Summer is often viewed as a brief period of relaxation in which no mention of anything school related will be tolerated. Believe me, I know how appealing the idea of staying curled up in bed all day with a carton of ice cream and a new show to binge can be. Or if you’re more of the active type, perhaps you envision three months packed with tanning on the beach and soaking in as much friend time as possible. Either way, putting aside a couple of hours to keep reading while on break doesn’t have to be something to dread. Here are eight great books to get you started!
1. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult
This criminally underrated novel examines the life of Willow, a young girl born with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which makes her bones more fragile and prone to breakage. The catch? Willow doesn’t tell her own story. Instead, the narrative bounces between the voices of her friends and family, each viewpoint opening the reader’s eyes to another overlooked side of the story. Take, for example, Sara, who recalls Willow’s difficult pregnancy and reflects on her own fleeting youth within the pages she narrates. Or Amelia, Willow’s teenage sister who struggles with feelings of neglect, forever shadowed by Willow’s disability and her parents’ marital throes. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a hard-hitting family drama.
2. Educated by Tara Westover
Educated was widely successful when it hit the shelves back in 2018, but for those of us who were too caught up in oblivious youth at that time to care, the novel seems to be making a comeback. (Okay, maybe I was the only one in an exclusive literary relationship with the Harry Potter series in 2018, but I’m still willing to bet some of you haven’t read this book!) Throughout the narrative, Westover spills her journey out for all to see, from her childhood raised by survivalist parents to her self-led adulthood, which she spent teaching herself enough English and math to be accepted into Brigham Young University. If you’re like me and love a good motivational true story, this book is for you!
3. My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee
Freshly published in March of this year, My Year Abroad exploits the adventures of Tiller, an average American who gets swept off his feet by the glamorous entrepreneur Pong Lou on a year-long trip around Asia. Before readers can read about their long-awaited exposition across the foreign country, Lee takes them through the aftermath of Tiller’s experience with Pong, an event that sent his entire worldview spiraling. This book reads with a tone of authoritative curiosity, seeming to have an opinion on everything…and one strong enough to shake your own thoughts at that. Curious souls are bound to appreciate this novel!
4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Published in 1982, The Color Purple is an un-skippable classic. The life story of Celie, a young Black girl living in 20th-century rural Georgia, and her estranged sister, Nettie, is told through years of heartfelt letters that are sewed together like a patchwork quilt to make a full narrative. These letters begin as messages from Celie to God but transition into conversations between Celie and Nettie as time passes by. This book has captured the hearts of many and has been adapted into both a film and a musical, even winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction a year after its publication. Each page is host to a vast range of emotions that will leave your head spinning and your heart swelling. No matter who you are, you’ll benefit from reading this novel.
5. Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Ray
Lana Del Ray became a big name in the music industry after her debut album Born to Die dropped in 2012 and instantly earned her a loyal fan base. Since then, Del Ray has experimented in many other fields of artistry, so when she announced this poetic collection, her fans weren’t all that surprised. I like to call Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass a “starter poetry kit,” perfect for those who like the idea of getting into poetry but can’t seem to get past the first line of a Shakespeare play without yawning. Like her songs, many of the poems featured in the book are deeply rooted in Los Angeles, with themes of the idolized American Dream weaved throughout the collection. Every line is a direct insight into Del Ray’s mind, and she even goes as far as including draft versions alongside select poems. I recommend this to poetry lovers and newbies alike!
6. Dune by Frank Herbert
Here it is: the novel that hiked up standards for the whole science fiction genre from the moment of its arrival in 1965. I’ve been waiting for this classic to make a well-deserved reappearance for a long time, and with the film adaptation starring Timotheé Chalamet due to hit theaters by the end of this year, it seems as if the time has finally arrived. Dune, set roughly 20,000 years into the future, follows a young man named Paul Atreides on the desert planet of Arrakis. The planet is desolate and inhospitable, but what makes Arrakis desirable is its possession of the mélange drug known as the “Spice” that extends the lifespan and enhances the consciousness of all who partake in it. I consider Dune a necessary read for anyone who considers themselves a Sci-Fi enthusiast, as well as any avid moviegoer who can’t miss what’s expected to be one of the biggest films of the year.
7. A Matter of Death and Life by Irvin D. Yalom and Marilyn Yalom
Irvin and Marilyn Yalom were real-life childhood best friends turned high school sweethearts who ended up being married for 65 years. Their novel A Matter of Death and Life offers readers firsthand accounts of their last few months together after Marilyn is diagnosed with cancer. The elderly couple’s raw love and true grief are displayed on every page like an open, bleeding wound that readers can’t seem to look away from. If you’re in the mood for a classic stare-at-the-ceiling-and-contemplate-life kind of cry, this book is a must!
8. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Set during an Italian summer in the 1980s, Call Me by Your Name tells the story of Elio, a young man caught in between the looming dread of adulthood and the loathed belittling of those who still consider him a child. Everything he knew to be true—and every feeling he wished he could ignore—is turned upside down during the six-week period that Oliver, an American scholar, stays at his family house. Reading as almost poetic at times, Aciman’s unique writing style ensures that Elio’s coming-of-age will stay rooted in your mind far after you’ve reached the end. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll manage to make you see yourself within Elio—in his anguish, his yearning, his confusion, even his love—as he has for so many readers before.
On that note, we have reached the end of the list of books you should definitely add to your reading list this summer. Keeping up on your reading during vacation can seem like a chore, but I’ve seen firsthand the unique ability these novels have to spark the urge to curl up under the sun with a good story in the coming months. Blissful reading!
What are you reading this summer? Let us know what books we can’t miss on Twitter @CollegeXpress.