Light reading: Novels for undergrad

The Rock

Perhaps the best building on campus

College (University, for our international friends) is a stretch of time that seems to exist apart from the rest of our lives. It’s a very particular environment, and one that we’re unlikely to return to. Really, the only ways back are grad school and tenure, two particularly treacherous paths. If you intend to travel them, I can only wish you good luck.

What I feel should get more attention than “the college experience” itself is the clear distinction between the years we spend at school. Each of them brings new challenges and experiences, and while the temptation is there to just call them hedonism “college” and be done with it, there’s something to be gained from approaching each year as its own entity. With that in mind, I recommend each of these novels for a bit of light reading (okay, one of them isn’t nearly so light as the others), one for each year, in hopes that they’ll prove illuminating for the days and nights you spend at Brown. Read them in order, out of order, the one for your current year, any of them, none of them (I don’t recommend his choice, but I’m not your mother), or however else you choose.

Freshman Year: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

As a first year student at Brown, the knowledge you clearly need is how to become romantically involved with someone who is filthy rich.

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Brown as setting for Eugenides story in ‘The New Yorker’

If you’re a reader of ‘The New Yorker,’ especially of the fiction section, then you probably caught the story “Extreme Solitude” in a July issue by Jeffrey Eugenides. Eugenides, who wrote “The Virgin Suicides” and “Middlesex” (which, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend), and an alumni of Brown, uses Brown as the backdrop for this story about two Brown students studying semiotics who fall in love–or something like it. The story is good, and that it’s set at Brown makes it even more interesting and fun for a Brown student to read. Though this story is set during the 80s, maybe it will inspire some of those who are looking for love to sign up for semiotics this fall.

Click here to read Eugenides’s story.