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The reading rainbow

Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 5, 1999
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We here at Catalyst know you like to read. If you didn't, then you wouldn't be reading this now, would you? And since summertime in Tucson is a hot, hellish experience that makes you want to stay inside for as long as humanly possible, what better thing to do than expand your knowledge and vocabulary by reading? If you're at a loss as to what exactly to read this summer, never fear. The official Catalyst reading list is here to save you. Most of these books can be found at the UA Library, the Tucson-Pima Public Library, or your friendly neighborhood bookstore.


Lizard, by Banana Yoshimoto

Japanese writer Banana Yoshimoto's novels are simultaneously gloomy and strangely adorable. Lizard, a selection of short stories, is much the same. Yoshimoto's third work is a tangled mess of fantasy, tragedy and pop culture. It's also the best source for strange information about Japanese culture. They buy tea in vending machines. Vending machines!

A Brief History of Everything, by Ken Wilbur

This book is a synthesis of all thought. Given that ambitious purpose, it's also laid out in an interview form, in which the author asks himself questions like, "So 'higher' and 'lower' organization is not merely a relative 'value judgment?'" and "Is there any sex in this book?" The answer to both is yes.

Etiquette, by Emily Post

If you have terrible table manners, it's time to brush up with the 1945 edition of Emily Post's Etiquette. This book, which is hard to acquire, and is therefore the golden fleece of summer reading, is a fascinating portrait of post-war America. Chapters with delightful titles like "Modern Man and Girl," which is actually not about pedophilia, reflect values more in keeping with current notions of equality than with those of the decades

following the book's publication.


The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

This is probably my favorite book aside from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. From the minimalist cover to the slang-laden writing, Salinger defined an entire philosophy with this novel. Holden Caulfield rejects everything and everyone he perceives as a "phony" and this definition includes virtually the entire planet, save his dead brother Allie and his innocent sister Phoebe. If nothing else, Catcher in the Rye is a perfect summer read because it makes you so grateful to not be in school.

[Picture] Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss

OK, I admit it. I am a slow reader. My mother once took me to a speed reading class, and it actually did help a bit. However, I still believe that the best summer reading book for all those languid days by the pool or beach is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

Whatever the reason, Green Eggs and Ham teaches a valuable lesson to readers of all ages. Both characters teach tenacity, and since in the end our unnamed protagonist does try the green eggs and ham, it shows kids to feel free to experiment with food. If it's been a few years, head over to the bookstore and pick up Green Eggs and Ham. You can explore your inner child and finally read something a little lighter than all that Nietzsche.


[Picture] The Onion Presents Our Dumb Century, edited by Scott Dikkers

You gotta love the Onion. You know, that great satirical rag that started in Wisconsin about 10 years ago by some really strange guys? To celebrate the millennium, they have put out this book, which, as the subtitle explains, is "100 Years of Headlines from America's Finest News Source." You can polish up your American history this summer by reading headlines such as "Pretentious, Goateed Coffeehouse Types Seize Power in Russia," "A-Bomb May Have Awakened Gigantic Radioactive Monsters, Experts Say," "New Medical Report Finds Heavy Petting Leads to Communism," "Mr. T Release 'Pity List '86'," and "Al Gore Caught in Love Tryst with Endangered Tree Owl."

The Everlasting Story of Nory, by Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker, the author of famed novels Vox and The Fermata, decided to take on a new theme for The Everlasting Story of Nory. Baker creates the world of Nory, a 9-year-old American living in England for a semester, so realistically, you actually think you're nine again, which is perfect for that brain-dead mode we all seem to fall into over the summer.


[Picture] The R. Crumb Coffee Table Art Book, by R. Crumb

If you've seen Terry Zwigoff's fine documentary, Crumb, you know that Robert Crumb is the painfully maladjusted legend of 1960s and '70s underground cartooning. This brobdignagian tome - recently released in paperback - chronicles Crumb's troubled journey from starry-eyed fanboy to expatriate misanthrope by juxtaposing dozens of his original comics with new, handwritten commentary by the artist. The collection's not perfect (Crumb drew in black-and-white, and most of the Art Book has been colorized), but it's the best single-volume Crumb anthology available.

Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

Okay, it's a big cliché for college students to like Vonnegut. That doesn't matter. K.V. abandons literary pretensions and does what he damn well pleases in this novel, drawing kindergarten-level pictures of cows in between paragraphs with a Sharpie and literally inserting himself as the omnipotent god-character that all novelists imagine themselves to be. A movie version, which stars Bruce Willis and Nick Nolte, and thus will probably suck, may eventually be released, so read this book before your cultural palate has been tainted.


Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbery

This juicy bit of poetry won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1975. It's a difficult but delicious romp through a personal and national identity crisis.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A small town named Macondo suffers political and social ailments while the foreknowledge of wiseman and huckster Melquiades is gradually revealed. Garcia Marquez writes the most amazing sentences of any living writer.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Beckett anticipated Generation X by 50 years in this, his finest play. It's about two guys waiting for something to happen or someone to come. While they wait, they talk about

whatever comes to mind in order to pass the time.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

This epic novel certainly will not make your summer more bright, but experiencing this overwhelmingly powerful and tragic work might be worth it. This is the story of Stephen Wraysford, an Englishman who finds himself in No Man's Land during World War I, involved in a bloody battle which Faulks unflinchingly portrays. The historical accuracy also gives us a fascinating account of how the Great War was fought. Definitely pick this one up.

Anything by P.G. Wodehouse

After reading Birdsong, you'll be in need of something lighter, and the books of P.G. Wodehouse will do the trick. The creator of the inimitable butler Jeeves and his bumbling employer/ward Wooster, his style of comedy is entirely original and refreshing, his wordplay is brilliant, and above all, he is damn funny. Easy, pleasurable reads for any day at the beach.