I looked at the calendar earlier today and realized I graduated from college (well, undergraduate—pretty sure I’ll never be done with college since I’m about to start round three) ten years ago this week. That’s a little mindblowing. Strangely enough, I wasn’t much of a reader ten years ago. I was a total bookworm as a kid, but I think the work of school kind of sucked the fun out of reading for me. By the time I left university and started my first year of teaching a few months later, reading for pleasure just wasn’t a thing I was making time for. But sometimes I do think about the books I wish I’d read and what I might pass back to myself from the future.
I now have a huge soft spot for gritty Southern fiction like Bastard Out of Carolina, but I don’t think I had read anything like it ten years ago. I wish I could go back and put a copy of it in my path during one of my hunts at Kazoo Books.
I would have been able to get through so much more of Margaret Atwood’s backlist if I had just started sooner! I didn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale until 2011. So much wasted Margaret Atwood time!
I adored Middlesex when I read it a few years after graduation, but I think I would have loved it even more if I’d read it sooner. I was living in the suburbs of Detroit and teaching in the city, which put me right in the middle of the novel’s setting.
I waited until last year to read Toni Morrison because I’m the worst. Consider this my well-deserved public shaming.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse than Toni Morrison, I didn’t read Harry Potter until my late twenties. The books came out when I was in middle school and obviously way too cool to like things that my little sister liked. It took a little while for me to realize that I was not really all that cool.
It took me way too long to appreciate and even enjoy short stories, but I think I could have come around much earlier if I had read George Saunders sooner. In Persuasion Nation was published just before I graduated, but wasn’t even remotely on my radar.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
I would have to go back in time to deliver this one, since it wasn’t published yet, but is it really any surprise I’d want to read one of my favorites sooner? Really, though, new graduate Shannon was in desperate need of some Sugar.
I really do feel like The Secret History could have reignited my love of reading at a time when it was nearly nonexistent. If only I had been paying attention to anything remotely bookish, I’m sure it would have come my way.
I spent years saying I wanted kids “later” without even realizing not having kids was an option. Reading Valenti’s book was the first time that option really sunk in and I wish it was something I had been able to grasp years earlier.
Just like The Secret History, I think The Wife could have nudged me awake and pushed me toward reading again. Wolitzer has something that I just can’t resist and I think it would have been particularly appealing at that point in my life.
If you could go back ten years, what would you give yourself to read?