Books taught in classes at Laurier that you’ll actually love
A lot of the time, the readings that you’re assigned for class just aren’t great. Maybe it’s because you’re being forced to read it, or maybe it’s because no one actually wants to read some stuffy poetry from the 17th century (sorry William Wordsworth, but I did not enjoy Lyrical Ballads).
Sometimes the content is so outdated and soul sucking, you wonder why your professor hasn’t quit yet.
If you’re in the faculty of arts, you’ve probably been assigned to read a novel at some point or another in your undergraduate career — especially if you’ve taken an English course.
As someone who majored in English, I’ve read a lot of novels. While I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed every literary work I’ve read in class (again, I’m looking at you, Wordsworth), I’ve come to unexpectedly appreciate a lot of the content I’ve been assigned to read.
With that said, here are five books I’ve had to read for class, but ended up really enjoying.
Cockroach is a novel by Canadian author Rawi Hage. The unnamed protagonist, who thinks himself to be a cockroach, is a man who moved from war-torn Lebanon to cold and unwelcoming Montreal. As a first-generation immigrant who isn’t accepted in society, he turns to his insect alter-ego to cope and escape from reality.
Cockroach goes from gross to straight up grotesque at times, but the plot is compelling and constantly develops a picture of the protagonist, jumping back and forth between his past and present at times. There’s much to be said in the novel about split identity and the way that immigration shapes a person’s view of themselves. If you’ve ever read Kafka, Cockroach should be next on your reading list.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The only novel written by Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray follows the life of artist Basil Hallward’s muse and the namesake of the story, Dorian Gray.
After meeting Hallward’s friend Lord Henry Wotton, a Victorian aristocrat, Dorian Gray begins to follow his doctrine of aestheticism and comes to believe that beauty and sensuality are the only things in life that matter. Gray ultimately takes it too far, letting it shape and influence his entire life to the point of harm and overindulgence.
The novel explores the role of art in society as well as immorality. The novel has an almost cult-ish following on sites like Tumblr, and is recognized as a modern classic.
The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s rise to power in Ancient Egypt
The Woman Who Would Be King tells the story of Hatshepsut, the longest-reigning female pharaoh, and her unlikely rise to power in a male-dominated society.
The novel is a biography but also incorporates aspects of speculative fiction, filling the gaps left in history and narrativizing them based on strong leads by author and Egyptologist, Kara Cooney. Cooney highlights how Hatshepsut’s ambitious and hardworking nature propelled her to become king during a strenuous time in ancient Egypt. Within the narrative, Cooney also argues that Hatshepsut is not nearly recognized enough for her leadership as other pharaohs and female leaders of the time were.
Although it’s very different from the other novels on this list, The Woman Who Would Be King was an amazing read, and will satisfy the curiosities of fiction readers and historians alike.
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Anishinaabe author Drew Hayden Taylor follows the lives of Maggie Second who, as the leader of Otter Lake reserve, is trying to finalize a land grant that
would give her community 300 extra acres of land, as well as her son Virgil, who is trying to rid the community of an mysterious visitor by the name of John.
While Maggie and Virgil are dealing with issues that threaten the well-being of their community, they are mourning the loss of their mother and grandmother, Lillian. The story utilizes comedy to lighten serious topics and brings them to a position where they can be discussed and used to build their community.
Foxfire: confessions of a girl gang
Foxfire is a novel by highly- acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates that follows the life of a group of teenage girls in 1950s Upstate New York, who form a girl gang called “Foxfire.”
The girls, many of whom come from unfortunate backgrounds, try hard to transgress social norms, enact vigilante justice against abusers and predators and live independently from official society. The events of the novel all lead towards the girls’ ‘final solution’ to break free from the hierarchies of officialdom.
The plot is cinematic, and despite the trouble they get into, you can’t help but wish for the girls to succeed in their acts of justice against those that who try to harm them.