There are, I think, two schools of thought about summer reading. The first is that summer is a time for light, fluffy, beachy reads. Sunshine means pulling out your Patterson novels or Picoult melodramas, then laying back in the sun with a floppy hat and a margarita.
Other people think of summer as a time for reading projects — using time and vacation to really delve into something intense. That’s what I did last summer when I read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I didn’t always love it, but I got done and felt proud of what I’d accomplished.
I went back and forth about whether to do another summer project, and if so, what to make that project. I contemplated reading something huge again — a Long Russian Novel, Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, or Atlas Shrugged, perhaps?
Someone also suggested instead of one long book, I should read all the books by a particular author. I contemplated the complete Jane Austen, or maybe all of the Brontes, but nothing really got me excited.
But then it hit me — Tim O’Brien!
I read Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried when I was in high school and loved it so much. It was part of the class that helped drastically change the way I thought about literature. I read one of his more recent novels, Tomcat in Love, a few years ago, and found his style in that comic novel just as awesome. I’ve always wanted to read more, but never made the leap to do it. The canon of Tim O’Brien is a perfect summer project, and the first idea of a summer project that I actually got excited about.
If you don’t know much about him, here’s some good stuff: Tim O’Brien is a Minnesota-born author who’s written pretty extensively about his experiences as an infantry foot soldier between 1969 and 1970. When he came home he attended grad school at Harvard, then joined the Washington Post and has worked as a journalist and fiction writer ever since.
Over the course of his career, O’Brien has written eight books, starting with his memoir. My plan is to read the books in chronological order. I calculated out the total pages, then divided it by the number of days I’ll be reading — Monday, May 17 through Monday, September 6. Here’s the approximate reading schedule for when I’ll try to finish each book:
- Monday, May 31 – If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973)
- Monday, June 14 – Northern Lights (1975)
- Monday, June 28 – Going After Cacciato (1978)
- Monday, July 12 – The Nuclear Age (1985)
- Monday, July 26 – The Things They Carried (1990)
- Monday, August 9 – In the Lake of the Woods (1994)
- Monday, August 23 – Tomcat in Love (1998)
- Monday, September 6 – July, July (2002)
If anyone is interested in joining me on this Tim O’Brien quest (for one book, two books, or the entire thing), you’re more than welcome, but I’m not planning anything huge. I just want the chance to immerse myself in something for awhile, really get to see how an author develops over time and enjoy some beautiful musings on the nature of storytelling.