit that I’m a nerd. Taniguchi, though, is part of a unique Japanese/French hybrid movement that combines Manga technique from Japan with Bande dessinée storytelling from France and forms a new style all together. Anyway, this particular series looks really good, and I plan on giving it some of my time this summer.
Eeeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin
I picked up a copy of Shoplifting at American Apparel a few months ago because I needed something to read that wasn’t terribly long, and what I found instead was a pretty fresh voice. I know Lin has been around for a while, but I’m just now finding time to explore his books. Shoplifting was very personal, very “internal,” seemingly very honest, and explored a very unique point of view. I’m hoping for more of the same from this particular book. Honestly, though, if it’s just “good,” that would also be fine.
The Elephant Vanishes: Stories by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is another author with whom I’ve been somewhat enamored recently. His semi-surreal text A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel was my “between-semester” book back in December. I really dug that book, so I picked this up in a random trip to Borders and have yet to read it. Short-story collections are a double-edged sword in many ways. On one hand, you can read one and put the book down, and pick your way through the book. On the other, if one story is not compelling, there is a tendency to read one, put the book down, and … forget it. I doubt that will be the case with this particular text, of course, as Murakami is a very compelling writer who understands how to hook into the audience and pull them along on the ride.
Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem
I really wanted to read Motherless Brooklyn, but this was the only one of Lethem’s books I could find on Bookmooch.com, a free book-trading website I was using for quite some time. Cool site, but anyway, Amnesia Moon is essentially a post-apocalyptic text and is pretty odd and humorous, from what I hear. I mainly heard about Lethem because of Motherless Brooklyn. A friend suggested that book as he knew I was a big fan of noir novels (I’m a big Raymond Chandler fan). I’ll still have to read that book. But, this is where I start with Lethem. The one I could get for free. Ha.
What’s on your reading list for this summer? Do you have one? Even if it’s just a magazine you’ve been putting off looking at or a commitment to reading the Sunday paper, keeping yourself actively engaged in the world is a fantastic way to keep the “August dull” from happening when you get back to school.
Enjoy your summer, and stay literate.