Jonathan Franzen
Author
02:04

Jonathan Franzen's Desert Island Reading

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Why not take the opportunity to learn a language?

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen is an award-winning American novelist and essayist. Franzen was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Webster Groves, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, and educated at Swarthmore College. He also studied on a Fulbright Scholarship in Germany. He lives on the Upper East Side of New York City, and writes for The New Yorker magazine. Franzen's "The Corrections," a novel of social criticism, garnered considerable critical acclaim in the United States. It became one of the best-selling works of literary fiction of the 21st century and won both the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction and the 2002 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

Transcript

Question: What's on your desert island reading list?

Jonathan Franzen: Well for a desert island you’d want to take hard books. Desert island is not a literary cannon, desert island is a wish list.

What I wish I’d had sustained reading time to actually figure out. Frankly I don’t see why one wouldn’t take advantage of being on a desert island to learn a new language. So three really good books of Russian grammar and a Russian dictionary and then War and Peace or something, might be what I would take to a desert island. Just make good use of the time.

That’s a Midwestern thing. But I can’t tell if it’s a Midwestern thing always, or maybe just a Midwestern thing from my childhood, a wish to make good use of one’s leisure time, not just piss it away; try to read books that are not only fun but have some substance to them.

It feels like a Midwestern prejudice that I ought to be improving myself on the desert island; it’s not enough that I’m on a desert island. Frankly a desert island sounds kind of great, so I think I would probably try to learn Russian, although at this point maybe not, I might try to learn Chinese but I might need more than five books for that.

So one could look at the question as well five books that I think are underappreciated and deserve a plug in a situation like this.

Recorded On: April 1, 2008


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