summer reading challenge?

I’ve been debating joining the summer reading challenge for a while now. I have a feeling that I will end up doing so on an unofficial basis. In fact, I think I will now deem my participation in all reading challenges as “unofficial” from this point forward. I still plan on participating in the reading groups, like Tilting at Windmills and Slaves of Golconda, (and I will of course continue with Proust), but I have come to face the fact that I am not good about challenges. That being said, I definitely need to come up with a summer reading list of some kind or another. After my first semester as a wannabe English grad student, it has been made clear to me that I have a lot catching up to do. I have no idea what “field(s)” I might be interested in pursuing at the doctoral level and I’m in a perfect position to ask questions and explore: after all, as a newbie to the field of english literature, it’s a-ok for me to not know what I’m talking about. And this time, I don’t really have to pretend that I do.

My first plan of attack was to get a feel for the state of different fields of criticism and see where I felt I fit in the best, but on second (and third, or perhaps I’m already at the fourth?) thought, I realize that I just need to read more literature in general–the criticism will follow. How will I ever decide which field to pursue if I can’t even tell anyone what I love to read (aside from the Brontës, Dickens, and Tolstoy). The point of this summer will be to challenge myself to read those canonical (and not so canonical) texts that I have previously overlooked (and there’s a lot out there). So now I’m on the hunt for titles to add to what I’m optimistically calling, “the best summer reading list ever.” There are a number of secondary sources that I would like to include as preparation for the lit classes I’m taking in the fall, but for the most part, right now I need to plan on immersing myself in the primary sources. Oh woe is me….being forced to read literature all summer long (in between fits of knitting like a maniac). So that’s my plan. Should I be worried that I’m great when it comes to dreaming up plans but mysteriously lose all ability to follow through with them in the long run? Perhaps. But in the meantime I get to make lots and lots of lists and drool over all of the great books that are just waiting for me to get my grubby little hands on and read, which is half the fun.

But as “the best summer reading list ever” is still under construction (indeed, one might say it’s merely a twinkle in my eye)–what should be included? I’m thinking I need some Hemingway, Faulkner, Woolf, Twain, (I’m all Stowe-ed out at the moment, so no Stowe), Forster, Hardy, and… does anybody have other titles/authors in mind?


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Pour of Tor on May 31, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    What a great project! I must admit that I often dismayed by all that I thought I would have read by this point in graduate school (going in to my sixth year in English), and have not. Sigh. So I look forward to hearing what you read, and what you think of it.

    As for authors, how about Wharton? “Age of Innocence” has been on my TBR list for some time, although I have read “Custom of the Country” and “House of Mirth.”


  2. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on May 31, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    I forgot all about Wharton (and I even have the bio by Hermione Lee waiting for me to devour!). I read some Wharton long ago, but she definitely needs to go on the list. Good call!


  3. Posted by Danielle on May 31, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Great idea. How about something by Katherine Mansfield–my own newest discovery! I am not always so good on challenges, but the nice thing is no one minds if you fizzle out!! Even if I read a few books on my lists, I am usually happy. It would be nice to finish at least one, though! LOL.


  4. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on May 31, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Danielle–Down on the list she goes! In fact, that would kill two birds with one stone, as I have a tendency to gravitate towards novels and I’d really like to get some more short stories under my belt. Great suggestion!


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