Unassigned Reading, Vol. 3

By now you’ve likely picked up on the fact that we think extracurricular reading is fairly important. Therefore, we’ve compiled some reading suggestions for your humble consideration once again. And who knows - perhaps you’ll be inspired to put one or two of them on your wish list this holiday season!

Assassination Vacation (Sarah Vowell) – Part travelogue, part history book and 100% entertaining, Assassination Vacation takes readers on a journey to sites associated with presidential assassinations. Using her irreverent sense of humor, Vowell explains the political and cultural impact of these murders. And she includes many fascinating factoids that you can casually drop into conversation to impress your parents and teachers.

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (James McBride) – James McBride’s beautiful and poignant memoir, The Color of Water, recounts his childhood in the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. One of eleven siblings from a white mother (reluctant to embrace her race) and a black father, McBride’s story of family and identity powerfully weaves together his personal narrative with his mother’s extraordinarily difficult upbringing.

The Secret History (Donna Tartt) – In Donna Tartt’s astounding novel, an eccentric, eclectic group of students are taken under the wing of an unconventional classics professor. As he challenges their way of thinking, these undergrads begin testing the bounds of morality. And they soon discover how easy it is to kill. Admit it – you’re now slightly intrigued.

Pastoralia (George Saunders) – George Saunders is one of the greatest short story writers working today. His seminal collection, Pastoralia, is both a hilarious and haunting look at the American landscape. Bonus fact for all you lit nerds out there: all of the stories in this book were previously published in The New Yorker. Impressive!

The Art of Fielding (Chad Harbach) – Set in a small Midwestern college, Chad Harbach’s stunning novel focuses on Henry Skrimshander, an unassuming baseball star bound for the big leagues. However, when a routine throw goes horribly awry, the destinies of five individuals are suddenly upended. You don’t need to be a sports fan to fall in love with this book!

In Cold Blood (Truman Capote) – If you’re fascinated by murder mysteries and criminal investigations then In Cold Blood is likely the perfect book for you. Capote’s tour de force traces the tragic killing of the Clutter family, a crime which had no apparent motive and left few clues. Writing with equal parts suspense and empathy, Capote expertly recreates both the murder and the search for justice.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard) – Don’t let the title’s allusion to Shakespeare scare you off from this masterful work! Stoppard’s delightful and inventive reimagining of Hamlet, told from the point of view of two minor characters, is bound to leave you laughing (and potentially even reaching for the original text). And, at the very least, plays usually prove to be quick reading!

Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer) – Foer’s highly acclaimed novel tells the story of an American college student who sets off for Eastern Europe to find the woman who possibly saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Jumping through time and introducing readers to a variety of colorful characters, Everything is Illuminated is bound to tug at your heartstrings and capture your imagination wholeheartedly.

Salt: A World History (Mark Kurlansky) – You find it on most every dining table and in most every meal. Indeed, salt is so ubiquitous and yet many of us never stop to consider its origin or history. Now, thanks to Mark Kurlansky’s excellent book, you can read up on this surprisingly fascinating substance (a substance once used to finance wars)!

Happy Reading!

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