Darling Dilettante: Literature Edition by Haley Sprankle

Remember those books you were supposed to read for school? (Notice how I said “supposed.”) You were forced to analyze, break down, and summarize each story full of heightened, seemingly ancient language. Then, essay after essay, you decided that you never wanted to hear anything about those books (that you probably didn’t even read to begin with) ever again. Well, surprise! I’m here to talk to you about them.

As a student who hated (and still often does) being assigned reading and told how to think of it, I found every way possible to avoid reading books by classic authors like Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, and even sometimes the beloved playwright Mr. William Shakespeare himself. I found it difficult to believe that these books that were written for entertainment were meant for this type of scrutiny instead of paying attention to the beauty of the narrative.

As I got older, however, I swallowed my pride and attempted to participate the way I was expected to in class. I didn’t read everything—and no, kids, I won’t divulge my secrets to success academically in this subject—but I did discover writing that I would soon fall in love with.

My love of literature began while reading Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time. This compilation of seemingly unrelated short stories initially struck me as a piece that I would not likely deign to read, but I quickly fell in love with the puzzle and challenge of finding the subtext of the stories. Then, like most every high school student, I was handed F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The layered symbolism and tragic love story—one that would later be added to poor Leonardo DiCaprio’s repertoire of characters who die in the pursuit of their love—drew me in immediately. My senior year, we read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, a tale of female empowerment and self-discovery with an adulterous twist that surprised me with its controversial subject matter of the time.

After high school, I began to pursue literature of my own accord, and have fallen in love with so many stories that are so often written off as classwork. In the hopes of continuing this pursuit fervently, and that others may join me, I have created a summer reading list. Crazy, right? I have plenty of teachers who would be shocked and can attest to my historical hatred of them, but I am a changed woman. All jokes aside, here is a list of books I’ve either started to read, should be embarrassed that I haven’t read, or simply take a genuine interest in because that’s what books are for:

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

While this is a rather ambitious list to tackle over the summer, it also shows me that no matter how intelligent I might think I am, there is a sea of knowledge that I’ve clearly just dipped my toe in. I hope to delve into this world of books, both old and new, throughout the summer and the year, and I hope that you’ll join me!

Leave a comment if you have any book suggestions, or to update your progress on the list!

Haley Sprankle