The end of summer approaches, which means I start teaching next week. I love teaching, but it takes a lot of mental energy, and as productive as my summer was (finished one book, put another up for sale online, and painted the kitchen: not bad), I didn’t do as much reading as I usually do. A few novels that I will teach this year, some background nonfiction for those same classes, and a Tana French novel in progress. This predicament brings to mind some of my favorite obscure books that are quick to read and yet amazing little gems, good for when you don’t have much time and want to relish every minute of it. I share:
Auntie Mame: My mother used to watch the movie version every year (and it was on television every year, regular as The Wizard of Oz), and we would watch with her, but I was in my twenties when I finally read the book. Mame never gets old (as she would tell you herself), and Patrick Dennis’ wild ride as her foster child/nephew is a hoot. The private school where they all get naked and enact spawning; Mame’s belief that 9 a.m. is “the middle of the night”; her notorious virgin ride to the hounds. It’s all hilarious. There’s some seriosity in there, too, as when Mame puts the “Aryan from Darien” in his place, or when the Depression hits, but it’s mostly just plain fun. Read it, now.
Wake Up, Stupid! Mark Harris wrote Bang the Drum Slowly, and a lot of other books, too, but this one is dearest to my heart. The title comes from a professor’s reaction when he sees students sleeping. He throws a book at the offender and admonishes them with this simple statement. Harris’ characters are funny and wise, but if that isn’t enough to make you want to read this one, then read BTDS, at least the part where he explains how to play TEGWAR. Trust me.
The Boyfriend School. A former coworker told me to read this, and I would have let the title mislead me and dismissed it, if she weren’t the one who came up to me once a day to report that she felt like, say, a black and white television set with a tube out. Sarah Bird is a witty writer, and this is a clever take on men, women, and dumb choices.
The Adrian Mole diaries, by Sue Townsend. There are several volumes now, taking Adrian from age 13 3/4 to adulthood and beyond. Their narrator is cynical, forlorn, and unreliable out the wazoo.
Fredric Brown’s Night of the Jabberwock is an amazing little book, and you will want to read it all over again right after you finish it. Take a small-town newspaper editor, a series of unusual crimes, and a sprinkle of Lewis Carroll, and the entertainment begins. Brown also wrote a funny little take on Martian invasions, Martians, Go Home, that is worth a read.