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  • Brian Boone 2:00 pm on 2017/08/07 Permalink
    Tags: alison lurie, casey lewis, , , dorm room essentials cookbook, elif batuman, ethan trex, , , foreign affairs, free stuff guide for everyone, gina meyers, goodnight dorm room: all the advice I wish i got before going to college, harlan cohen, keith riegert, kingsley amix, knack dorm living, , , , on beauty, peter sander, , samuel kaplan, school daze, scott dikkers, , streeter seidell, the big u, the college humor guide to college, the idiot, the naked roommate, the pretty good jim's journal treasury, , , , wonder boys,   

    These 20 Books Are Absolute Dorm Room Essentials 

    So you’re headed off to college in the fall. Congratulations! It’s going to be both a lot of work and a tremendous karmic shift! You’ll be on your own, and also living in a very small dormitory room with a person who is, in all likelihood, a complete stranger. Regardless, books are both an escape and an olive branch—the books you’ll need to best understand, appreciate, and enhance the college-going experience.

    The Pretty Good Jim’s Journal Treasury, by Scott Dikkers
    Everyone who went to college remembers it as an exciting time of self-discovery, new friendships, and working really, really hard. We tend to forget about all of the downtime and boredom of college—class is only a few hours a day, after all. This is where the droll comic strip collection by Scott Dikkers, a founder of The Onion, traffics—a guy named Jim does all the boring, mundane stuff one does in college. Much of Dikkers’ “Jim’s Journal” (which ran in lots of college newspapers in the ’90s) concerned the protagonist’s low-stakes experience with higher education.

    Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis
    Countless authors, past and present, have also been college professors and academics. And as the old adage goes, you write what you know. The result is the subgenre of the campus novel, which details the unique experience of being in college, either for a few years or forever, including its unique politics, quirks, challenges, and maddening hypocrisies. Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, published in 1954, is among the first major campus novels, and it’s a rightful classic of the genre, detailing the wryly humorous life of an academic who becomes a lecturer at an English university despite not really wanting the job.

    The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
    There are certain things in Donna Tartt’s breakout novel that are universal college experiences: arguing with professors to allow you to take their classes, finding your tribe of like-minded individuals, and looking up to the most charismatic students on campus.

    White Noise, by Don DeLillo
    Don DeLillo’s classic novel is told through the eyes of a contented professor and patriarch of a large, blended, technology-addicted family who leads a small northeastern college’s Hitler Studies program. While the themes of the novel deal with the omnipresence of chemicals in our food, air, and bodies, DeLillo also nails the day-to-day of college life, as well as how it feels to live in a university town, particularly how it’s both charmingly unchanging and always exciting due to the constant influx and outflux of new students and teachers.

    Free Stuff Guide for Everyone, by Peter Sander
    Almost everyone in college is poor. Tuition, books, and living expenses cost a lot of money, and 18-year-olds don’t have much of that, because they lack earning power due to being 18, not-yet-college-educated, and having to spend the majority of their time going to class and studying. To make it through with your health and happiness intact, you’re going to have to get a little scrappy and a little shameless and seek out deals and bargains wherever you can. A book like this one will clue you in to all sorts of free and discounted necessary items.

    Goodnight Dorm Room: All the Advice I Wish I Got Before Going to College, by Samuel Kaplan and Keith Riegert
    Not a parody of Goodnight, Moon, likely because the book Goodnight, Moon is larger than the average dorm room. Rather, this is a swift and funny advice guide to everything “they” won’t tell you about going to college. And it’s important stuff, too, from how to exploit the goodwill of TAs who want you to succeed, to what stuff you should definitely and not definitely bring with you to fill out your tiny, tiny dorm room.

    Dorm Room Essentials Cookbook, by Gina Meyers
    Man or woman cannot survive on cafeteria food and ramen alone. Also, most college dorms don’t allow hotplates. But you’ve gotta eat, and eat well, so you’ve got to get creative. This cookbook shows you how to use the tools at hand and affordable ingredients to prepare all kinds of snacks, meals, and desserts.

    Knack Dorm Living: Get the Room—and the Experience—You Want at College, by Casey Lewis
    That dorm room is small, but this book just might be a good investment of both limited space and money. Written by Lewis when she was a seen-it-all-in-college, done-it-all-in-college college senior, it’s full of easy-to-follow and crucial tips on what to take to college, what to buy when you get there, and how to effectively and efficiently organize what little time, space, and money you’ve got.

    The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, by Harlan Cohen
    Not only are dorm rooms small, but they have to be shared with another person, who could not only be a stranger, but also literally quite strange. (Hence the title.) Cohen’s book offers pre-emptive advice on all sorts of challenges a naive, inexperienced-to-the-ways-of-the-world college freshman may experience, such as the times when it’s okay to shoot for a C, how to find a campus job, and how to navigate both long-term relationships and more “temporary” ones.

    The College Humor Guide to College, by Ethan Trex and Streeter Seidell
    Nobody these days does college humor better than, uh, College Humor. The comedy website publishes all manner of silly videos and ridiculous articles about the absurd notion of being a young person alive in the world, feeling their way around with almost zero preparation. In many ways, this droll parody of college prep books feels a lot more realistic than the real ones do. This is a good one to have in college if only as a way to share it with others and knowingly laugh at the relatable parts.

    A guidebook about the city where the college is located
    For many, college is the first time to be out there on one’s own. It’s tempting and perfectly acceptable to just kick around campus and the surrounding neighborhoods—there’s certainly plenty for freshmen to do and explore. Or, you can mingle with the townies and check out a bit more of the area that surrounds the college. Getting out there and trying new things is what college is all about, but with a safety net, which is what a guidebook about that college town totally is. It’s a guidebook to fun and adventure!

    Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
    College isn’t all partying and making new BFFs. At least not for everybody. This marvelous novel by the author of Eleanor & Park is about the difficult segue from teenhood to college life. It’s about a University of Nebraska freshman named Cath with social anxiety disorder, which precludes a social butterfly life and encourages her to stay at home writing fan fiction about a boy wizard…until she realizes that college is the best place to exercise and hone her writing skills.

    On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
    Having a Zadie Smith book on your dorm room’s sole shelf is a great conversation starter, and it’s a clue to others about how cool you are, because you’ve read Zadie Smith. The novel itself is an enlightening look at college—it touches on sexual, identity, and class issues, as well as how professors aren’t always the sage geniuses one would assume they are. It’s also a college-level text, as On Beauty was inspired by the structure and some of the plot points of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.

    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon
    It’s set in Pittsburgh, as is usually the case with Chabon’s novels, which is a beautiful and perfect college town. That’s just one of the blessings protagonist Grady Tripp takes for granted. He’s essentially a lost college freshman, but all grown up: He’s an established writer and college professor, he smokes too much marijuana, is having relationship trouble, he’s got writer’s block so bad he can’t finish his next book, and he’s just a little bit jealous of the young talent coming up behind him. Chabon’s prose is crackling, and he’s a great place to start in the world of “grown-up” fiction.

    Joe College, by Tom Perrotta
    Ah, the joys of working your way through college. In this dark and yet surprisingly optimistic book from the author of Election and The Leftovers, a Yale student named Danny doesn’t get to go on a debauched Spring Break trip with his friends: He’s stuck driving his dad’s lunch truck in New Jersey. That’s a plot device to get the reader into Danny’s head, where lots of college issues humorously and dramatically wrestle for attention.

    Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie
    Time for the semester abroad! Well, at least it is for the two American professors at the heart of this charming, Pulitzer Prize winning campus novel-meets-fish-out-water tale. Vinnie leaves his Ivy League environs to study playground rhymes and winds up in a family tree-tracing project. Fred, meanwhile, abandons his studies of English poetry to pal around with an esteemed actress.

    The Idiot, by Elif Batuman
    This almost stream-of-consciousness novel is told from the point-of-view of a Turkish-American freshman from New Jersey who is extremely happy to be away from her dull home life and attending the glorious Harvard University. This one shows how overwhelming college and all of its assorted social and academic entanglements can be. But, you know, in a good way.

    The Big U, by Neal Stephenson
    No matter how complicated and overwhelming college life gets, it could always be worse. This first novel from sci-fi icon Neal Stephenson demonstrates that. It’s about a Remote Sensing professor named Bud who works at American Megaversity, an eight-tower complex which pretty much makes the college a bubbled world unto itself. Hey, that’s like real college, only real college has way fewer electromagnetic weapons and radioactive rats.

    A second copy of what you’re currently reading
    Talk about an icebreaker. “Hey, what’s that you’re reading,” a roommate, hallmate, classmate, or random person in “the Quad” asks. You tell them, you show them, you lend them your copy because it’s so good. Boom, friends for life.

    A copy of your favorite book from childhood
    For when you’re homesick.

    What books should every college student read?

    The post These 20 Books Are Absolute Dorm Room Essentials appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ester Bloom 3:30 pm on 2014/06/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , art spiegelman, , , caon't we talk about something more pleasant, , , , elif batuman, , , maus II, , , one man's meat, , rebecca west, roz chast, , , , the fountain overflows, the getaway car, the possessed   

    Telling it Slant: 10 Authors Who Experimented With Autobiography 

    9781608198061_p0_v3_s600Some people can sit down and write the story of their lives in a clear and straightforward fashion and be done. Other people, like New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast—author of wise, honest, unreasonably entertaining new graphic memoir about aging, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?—approach autobiography per Emily Dickinson’s legendary advice:

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise
    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind—

    Like Chast and Dickinson herself, the writers below became famous by telling their truth but telling it slant, disguised as fiction, cartoon, essay, instruction, or comedy:

    The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West
    The daughter of eccentric London intellectuals, West turned her dysfunctional childhood into a top-notch novel, which has since become a classic. Wry and eerie by turns, and generally delightful throughout.

    Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman
    Sometimes the counterintuitive idea—like rendering a memoir of the Holocaust as a comic book, where Jews are mice and Nazis are cats—is the brilliant one that transcends genre altogether. The horrifying true story of Spiegelman’s father’s family changed how we think about high art and, in the process, won a Pulitzer Prize.

    Postcards From the Edge, by Carrie Fisher
    The stories Fisher tells in her debut “novel” about growing up in Hollywood wrestling with success, the aftermath of success, drug addiction, bad taste in men, and a once-famous, now-decrepit, always-crazy mother (Debbie Reynolds) are too raw to be made up and too amazing to be true. The only sensible course of action is to stop trying to decide what to believe and just enjoy. (Then, bonus! Enjoy the movie, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine having the time of their lives.)

    PAIR WITH: Other 20th-century classic novels-from-life: Fear of Flyingby Erica Jong, and The Bell Jarby Sylvia Plath. After meeting literary alter egos Isadora Wing and Esther Greenwood, American popular culture would never be the same. One has to wonder how these books would have worked as straight-up memoir instead of fake fiction, but ultimately the story is what counts, and both of these gripping, feminist stories, for very different yet related reasons, needed to be told.

    Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott
    Bay Area literary guru Lamott is beloved, a sage who is candid and generous and who has nonetheless not risen above vanity, who can laugh at her own flaws and help the rest of us love ourselves a little better too. Although she has written several more straightforward memoirs, she found her voice, as the writing teachers say, while composing this writing manual that serves equally well as a guide for life.

    PAIR WITH: The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Lifeby Ann Patchett, and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. The only writing advice worth reading, it turns out, comes from authors willing to look back over their own lives, recognize and enumerate their mistakes, and acknowledge that success is a combination of luck, work, and talent over which people have very limited control—and, in doing so, give readers a fascinating glance at the individual behind the sign reading “Men At Work.”

    The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, by Elif Batuman
    Turkish essayist Batuman, unable to free herself from her obsession with Tolstoy and the other pre-Soviet greats, gets a Ph.D in Russian literature—so how does she end up in Uzbekistan? The same kind of happy accident that brought her to Samarkand launched this highbrow, eccentric, and highly revealing book-about-books, released only in paperback and not expected to sell, onto “best of” lists and made it a surprise success.

    One Man’s Meat, by E.B. White
    White is one of America’s greatest observers, and these essays, written on and about his farm in Maine in the 1930s, show his reverence for dry humor, small towns, and the life of the mind. A contemporaneous blurb from the Yale Review proclaims it “Good writing,” which is about as hilarious an understatement as could be made. These essays are revelatory and transformative, even when they’re only, supposedly, about chickens.

    What’s your favorite work of creative memoir or autobiography?

     
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