I have had the great fortune of studying abroad this summer. Part of studying abroad is, obviously, taking classes. I decided to take a Spanish literature class. Now, I have never been a fan of literature classes, mainly because I do not like having to memorize the teacher’s opinions about the work and accept them as fact, even if these opinions differ from my own. However, it is very interesting to read literature about a different culture and country. I feel like I know more about Spain and its development as a country from reading these literary works than from what I learned in my Spanish history course.
Here’s my challenge to you: I challenge you to read at least two books this summer by authors who are from a foreign country. These works of world literature will open your eyes to a way of life that is different from your own. Here is my list of the top world literature works to read for summer 2010.
1. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. When a group of young boys become ship wrecked on a deserted island, they must form their own society. Unfortunately these proper young lads quickly turn on each other, and chaos ensues. This is not a lighthearted book by any means, but if you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest you do so this summer.
2. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. This book shows us the trials and tribulations of Tita, a young Mexican girl who is madly in love with Pedro, but who can never marry her lover and instead must spend her days caring for her mother. Like Water for Chocolate is inspirational as it shows Tita’s self-growth and also examines family traditions, albeit in a negative way.
3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. If you saw the movie this spring, you might already be thinking of reading this book. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been famous for years for its fantasy, but also for its many cultural references to classical languages, mathematics, and more. Depending upon how deeply you read into this book, you might get more than just a tale about a girl chasing a rabbit.
I recommend these books to start out with. However, if they are not to your liking, or you want to “travel” somewhere else, here’s a longer list of books, authors, and countries where the books are set:
1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. England
2. Don Quixote by Miquel de Cervantes. Spain
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Columbia
4. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. India, under British rule.
5. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The Congo, Africa.
6. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass. Germany.
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. No definite place, but set in the future.
8. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Set in England, but it is an allegory for Russia during the Russian Revolution.
9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Japan.
10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Hogwarts, England. (Okay, so this one is more of a popular culture book, but if you haven’t read it, you should!)
I hope you enjoy reading at least one of these books this summer. It is so easy to completely forget about school during the summer, which can lead to summer learning loss. But by keeping your mind active and reading about a different culture, you will find it much easier to adjust back to school when the semester starts again. I know, I should not have said that. The thought of going back to school hurts me too.