The National Education Association is building a nation of readers through its signature program, NEA’s Read Across America. Now in its 16th year, this year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.
Sure, March is National Frozen Food Month, but for those who would prefer some food for thought without delay, it’s also NEA’s National Reading Month, as the National Education Association celebrates the 16th year of its Read Across America efforts on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.
And in a salute to the powers that read--at a time I thought I was making some kind of discernible dent in my books-to-read stacks--along comes The Book Lovers' Companion: What to Read Next (due April 1) and its well-structured rundown of 200 tempting titles to consider or reconsider. Amassed by an array of English literature experts and ardent readers, it's a diverse yet discriminating treasure trove of rewarding books, from classics to bestsellers, along with some more obscure finds--all subject to subjectivity, naturally, with the sins of omission and commission in the eye of the book holder. Limited to full-length books, each entry provides a succinct spoiler-free plot synopsis, background information, a sample of critical or reader response, discussion points, and suggested companion books.
Of course, there are the usual suspects as reflected in the Western canon and required school reading, worthy titles by Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Woolf, Orwell, Lawrence, Lee, and Hawthorne, for example. And though some may find apparent lapses in judgment with conspicuously absent tomes from, say, Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Wolfe (Thomas and Tom), Proulx, Flaubert, or Zola, it is good to keep in mind that some names may (or still may not) be relegated to the various Top Ten lists strewn throughout Companion, which also serve double duty in capturing many genre titles under-represented in the spotlighted sections.
For example, Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon) appear in the Top Ten Crime Books, James Thurber (My Life and Hard Times) in Humorous Reads, Charles Dickens (Great Expectations) in World Classics, Edgar Allan Poe (Tales of Mystery and Imagination) in Chilling Reads, James Joyce (Ulysses) in Challenging Reads, and Franz Kafka (Metamorphosis) in Quick Reads. Further accounted for are Isabel Allende (The House of Spirits), Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City), Albert Camus (The Outsider), Ian Fleming (From Russia with Love) in Men’s Books, Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) in Sci-Fi Books, and Jack Kerouac (On the Road) in Cult Classics. And just to throw true life a bone, there’s the Top Ten Non-Fiction Books, which includes The Diary of Anne Frank and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.