WATCH: 5 books you've got to read this summer

One deeply boring professor inspired me to make reading fun for the rest of my life. These books should help!

By D. Watkins

Editor at Large

Published July 4, 2017 6:00PM (EDT)

“Welcome to COM 201,” a spindly guy wearing glasses with thick frames told a room packed with students. “This summer class is quick -- but however, we will cover a lot of information from some of the best books that have ever been written."

He walked over to the chalkboard and wrote "Othello," "The Iliad," "The Odyssey" and "Romeo and Juliet."

“You will study, analyze and freely quote from these books over the next two months!”

It was my second attempt at attending college, and I was questioning my decision at that point, especially after I skimmed the reading list. And I wasn’t alone — the bulk of my classmates were in the campus bookstore buying up all of the Spark Notes that day. I tried to get into the assigned reading, but the books were long, boring and written in a language I couldn’t understand. I wasn’t a reader when I entered the class, and I ended up rejecting reading even more by the end of the semester.

It took me a few more years to develop a love for books. That journey started with culturally relevant information and then led to worlds beyond my imagination. I now understand the brilliance of the books that my instructor assigned to us, but I easily could have quit right then and there. Faced with long, boring lectures about characters I couldn’t relate to or understand, I almost walked away. I never would have found my love for reading, and I probably would have chosen a different path in life than writer and teacher.

My experience in that class came to mind when I first became a college professor. I told myself that I would only assign books that my students would find fun, contemporary and full of themes that will make them love reading. Today on "Salon 5," I’ll share some of those titles. Check them out and study along with us.

By D. Watkins

D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a writer on the HBO limited series "We Own This City" and a professor at the University of Baltimore. Watkins is the author of the award-winning, New York Times best-selling memoirs “The Beast Side: Living  (and Dying) While Black in America”, "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir," "Where Tomorrows Aren't Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope" as well as "We Speak For Ourselves: How Woke Culture Prohibits Progress." His new books, "Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments," and "The Wire: A Complete Visual History" are out now.

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Books Higher Education Literary Canon Original Video Salon 5