- Black Boy – Richard Wright
- Mythology – Edith Hamilton
- The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
- Light in August – William Faulkner
- The Aeneid of Virgil – Trans. Allen Mandelbaum
- The Iliad of Homer – Trans. Richmond Lattimore
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
- Plato’s Republic – Trans. G.M.A. Grube
- Ovid’s Metamorphoses – Trans. A.D. Melville
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Virginia before the days of cable TV and Internet, I often found that reading was my best form of entertainment. After realizing from a very young age that milking cows was not the life for me, I pushed myself to become as widely read as possible and to challenge myself with the few advanced courses my school had to offer. I saw education as my ticket off the farm, and a college scholarship was the only way out.
Thanks to a superintendent who was passionate about foreign language, I began taking Latin in eighth grade because I wanted to prove to myself that I could master the most difficult course at my school and—well, I thought it would look good on my transcript. This is when I first fell in love with both the structure of the language and all it had to offer—history, mythology, philosophy, and a general discourse of human psychology that has not changed much despite the passing of two millennia. After reading Vergil’s Aeneid in eighth grade English class (and later some of the original Latin in my third year of the language) and then Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and Homer’s Iliad (albeit a horrible prose translation) my freshman year of high school, I was smitten. Although I did not read Plato’s Republic and Ovid’s Metamorphoses until college and again in grad school, these soon became favorites in the dialogue of human nature.
My interests are not limited to the classics, however. William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury was on my own summer reading list entering my junior year of high school, and this novel began my love affair with Faulkner. I went on to read several of his other works on my own, with another particular favorite being Light in August, and my journeys through his fictional Yoknapatawpha County reminded me of my own home. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Richard Wright’s Black Boy were part of my curriculum during the school year, and I appreciated the opportunity to experience these during my formative years. Perhaps the most surprising addition to my bookshelf is Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a non-fiction work I discovered at Costco as part of their bestsellers list. While following the origin of the “immortal” HeLa cells still used today in medical research, I was captivated by the ethical issues surrounding race and social class in the early 1950s. This book also reminded me of the importance of expanding the comfort zone of my pleasure reading as an adult, even when I thought I already “knew” what I liked to read.
Expand your horizons, and happy reading!