Unassigned Reading, Vol. 4

All right – you know the drill by now. We believe you should dedicate a small portion of your day (or even simply your week) to personal reading. It’s a relaxing activity that simultaneously exercises your brain. It opens you up to new ideas and ways of thinking. And, as we've stated time and again, it can help improve your vocabulary and your own writing.

Of course, walking into a book store or library can be overwhelming. There are so many stories! How are you supposed to narrow down your choices? Well, perhaps you can consider picking up one of these suggestions:

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead (Max Brooks) – Written by bestselling author Max Brooks, this witty and wholly entertaining book is a pitch perfect parody of a survival guide. Meticulously researched and exhaustively comprehensive, The Zombie Survival Guide delves deep into the behavior and psychology of zombies. After finishing this book, you’ll know how to survive and adapt to any terrain should be you befallen by an attack!

The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett) – Dashiell Hammet is widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time and The Maltese Falcon is arguably his most famous work. The story centers around a private eye named Sam Spade, a beautiful dame whose loyalty can never be trusted and a treasure worth killing for. Admit it – you’re intrigued!

Death by Black Hole (Neil Degrasse Tyson) – A well-known astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson specializes in bringing complicated scientific ideas to the masses with his humor and infectious enthusiasm. In this collection of fascinating essays, Degrasse Tyson touches upon a myriad of topics including what would happen to your body if it entered a black hole, the frontiers of astrobiology and Hollywood’s shoddy efforts to correctly depict the night skies.

White Teeth (Zadie Smith) – Zadie Smith’s remarkable debut novel centers around an unlikely friendship between Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, two WWII veterans. Both men end up forming families later in their lives. As Smith writes about their experiences, she touches upon ideas about confounding expectations and the humor and struggle of daily modern life.

The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov) – Originally censored and suppressed by Stalin’s regime, Bulgakov’s masterpiece is a captivating, satirical novel that recounts the dealings a writer and his mistress have with Satan. Sounds juicy, right?

Live or Die (Anne Sexton) – Sexton was an extraordinary poet who earned great acclaim for her highly personal and confessional verse. Live or Die is one of her most successful collections (it ultimately earned the Pulitzer). The poems included in the book focus on her troubled family relationships as well as her struggle with mental illness. Though perhaps not uplifting topics, the work is beautifully rendered.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Díaz) – Growing up in an undesirable New Jersey hood, Oscar is an overweight nerd who fantasizes about falling in love and becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien in equal measure. Unfortunately, a curse has haunted Oscar’s family for generations. And it just might prevent Oscar from getting what he wants. Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel is sure to tug at your heartstrings and your imagination.

Happy reading!

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