Ah, summer. Dandelions blooming in the grass. Fluffy white clouds crossing big, blue skies. Sun shining on your back. What could we add to this equation to make it the best summer ever? Books, of course.
While most people spend their summer away from the written word (having already got their fill during the school year), summer provides ample opportunity for discovering a recent bestseller, a classic or even just a light, fluffy tale.
Here are my top picks for books to read this summer:
“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe
If the colonization of Africa by white people doesn’t scream summer, I don’t know what does.
But in all seriousness, while Achebe’s work may not seem like a scintillating summer story, it’s extremely well-written and tells an important story.
“Things Fall Apart” follows Okonkwo, part of the village Umuofia in Nigeria. A strong-man and outstanding member of his village, Okonkwo is trying to mend his family’s place in the village after the shame of his father.
Okonkwo’s resistance to change and commitment to his village causes him to lose his place in society and be exiled. When he returns, he finds everything has fundamentally changed: Christians have descended on Nigeria and are intent on converting the members of Umuofia. And with the Christians, Okonkwo is thrust into the same position as the father he hates.
“Things Fall Apart” is a vibrant story from one of Nigeria’s best authors and will give you excellent talking points like masculinity, tradition and colonization when you return to campus.
“The History of the Future” by Edward McPherson
This essay collection allows you to take a road trip across the United States without leaving the comfort of your home. Or, if you are planning on going on a road trip, you may learn a few things from this collection.
Edward McPherson’s third book examines a variety of places in the United States — from Dallas, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri and even here in North Dakota — and their relation to the mythos that surrounds the places many of us call home.
“The Gin Closet” by Leslie Jamison
I love Leslie Jamison’s essay collection, “The Empathy Exams,” so it’s only natural that I would love her novel “The Gin Closet” as well.
Like “Things Fall Apart,” “The Gin Closet” isn’t exactly a light and fluffy book for summer. “The Gin Closet” describes the life of Tilly, an alcoholic, and her niece, Stella, who has her own bad habits. By tragedy, the two meet for the first time in their respective lives, changing the future for both.
While some change-in-perspective books can easily grate on the nerves, Jamison’s chapters don’t rely on cliffhangers to keep the reader captivated. The author is also an artist with words. Her realistic telling of the pain of alcoholism and not knowing your place in the world are almost tactile when reading about them.
The book is a little slow, but it’s pace fits a long, hot summer day.
“1984” by George Orwell
After the election of President Trump, the sales for dystopian fiction skyrocketed, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley and finally, “1984” by George Orwell.
Orwell’s pessimistic view of the future may have seemed far-fetched and unrealistic while in high school, but his insinuations about American politics is extremely relevant and insightful.
“1984” is set in a future world where Big Brother watches over all for dissenting viewpoints. Dissenters often disappear to the Ministry of Love. Winston Smith, a member of this authoritarian society, is terrified of the administration but loathes the system.
His form of rebellion is to have an affair with fellow worker Julia and read “The Book,” a clandestine text that reveals ways to overthrow Big Brother.
Criticism of the government is rife throughout this book, so obviously it’s a top choice.
“The Truth About Forever” by Sarah Dessen
Okay, hear me out: Sarah Dessen is one of the only young adult romance authors that I can actually stomach. What’s more is her content is very light, making it great for when you want to just sit back and relax.
“The Truth About Forever,” one of many Dessen books, follows Macy, who has everything under control: her life is planned out and she’s going to help her mother prepare for an opening. While her boyfriend is away at Brain Camp, Macy will begin preparing for her senior year.
Then, she gets a job at the chaotic and delightful Wish Catering. Suddenly, Macy is working odd hours with odd people. And then there’s Wes, the cute boy that Macy is so comfortable with but who so doesn’t fit into her plans.
While Dessen writes plenty of romantic fluff, she also tackles bigger concepts like death and planning for the future. Specifically, Dessen comments about how maybe, just maybe, your plan can be wrong.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
“Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah
“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo
“Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn
“Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alexie