With classes, research, clubs, studying, and meeting up with friends, I have rarely gotten time during the school year to read, something I love to do to relax. And while amazing classes like Great Books are offered at Hopkins that has students read great classics, like Dante’s Inferno, Cervante’s Don Quixote, and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, there’s nothing quite like reading for pleasure. Not having the pressure of analyzing books for themes and character flaws, being able to simply focus on your interpretation of the book and your opinion of the setting, plot, and discourse is my favorite way to read.
Logically, I made it my goal to read as many books as I could this summer, especially since I have tons more time now. Enjoy my review of the books I have gotten to, and feel free to comment with some of your recommendations!
1. Life of Pi By Yann Martel- About a family that owns a zoo traveling by ship to their new home in the United States, this book records the experiences of Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi, and his journey aboard a lifeboat after the ship sinks and kills the rest of his family. A story of courage and ingenuity, this book is an inspiring story of the desire to stay alive. While the story is purported to be true, like the fact that Pi lives in a lifeboat for seven months with a tiger, I have yet to decide for myself whether I agree. Regardless, I am excited for the movie coming out soon!
2. Freakonomics By Steven Levitt- I was a little late to read this book when it first came out, but have always heard great things about it. Using basic statistics and trends, it demonstrates some bizarre social phenomena. I would definitely recommend this book, but beware that you will start to watch everything you do very closely!
3. The Defense By Vladimir Nabokov- I have always been a fan of Russian authors like Kafka and Dostoevsky, and came across this book earlier this summer at the library. I had the intention of reading Nabokov’s more famous Lolita, but was happily surprised with The Defense. It is the story of Luzhin, a quiet and secretive child who grows into a man obsessed with the game of chess. The game slowly takes over his life, and this psychologically gripping novel gives a new meaning to the word madness.
4. Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacman- My family has been loyal to Apple products for as long as I can remember, and I have never been able to understand why anyone would buy anything else (sounds snobby, I know). So I read the book hoping just to learn more about Jobs and his creative inspiration behind Apple products. What I got was much more than that. The man we all associate with iPods, Macs, and iPads was much more than simply a tech-geek. He was a master of advertising and getting people to do what he wanted. He was able to captivate audiences with his innovative ideas and created an intensely dedicated following.
5. Outliers By Malcolm Gladwell- Another one of those books that I neglected to read when it had just come out, Outliers is a great read about the “outliers” of our society and the things that shaped them. While it sort of makes you feel incredibly ordinary, it is really interesting to learn about how smart other people are…
6. Shantaram By Gregory David Roberts- An amazing story of an Australian outlaw’s attempt to start a new life in Bombay upon escaping from prison. He gets involved in the drug trade, black market, politics, and brothels. He goes to Afghanistan to fight, and brings his body to the bring of collapse numerous times. While this book is also said to be a true story, I find that hard to believe. However, the images of India and its culture are beautiful, and the struggles of Shantaram, as he comes to be called, is beautiful.
7. Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand- This book has had mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it. It is about the Taggart Railroad Company, and Dagny, the woman in charge of it, as she sees the government taking control of society and slowly sucking the life out of it. It is an especially interesting novel because it was written in 1976, but is believable to a certain extent even today as a prediction of what might happen in the future.
8. The Anthem By Ayn Rand- Another of her most famous works, this book has similar dystopian themes and describes the life of a society in which everyone’s fate is predetermined for them. The protagonist ventures into the wilderness, described very much like the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter.
On my to-do list includes: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Sun Also Rises, and Neuromancer (that last one is a nerdy sci-fi about a hacker whose skills are taken away by a neurotoxin).
Enjoy your week!