Ah, summer—one of the most beloved times of the year for students. Unless you’re taking a full load of summer classes, you can say goodbye to textbooks, quizzes, and essays for awhile. You may have a part-time job or an internship, but with summer always comes a lot more freedom, and with that comes a lot more free time. While there are tons of great ways to fill this time, reading a good book is one of the best ways to sharpen your skills while also simply enjoying yourself.
Before you argue that you aren’t going to crack a book open again until the first day of the new semester, consider the benefits that reading gives you, regardless of the book you’ve chosen. Reading expands your vocabulary (without flashcards!), gives you a new perspective of the world around you, and entertains you. Whether you’re in the car on a road trip, laying out on the beach, or spending a quiet day inside, a good book is a great option. The following books are not textbooks, but can definitely teach you a thing or two.
1. For an old classic: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Many students read great books in middle school or high school, but some of the greatness can be lost in a book when it becomes required reading. Revisiting a classic book from your early schooling is a great way to take a trip down memory lane, and since it isn’t for class, you won’t have to worry about the tests or essays. There’s a reason these books, like The Great Gatsby, are often required reading for students. This book, set in the 1920s, follows the wealthy Jay Gatsby while detailing the parties he throws in his mansion. The plot focuses on his love for Daisy Buchanan and the conflicts it creates. While reading The Great Gatsby, you’ll not only be transported back to the Jazz Age, but also to your high school English class when you first learned about character foils and rising action. The reminder of these possibly forgotten literary elements can help you refine your reading comprehension skills.
Other classics to take you back in time: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
2. For a memoir that teaches a great lesson: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Light-hearted memoirs are not only enjoyable to read, they also can teach you valuable lessons. Memoirs can give you a different perspective on the world as you learn about other people’s experiences, which may be completely different from your own. Memoirs are also a great way to start the process of self-reflection, while reading the lessons that successful people learned can put you ahead of the game. Yes Please by Amy Poehler is an inspirational read that details her life as a woman in comedy, and you better believe Amy brings her comedic A-game with this book—but it will have you thinking as much as it has you laughing, as you learn some of the most interesting life lessons she has to offer.
Other memoirs for a lesson on life: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling, My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor (for a more serious read).
3. For a book that really makes you think: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
The best part about a great piece of literature is the way it challenges you to think hard about the world around you. The Other Wes Moore is a true story of two children with the same name who grew up in poverty in Baltimore. As you follow both of them throughout their lives, one becomes a Rhodes Scholar, while the other serves a life sentence in prison. This book challenges you to think about how your choices can impact your entire life and how one’s upbringing can play a major role in their future.
Other books to challenge your perspective: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Giver by Lois Lowry
4. For a little self-help: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Reading a book meant to influence your lifestyle is always an intriguing learning experience. Think of these books as enjoyable and entertaining self-help books that leave you with actionable steps to improve some aspect of your life. Blink is about the choices we make on instinct without thinking, and how some people are strong at making the correct choices while others’ choices can lead to unintended consequences. Blink reveals how to be a great decision-maker while profiling some experts and some failed situations. This is a great book for any college student to read, as decision-making is one of the biggest skills you will need in the real world.
Another book to help you get a fresh start: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
5. For a hidden history lesson: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
When you pick up a great book that is set in a historical time period, you learn about history without even trying. The Book Thief follows a young girl who lives in Germany during World War II with her foster parents. The book describes her experiences with the Nazi regime and the political situation in Germany at the time, particularly the destroying of books by the Nazi party. Not only is this a beautifully written book, narrated by death, it also gives detailed insight into the past.
Other hidden history lessons can be found in: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
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