Matt’s Summer Reading List

Posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014 by admin under Students, Uncategorized. Tags: ,
Matt Barrett

Matt “Bookworm” Barrett

Student Perspective Post by Matt Barrett
Graduate Assistant for Communications

Now that the semester is officially winding down, I’ve started to compile a list of books that I want to read over the next few months.  Some of this list includes stories that I will re-read and others that have been recommended to me.  Throughout the semester, I’ve had to read at least one novel, one short story, and one nonfiction essay each week, and I feel like I’ve made a fairly good dent in the literary canon.  But some writers believe it’s better to know a few works intimately than to have skimmed every one.  It’s for this reason that I will re-read the following three novels/novellas, all of which I recommend to you:

  1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – I mentioned it in a previous blog, but this will be the first book I read again.  The novel takes place over the course of one day, and Woolf ventures inside just about every character’s mind as they walk the streets of London.  The are no chapters—and in a way, the whole book feels like a three hundred page poem.
  2. The Pedersen Kid by William Gass – The first time I read this novella I thought: “If I ever write something this good, I’ll die a happy man.”  If you want a book that you can read in one sitting, this is it.  The plot spans the course of about twelve hours, yet the entire story is action-packed, complete with guns, whiskey, and a giant snowstorm.
  3. Noon Wine by Katherine Anne Porter – Another book to read in one sitting.  The story takes place in Texas at the end of the nineteenth century, where a farmer allows a mysterious man named Olaf to work his land.  Olaf plays the same song on his harmonica every day and rarely talks.  Then someone comes looking for Olaf and “stuff” gets real.

Now for the books I haven’t read:

  1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – I met Elizabeth Strout at the AWP Writer’s Conference in 2011, and I’m looking forward to this book for several reasons.  Not only did it win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but it’s set in coastal Maine, which my family and I visit every year.  Plus, it takes the form of thirteen interrelated short stories.  For my thesis, I will write a collection of short stories that follows a few interconnected characters in order to create one complete novel.  And who knows, maybe when I receive my diploma, they’ll also give me a Pulitzer.
  2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner – I hadn’t read Faulkner until this semester when I was assigned As I Lay Dying.  I feel like I’m a little behind the curve when it comes to his writing, so I’ve chosen this book since it’s told via stream-of-consciousness, similar to the narration in Mrs. Dalloway.
  3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – I took a course on creative nonfiction this semester, and many critics consider this the original nonfiction novel.  It was also a huge commercial success, so it’ll be refreshing to see how people actually make money in this business.
  4. American Pastoral by Philip Roth – Another author I’ve barely read.  If I like this book, I’ll move onto Portnoy’s Complaint, which was featured on Time’s list of the 100 greatest novels since 1923.
  5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – Now I’m starting to sound redundant but…I will read this book because I’ve never read anything by Wallace, and this is supposed to be his best.
  6. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy – I read The Road, and for anyone who hasn’t, I recommend that one first.  I get the sense that McCarthy is fairly afraid of the world, and I’ve always enjoyed books from that mindset.
  7. And Last But Not Least: Anything by Franz Kafka – Some of my professors have referenced Kafka this semester, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read what he’s done.  By the end of this summer, I will have put an end to that.  I will read his good stuff, his bad stuff, even his elementary school essays.  And by next semester I’ll be the pre-eminent scholar on all things Franz.

I realize that not too much of this list is good for beach-reading, but I’m sure I’ll add some “lighter” books as the summer goes on.  For those of you who want a quick, enjoyable read that you don’t have to analyze, I recommend Elmore Leonard.  He’s one of my favorite authors—especially because of his spot-on dialogue—and when I dip my toes in the Atlantic, I’ll be sure to bring him with me.