Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sunday Salon: College Book Discoveries

For so many, our college days are a seminal time of discovery and new direction. When you make discoveries in college, they make lasting impressions. And books! Books you discover in college stay with you, shape you, change you, challenge you and influence you. They are, as one writer friend wrote, “our literary epiphanies.”

Well, recently good friend and inn-keeper to the literati, Darla Upton McCorkle asked some of her author friends to share their own list of college discoveries.  I enjoyed reading the list of books that stayed in these author’s minds throughout the years. It's interesting to see how the classics still influence some of today's best-selling authors. 

For me, it was Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD, all things Hemingway and Raymond Carver’s short stories that left a lasting imprint. 

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen - Southern authors like Lee Smith, Kaye Gibbons, Clyde Edgerton, Tim McLaurin.

Karen Essex -  Playwrights: Harold Pinter, Edward Bond, Tom Stoppard, Luigi Piradello. And Virginia Woolf. Can't grow up without reading her!

 Kathryn Casey - It was the seventies, the epicenter of the women's movement, so I was really into women authors, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Sylvia Plath. Of course, THE WOMEN'S ROOM, by Marilyn French was a rallying point for many. I should reread some of those books!

Mark Benford - I recommend Robert J. Sawyer, particularly, "Calculating God" and his Neanderthal Parallax ("Hominids", "Humans" and "Hybrids"). I also enjoyed "FlashForward" which was the first book of his I discovered. This was in the last couple years, though, not college discoveries, but I think they're good for that age, too.

Kathy Louise Patrick - I had an English teacher that insisted I do a paper on Jane Austin of which I was not even excited about, been done to death. So she suggested from her list of authors Larry McMurtry! Big fan and read everything I could get my hands on. Also, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack London, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. 

Jamie Ford - Harlan Ellison. More of a rediscovery.

Jenny Gardiner - Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive. Required reading for a class I had.

Amy Bourret -  Add Peter Taylor and Walker Percy to that Southern list. And if you really want "discovery," the kama sutra and an atlas.
 Ad Hudler -  Easy answer: The Brothers Karamazov

Judy Christie - Eudora Welty's "A Curtain of Green," which includes my all-time favorite short story, "Why I Live at the P.O." Kate Chopin's "The Awakening." "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky. This will be a fun conversation to have on your patio when the weather cools off!

Lisa Wingate  - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee -- not sure if I read it for a class or just because, but it sticks out in my memory, and Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, an anthology of Will Rogers, and The Screwtape Letters


What authors and books were YOUR college discoveries?


  1. I enjoyed your very interesting post and I made a few additions to my Must Read List! Thanks!

  2. Great topic! My favorite discoveries were Shakespeare's comedies, the Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Stephen Crane's short stories, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Hippolytus, The Things They Carried, Alfred Hitchcock's films as literature, Adult readings of fairy tales, and my dislike of Wordsworth and most of Coleridge.

    Here's my Salon post: Adventures in Borkdom

    Have a wonderful week!

  3. A powerful book for me was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I learned how to let things go. A biggie for me.

    My Sunday Salon is Quiet Before the Storm.

  4. Vonnegut! I didn't really discover him because of college so much as while I was in college. It was fairly recent too, but I LOVE Vonnegut.

    Have a great week and happy reading!

  5. For me, the books I loved and read during that time were the same as Kathryn Casey's....Doris Lessing; Margaret Atwood; Marilyn French (I'm reading her last one, The Love Children, now); Joyce Carol Oates; and Sylvia Plath.

    I also loved Daphne Du Maurier (but I read her in high school).


  6. Great question. I discovered a lot of books in college, not all of them in class. A friend was a huge fan of Walker Percy, and that's how I discovered The Moviegoer. But also Virginia Woolf...I read To the Lighthouse in 3 different classes as an undergrad!

  7. Oh gosh, there are so many! Hemingway was a biggie for me. I read The Old Man and the Sea in high school and hated it! Would not read Hemingway again until I picked up A Moveable Feast in college and that opened the door.

    Also spent a good amount of time reading biographies of various artists which will stay with me always!

  8. I'm loving reading about all these memorable titles. It's been a long time since I thought about some of these. Thanks!

  9. I was a theater major, so read a lot of the Greek plays, Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Chekhov, lots of playwrights. In my free time, I read pretty much everything Robert Heinlein wrote. :)

  10. I took a few of lit classes in college and only had one really inspiring teacher my freshman year, who invited the whole class over to her house to read aloud The Rover by Aphra Behn, and we also had some spirited class discussions of The Merchant of Venice. Other than that class though I didn't have any real reading discoveries in college. In fact I was so drained from reading textbooks from all of my classes that the only fiction I read outside of classwork was Anne Rice's vampire series. It took me over a year after graduation to find my passion for reading again.

  11. Hemingway's short story, "Hills Like White Elephants" and Camus' "The Prisoner".


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