We stand behind our taste in books
Magazine staff is pictured to the left, illustrating the
principle You are what you read. I'm behind Frosty the Snowman.
When we got the idea for this column, as part of an issue in which
all the features discuss books worth reading, writing, publishing,
teaching, seeing, or otherwise thinking about, we decided that
each editor would write a bit about his or her favorite books.
As the oldest reader in the group, I got the most space.
Most readers like to talk
about what they're reading. And like all addicts, they're always
on the lookout for another endorphin-producing experience: the
next book they can't put down. So here's what we like, in hopes
that you find another good read.
First, Frosty the Snowman.
This copy is six months younger than its owner, proving once more
that the best way to produce a reader is to start early. My mother
did, and when Frosty resurfaced two years ago, I had a
Proustian moment: looking at snowsuited children gazing into a
bakery window whose goods are iced with frosting as white and
inviting as the snowman himself, I was back to toddler awe.
Gone with the Wind
was once my favorite book, reread every year. Today, like Rhett,
I no longer give a damn. Jane Austen does get repeat reads, usually
in the bathtub-where the heroines of Sense and Sensibility
dissolve into the ladies from Persuasion. The plots blur,
but reading Austen always yields the same pleasure in decorous
sentences covering bare-bones truth.
Books worth rereading change
as we change. My ninth-grade book report on Lolita began,
"I fail to see what is erotic about this book." In college,
I saw Nabokov's Humbert Humbert as the protagonist of a tragic
love story; as the mother of teenage daughters, I see the story
differently yet again. This fall I reread Moby-Dick, a
book I don't remember opening since college. I marveled at its
depths then (enough to take a course reading all of Melville's
other novels), and after several decades of life's sea changes
marvel still more.
Associate editor Chris Smith
flaunts Cattus Petasatus, The Cat in the Hat in Latin,
by Jennifer and Terence Tunberg: "A friend who knows me too
well gave me this book for my birthday. I love it because it speaks
equally to my scholarly and immature sides, which I often have
trouble keeping in balance." He also returns to Tom Robbins's
Jitterbug Perfume ("I want to go for a long, contemplative
walk after each chapter") and the poems of Catullus ("a
new riddle every time").
Associate editor Sharla Stewart
stands behind Willa Cather's O Pioneers! "I grew up
in Nebraska," she says, "resenting the fact that it
was Nebraska and not someplace more cosmopolitan, and as soon
as I was old enough I fled the Midwest. A couple of years ago
in Atlanta, I picked up a Willa Cather book for a buck at a yard
sale. Aside from the odd short story in high school and college
English classes, I'd never read her work. I couldn't put the book
down. She was writing about my homeland, and she had it so absolutely
right, the way Faulkner gets the South right or Keillor gets Minnesota
Assistant editor Qiana Johnson,
AB'98, goes for Tolkien's The Hobbit. "Many of the
adventure stories I read as a kid had a hero who was strong and
smart and knew it-not exactly someone I could identify with. Bilbo
gets dragged on this adventure where he thinks he won't be useful
only to find that he's more resourceful than he thinks. I also
love the descriptions of the lands they travel through: Middle-earth
provided me with weeks of things and places to daydream about.
And hey, having a hero who's not very tall is always cool."
What's your favorite read?
We've told ours. Now you
tell us-and other readers-yours, at the Magazine's new bulletin
board. Go to www.alumni.
uchicago.edu/magazine and click "Read."