When I was a kid, I thrived at reading. I was that kid who picked the thickest book on the shelf, who pored through the classic novels (The Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, White Fang etc) before hitting puberty. I pretty much spent all my allowances renting books at the many used bookstores around Hanoi. Do you remember those, with musty smell and stacks of uneven volumes protruding from their fading shelves? The novels I read were published in the early 20th century, on yellowish paper so thin that there were always holes on them, and bind together with thread. I would buy book covers and neatly wrapped them up to preserve their fragile spines. Books were my great friends; they were magical, joyous, and never failed to transport me to their magical worlds.
In high school, I moved on to more serious subject matters: race (Mark Twain's books on Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are a must for a New Orleans education), death (Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury - so far still the hardest book I've ever read), love (A Streetcar Named Desire, another Southern favorite). The literature influence of Ben Franklin High made me more somber, sadder, I guess a necessary rite of passage to teenage-hood and growing up. I did enjoy tremendously English classes, and absolutely loved creative writing classes where I got to relive the long lost dream of being a writer through silly poems and rambling prose. Sadly, it was probably the last time I read for the pure joy of reading.
College was different - I was enamored with political science theories and disillusioned by economics promises, so subsequently I was devoted to Hobbes, Malanczuk, Waltz and half-hearted towards Hull, Scholes, Fama. Reading slowly drifted away from being whimsical and creative; it was the bread and butter of my liberal arts education - to dissect the hypothesis, spot the argument, question the data, propose alternatives. By senior year, I was necked deep in theses and reading for fun had sounded as ancient as the ice age.
Post-college, I dwelled immediately into court documents, litigation trends and analyst reports breeze at NERA. My attempt to read fiction stumbled on a wall, as evident by the one year it took to finish Dostoyevsky's The Idiot (granted, The Idiot is next to The Sound and The Fury in the difficulty scale). I was horrified that I had forgotten how to read. But before I could do anything, there was the LSAT to study for. As I started subscribing to the Economists and the NewYorker in preparation for the test, surprisingly I found it - the lost joy of reading I had left behind years ago in Hanoi's old bookstores. Not from the monetary policy section of the Economists - please - but from the weekly beautiful Fiction of the New Yorker. It was both nostalgic and comforting.
Now that the threat/dream of law school is closing in, I know that this is my last chance to catch up on the forever growing pillars of literature. Once 1L falls on my head with its monstrous reading load, I will probably have to take another three years of refuge. So on top of the law reading list, the candidates for this summer are:
- Kurt Vonnegut. I always wanted to read him but somehow never got to. Shame!
- The brothers Karamazov. I bought it with the Idiot at a small cozy shop in East Village, but shy away from the time commitment.
- Milan Kundera. My favorite after Dumas. When I was in Prague, I read several of his books, including the infamous Unbearable Lightness of Being, but there are still many good ones to explore.
- A confederacy of Dunces. A gift from a high school friend, Kat. A Putlizer-winning satire on the beloved New Orleans life.
I probably will get some of these books on audio, now that I decide to sign up for a second marathon in March. It will be nice to have a running company again :-)