I still remember looking at my syllabi freshmen year and thinking I would never be able to get through all of my readings. How, I wondered, would I ever be able to read two dozen books in one semester while still keeping up with exams and essays and also maintaining a high GPA?
At times it seemed like the only way that would happen was if I suddenly transformed into some sort of coffee-run robot with no need for sleep and an immense passion for what, I must confess, occasionally felt like very long and not particularly interesting books.
Yet now that my last semester of college is coming to a close I find myself doing what I promised myself never to do, I look back on all those stress-filled, sleepless nights when I forced myself to finish book after book, and I thank the world, my professors and my stubbornness for forcing me to follow through with those readings. Because, while I'm happy those nights are over, I'm thankful for the books I read and the lessons they taught me, especially because if they hadn't been assigned to me by one of my professors, I know I never would have found the motivation to read them.
These are some my personal favorites:
- The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation by James M. Saslow.
I think I should preface this by confessing I love both art history and poetry, so the fact that I love this book is not entirely surprising, - if you're rolling you're eyes at me right about now, I don't blame you. However, I really do love this book, and it doesn't stand out from the millions of other books I read only because I was stunned when I realized Michelangelo wrote poetry, even though I was, but because his poetry is so beautifully written. If you like poetry this is a must.
- Kartography by Kamila Shamsie.
This novel is actually the reason I decided to take a class called "Coming of Age in Literature." In short, it's about family, life, love, war, politics and loss, and while I admit I was unsure at first, I was honestly hooked after reading just one page. Shamsie is a wonderfully patient yet engaging writer and by the end it really feels as though you've been living with Raheen and Karim you whole life. It's gripping from the very beginning, a truly lovely love story.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky.
I had to read this for a psychology class, believe it or not, and I enjoyed it immensely. This was a novel I was glad to come home to after a long day of other, less willingly completed readings. There's something about Charlie that is extremely easy to relate to; we've all been him, we've all been worried about starting high school, making new friends, trying to do the right thing. Moreover the way this book is written, through Charlie's letters to his "dear friend" make for a very private read. It almost feels like you shouldn't be reading them, - which, let's be honest, will only make you want to read it more.
- Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition by Davies, Denny, Hofrichter, Jacobs, Roberts and Simon.
This is a book for art lovers, and it's a big one. Most major art works and artists are in here. If you like art history at all, or even just a little bit, you should read this. It makes walking into an art museum one hundred times more interesting.
- Imaging Her Selves: Frida Kahlo's Poetics of Identity and Fragmentation by Gannit Ankori.
I took a class with the author of this book, so that may be why I liked it so much. Nonetheless, I have to say this makes for a wonderful read. There are some very surprising and interesting facts about Frida Kahlo's life in there, facts that I hadn't read about anywhere else. If you've heard about Frida Kahlo and want to know more, this is the book for you.
Last but not least, I have to make a point to say that if you're reading this as a freshman and want to kill me, just give it time, you'll soon read something worth your while.