While the semester is in full effect, the weather feels so much like summer! Channelling that feeling, the student assistants of Gleeson Library have shared reviews of books they read over the summer. This is the first installment of reviews. We hope you can find something to put on your reading list once you catch a breath.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck perhaps wasn’t the best book to warm me up for returning to California after my long sojourn studying abroad. But it is a fantastic book for the exact reasons that its story is so horrible and sad. Narrating the story of an Oklahoma family headed West, Steinbeck captures the desperation and lack of choices that many families fleeing the Dust Bowl faced. Hatred and discrimination were the only things offered to them as they arrived in California even though the opportunity for honest work was all they wanted. A great read that will leave you bristling about society—then and now.
Editor’s note: Gleeson Library owns multiple copies of Grapes of Wrath, including a first edition in the Rare Book Room. See Ignacio for more info.
For any Jack Kerouac fans, Dharma Bums is a semi-fictional novel about the years following those depicted in his most famous novel, On the Road. Taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area (mostly Berkley/Oakland, Marin, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains), the book examines the tension in the Beat Generation lifestyle between seeking out transcendence and solitude in nature with urban life—an intoxicated life filled with Berkeley jazz clubs, poetry readings, and drunken 3-day parties in the Oakland hills. One overarching theme I found is the main character’s relationship with Buddhism, and his struggle to live the true Zen lifestyle. Each new character presented in the book is more quirky than the next, and the narrator’s adventures range from orgies with free-spirited friends to finding enlightenment atop lonely Desolation Peak. Though the novel may want to make you drop-out, become a dharma bum yourself, and hitchhike to Mexico, it really is an excellent book that I found surprisingly funny, relatable, and (as always with Kerouac), quite beautiful.
Editor’s note: Gleeson library owns a couple copies of Dharma Bums.