College Guide 2011
One grad recommends novel takes on growing up
Published: August 24, 2011
Please Kill Me
by Legs McNeil
College is largely about partying, right? Not like these people. This book, the only nonfiction on the list, is an oral history of punk rock. Rock has always been rebellious music steeped in sex and drugs. But punk rock, a genre pioneered by youth, took that decadence to a new extreme.
Open it to any page and you're sure to be entertained, inspired and perhaps warned by these musicians' behavior. I like to have this book near my bedside (or, appropriately, the shitter) for quick snippets of insanity. Another neat feature is that a lot of it takes place in Detroit and Ann Arbor, home of such proto-punk figureheads as Iggy Pop, Wayne Kramer, and John Sinclair.
The Adventures of Augie March
by Saul Bellow
Augie March typifies the precocious youth character. Growing up fatherless in Chicago during the Great Depression, Augie must scrape out a living using his above-average intellect. This street education suffices though his life remains entertainingly turbulent, perhaps because of his lack of mooring and formal education.
The reader follows Augie through his most formative years, and the story takes a number of drastic twists. Augie begins impoverished, then befriends a rich family and glimpses aristocratic life. There is a lengthy side-adventure in Mexico involving eagle training. Depending on your personality, Augie's adventures might be cautionary, or the catalyst to your own.
by Don DeLillo
College professors have anxieties, doubts, and faults sometimes far exceeding us less knowledgeable types. Jack Gladney started his own Department of Hitler Studies in the fictional and isolated college town of Blacksmith. He often has no clue what he's doing, though he's really good at making people think he does — an invaluable skill for "experts."
I think this book does a lot of good at clearing the obfuscation that often exists in academia. Gladney is the so-called foremost Hitler scholar in the country, yet hardly knows any German. He'll authoritatively make a point during a class discussion, then wonder why he said it and what it means. His family is a confused mess of ex-wives and stepchildren. Read it and you'll be less willing to swallow everything professors force-feed you.
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