The funny thing is that it felt like a test, and because of that, it became an extraordinarily difficult task. Every time I'd start to add books to the list, I'd think, "But I know about this book, which means it has to be pretty mainstream, which means it has to be more commercial fiction, which means probably not as worthy of a writing program, which means the faculty is going to look at this and laugh at me and think I'm a hack. I need books I've never heard of!"
And the conundrum, of course, is how to add books you've never heard of.
In the end, I tried to make a good mix of classic and contemporary, of best-sellers and award winners, and the books I chose all fit into the three challenges I face in my next writing project: multiple first person point of views, multiple story archs, and foreign setting.
So just in case anyone is interested, here's my tentative list I've submitted to the faculty:
Books With Foreign Settings:
1. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
2. Bend in the River (V.S. Naipaul)
3. Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
4. Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson)
5. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
6. The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien)
7. Out of Africa (Isak Dineson)
8. Dream of a Blue Room (Michelle Richmond)
Unique 1st Person Narrative
9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein)
11. The Help (Kathryn Stockett)
12. Room (Emma Doaghue)
Weaving Multiple Plots and Characters
13. Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
14. Sarah’s Key (Tatiana de Rosney)
15. Love Walked In (Marisa de los Santos)
16. Plainsong (Kent Haruf)
One of the above with medical issues as key plot:
17. Middle Place (Kelly Corrigan)
18. Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)
Also, I'll add in a couple books on the craft of writing, but I haven't chosen those yet.
I'm so excited about this list! I hope my advisor approves it without me having to tweak it too much.
For now, I'm still plowing through about two books a week by Pacific Univ. faculty members. They are such amazing books. I finished Live Through This, by Debra Gwartney, and it's burrowed into my brain so deep I find myself talking about it constantly, to anyone who will listen. It's her memoir about the years her two teen daughters ran away from home to live on the streets. Harrowing, sad, gut wrenching... a fabulous book.
Right now I'm reading The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall. Another fantastic book. He is a master of writing about sad and desperate people with just a touch of irreverant humor that makes the misery totally bearable, and sometimes laughable.
What's on your reading list?