As the weather outside goes from premature spring back to the gloom of February, many — myself included — find themselves spending reading week alone in Kingston. A book can provide a well-needed escape.
I’ve done your homework for you (because no one wants homework on their week off) and chose some books that are perfect for reading week. Here are three of my favorite books, three journeys you can embark on and return from in a week.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Join Jake Barnes, American ex-patriot and narrator of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in his day-to-day existence in Paris.
The book starts by describing Barne’s life in a way some might consider mundane. But Hemingway makes the routine lives of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s into something beautiful.
As we follow Barnes, the reader is kept in each environment just long enough to tire delicately from it and crave a change of pace and scenery.
After a lovely week of fishing — the calm before the storm — the novel plunges into the heart of the fiesta at the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
The beauty of the celebration and the uniqueness of Barnes’ friends — a comic group of caricatures of the Lost Generation — keep the reader constantly entangled in the story, flipping page after page.
Hemingway’s ability to be concise in his language use is something writers and readers of all generations admire. The Sun Also Rises is a quick story that will give you a glimpse of the young artists (as they may call themselves) of the 20s keeping your eyes open to the parallels between our generation and theirs.
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick was never grounded in his own time, and spent much of it imagining what the world would look like 50 years in the future.
Perhaps you’re too comfortable in reality and you want to see what happens when everything you thought was certain falls away. Perhaps you want to understand what it feels like to reach the top of a staircase, to open a door, and enter someone else’s mind.
That is what happens to Leo Bulero, one of the major characters in Philip K. Dick’s finest piece of work (in my humble opinion): The plot synopsis is too complex to explain briefly (although the book is less than 300 pages long), so I recommend letting Dick tell you himself. After all, he’s a master at easing readers into another, vividly-imagined version of the Earth (and surrounding planets) with delicacy.
This story was published in a selection of four stories (alongside Man in the High Castle, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and Ubik). The stories share several themes and ideas which could only be conceived by a schizophrenic on speed in 1965.
Although the idea of entering Dick’s mind may seem unnerving, I’d highly recommend it. I’ve never seen myself as clearly as I have through his eyes.
Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
The journey of Buster “Rant” Casey — told by Fight Club creator and personal (anti)hero Chuck Palahniuk — is another trip worth taking this reading week.
Told in the style of an oral biography — composed of chapters told from the perspectives of different first-person narrators — it begins by zeroing in on the upbringing of Rant Casey, and spins out of control as the book goes on.
The novel starts in the generic small town of Middleton, nowhere USA. It ends by leaving the reader in the dust of an epic, vaguely biblical journey, questioning the truths of existence.
Although I’ve read the majority of Palahniuk’s books, I’m always still pleasantly surprised by how they can still, well, surprise me. He has a distinct style and unifying themes that run throughout many of his works, and an extremely sharp eye for social satire and an extremely sharp tongue.
His voice is so distinct that he seems to become one of his own characters. He has a wonderful way of keeping his novels, well, novel.
Palahniuk’s genius shines most clearly at the end, when every page reveals a new twist or a new level to the story.
As it concludes, he somehow manages to root the outlandish tale firmly into the world we live in today.
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