Friday, June 20, 2014

YA Guy Reads... Classic Literature!

For the past several years, YA Guy has been reading almost exclusively YA. (That's one of the ways you become YA Guy, in case anyone was wondering.) I've read a lot of great literature, some not so good, and some really bad. That's the nature of the game, no matter what genre or category you're reading.

But for this summer, as I gear up for my own YA debut, I thought I'd take a break from YA and focus on some non-YA classics I've never read. Remember, I'm an English professor, so I've read a ton of classic literature; but practically everything on the following list is a book you're pretty much expected to have read in my field. I'm planning to read these books not because I'm afraid of being publicly humiliated--that ship has sailed--nor because I subscribe to the preposterous notion that adults reading YA should crawl into some kind of hole. No, I'm planning to read them just because I've always wanted to, and now seems like a good time to do it.

So, here it is: my list of classics for summer 2014. My brand-new Kindle awaits!

1. Catch-22. In my final year of college, I was the runner-up in an essay contest sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Writing Conference, at which Joseph Heller was the keynote speaker. I couldn't attend the conference since I was at that time living in Middletown, Connecticut, but I received an autographed copy of Heller's masterpiece as a prize. For some unknown reason, I've never read it in the twenty-seven years since.

2. Ulysses. In grad school, I took a class on Modernism and read almost all of Joyce's great novel. But once the paper was turned in, I set the book aside and didn't finish it. That's an omission I plan to address this summer.

3. Crime and Punishment. My dad's a huge fan of the Russian novelists (his family's from Russia), but I've never done much more than read a little Chekhov and enjoy Woody Allen's send-up in Love and Death. Clearly, I've got to do something about this.

4. Lolita. A few years ago, a very ambitious undergrad at the college where I work wrote a senior Honors paper on Nabokov's novel. I told her I'd never read it, but since no one else in the department had either, she chose me as her thesis advisor. Ah, academia!

5. Invisible Man. Another grad school story: I was teaching H. G. Wells's novel The Invisible Man one day to a class of freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania when my teaching supervisor dropped in for an unannounced visit. She'd glanced at the syllabus and thought I was teaching Ellison's novel. The puzzled look on her face as my lecture proceeded said it all.

6. A Tale of Two Cities. Like many classics, I first encountered this Dickens novel in comic book form. Unlike many classics, I never graduated to the real thing.

7. Dune. As a science fiction writer, it's pretty much criminal not to have read Herbert's classic, but there it is.

8. One Hundred Years of Solitude. No excuses about this one either. I've had it on my shelf for about one hundred years of neglect.

9. A Princess of Mars. I watched the nearly unwatchable Disney adaptation of this book. It's time to go back to the source material.

10. Herland. Yet another science fiction classic I've always wanted to read but never quite got around to.

That's ten, and I doubt I'll have time for any more this summer. But I'm always open to suggestions. Feel free to add your own favorite (or unread) classics in the comments!


  1. This list is awesome! I've read a couple, which thrills the insecure little bug in my soul that requires validation, and a few are books I do hope to tackle "someday" (ha). Catch-22 is on my Summer 2014 TBR list as well, so you'll have to give me your opinion on it. I'm also planning to read some Sherlock Holmes; Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar; and JD Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Some other stuff, too, both contemporary and classic, plus some writing guides. Now's the time! :)

    1. Cool! Another friend of mine is reading CATCH-22 with me, so maybe we can all share opinions. Just followed you on Twitter!