As an avid lover of literature, one of my favorite things about the free time I enjoy during summer is the chance to read a lot of books — and the lack of homework. Short books, long books, literary masterpieces and trashy beach reads all make for fantastic reading material. If you’re just relaxing at home this summer, you’ll have lots of free time, but even if you’re a little busier — traveling or interning, perhaps — you can still find a free moment for reading (the Metro is a perfect place to fit in a chapter or two). Here are my recommendations for the irresistible books you must read this summer:
If you liked The Hunger Games by Susan Collins …
If you like dystopian societies, scientific inquiry, social revolutions, an omnipotent government and seeing how these things can mess with a society, I recommend Oryx and Crake by literary titan Margaret Atwood. This book sets up a dismal future where everything is scientifically engineered and the Internet is ubiquitous. If you get hooked to Atwood’s eerie cyber-drama, don’t worry — there are two more books for your pile: The Year of the Flood and the soon-to-be-published Maddaddam.
If you want a dystopia based less on science and more on politics, read her other book, The Handmaid’s Tale, about a handmaid in a totalitarian theocracy that forbids women from reading.
If you want a more romantic dystopia, read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, about an angst-ridden New Yorker falling in love as the world falls apart.
If you identify as a nerd (or did in high school) …
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was classified in Barnes & Noble as young-adult fiction, but it was also Time Magazine’s Book of the Year in 2012, so don’t worry — this isn’t Twilight. TFiOS, as its devoted fans lovingly refer to it, tells the story of Hazel, a snarky, intelligent and perceptive teenager who is slightly socially awkward – and also happens to have cancer. It’s a book about the grim realities, the unfairness of life and the sweet moments we might be able to find in between the complexities which make us human. A book about a girl with cancer sounds like it could be really overdone and dramatic, but this novel is anything but. I read it in one day and really can’t recommend it enough.
If you liked Bossypants by Tina Fey …
Fey’s book was brilliant because of its combination of wit, inside details on her television shows and her large amount of life experience. Mindy Kaling — originally known as Kelly on “The Office” but now better known for her eponymous Fox sitcom — released Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in 2011, which expertly fuses humor, insider information and self-deprecation. Kaling knows how to poke fun at herself — she includes embarrassing childhood photos, vain selfies and awkward stories — while still making you want to hang out with her. The only problem with the book is that it’s so short. (Though, with so many other recommendations to read, there will be plenty else to keep you busy.)
If you’re looking for romance without the schmaltz …
When you hear the title, it’s easy to assume that Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love is a corny, Nicholas Sparks-esque take on relationships. However, the novel tells the story of an old man, separated from the love of his life by the Holocaust, who now lives alone in New York. In the same book, there’s a young girl dealing with her father’s death who searches for the man who wrote the book that brought her parents together. The novel itself presents a complicated portrait of what love really means — and it’s imminently quotable, which I always enjoy.
If you’re looking for some classics …
There are some books that are considered parts of the western literary canon, the type you tend to read in school. But sometimes it feels like everyone else’s middle school taught To Kill A Mockingbird and you have no idea what people are talking about when they mention Atticus Finch (true story). These are those kind of books:
Blog editor Lindsay Lee would like everyone to consider reading (or re-reading) The Great Gatsby, and I have to get behind that. First, please don’t see the movie until you’ve read it because that cliché is true — the book is always better (Editor’s note: STRONGLY SECOND THAT). Second, it’s kind of the perfect summer book, since it’s about people getting into some major shenanigans during one insane summer.
Summer is also the perfect time to read those long books that you otherwise would not have the time for. This doesn’t just mean that you should dig into Game of Thrones, however (though it does mean that too).
You might have read John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath in high school; if you haven’t, pick up this tome about one family’s Depression-era trek across the country searching for peace.
If you haven’t already, pick up another Steinbeck classic, East of Eden, about the intense rivalry between two brothers growing up in California. Lots of depressing things happen, but in the end it’s uplifting.
Other books that you might enjoy …
… if you love baseball — The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
… if you like short stories — Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
… if you’ve always wanted to rage in Spain — The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
… if you’re an Anglophile but also nostalgic for the ’90s — One Day by David Nicholls
… if you struggled to learn a foreign language — Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
… if you like things that are kind of meta — The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien