The Daily Beast “Book Bag” recently compiled a list of books that famous authors and scholars thought no college graduate should be released from academia without having read.
Respondents included Jill Lepore, Teju Cole, Alice Waters, Cornel West, Jennifer Egan, Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Bollinger, Tom Wolfe, and Junot Diaz.
Among the works chosen were classic works of fiction, Shakespeare’s tragedies (with Hamlet mentioned twice), Homer’s The Odyssey, history, social criticism, Economy and Society, Pascal’s Pensees, and Montaigne’s Essays.
But What About the Women?
VIDA (Women in Literary Arts) were quick to point out that only one of 16 respondees suggested a work penned by a woman. They singled out Junot Diaz for suggesting no college graduate should go without reading Beloved by Toni Morrison.
Further Reading: Toni Morrison’s Beloved:
“Toni Morrison’s finest work. . . . [It] sets her apart [and] displays her prodigious talent.”
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
Never Enough Shakespeare
To take Stephen Greenblatt and Joyce Carol Oates’s advice, see this leather bound Complete Works of Shakespeare in our online store.
Tell Us What You Think
Agree or disagree with any of the literary heavyweights above? Tell us in the comments section what single book you’d require college students to read.