An Arts and Entertainment Editor’s Summer Reading List

This summer I set out to do something I probably haven’t done in an extensive manner since middle school: summer reading.

My goal was to read at least five books and I somehow surpassed it and ended up reading nine. I use the word “somehow” because I’ve found that nowadays the distractions began piling as high as the books I had yet to read on my shelf, which is a lot.

I would buy books, I received them as gifts, I borrowed some from the library—it was always a part of who I am. With all of the books I had yet to read, I decided to pick and choose ones that I had been putting off for too long: older classics, non-fiction or memoirs, suspenseful books or intriguing ones. Here are some of my favorites that I highly recommend.

If you like books with many characters and a small town setting…

“In the Unlikely Event” by Judy Blume is for you. I don’t believe I’ve ever read a Judy Blume book before, which I know is very near blasphemy. But if this was in fact my first Blume book, it was a great one to start with. Pick a favorite character to follow, really, and Blume weaves together the lives of those who experience three plane crashes in their small town of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

This book was heart-wrenching but also heartfelt. I found myself cheering for when one female character finally kisses the boy she likes and crying at the aftermath of the first plane crash (which from the title is a dead giveaway, but I also did not see it coming at all). This was the first fictional book I read during the summer and it was one I could not put down.

If you never read this classic, you must.

I was never required to read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury in any educational setting, which I think is a tragedy. But I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it. It’s one of those older books that can still be relevant to today.

Imagine a dystopian future where televisions are entire rooms you immerse yourself in, where those who are different more than likely end up dead and where firemen don’t put out fires but instead start them to burn books and literature for fear it will teach people too much.

What I found fascinating was after I had finished the book, I read about the backstory to it. Although many people believed Bradbury was writing about censorship, he was actually trying to convey his feelings on television and media overpowering and possibly killing off the book industry. Bradbury was certainly on to something there.

If you want to laugh out loud and read a great book at the same time…

“Bossypants” by Tina Fey is an absolute must-have. I absolutely admire Fey as a comedian and a person.

In her autobiography, Fey does an excellent job making her life entertaining, by picking the funniest stories from her childhood, about her parents or her college experience.

It was a hilarious read as she describes her time of working at a Chicago YMCA and her climb to stardom through many improv shows. I don’t often crack up while reading books but this one had me rolling.

If a modern fictional story about a hometown tragedy interests you…

“Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult will pique your interest. I already knew starting the book how Picoult told stories: they are sad and make you cry. “My Sister’s Keeper” already left me numb for a few days after reading. For “Nineteen Minutes” though, I found myself after the book was done thinking about the character progression.

Picoult introduces many characters that are victims of a high school shooting, including the shooter himself, a judge whose daughter is caught in the fire, the lawyer representing the shooter and the detective on the case. Throughout the book, it felt like they were stuck after this tragedy, with no growth or transformation. But after I finished the book, I realized how much they changed and how much they had to change due to the circumstances. It was incredibly moving and Picoult published another great novel.

All of these books I read made me think and made me feel—“Orange is the New Black” left me feeling depressed and trapped like I was with Piper in prison, “The Little Prince” made me think of how poignantly this children’s book was put (so much so, in fact, that it’s almost a message directly to adults, too).

“The Devil Wears Prada” had me imagining what it would be like to work for someone like Miranda Priestly and “The Rosie Project” brought me into the mind of a man who believed love could be found scientifically. “Water for Elephants” transported me back to a time when circuses arrived by train one night and left the next morning to perform somewhere else, always on the move to entertain the next town.

Reading takes us places where we never would have imagined we would see and I encourage you to take that journey too.

Even if you didn’t read any books this summer, it isn’t too late to start one now. It’s a great stress reliever, works your imagination and encourages learning in a fun way. Set a goal and watch as the pile of finished books begins to grow.