Self-inflicted reading lists! (AKA Summer reading!)

Back when my shelf-sorting skills were less refined.

So the summer stretches endlessly down, and work is nice but hardly the stuff dreams and great adventures are made of… so one must make do (as usual) with books. And so, this time, I’ve inflicted upon myself a reading list – as opposed to being mailed an extremely long one by uni – and am looking to add more to it as the days go on. (Suggestions are very, very welcome!) Some of them are crossed because after all, my summer began more than 2 months ago after exams – although in that lengthy period of freedom I’ve only read about 4 books and been drunk and/or sleeping the rest of it.


  • The Prince, Machiavelli. (Sadly seem to have lost it, or left it behind in England. Fervently hope it is the latter!) — If this book is half as fun as the Machiavellian villains in Jacobean tragedies, I am all for it. It probably won’t be. But maybe I’ll learn how to screw some people over in this day and age? I can aspire to be a Machiavellian banker or something.
  • The Social Contract, Rousseau.
  • The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera. — This man is one of my favourite contemporary writers, and his novels are beautiful. Hence his views on it are probably most certainly going to be beautiful too.
  • Testaments Betrayed, Milan Kundera.
  • Henry & June, Anais Nin. — This woman seems endlessly quotable, and indeed, is endlessly quoted. So I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. It will be thrilling to read something so self-consciously poetic; even more so to read about a woman so open and so comfortable with her sexuality. Something people aren’t, sadly, till this day.
  • Republic, Plato.
  • A History of Modern Russia, Robert Service.
  • In the Shadow of Man, Jane Goodall.

Old fiction

  • Persuasion, Jane Austen. — Jane Austen is a goddess, and this – her last book – was no exception. The hopeless romantic in one enjoyed seeing the good woman win (sorry about the spoiler but – !!); the hopeless romantic in one was made thoroughly happy and miserable in turns alongside Anne Elliot.
  • The Italian, Ann Radcliffe.
  • Cecilia, Fanny Burney.
  • Evelina, Fanny Burney. — I see why people made fun of lots of books named after ostentatious-sounding women now.
  • La Reina Margot, Alexandre Dumas.
  • Roderick Random, Smollett. — Like the name, I picked this book up entirely at random in the bookshop – I had some money left spare, but not much time. I like the sound of the author’s name – if it’s anything to go by (judging a book by its author’s surname??? What next!) it will be a fun book.
  • The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Sterne. — Didn’t get past the hobby-horses when I was reading this in 2nd year; hopefully will do this time
  • The Divine Comedy, Dante.
  • Cousin Bette, Balzac.
  • Poems, Rimbaud.
  • Don Quixote, Cervantes.
  • The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu.
Modern fiction
  • A House for Mr. Biswas, V. S. Naipaul. — This was also a fantastic book. It didn’t make me laugh out loud the way Catch-22 or P. G. Wodehouse novels did, but it made me smile a lot (sometimes with the pathos of it all!). However odious a man Naipaul seems to be, his work seems to be great. I wish I hadn’t left The Mimic Men behind in England… grrr.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys. — I’ll never see Jane Eyre the same again.
  • Dusklands, J. M. Coetzee. — Reading this at the moment. Fantastic, of course. Although it makes me feel slightly sick at times (I am going slowly). The man in whose voice it is written is really a horrible man, and I keep having throwbacks to black and white pictures in the war memorial in Ho Chi Minh City. Sick. Sick sick sick. I keep meaning to write about Vietnam, which was quite an overwhelming experience for me actually – I am not the sort of person to dislike any place in the world, because every place is an adventure and every place is beautiful for its own self – but Vietnam scared me a little (lovely though it is, and though I loved it).
  • The Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie. — Rushdie is widely feted and for good reason, sometimes, because he really is a very interesting and clever writer. But I have read Midnight’s Children and felt that it played too much upon certain stereotypes; snake-charmers et al, that sort. Of course he does label his genre ‘magic realism’ or something, but I desperately want to find a book grounded in a poetic realism, rather than a realistic poeticism (it rings false with me).
  • The English Patient, Michael Odaatje. — Gorgeous, but a slightly difficult read (I mean, I found it extremely difficult to concentrate on – the language was quite rambly.) I am glad I read it though because it was a sweet story, and passionate. I prefer Running in the Family’s style, however.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Marquez Garcia
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Haruki Murakami
The list is woefully short on ‘modern fiction’, and while I know there’s any number of books I could pick up if I wandered through a bookstore, I am wondering if there’s anything in particular I absolutely have to read. My degree shoved any number of old books down my throat, from 1100 onwards, and while I’m intensely grateful for the experience… I don’t feel like I can tackle the Burneys and the Radcliffes of the world just yet.
What I really feel like right now is a book about skyscrapers; tall buildings, glass and steel, traffic jams and roadside food-stalls. I want a book with all the redolences of a perpetually-humming, vibrant, colourful modern Asia. Maybe I should get some Japanese fiction.

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