At Great Books, we always encourage members of our community to “Be the best version of yourself.” For this first GBSP Bookshelf of the New Year, we bring you books about starting and starting over, and books that you should resolve to read.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (Heather’s pick, because when you work at a summer camp, everyone tells you to read this novel.) This relatively new novel follows a group of kids from a summer arts camp in Massachusetts in 1974 through adulthood. The story focuses on their first experiences of self-fashioning at camp, and how the selves they create lead to the people they become. And who doesn’t love stories about awesome summer camp communities full of quirky kids? Be warned that this book does depict some mature language and themes not condoned by GBHQ.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
(Mel’s pick) Pollan’s natural history of food and eating gets you thinking about how eating habits affect the world around you. It confronts our current dilemmas with the industrialization of food, but rather than tell the reader what they should and shouldn’t eat, this book attempts to make us more discerning and attentive of our food. This book changed Mel’s perspective on eating and the importance of savoring mealtimes, and she recommends it for anyone who—like her—loves history, anthropology, and of course, food.
Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton (Mindy’s pick. She writes:)
People often use the clean-slate of the New Year to “reinvent” themselves externally, but for those aspiring for internal changes I would recommend the Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. It’s a kind of high-brow self-help book (stay with me…) that takes the teachings of great western philosophers and makes them actually useful! There’s a section on Inadequacy and Montaigne, another on how to deal with difficulties referencing the life and works of Nietzsche and so on. It’s a quick, witty and actually useful read for anyone looking to better themselves in 2015.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
A science-fictional take on starting over, this novel follows Peter Leigh, a Christian missionary sent to convert the inhabitants of a distant planet called Oasis. There, he must grapple with humanity, difference, similarity, and requisite sci-fi plot twists.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Smith’s award-winning novel begins on New Year’s Day 1975, when one of the main characters makes a life-changing decision and finds a new lease on life. This beautiful novel, in which old world meets new, follows two families living in North London to explore issues of empire, cultural identity, and family history.
According to a survey done by BookRiot, there are a number of classics people pretend to have read but have never actually read. Their extensive research on the subject (see this fun venn diagram) also shows that the books people put off reading forever and finally read often become their favorites.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville seems to be many readers’ White Whale, along with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and James Joyce’s Ulysses. These books are pretty thick, so why not resolve to read one in 2015? You may find your new favorite classic.
What are you reading in the New Year? Do you have any reading resolutions for 2015?