Claire Kissinger’s Best Reads of 2014

claireMy name is Claire Kissinger, and I’ve lived in Evanston for the past three years.  I am a senior at Northwestern majoring in Art History and minoring in Gender & Sexuality Studies, and I work at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art as the Undergraduate Curatorial Fellow and as a Student Docent.  I love working at the Block Museum because it allows me to learn and talk about art with both professionals in the field (artists, curators, preparators, scholars) as well as our patrons who come from a variety of backgrounds.  In my free time, I love to drink coffee, dance, visit museums, and watch movies.

1) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1970)

I loved reading One Hundred Years this summer. The book features an INCREDIBLY extended and unique family and the changes the family undergoes over many years as their community evolves.  My favorite part of reading the book is that it was entirely unpredictable and fantastical, with characters constantly coming in and out of the narrative, always with ridiculous stories.

2) The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir (1969)

An early feminist work of fiction by the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, this book features three stories narrated by three different women all in a state of distress regarding their relationships.  I thought the stories characterized the myriad hardships of relationships and captured uniquely feminine experiences of such obstacles and emotional sufferings.

TreeGrowsInBrooklyn3) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my all-time favorite book, and I probably read it once a year.  Like One Hundred Years, the novel follows a family across generations, from its original immigration to the US, through the hardships of tenement living, and to the hope for a better future in the child protagonist Francie.  The book unfolds slowly, allowing you to fully understand the lineage and experience of each family member through a series of passed-down stories.  Though some characters are theoretically “antagonists,” you find yourself identifying with each person’s struggles and are always rooting for them to succeed.

4) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (2005)

Kafka on the Shore presents several apparently disjointed narratives that slowly begin to intertwine as one continues through the book.  Though it is psychologically and existentially challenging in its themes, the stories told are beautiful, emotional, and outrageous, making it an enjoyable read regardless.

5) Canto General by Pablo Neruda (1950)

Canto General is a beautiful collection of poems that addresses human hardship and attempts social and political change through art, a subject and purpose I am very interested and passionate about.  Be sure to pick up a copy that has both an English translation and the original text in Spanish as both versions are essential to fully understanding and appreciating the poems.

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