Required Reading | Back to School | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Guides » Back to School

Required Reading

Some books help you pass a midterm, others get you through life.

by and


Right about now, you’re likely making your annual pilgrimage to the campus bookstore to fill your tote with the heavy poundage of college textbooks you’ll schlep around for the semester and glance at occasionally—and then what? Often there’s an urgency to rid yourself of any vestige of the subject, or perhaps it’s a desire to cash in your texts at a book buy-back store, but only a treasured few actually stay with you.

But there are other books, you know—books that mean something to you both as a student of life and as a lover of great literature. There are evocative tales that must be read and lived through, mulled over and shared with friends and family. There are books that make you more human and truly educated. To get you on the road to becoming well-read, we asked for a list of “required reading” from independent bookstore staff at Dolly’s Bookstore in Park City, Sam Weller’s, Ken Sanders books and The King’s English Bookshop. Here you go, now get cracking.

Hello, Dolly
Megan Gonsalves, Westminster alumna and adviser at Dolly’s Bookstore (510 Main, Park City, 435-649-8062,, believes no education is complete without having first digested these novels:

East of Eden, John Steinbeck
“Similar to The Picture of Dorian Gray, it is timeless. You have elements from Genesis, the battle between good and evil, and fame and fortune. These were modern issues when Steinbeck was writing, and they still are today. Usually when people think of Steinbeck, they think of Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath, but East of Eden truly is his underrated masterpiece because it was a novel of its time and still retains its greatness even today.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
“A lot of the ideas discussed in Dorian Gray can be appreciated, especially when in college. Some of them, like expression and desire are put into action. The picture ages for him because of his vanity, but he uses that vanity to lead a double life. It's a timeless story, especially when you enter college and you get this melding of ideas with philosophy, history … it’s a very well-rounded book.”

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
“First of all, it’s a Nobel Prize winner. Doesn’t that make it a given? It’s one of those books that you see in other authors’ writings in later years, that is, in good contemporary writers. Márquez is the godfather of magical realism in literature. These elements are present in contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie. Magical realism isn’t a burgeoning art, it’s experiencing a heyday now. He really brings all of these ideas out.”

Wellersprings of Knowledge
What to read? The staff of Sam Weller’s Bookstore (254 S. Main, Salt Lake City, 801-328-2586, never lacks ideas. John Clukey, events and outreach coordinator; Joan Nay of the rare books and appraisals department; and Catherine Weller, owner and lead new-book buyer, recommended three timeless classics:

The Holy Bible, various authors
“The Bible is referenced throughout the Western canon, in history, philosophy, art, music, but, most importantly, in literature. From Shakespeare to the Brontes to Melville to Steinbeck, writers have drawn heavily on biblical stories, turn of phrase and allegory to enrich and inform their works. Without a grounding in the Bible, it is next to impossible to gain a thorough understanding of much of Western literature.”

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
“The key to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is perspective. Children enjoy the rollicking adventure; adults are fascinated by the blatant racism and erroneous provincial attitudes. The story is the same, but what readers bring to the experience changes, as we confront the layers of controversy. The book generated controversy the day it went on sale in 1884, and continues to do so today.”

The Iliad, Homer
“Homer’s epic poem The Iliad is one of the most important works in the Western canon for a number of reasons, many of which we all heard in high school: It is the basis for several literary archetypes and other major literary works, it deepens one’s understanding of Greek history and mythology, it’s one of the oldest extant texts known and it pretty much established the rules for the form of epic poetry. All of that aside, The Iliad is a beautifully written, powerful example of the horrors of war.”

Enter the Sandman
Man of conscience and lover of mischief Ken Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books (268 S. 200 East, Salt Lake City, 801-521-3819,, recommended these off-the-beaten-path novels:

The True Believer, Eric Hoffer
Mentioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during one of the nation’s first televised press conferences, The True Believer quickly became Hoffer’s best-selling work. Sanders says, “A longshoreman turned philosopher, Hoffer offers a lot of insight into mass movements, crowd behavior and ideologies. Given the rise of the tea party in America and other hate- and fear-based creeds, this book is timely and topical.”

Flatland, Edwin A. Abbott
A rarity of novels, Flatland is about math and philosophy, but still appeals to any dilettante. Sanders calls Flatland a “Utopian fantasy and a farce about living in a one-dimensional world. It is a math book for people who don’t like math.”

Walden & Other Writings, Henry David Thoreau
A naturalist and philosopher, today Thoreau remains one of the most influential writers the world has ever seen. “A century and a half later,” Sanders says, “Thoreau’s philosophies and observations are still relevant. In particular, ‘Civil Disobedience’ should be read by every young person, whether in college or not.”

A Royal Edict
Betsy Burton, the queen of The King’s English Bookshop (1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100,, shared three classic works as recommendations:

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
“Certainly England has its darker side, but the comedy of manners that is the trademark of Austen, her combination of sharp social satire and astute character analysis seem, to me, to represent the best in the British literary tradition.”

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“Dostoyevsky is equally astute in limning character, but his vision, relentlessly violent, full of guilt and angst, is as dark as Austen’s is light, as brooding as the Russian landscape.”

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
“Faulkner captures the American character brilliantly in The Sound and the Fury. Particular themes of difference, whether due to race or circumstance, mental or emotional disability, combine with character in unforgettable and utterly American ways. I read this book in college and can still picture every character, every scene.”

As far as contemporary novels go, Burton recommended reading Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez and The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie.