There is an astonishing and horrifying article in the Dec. 24 New Yorker that explains two things:
- We are reading far less than we were fifty years ago
- The neurology of reading suggests that regular readers are simply better thinkers
We get in this Pavlovian habit of thinking that because reading happens at school, we should read only when books are assigned to us. If this is the way you think, here is your assignment for this break: read as much as you can.
Ah, but what to read? Here are a few possibilities:
If you liked A Midsummer Night's Dream, try...
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Twelfth Night, which is appropriately Christmas-themed
- As You Like It, which is a bit more cerebral a comedy than MSND or Much Ado, and is hence something of a darling among academics
If you liked Henry V, then try...
- The prequels, 1 Henry IV and 2 Henry IV
- Richard II, which is something like the pre-prequel (H4 deposes R2)
If you liked Macbeth, then try...
If you liked The Tempest, then try...
- A Winter's Tale
If you liked Slaughterhouse V, try...
- Cat's Cradle, a Vonnegut novel which is at once apocalyptic and optimistic
- The Sirens of Titan, which features the return of the Tralfamadorians
If you're interested in reading about Shakespeare, try...
- Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World, which is currently the most prominent biography
- Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage (which I haven't read but have heard generally good things about)
But perhaps you have had enough with Shakespeare for a while, and would like to try something a little less 400-year-old-ish. Here are some books I heartily, heartily commend to you:
- The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) is one of the funniest and most satisfying books I read this summer
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl, is a snarky and thoughtful murder mystery, and an unrelenting delight of a read
- Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, is a perfectly-paced story set in a future that looks more or less like our own world
- On that genre-fiction note, if you are a science fiction sort of person and have not yet read Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, you should probably set aside an afternoon this break to do that
- The next book on my to-read list is Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao -- read it with me and we can talk about it next week