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Bookworms unite

by The Concordian September 13, 2011

Graphics by Sean Kershaw

Graphics by Sean Kershaw

When it comes to eliciting superbly brilliant thoughts in the minds of young scholars, Financial Accounting Theory can hardly be considered the most inspiring piece of literature. While Probability and Random Processes might help you achieve your goal of passing your statistics course, feed your soul and expand your horizons it will not. With every passing semester, Concordia students are expected to pay exorbitant fees for soul-crushing texts similar to the aforementioned ones. Although these are the necessary sacrifices of a student, it’s equally important to acknowledge the significance of indulging in quality literature that isn’t necessarily on your syllabus.

A few literary necessities that every university student, regardless of their gender, religious persuasions or political inclinations, should read are as follows:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Set in Prague in the Czechoslovak Communist period, this novel follows the lives of four people, Tomáš, Tereza, Sabina and Franz, as their lives intersect, flourish and fall apart in parallel. The book poses considerations on the merits and disadvantages of both lightness and heaviness in regards to relationships and life in general. Allusions to Anna Karenina and Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence are doled out in heavy doses, making this one of the most hauntingly beautiful novels to be written in the past few decades. It’s at once a work of political criticism, philosophical postulation and exquisitely written prose.

The Collected Poetry of Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
Wry humour and dry wit found their queen in Dorothy Parker. Short story writer, poet, satirist and patron of the Algonquin Round Table, Parker transcended gender norms in the ’20s and ’30s by defying the customary role of demure and submissive female. She refused to marry, took numerous lovers and relished the opportunity to point out the follies of patriarchy. With her selected poems and witticisms, Parker provides satirical gems to be enjoyed by all, not just feminists. One of her more notable poems, “Resume,” reads: “Razors pain you/ Rivers are damp/ Acids stain you/ And drugs cause cramp/ Guns aren’t lawful/ Nooses give/ Gas smells awful/ You might as well live.”

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
Ever wonder about the cultural impact the original cast of The Real World had on the state of television, as well as on society itself? Have you considered the effect that John Cusack had on modern relationships when he held a boombox over his head, playing “In Your Eyes” outside his love’s window in the classic Say Anything? This collection of 18 comedic essays embraces the dregs of pop culture and explains its relevance to the world at large. The first person narrative tone of each essay stands as a metaphor for the subject matter itself: great wit and humour are matched with profound, sweeping statements to represent both the supposed triviality of the pop culture phenomena being discussed, as well as the many reasons as to why they aren’t trivial at all.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Considered a defining work of the Beat movement, Kerouac’s largely autobiographical book recounts the many spontaneous road trips of Sal Paradise, a writer searching for inspiration on the open road, and his traveling companion, Dean Moriarty, a free spirit “tremendously excited with life.” This book should serve as inspiration for many a university student looking to explore the world, embrace spontaneity and even embark upon a pancake tour of North America. Note: Read this one before the upcoming movie adaptation discourages you from doing so. Twilight’s Kristen Stewart playing the female lead is a very telling fact about the likelihood of the film’s credibility.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
While for most people, The Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential Salinger novel, Franny and Zooey, which chronicles the existential crisis of Franny Glass as she contemplates life alongside her brother Zooey, is the reclusive writer’s literary gem that hasn’t been marred by decades of clichés. The novel begins with Franny becoming increasingly disenchanted with the inauthenticity she continuously encounters in the world. She eventually suffers a breakdown in her parents’ living room and spends days discussing the meaning of life with her brother. Together, Franny and Zooey take Holden Caulfield’s considerations on phoniness to an even more insightful and poignant level.

L’Etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus
Existentialism makes another appearance with this final “must-read” book for university students. Considered both an early work of existentialist literature and of absurdism, Camus’ novel follows a man, Meursault, as he faces the absurd binary oppositions of the importance of the physical world and of the meaninglessness of human life. By initially living through only sensory experiences, Meursault confronts the absurdity and arbitrariness of life by emotionlessly killing an Arab man, and consequently enduring the random nature of justice during his criminal trial. Rife with elegant prose and probing philosophizing, this novel is one whose themes and characters will change the way you read, as well as the way you think in general.

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