Come the beginning of each new year, bookstores fill their windows with weight–loss guides and self–help books promoting mindfulness in the spirit of New Year resolutions. Amazing! But while they directly channel the spirit of resolution, there are also plenty of more entertaining options that indirectly accomplish the same thing. So, with the goal of reading more in the New Year, here’s a college–themed (read: time–saving) list of refreshing and invigorating works of literature.
Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays by David Foster Wallace
Named one of Time's 100 best novels of the last century, Wallace’s 1,079–page Infinite Jest is by no means meant to be daunting. This collection of essays displays his ironic style from discussions of going to the Adult Video News Awards in “Big Red Son” to boiling lobsters alive in the famed titled essay, “Consider the Lobster.” Because the essays are easy to read in short periods, they are ideal material to bring to the gym or pull out between classes—and an even better way to become familiar with the work of one of the most noteworthy postmodern authors.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
One of Christie’s most riveting mysteries, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a classic Poirot novel, only better than the popular Murder on the Orient Express, because you don’t already know the ending. This book is a great choice if you’ve abandoned your reading habits for a while because it always keeps you on your toes. Best read on a dark, rainy night, this mystery engages you in a way that will help you re–discover your love of reading.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
If the modern socioeconomic turmoil of the world has you listening to angst–filled punk music again, then Just Kids is for you. In her memoir, Smith describes her development as a musician, and how that coincided with her relationship with the controversial artist, Robert Mapplethorpe. A natural storyteller, Smith will bring you to tears from laughter and sadness with her tales of being a struggling artist in New York City. In her vivid descriptions of both artistic passion and poverty, Smith shows how to find beauty in desolation, and reminds us what it means to suffer for your art, whatever that may be.
Nine Horses by Billy Collins
Originally published in 2002, this collection is poetry for people who don’t like poetry. Collins' simple language makes his words comprehensible to the modern reader. With each word, you can hear the clang of his typewriter in “Royal Aristocrat" and see the cool composition of colors in “Study in Orange and White.” Collins even critiques what poetry means in his conclusion, “Poetry.” If you’ve previously shied away from this genre, Nine Horses reels you back in and shows you the way a collection of words can be beautiful in its phonetics—subtly, without the John Donne level of complication.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro, the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, paints a picture of post–WWII England from the point of view of the traditional butler, Stevens. As this brief novel progresses, nuances of Stevens’ past life become painfully clear to the reader, while Stevens himself remains frustratingly unable to connect the dots. In a story that questions the sacrifices we justify in pursuing our aspirations, The Remains of the Day leaves you with the clichéd (but still needed) reminder to chase your dreams and live each day to its very fullest.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
There’s a reason this signature novel of the beat generation is still relevant 60 years after its original publication. In the roman à clef, Kerouac tells a story of degenerates traveling around the United States in search of a greater meaning to life. The question of whether they find it or not in the end is widely disputed, but following along in their journey will help you take the first step in finding it for yourself. The overtones of disillusion in Kerouac’s narration are not so foreign to the modern American college student, which is perfect for reinvigorating you to find your life's meaning.