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My Very Pretentious Reading List for 2022

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Irvine chapter.

As we enter 2022, about 2 months in, I have finally finalized my reading list for this next year. I, a lover of lists, look forward to this act each new year. This year is deemed my ‘pretentious’ reading list, because not only do I just love the word pretentious (don’t ask, I honestly can’t explain it), but also the books on it could be called very mature and potentially hard to tackle, and the satisfaction of reading them, I imagine, will be unmatched. Let’s get into it! 

1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)

Yes, I am subjecting myself to this very sad novel. A popular work on TikTok, I’ve heard a lot about this book from a lot of different angles. Some say it’s hard to read, others say it’s the best book ever, but there is one common denominator: it is sad. As a fan of sad novels, this was very interesting to hear. After reading a Google summary and the summary on the back of the book, it’s very clear that it’s going to be sad. But just how sad? I guess I’ll find out!

2. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968)

I first heard about this book in my history and ethics of literary journalism class. The basic premise of it: an in-depth portrayal of the adventures of a group of hippies traveling in their yellow school bus, while tripping on acid. Come on, that sounds SO interesting. Not only from a pretentious journalism major perspective, but also just as an entertaining read. I’ve always had some fascination with the American 1960’s, ever since I saw Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (movie recommendation alert!) This book highlights the very eclectic and exciting nature of an acid trip in the 1960’s, and I’m surprised I’ve only heard about it recently.

3. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (2019)

I am honestly NOT a fan of fantasy. I never really have been. However, people are always telling me I need to read this. In the words of a very wise bookkeeper at my favorite bookstore in my hometown, “It’s just a political novel with dragons.” I mean, that sounds pretty exciting. Once I get past the girth and size of it, I’m honestly not sure if I’ll like it or not. We’ll see!

4. Dig by A.S. King (2019)

This novel has been sitting on my bookshelf for about a year and a half now. I bought it on my weekly trip to the bookstore 2 summers ago, and I haven’t been courageous enough to start it. I don’t know much about it, past the back-of-the-novel summary. The basic premise is a divided family stemmed from rich, potato-farmer grandparents that discover a shocking secret. The tagline on the front of the cover: white isn’t just a color. Hopefully this means there will be an exploration of race within the novel. Either way, I’m excited!

5. Dune, Book 1 By Frank Herbert (1965)

Even after reading this my senior year and seeing the movie this past October (Timothée Chalamet, I love you), I still cannot fully wrap my head around it. My 22 year old, NYU graduate brother even admits that it’s a bit difficult to understand. But this year, mark my words, I will tackle it. 

6. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (1997)

My best friend’s favorite novel, gifted to me on my 18th birthday, I have to read this book. Not only because I trust my friend’s judgment, but also because it sounds very interesting. Although I do not subscribe to christianity, or any religion for that matter, this biblical work sounds very interesting. It surrounds Dinah, the daughter of Rachel and Jacob. Dinah is a minor character in the bible, and this novel tells more of her story. Per my friend’s praise, I look forward to the word choice and overall broadening of the story of a minor biblical character.

7. 1984 by George Orwell (1949)

My brother, as mentioned above, has told me for years that I should read this. Although science fiction and dystopian novels are not usually my cup of tea, I find that most books or shows that my brother recommends are actually very interesting and worthy of my time. I am hoping to go into this book with no outside knowledge in order to let it fully capture me.

And finally, the grand finale: 

8. What We Owe to Each Other by T.M. Scanlon (1998)

Yes. I am doing it. I have owned this book for almost two years. Since the brief inclusion of it in NBC’s The Good Place, and my obsession with Chidi Anagonye, this book has captured my attention. Although intimidated by the size and length and advancement of this book, I think that I will gain a lot from reading it. I find that ethics and the study of the human condition are some of the most captivating subjects to learn about, and what better way than to go back to the source: a philosopher? 

My pretentious king, Chidi Anagonye, I hope you’re proud of this list. :)

Molly Summers

UC Irvine '25

Molly is a third-year Literary Journalism major with a minor in Philosophy. When she is not in class, Molly enjoys reading, hanging out with friends, and drinking copious amounts of iced oat milk lattes. Born and raised in Steamboat, Colorado, Molly loves to ski and has spent the better portion of her life outside. She is very excited to be in southern California for a change and be a part of Her Campus!