Book-Slut: A Guide to Literary Promiscuity

Apparently, the best route to becoming well-read is to spread it around.

Jane Mallison, author of the 2007 guide Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days, assembles a list of 120 books that will rock your world, even if it’s your second time around. When I first laid eyes on the cover, I was miffed by the words “Literary Genius.” I assumed the contents would include the likes of Tolstoy, Thoreau, Hemingway, Shakespeare, and Austen; and I thought it likely that I would have most of it under my belt. And, though not a genius by any stretch, I precociously considered myself to be quite the fastidious literary junkie.

So often it is professed that the rights to being “book smart” are held within the covers of a select few tightly-bound, rough-covered books. I have read many of the classics, but also included in my list of favorites are books that some consider trifles. One of my most beloved books is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Another is Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. I have read and reread (as previously mentioned) the Harry Potter series. And, a few years ago, I succumbed to the Twilight phenomenon. I delighted in it.

I have long since concluded that being “book smart” or a “literary genius” is not restricted to the classic novels that collect dust as trophies on our selves. Nor does it require you to read every title that finds its way to the New York Times Best-Seller Lists. Being well-read can include anything that delights you, that inspires you. Books are wonderful portals that expand our understanding of what it means to exist as humans. That’s a broad category.

Too often, I feel, people limit themselves; they seek to define themselves by what they read. It is wonderful when we find an author we love; it often leads to a genre we can dwell and thrive in. And, it goes without saying, that the Greats should never be neglected. So many authors are inspired by them; so many allusions will escape you if you are not intimate with some of fiction’s heavy-hitters. But why stop there? I say, read Twilight. Read a paranormal mystery romance novel. Read YA fiction in your forties. Read Khalil Gibran and Rilke and Rumi. Constantly revisit Shakespeare. Fall into The Bell Jar again. And reread every Jane Austen novel. Just keep covering new ground, too.

Mallison surprised me with her hearty list of recommendations. It is chock-full of titles you’ve heard of and probably should have read years ago. She has also succeeded in bringing some books out from obscurity. Her April list of “Top Girls: Strong Women, Admirably So and Otherwise” had me reeling with enthusiasm. She wisely disqualified Jane Austen and George Eliot, though Virginia Woolf makes an impressionable appearance here. Three of the ten recommendations were written by men, so it is not entirely feminist flair. The year-long list goes on to include other odd but incredible choices. My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris are on my Next-to-Read List.

Mallison delves briefly into each book, giving some of the lesser known authors a chance to shine. I don’t know if I am any closer to being a “literary genius,” but I have found myself encouraged to swallow new horizons with less trepidation. Writers are almost always loners, even if reluctantly so. Thus it is a comfort to always be; a stranger in a strange land.

Keep your mind and eyes open. Spread it around. Be a book-slut.

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About Anna Dawes

Writer. Blogger. Vegetarian. I have two dogs that make me a little insane. I'm a nursing student. I read a lot of feminist literature; I negate it by obsessing over fashion magazines. I listen mostly to lovely lady singers, read mostly female authors, and spend most of my days surrounded by beautiful women. I consider words to be a delicate medium that only the most willing artist can bring to light. In another life I was a classic thespian. I have a purple office.
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One Response to Book-Slut: A Guide to Literary Promiscuity

  1. Kate says:

    Love this post. I wish graduate school didn’t get in the way of fun reading as much as it does. You should check out this site to assist you on your journey of becoming a book slut.

    http://bookmooch.com/

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