Though we’re still enjoying the languid summer days, we know the new school year will soon be upon us. The impending start of school got a few of us around the Scribd office thinking and reflecting about our favorite classes (we’re kinda dorky like that) and we asked ourselves: “If we could make our own classes, what would we put on the reading list?” We each took a turn crafting a reading list for a class we’d each love to teach, and we thought it would be fun to share those with y’all. We’ll be posting one a week as the school year draws nigh. First up, our editorial coördinator, Justin.
Our Dream Reading List: Bad Things that Happen on Boats
For as long as human beings have told stories, we’ve told stories about taking to the sea. And as long as we’ve been taking to the sea, we’ve been running into trouble, whether in the form of sea monsters, hurricanes, mutinous crews, or simply the tedium of being too far from terra firma. Personally, I’ve never been on anything more exciting than a two-hour riverboat cruise, which maybe explains why maritime troubles are so exciting to me. Here are a few of my favorite stories about things that go wrong on boats:
The Odyssey, by Homer
Cyclopes. Cannibals. Harpies. Sea Monsters. Odysseus’s journey home from the Trojan War is the archetypal long, strange trip, so much so that his name is now synonymous with winding, arduous journeys. You probably know the story even if you’ve never read it, but it’s worth checking out for Homer’s poetry alone.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Ever find yourself stuck with a crazy person who insists on telling you a long, weird story? This poem is basically like that. To recap, a deranged-looking old sailor accosts a guy on his way to a wedding to tell him about how evil spirits turned his shipmates into zombies after he shot an albatross with a crossbow. Anyone who tells you that poetry is boring has never read this poem.
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
“HAST SEEN THE WHITE WHALE?” Ahab’s obsession with killing the monstrous whale that ate his leg puts even the most petty, vindictive boss in a positive light. More seriously, though, I’m always amazed at how incomparably fresh and alive this book feels more than 150 years after it was written. Whether or not you’ve already read it (or pretended to have read it), there’s always more to discover.
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
A relatively straightforward story of a small boat on an assassination mission deep in Africa becomes a meditation on the essential darkness of the human heart. Joseph Conrad’s prose here is so evocative, so haunting, that it’s stunning to realize that English wasn’t his second but his fourth language.
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
This is another story about one man’s obsession with a creature of the sea, but Santiago is no Ahab, and the marlin no Moby Dick. You can almost taste the salt in the sea spray as the old man struggles to haul his noble foe back to shore. This book is Hemingway at his best: spare, powerful, and weirdly spiritual.