Family Bookshelf

The reading list never ends, and there are some major works I need to tackle or re-tackle for my upcoming thesis, and for pleasure. I often sideline lesser-known authors in favor of literary all-stars or one-off classics, but I’ve decided to change my reading habits for the next six weeks to take advantage of my dad’s extensive library. He is a veritable fanboy of several American writers who have reached icon status in literary circles but are not immediately familiar to the rest of the world. I haven’t read more than a short story or essay by any of these authors and I know they have a lot to offer. My mission before I leave for uni is to pick up one work by each of these authors. From what I’ve heard they might even contribute to a better historical understanding of the country I plan to base my thesis around.

The gang:

Gore Vidal – prolific creator, oft-described master of the historical novel and all-around oddball.

E.L. Doctorow – Doctorow, beloved among the literati, died recently. Tributes abound, from the Guardian to the New Yorker. The most obvious choice to read here is Ragtime, and not just because Dad has told me to read it 100 million times. Like so many of Vidal’s works, this book’s vivid depiction of a chapter of America’s history has been praised.

Edward Abbey – because obvi. I can’t believe I haven’t read a single word written by this man. I actually remember being fascinated by the cover of The Monkey Wrench Gang when I was a toddler. It’s time to get acquainted.

T.C. Boyle – another prolific contributor to American literature. As amusing and disturbing as his latest book, The Harder They Come, sounds, I’ll probably go with an earlier work. As I write, The Tortilla Curtain sits on the shelf opposite me and, I am convinced, is staring a hole through my head. “Reeeead me,” it hisses. It is mad because I already picked it up once and put it down after two pages. We’ll see what happens, Tortilla Curtain.

Philip Roth – For some reason, of all the authors on this list I’m the most jazzed about reading Roth. I really can’t decide whether to read American Pastoral, The Human Stain, or Portnoy’s Complaint. Probably Portnoy’s Complaint, because who doesn’t want to read about a profane, libidinous and therapized Jewish bachelor who is obsessed with his mother? Sign me up.

Wallace Stegner – We also seem to have a lot of Wally Stegner lying around. I don’t know if anyone ever called him Wally, but I hope they did.

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