Uh, oh. With mere weeks of summer left, it seems that you still haven’t exactly gotten around to making a summer reading list. Or maybe, you’re like me and you made a giant reading list and then never read anything off of it because you just were gifted your friends HBO login. So it’s time to readjust and retackle that beautiful, beautiful summer reading list. Time is limited and you have to make sure you’re getting in the perfect mix of cool emerging authors, best-sellers, old classics, and unknown picks. As a creative writing major, I know that the first day of class ice breaker is going to be asking if we’ve read any good books this summer, and I can’t keep saying The Lighting Thief, mainly because it’s been so long since I’ve read it I can’t remember any of the characters' names. But even if you don’t have to report back, you can still craft an absolute baller summer reading list to finish up before school starts and the required reading begins. Here are a few ideas on how to get started:
I think the best way to start any list (books to read, restaurants to try, cities to visit, etc.) is with a good recommendation from someone you trust. And who knows books better than your teachers? One of my creative writing professors was absolutely obsessed with James Baldwin and Notes of a Native Son made its way on my summer reading list this year! Even if your teacher isn’t specifically an English teacher, they’re all literate (it’s like a prerequisite or something) and most of them are probably reading books for fun! A great way to connect with your teachers is to ask what they’ve been reading - plus if you finish their rec before school starts they’ll be super impressed at your reading speed.
YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR’S LESSER KNOWN HITS
I feel like there are two different types of readers out there: people who have favorite authors and people who have favorite books. If you’re a favorite book type of person, try checking out some other titles that the author has written. Big fan of Kurt Vonnegut's AM’ 71 Slaughterhouse 5? Maybe consider Cats Cradle or Breakfast of Champions. If the author of your favorite novel is a one-hit-wonder, do some research on the books and authors that helped to inspire them to write your favorite book. You never know, they might inspire you too!
THE BOOKS THAT INSPIRED YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES
I took this awesome class my first year of college called Reading as a Writer: From Page to Film, where we read stories and then watched the movies that were based on them. Did you know that Bladerunner is based off a book called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick? Or that Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is based on Cornell Woolrich's short story “It Had to Be Murder”? Do a little googling on your favorite movie (or any of the movies you’ve been watching instead of making a summer reading list) and see what the screenplay is based on. If you loved the movie there’s a good chance that it could be a page-turner.
LOOK AT OTHER PEOPLE’S READING LISTS (IT’S NOT CHEATING!)
There’s no shame in turning to the experts on what to be reading this summer. Lots of people put out summer reading lists, like Reese Witherspoon! You can also check out big publications like the New York Times’ summer reading list. Or go more grassroots and see what your friends are reading. One perk of starting your list this late is that they’ve been done with their reading list for a while now. Joining a book club can also be a great way to add books to your list throughout the summer and keep you accountable for actually reading them. Or join Chicago rapper Noname’s book club on Instagram! She didn’t start her bookclub until August too- you’ll be in good company.
BOOKS A LOT OF PEOPLE READ IN SCHOOL (BUT YOU DIDN’T)
There are lots of reasons you missed out on stuff other people were reading for class, maybe your teacher doesn’t put Catcher in the Rye on the syllabus or you missed the week that they read To Kill A Mockingbird. My high school gave us a huge list of a bunch of different books we could use to write our senior term paper, and we had to choose one, but I like to go back to this list and try to read as many classics as I can. I have horrible reading FOMO, and if everyone I’ve ever met has already read 1984 then I have to catch up!
MEMOIRS BY YOUR FAVORITE FAMOUS PEOPLE
I’ll be honest, I absolutely love a celebrity memoir. Bossypants by Tina Fey, Yes Please by Amy Pohler, Becoming by Michele Obama, I love em all. Regular memoirs are also cool, but a celebrity mem feels like you're getting a behind the scenes look. Pick someone that has your dream job, and you can learn a lot about how they got to where they are today. Is writing for a TV show like The Office a dream of yours? Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? has got you covered. What about building a running shoe empire like Nike? Check out Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog. Interested in politics? Pretty much every U.S president has got you covered- even Thomas Jefferson! Unlike biographies, memoirs are written by the people that they’re about, so you get all the inside scoop on what was going on in their heads when they closed the big deal or killed their audition.
JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS
Look, I know it’s frowned upon, but strolling through the aisles of your local bookstore or library and looking for a jacket cover that stands out to you can be effective. It’s a gamble for sure, but a brightly colored and fun looking book jacket could lead to a good read. Make sure to flip around a little bit and take some time to read the intro or an early chapter and see if you might like it. It can be a great way to find something you might never have tried before and push you outside of your reading comfort zone.
FINDS FROM AUTHOR READINGS
Check out your local bookstore- when I’m on campus I love going to the Seminary Co-op! Local bookstores, especially academic bookstores like the Sem Co-op frequently bring in authors for readings and Q & A sessions. Try going to a couple where you’ve never heard of the author or their book. The reading can be a little bit of a test run, and if it seems like something that is gonna be a great partner for the beach or a hammock this summer pick it up! Support your local bookstore, get a signature from the author, and get the summer reading list done!