Catherine’s Fall Reading List 2014
I have a nerd confession to make: During my college years, I would visit my high school’s website for their English classes’ summer reading requirements. These along with the books I never got around to reading (though I managed to pretend I did) became part of my growing “to-read” list. For book lovers, choosing one has much to do with your atmosphere, where you are in life, and what you need from the book you choose. Perhaps it’s just me but as the temperatures start to drop (perhaps figuratively in California), I am looking for a paperback with impact—one that might change me in some way with its story or with its composition. These kind of books require undivided attention: read from your your in-home reading nook, a quiet park bench, or on your long commute. Here’s my reading list for the fall, some that have been on my list for a while, some that I’ve read before, all highly recommended.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
One of the last meetings of my book club in L.A. was to discuss this novel which I hadn’t gotten around to reading at the time. Reading club rules say that if you attend, you are acknowledging that the whole book is on the table for discussion (i.e. if you didn’t finish it, the rest of the group is allowed to spoil it for you anyway). There are books that once you know the plot, you realize it’s not necessary for you to read it; there are others that despite knowing everything that will happen, you still want to dive in and experience it for yourself. Brunt tells the story of 14-year-old June who loses her beloved uncle to an “unspeakable” disease and learns about who he was through a surprise stranger.
The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho
Per my explanation that some stories are worth revisiting even if you know what will happen, The Witch of Portobello is one I’ve been planning to reread for a while. I came across it on a Coelho high having just finished The Alchemist, the first book I read after I graduated college. This book changed the way I saw womanhood and myself. Coelho always teaches a lesson and provokes thought; with Portobello, he adds a little more magic than usual.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Recommended to me years ago by a dear friend and book lover, White Teeth is the triumphant debut novel of Zadie Smith. Described as hilarious and poignant, Smith “takes on the big themes—faith, race, gender, history, and culture.” It is set in North London, home of two unlikely best friends: Archie, a very typical British man who marries a beautiful Jamaican woman half his age, and Samad, a devout Muslim whose marriage is arranged.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
If you’re feeling fancy and up to the challenge, it’s time to try reading this classic. I’ve heard from more than a few friends that this was their favorite book in high school (though no one can quite tell me why), so it’s on the list. I have to admit that I could never get myself into romantic British classics (an embarrassing admission for an English major; I unsuccessfully tried to read Pride and Prejudice more than once), but maybe I’ll find solace in Brontë while Downton Abbey is still on hiatus in the States.
The Republic of Tea by Mel Ziegler, Patricia Ziegler, Bill Rosenzweig
I read Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic a couple years ago per my friend JJ’s recommendation (and gift) and immediately added this book to my list. Mel and Patricia Ziegler founded Banana Republic, widely known now as a part of the GAP conglomerate. What you probably didn’t realize is that it started as a tiny “mom and pop” created to sell refurbished army surplus clothing. While I’m not a Banana shopper, I adored Patricia’s homey storytelling and Mel’s newsy writing style (he is a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter). Hence, the story about their next venture (The Republic of Tea, you may have seen it in a Starbucks once upon a time) with a cup of hot tea is high on my list and sure to leave me with motivation to build dreams.
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
This is one piece of assigned reading that I actually did read cover to cover in high school. Maybe this fall is about themed snacks to accompany my reading time, but this novel seems to be calling me back years later. If you missed the Johnny Depp film interpretation, Chocolat tells the story of the enchanting chocolatier Vianne Rocher who moves to a small conservative French town with her “spirited young daughter” and invokes controversy when she opens shop during Lent, a time of religious abstinence and penance. Even if you did see the movie, I urge you to go back and tap into this must-read.
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
Another one of my all-time favorite books (and one I’m sneaking in here unofficially) is The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey. Cranes had all the makings of greatness for me: a real look at the ballet world—not the stereotypical fanciness but the beauty behind the art—and good writing that was raw, a little dark, and oddly funny. Shipstead’s Astonish Me seems to be cut from the same cloth which is enough for me to give it a shot. Shipstead gives us a glimpse into the “passionate, political world of professional ballet” and tells us the story of Joan and the relationships that shape her. “I love a good intrigue.”
You can find my summer reading list here. What’s on your reading list this fall?