10 books for your summer reading list

Summer vacation has finally arrived! Whether you’re going home or staying on campus, you might be hoping to catch up on some reading (for fun, not for your 300-level biology class…hopefully!).

Although my Goodreads account is full of all kinds of books I’ve read and hundreds more that I can’t wait to read, I’ve curated a special handful for the summer months. Here are 10 recommendations, from me to you, based on the type of book you’re looking for!

If you are looking…

1. … for reading at the beach or in the park: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

This sci-fi/fantasy anthology of harrowing short stories is sure to grab your full attention. I love going to a nearby park for my lunch break in the summer and always grab a book to read in the sun. If you like being able to have a sense of “finality” before you go home or to work, this anthology of short stories is perfect!

2. …to learn more about the relationship between Indigenous and scientific knowledge: Sweet grass braiding by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer discusses these two identities to highlight the importance of Indigenous knowledge and culture to the world around us and how to improve it. After finishing this book, I had a renewed sense of responsibility and gratitude.

3. …for a popular #BookTok title to binge on: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I read this book when it came out and it instantly became one of my favorite books. This is definitely one of my comfort books! It is a reimagining of events leading up to and during Homer’s Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ famous companion. This is a book you can’t put down and will want to read again as soon as you finish it. I’ve read it an absurd number of times!

4. …to get to know a Nobel laureate better: A hundred years of loneliness by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This Nobel Prize winner and literary masterpiece tells the magical story of seven generations of the Buendía family in the town of Macondo. This book is the keystone of the “magical realism” genre, and it is absurd, seductive and disconcerting. It’s not always the easiest story to understand, but if you like it, you’ll love it!

5. …to change perspective: What happened to you? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

I have seen a lot more encouragement online and at school to invest in my mental and emotional health during the pandemic. I tried to do this by reading non-fiction books on mental and physical health. This book explores how we react to what we experience, especially trauma, and is a great start to understanding our own patterns of behavior and those of others. I enjoyed the mix of real-life stories with very clear scientific explanations.

6. … to discover a first Aboriginal author: Not reconciled by Jesse Wente

This is a powerful memoir in which Jesse Wente, an Ojibwe member of Serpent River First Nation, shares the stories of his childhood and adulthood. He discusses his personal experiences with Indigeneity and criticizes the very definition of reconciliation. He writes with an honesty and vulnerability that is hard to ignore.

7. …for something to read with your younger siblings: smelly socks by Robert Munsch

This was my absolute favorite story to read before going to bed with my parents. We would point out the different animals that passed out from the smell of smelly socks and laugh until it was time to sleep. I kept my copy so I could read it with my cousins. It’s light reading with an important message and colorful humorous images!

8. …for a must-have classic you can’t put down: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

A pivotal novel in American literature and winner of the National Book Award for Fiction, it is a powerful and revealing coming-of-age play. It follows the life of an anonymous narrator from childhood to adulthood living in a black community in the United States in the early 1900s. It addresses issues of race and nationalism that you, as a reader, must contemplate, however overwhelming or sobering they may be.

9. …for a fantasy series you may have never heard of before: The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors, not just in the fantasy genre, but of all time. This trilogy is a tribute to JRR Tolkien The Lord of the Rings, and although you can spot the influence, this story is unique, poetic and very touching. If you’ve been trying to start an epic fantasy series, this is definitely the one for you. (And if you’re a crier, I recommend keeping tissues handy like I did).

10. …for an autobiography of an iconic model: Become by Michelle Obama

This autobiography is the coming-of-age story of Michelle Obama’s journey as an adult, mother, and First Lady. It’s an engaging read in which his honesty, humor and self-awareness captivate you. His confidence, his determination and his vision of the world will not fail to inspire you.

Quick advice

If you are a multilingual aspirant, try to find translated works from any of these recommendations. You can read the translated version while having a copy of the original in English (or your native language) next to you. If you find a certain scene or phrase tricky, you can easily grab the original and compare! This way, you can practice reading in a language you’re learning, while fully understanding the context, because sometimes Google Translate just isn’t enough!

Whether you devour every book you can get your hands on or take your time to savor every word on every page, I hope you find time to enjoy a few of these recommendations this summer.