Originally Posted: Jul 5, 2019
Last Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Summer vacation is here—finally! You know what that means: long days, sunshine, trips to the beach, and most important, no school or homework! It’s everything high school students have been waiting for all year.
While you’re relaxing this summer, what’s better than getting lost in a good book…or two…or five? Summer is a great time to catch up on some fun reading instead of just reading for school assignments.
To get you started, some of the CollegeXpress Team wanted to share our favorite recommendations and books we’re excited to dive into this summer. Read on for some great choices to pick up at your local library or bookstore or to download on your Kindle.
Claire Carter, Editor
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
This is on my long list of novels to read this summer. It has all the elements of a perfect beach read: estranged twin sisters, small-town gossip, family drama, and a little romance set between the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. I’m ready to camp out with this book under an umbrella at York Beach right now!
Jaws by Peter Benchley
Did you know this classic summer blockbuster is based on a book? (Of course it is.) But like most Hollywood adaptations, the novel is pretty different from the movie, so it’s definitely worth the read. I guess I’m really into classic New England settings for my summer reading. But I’d recommend skipping the beach and reading this one in a hammock, safely away from any bodies of water…
Erik Ledder, Executive Director, Design
Twelve Days of Terror by Richard G. Fernicola
This is the horrifying nonfiction inspiration for Peter Benchley's Jaws. In July 1916, four swimmers were fatally bitten and one mortally injured by a shark—or sharks—along the New Jersey coast in a span of 12 days. Richard Fernicola presents a captivating portrait, investigation, and scientific analysis of that terrifying stretch of time. There are parts of the story that read more like scenes from a movie and would be unbelievable if they weren't documented history. Despite the subject matter, this was my summer read in 2001 on the beach of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Little did I know at the time that only a few weeks later there would be a fatal shark attack only miles from where I was. If you’re a fan of science, history, and horror, this book is for you. I highly recommend it!
Kara E. Joyce, Editorial Assistant
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction, a good romance, and a good circus tale, especially one with a darker twist and fantasy tones. So I recently added The Night Circus to my summer reading list. The star-crossed lovers theme gets me every time, and this one is between magicians! I can’t wait for some sunshine and a beach trip to get into this one.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Princess Bride is my favorite book of all time. It’s jam-packed with absurdism and hilarity—seriously. S. Morgenstern, the “original author” (who never really existed), has the funniest asides to the text. The actual author, William Goldman, wrote a fantasy that doesn’t take any part of the story too seriously, which is refreshing. If you love comedy, adventure, romance, drama, and revenge, I highly recommend this read.
Meghan Dalesandro, Partner, Chief Operating Officer
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
And Then There Were None will always be a go-to favorite for me—a classic mystery that holds up today with unexpected twists, clever character narrative, and a page-turning pace. It’s a story of how 10 strangers have one thing in common: they’ve all played a part in a person’s murder, and they must now pay for that. Fight through the first 20 pages of details, because it’s worth it to be surprised in the end.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
If you haven’t read The Help yet, you’re missing out. Even if you’ve seen the movie, trust me—grab the book. It’s easily my favorite of all time and will forever be on my recommendation list. This inspirational story follows a young girl’s mission to allow everyone to have a voice in 1960s Mississippi. You love and hate characters. You laugh out loud. You tear up. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My book club picked this book based on the amazing reviews and recommendations, including one from the one and only Nicholas Sparks, who said “this wonderful novel has a bit of everything—mystery, romance, and fascinating characters.” This is right up my alley—I’m looking forward to some sunny weather to crack this one open and enjoy!
Matt Bradshaw, Production/Web Content Manager
Watchmen, written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons
If your knowledge of superheroes is limited to movies and television, this masterpiece of a graphic novel will show you what can be done with the genre in its native medium of comics. Having read comics my entire life, Watchmen was a real game changer. It took the long-established tropes of superhero comics and subverted them, showing what costumed vigilantes might be like if they existed in the real world (and the result is kind of messed up). I first read the story in monthly installments in 1986–1987, and I later bought the collected hardcover version, which I reread every few years.
The book combines a murder mystery with science fiction and a cold war thriller. It was one of the first comics to show the grim and gritty side of superheroes. The 2009 film adaptation is good, but the book adds a lot of depth and has a strikingly different ending. Also, reading this will prepare you for the upcoming HBO series adaptation.
Kelli Dolan, Assistant Editor & Social Media Coordinator
Scythe by Neal Schusterman
Picture this: a world where we’ve eradicated death, but overpopulation is still a major issue. What’s the solution? Training individuals as “merciful” assassins to kill people without prejudice so our planet can still sustain humanity. The concept of that was so intriguing to me, but as I read it, I realized the author takes that interesting premise and navigates it so well that you can really connect with and relate to characters that are doing and experiencing things you could never imagine happening in our world today. But the ideas really aren’t so far off when I stopped and thought about them. It really drives home a lot of important issues humanity is currently facing, and I found that really powerful.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz-Zafón
Shadow of the Wind is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve ever read. The book is so many things at once: a mystery, a thriller, a romance, but most importantly, a love letter to book lovers. It’s one of my favorite books of all time for that exact reason. As a book lover, anything that can express that deep connection we as readers have to stories is a book for me. It’s also one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read—atmospheric in the sense that it so perfectly describes Barcelona during the 1940s that it feels like you’re really there.
Stephanie Janeczek, Marketing Designer
Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
I love science fiction, specifically dystopian novels. I first read the Uglies series in high school and have reread them three times since. In high school, I liked them because the main character was about my age, but I’ve revisited the novels because I love imagining and placing myself in different types of societies. The main character, Tally, doesn’t question the socialist structure at first—it’s meant to look as if everything is perfect. She starts to question it when she stumbles on a society outside her town that doesn’t conform to the rules she’s been following her whole life. I loved following the main character as she goes through all the levels of society and tries to break the wheel from within.
1984 by George Orwell
This is a typical high school read, but it’s a novel I’ve reread because there are details I didn’t pick up the first time. The main character, Winston Smith, doesn’t wish to challenge the totalitarian government he’s a part of, but that changes when he falls in love. In a society where there are arranged marriages, it’s illegal for him to pursue Julia, but he does it anyway, thinking he might actually get away with it—but he’s also aware he lives in a society where “Big Brother” is always watching. This novel had an ending that I didn’t expect.
Shannon Fisher, Production Director
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
This is not your typical self-help book. Part history lesson (who knew ancient Greek philosophers were so cool?!), part how-to, part pep-talk, this book provides simple answers to your most urgent and basic questions: How should I live? How can I find happiness? Where do I fit in in the world? You’re never too young (or too old, in my case!) to ponder your philosophy on life and think about how to get the most out of it. I can promise that you’ll finish this book with not only a better understanding of stoicism but with a positive and hopeful outlook on life!
Katie Dziewiszek, Junior Frontend Developer
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
I love books that explore different storylines, secrets, and time periods and somehow manage to weave them all together. The House at Riverton does an excellent job of that. Told mostly by way of a flashback, it takes a deep dive into aristocratic life in England before World War II. It definitely has a Downton Abbey vibe but with more mystery. The way the story unfolds bit by bit really keeps you hooked until the final page.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Something of a mix between a fairytale and historical fiction, The Golem and the Jinni is a unique story. I generally enjoy books that have some kind of fairytale element, and while this book certainly fits that, it still manages to stand out and feel different. The two main characters each come from Jewish and Arabian mythology respectively while meeting in a real-feeling New York in 1899. It’s magical, marvelous, and a little darkly mysterious.
What’s on your summer reading list? Tweet us what books you love @CollegeXpress.