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An Offering For You

Ah, Spring. Warmer weather, birds returning to their Summer homes, and the last hurrah of actual literature before Beach Reading season descends upon us. So, in honor of all things literary, I humbly offer the following selections, which I believe cement the argument that great books don’t have to be painful to read. Oh, I almost forgot: Go read something.

Surprisingly Unintimidating Think of Feynman’s Rainbow as kind of like A Beautiful Mind, only without the crazy, and a whole lot easier to read. A charming story of how one great mind can inspire another, and as the subtitle says, it is indeed a search for beauty in physics and life. Can you imagine starting a new job when your office is just down the hall from one of the greatest scientific minds of all time (think: Einstein). It’s a soft, painless introduction into the world of Richard Feynman as told by the man he mentored. Read it for the gentle probing of issues like God, love, and happiness, but come away from it with a better than average knowledge of quantum theory. To buy it, click here.

Stunning If you never had to read Things Fall Apart in school, then I am truly sorry. You should, however, run out and grab it now, and not just because the themes are especially fitting right now. What happens when cultures are challenged by an influx of Westerners? The story is told through the eyes of Okonkwo, the village pariah. The cultural invasion eventually leads to his own destruction, but along the way, all character flaws are carefully examined and social diversity values are questioned. Achebe’s novel served as a bit of a prophecy, and it definitely brought African cultural awareness to the forefront of every reader’s mind during the 1960’s. Sure, it sounds heavy and depressing, but the prose is lyrical, the story compelling, and once again, the issues are timely. Feed your brain and read this book (bonus points if you can correctly pronounce the author’s name—chin-U-ah ah-CHEB-ee) To buy it, click here.

Ahhh, Chick Lit So you’ve never taken a Women’s Lit course. Here’s your chance to find out what you missed. Forget visions of angry women hurling Flannery O’Connor quotes in your direction; Kate Chopin is much more subtle. My favorite short story–ever–is “The Story of an Hour”. Sure, you could read “The Awakening” and be amazed at the feminist themes in a time when feminism definitely wasn’t the “in” thing, but for my taste, “Story of an Hour” invokes a much greater emotional response. This is an excellent story with which to begin your foray into critical analysis of women’s literature: The themes are broad and easy to grasp, and it’s only two pages. For writers, it’s a valuable lesson in economy of words. Read this, now. And no, I’m not doing the dishes. Do ’em your own damn self. To buy the book, click here.

Once More Into The Breach In honor of all the men and women in our military fighting in Iraq, this one’s for you. Henry V is a miraculous play: It consistently inspires no matter how many times you read it. Even if you’ve never read Shakepeare before, you shouldn’t find this work too challenging. The language as well as the story are relatively easy to follow, and the story takes you straight to the battlefield. Sure, you could chicken out and rent the movie, but you lose something when you don’t have the words in front of you. Speaking of the movie, I made Kevin watch it not too long ago, and he loved it. How much more of an endorsement do you need? To buy the book (oh, okay, the movie too), click here. Oh, and one more thing. If you do read the book, your best bet is the Folger edition, as the footnotes are the easiest to understand as well as the most comprehensive.

An Old Standard I’m a firm believer in re-reading the stuff I enjoyed as a kid, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorites. What’s even better is that he’s funnier as a grown-up than he ever was when I was a kid. Plus, now I get to read the Playboy interviews, where many say he shone his brightest. Oh, yeah, one more thing: This selection is in honor of National Poetry Month (that’s April, for those of you who may be unfamiliar). To buy this trip down memory lane, click here.
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P.S. Yes, I have decided to have themes for all my Reading Lists. It’s a lot more organized that way!

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