Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Big Books, Big Guilt

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

Everyone knows that person who LOVES to drop into every conversation the fact that they’ve read Infinite Jest, all thousand-plus pages of it. Or that they tore through 1Q84. And I confess, I may have read The Goldfinch in a matter of days. But there are some books that are just doozies, whether they are 250 pages or 1, 250 pages.

Infinite Jest

Someone on my Facebook feed posted that they were starting a summer book group that was going to read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, and anyone interested should comment on the post below. I commented that I wanted to sign up, since I’ve tried several times to read it by myself, but have never made it past the first 30-odd pages. Something about it stumps me. I don’t know if I’m intimidated, or if it’s the multiple bookmarks, or the weight of carrying the book around. I’m hoping that knowing other people are slogging through it with me helps me break through that resistance.

Another book that brings me to struggle town is The Sound and the Fury. My edition clocks in at 321 pages; not massive, but not a one-shot read, either. But again, I’ve tried to read this at least three times and have never gotten more than a third of the way through, if that. I love Faulkner’s writing. But this book is a brain buster. If I put this book next to Wallace’s, the two seem equally impossible to me, despite the difference in size.

Then comes the guilt. Does anyone else feel guilty? Because it seems like so many people have read the books you’re struggling with? Like I might have to give back my MFA because I haven’t read DFW’s classic tome. Or worse yet – because I’m not sure I actually even like DFW. I know. Am I a traitor if I feel like giving up and reading some good middle-grade books or graphic novels? Of course not. But for some reason I can’t shake the guilt I feel over it.

Does anyone else struggle with guilt over the books you “should” be reading — or feel like you should be reading? Are there any books that stump you every time you try and conquer them? #thestruggleisreal