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What We’re Reading

Wonder what librarians do for summer reading? Here are Assistant Library Professor Selene Colburn’s recent picks:

A friend and I share a project to make it through the approximately forty titles neither of us has read on the Guardian’s list of the hundred greatest novels of all time. In between (largely eighteenth century British) titles, we read whatever we feel like.

Here are a few highlights:


Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
The Guardian calls this “one of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.” And though it did take me three months to read it, I was riveted by the still-shocking-today behavior of the novel’s arch villain Lovelace, and fascinated by the ways in which Clarissa is entrapped by the systems of class, gender, and family that he exploits, as he sets about romancing and abducting her.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
A friend said this slim book was “so tart it makes my eyes pucker” and truer words were never spoken. Muriel Spark’s brilliant prose lands like a dart in this devastating portrait of a single Scottish school teacher and the girls she takes into her confidence.

Coming Up Next

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
I’m a little daunted by the Wikipedia entry (occasionally, when no one is looking, librarians turn to Wikipedia to see what they’ve let themselves in for in greatest novels), which says that “Tristram as narrator finds himself discoursing at length on sexual practices, insults, the influence of one’s name, noses, as well as explorations of obstetrics, siege warfare and philosophy…” But I’ll reward myself for finishing it by watching the incomparable Steve Coogan’s turn in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

Whatever I Feel Like

In addition to local author Creston Lea’s fantastic short story collection Wild Punch (which I’m reading slowly, to make it last), I’ll be bringing Ivy Compton-Burnett’s A House and Its Head on my upcoming trip to the American Library Association Annual conference. But the book I’m most excited to read this summer is Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, about which Francine Prose wrote, “Reading Roberto Bolaño is like hearing the secret story, being shown the fabric of the particular, watching the tracks of art and life merge at the horizon and linger there like a dream from which we awake inspired to look more attentively at the world.”

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