Friday, September 9, 2011

5 Best Books: Academia

5 Best Books is a weekly meme hosted by Indie Reader Houston that asks readers to list their top 5 books on a given topic.  This week's theme: Academia.  

 For this week I' m going to list the top 5 books I've read for school (BA was in English, so I've got lots of goodies to draw from) goes!

Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell
Dennis Orphen, in writing a novel, has stolen the life story of his friend, Effie Callingham, the former wife of a famous, Hemingway-like novelist, Andrew Callingham. Orphen’s betrayal is not the only one, nor the worst one, in this hilarious satire of the New York literary scene. (Powell personally considered this to be her best New York novel.) Powell takes revenge here on all publishers, and her baffoonish MacTweed is a comic invention worthy of Dickens. And as always in Powell’s New York novels, the city itself becomes a central character: “On the glittering black pavement legs hurried by with umbrella tops, taxis skidded along the curb, their wheels swishing through the puddles, raindrops bounced like dice in the gutter.” Powell’s famous wit was never sharper than here, but Turn, Magic Wheel is also one of the most poignant and heart-wrenching of her novels.

Caucasia by Danzy Senna
In the tradition of Nella Larsen's Passing, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and James McBride's The Color of Water, Danzy Senna's first novel, Caucasia, explores the complexity of racial discord in America. While Ellison wrote about being paradoxically marked yet "invisible" as a black American man, and Larsen grappled with issues of race, gender, and sexuality during the Harlem Renaissance, Caucasia describes the experience of the invisible sister who confronts biracial identity in post-civil rights movement America. 

Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson
Jesus' Son, the first collection of stories by Denis Johnson, presents a unique, hallucinatory vision of contemporary American life unmatched in power and immediacy and marks a new level of achievement for this acclaimed writer. In their intensity of perception, their neon-lit evocation of a strange world brought uncomfortably close to our own, the stories in Jesus' Son offer a disturbing yet eerily beautiful portrayal of American loneliness and hope.

Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
"Somehow or other I seem to have slipped in between all the 'schools,'" observed Nathanael West the year before his untimely death in 1940. "My books meet no needs except my own, their circulation is practically private and I'm lucky to be published." Yet today, West is widely recognized as a prophetic writer whose dark and comic vision of a society obsessed with mass-produced fantasies foretold much of what was to come in American life. Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), which West envisioned as "a novel in the form of a comic strip," tells of an advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist who becomes tragically embroiled in the desperate lives of his readers. The Day of the Locust (1939) is West's great dystopian Hollywood novel based on his experiences at the seedy fringes of the movie industry.

Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (this one gets double points b/c it takes place at a University)
A divorced, middle-aged English professor finds himself increasingly unable to resist affairs with his female students. When discovered by the college authorities, he is expected to apologise and repent in an effort to save his job, but he refuses to become a scapegoat in what he see as as a show trial designed to reinforce a stringent political correctness. 

He preempts the authorities and leaves his job, and the city, to spend time with his grown-up lesbian daughter on her remote farm. Things between them are strained - there is much from the past they need to reconcile - and the situation becomes critical when they are the victims of a brutal and horrifying attack. 

In spectacularly powerful and lucid prose, J.M. Coetzee uses all his formidable skills to engage with a post-apartheid culture in unexpected and revealing ways. This examination into the sexual and politcal lawlines of modern South Africa as it tries desperately to start a fresh page in its history is chilling, uncompromising and unforgettable.

**All summaries are direct quotes from Goodreads


  1. Hi there! Just a quick comment to let you know I'm a new follower *waves*

    I found your blog through a comment of yours on someone elses' and here I am! It's nice to come across a blog that reads such a wide variety of books as you, so I'll definitely be back.

  2. I've never heard of any of these!


  3. This is such a great list! I missed a few of these when I was working on my own English degree, but that's not surprising. I took lots of weird classes. :) I'm a big Nathaniel West fan, though.