I wanted to do things a little differently for this year’s summer reading guide. There are so many fantastic classics out there that go unread unless suffering through it during an English class (which, in theory, takes all of the fun out of reading due to our subconscious hatred of authority). The literary canon is so full of great reads that getting through half in a lifetime would be an accomplishment. In this year’s list are a few of my favorites from the literary canon, which should get you noticed while on the beach (in either a positive or negative light), as well as some local flavor, which could get the conversation started.
Don Bousquet’s State Trooper on the Beach: Most locals know who Don Bousquet is. His comics have been making Rhode Islanders and beyond laugh for decades, with a lot of jokes only those from this small state would understand.
Robert A. Geake’s Historic Taverns of Rhode Island: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that people reading this enjoy drinking, literature and maybe a little bit of history. Historic Taverns of Rhode Island has all of these elements. Go visit any that are still open.
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: This may be one of the greater novels ever written. I read it shortly after Heller’s death and couldn’t put it down. Everything was so clever, full of fantastic quotes and one-liners and written with a sick sense of humor. This is a war story that goes far beyond war. And it defined a situation that you can’t quite win no matter how hard you try: the Catch-22.
Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea: This is one of the more heartbreaking tales I’ve ever read, though it’s also one of the most inspiring works I’ve read (up until the tragedy hits, that is). To take the negative point of view, your life’s work is going to get eaten away no matter how hard you try. To put a positive spin on that, try to make life suck a little less by living it up with what you have.
Ann Hood’s An Italian Wife: This story follows the matriarch of a family from when Josaphine Rimaldi leaves Italy for the states after an arranged marriage at the start of the 1900s. For there, a journey that spans seven decades and multiple generations commences.
Paul Lonardo’s Boy in a Box: This is the inspiring story of John Cagno who suffered sixth degree burns on his hands and right leg after an accident as a teenager. He went on to become a firefighter before retiring and sitting down to write this memoir with his friend, Lonardo.
Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath is one of my favorite writers. This book is about a talented girl who drifts down a path of depression and insanity. Somewhat based on her own demons, Plath paints an all-too-real picture of mental illness.
Heather Rigney’s Waking the Merrow: This was the best book that I read last year. It’s a fantastic tale of anti-hero Eva McFagan who learns that there is a somewhat dark family history that she married into, all while being chased and harassed by mermaids. This work is funny and terrifying, with picturesque descriptions of Pawtuxet Village. I’m eagerly awaiting the next two books in the trilogy.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: This is for anyone looking for a summer romance. Readers can learn to make a heart melt, but they may also want to make sure that their families aren’t feuding, because that could turn a fling (or something better if the cards fall the right way) into something tragic.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five: Part autobiography and part fantasy (I’ll let you figure out which is which), Vonnegut came up with one of the most fun reads ever. I remember reading this while working at a McDonalds in high school and I couldn’t put it down, no doubt angering customers wanting their burgers and fries. Reading this is possibly the most fun adventure you could have this summer.