The Reading List

June 7, 2024
the cover of the novel The Reading List

To be honest, what attracted me to this novel by Sara Nisha Adams was, first, that it’s set in a West London neighborhood and, second, that it’s got a couple reading lists in it. One of the “quirky” characters collects discarded lists, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I’m definitely a devoted list-maker. The main list of books is what brings together the main characters, widower Mukesh and Aleisha, a teenager with a summer library job. Neither of these characters are readers–and one of the central premises is that they both become eager readers thanks, in part, to the reading list. For me, this plot device strains credulity. I work around FAR too many students who don’t read literature ever, and have difficulty completing my reading assignments. It would be interesting to study whether people can or do discipline themselves into liking reading. What prevents folks from liking reading these days? And what makes some people natural readers? At least one of my kids is a committed reader, my mom has been one all her life, and her mom before her, so maybe it’s a thing that runs in families? Anyway, on to the list of books:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Rebecca
  • The Kite Runner
  • Life of Pi
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Little Women
  • Beloved
  • A Suitable Boy

I’ve read everything but Life of Pi and all of A Suitable Boy. It’s an odd list–not certain I’d have included some of these, but they are supposed to be one of the character’s life-changing books, and of course reading preferences are as weird and diverse as people’s palates. When we read this for my book club, a fun conversation was prompted by the host asking what we’d include on our own list of recommendations. I would put The Brothers K by David James Duncan on mine; after that, I’d have to think really hard. Probably Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, Towles A Gentleman in Moscow, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.