Dear Bill Gates:
I’m concerned about your summer reading list, heavy on nonfiction titles, lacking in fiction, classics, poetry, which reflect the common core of what I believe every educated American should read (of course, I will readily admit that this is totally subjective, and I want to stress that I am happy that you are reading at all, something I stress to my own children).
So, I have some alternative titles to your summer reading list for you to consider:
-The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson, short poems, easy to read at the beach, or choose any other poetry collection.
-1984 by George Orwell. I am amazed at how often George Orwell’s 1984 is quoted, especially in relations to politics and to technology. I plan to re-read this summer, and I think you should too. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the presents controls the past.”
-The “Battle Royal” section of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison to understand the history of racism and pain in America. The entire the book is moving too, but it’s that chapter you have to read.
-Hilary Mantel’s Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories, or Lydia Davis’ Collected Stories, or George Pellecanos’ Martini Shot, if you’d like some terrific genre short fiction— one nice thing about short story collections is you can feel free to skip a story or two and still say you read the book. I’ve been reading a lot of short fiction lately—short fiction focuses the mind, and these stories all present character, image, conflict in the most concise way.
-The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, my son just read this in 9 grade – talks about being the ‘outsider’ and ‘other’ here in America better than any young adult novel. One other thought: Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, written in verse. I have it on my TBR list and so should you.
-Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, the Broadway show is a big hit, but the graphic novel is a deep and moving tale of a father and daughter— and coming out. And it’s always cool to say you read graphic novels.
I’m sure others would have suggestions for you that go beyond your limited nonfiction and science/tech-focused summer book reading choices— any others out there?
I’d just urge you to go farther and wider and be more open and curious in your reading, and if you do, to share it with us all.
Read on, Bill! Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
*Full disclosure: I am the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels: Before My Eyes (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) and LIE (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). You can also always read these book:)! More at www.carolinebock.com