By: Aurora Soriano
In the past hour, you’ve probably thought about dropping everything and traveling to somewhere a lot less stressful. Luckily, your only form of escape does not have to include real physical movement. An alternative option could be to run away into a book. Get lost in a story. It will make you feel significantly better to read something other than a lengthy biology textbook or a Shakespeare play countless times throughout the semester. No matter what major you’re in, you probably need a break from your class readings. For many, this break includes starting a new show, or watching a guilty pleasure movie. However, I’d like to encourage you to take back a love of reading with some non-school related books. Here are a couple of books you can wander off into:
Aspara in New York– Sokunthary Svay
There is no better way to explore poetry than to read a book of poetry written by a member of CCNY’s faculty, Professor Sokunthary Svay. I spoke to Professor Svay to learn more about her new book of poetry, which released in September of 2017. Svay describes how the term aspara refers to the Hindu and Buddhist mythical being that is carved into the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. This poetry collection is a way of deifying Cambodian refugees who came to New York, while drawing comparison between the shock a deity falling to earth would feel to that of the shock Cambodians felt in this city that was unknown to them. Svay describes Aspara in New York as a love letter to the diaspora and to Cambodian refugee women. The cover of Svay’s book also depicts the mixing of Cambodian and American culture, as both the New York skyline and the Cambodian temple skyline are represented, along with an outline of a photo included in the book, which portrays Svay’s mother’s English class. This book of poetry is written mainly in free verse, while still maintaining poetic form, which makes it a more accessible read. Anyone looking to read something not typical to the Asian American narrative should check out this wonderful book of poetry, and with the controversy surrounding refugees that continues even to this day, it’s a very important read. Professor Svay also encourages students to come discuss their thoughts on her poetry with her.
Milk and Honey– Rupi Kaur
It almost feels taboo to give poetry recommendations without recommending the widely adored Rupi Kaur, who is one of the most recognizable names in modern poetry. Milk and Honey is about “ violence, abuse, love and loss.” With October being Domestic Abuse Awareness month, it’s a read that can help people understand survivors of abuse and can have a sort of healing power for those who read it. Kaur’s poetry is coupled with images she created herself that add to the power of her poetry. Poetry is a great medium for busy students as you can peruse each poem at your leisure. You can also check out Rupi Kaur’s new published work, The Sun and Her.
Collected Short Stories
Smoke and Mirrors– Neil Gaiman
Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of short fiction and “illusions”, is an oldie but a goodie from the master of fantasy himself, Neil Gaiman. This book of short stories has stood the test of time, with a cast of everyday characters who encounter unreal situations. Gaiman is a genius at mixing the ordinary with the extraordinary, adding splashes of absurd humor and horror. A collection of short stories is perfect for a college student without a lot of time, because you can read just one short story without having to worry about finishing the whole thing. If you’d like to explore some more recent work of Gaiman’s, check out Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, published in 2015.
The Bloody Chamber- Angela Carter
Another oldie and definitely a goodie, Angela Carter’s short story collection takes a new take on classic fairytales, with “dark and sensual” twists, perfect for any fairytale lover. Angela Carter has been a huge influence on later fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman, and J.K Rowling. She adapts fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss and Boots, Beauty and the Beast.
The Art of Asking– Amanda Palmer
A great read for musicians and artists, The Art of Asking, entails a musician’s journey as a starting performer to becoming a successful artist. It’s an inspiring story for any aspiring musician who is in the early stages. This book also appeals to non-artists because, as the title suggests, The Art of Asking is about “ Everything you ever wanted to know about the art of asking but were afraid to ask (or at least didn’t know how to ask)”. It’s a simple but important lesson we all need to hear, especially as college students.
Swallow the Fish– Gabrielle Corel
Swallow the Fish is a memoir about performance art that “explores the medium from within its beating heart.” It’s a recent release of essays about how to conquer the world of any performance art, and “ adds its voice to black feminist conversations.” Swallow the Fish is a highly well-reviewed memoir that is witty and informative and will open minds about the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in performances.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe-Benjamin Alire Saenz
This novel is a young adult novel, but I think it transcends age and is worth reading no matter how old you are. For those with less time to read for leisure, YA novels can be easier to read and complete. Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe is a heart-warming bildungsroman about a 15-year-old Mexican American. It deals with Mexican American identity, sexuality, and toxic masculinity. Sanchez’s work resembles poetry and his character development will keep you engaged. This novel is also a LAMBDA and ALA Michael L.Printz award winner.
*Author’s Notes: All texts, aside from Swallow the Fish, The Bloody Chamber, and Aspara in New York, are available as audio books.
Even as a non-resident, any student attending a college or working in New York State can apply for a New York Public Library card. NYPL and other libraries also have free ebooks accessible to those with library cards.