Summer break is finally upon us! Whether you’re travelling back home or staying on campus, you might be hoping to catch up on some reading (for fun, not for your 300-level Biology class...I hope!).
While my Goodreads account may be full of all kinds of books I’ve read and hundreds more I am excited to read, I’ve curated a special handful for the summer months. Here are 10 recommendations, from me to you, based on what type of book you might be looking for!
If you’re looking…
1. … for a read on the beach or at the park: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
This science-fiction and fantasy anthology of poignant short stories is bound to grab your full attention. I love heading out to a park nearby for my lunch break in the summertime, and I always grab a book to read in the sun. If you like being able to have a sense of ‘finality’ before heading back home or to work, this short story anthology is perfect!
2. …to learn more about the relationship between Indigenous and scientific knowledge: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
As both a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer discusses these two identities to highlight the importance of Indigenous knowledge and culture in relation 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 first came out and it became one of my favourite books instantly. It’s definitely one of my comfort books! It’s a reimagining of the events leading up to and during Homer’s Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ famous companion. It’s a book you can’t put down and will want to read again right when you’ve finished it. I’ve reread it an absurd amount of times!
4. …to get more acquainted with a Nobel Prize winner: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
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 for the genre of ‘magical realism’, and is nonsensical, alluring, and bewildering. It’s not always the easiest story to understand, but if you like it, you’ll love it!
5. …for a change of perspective: What happened to you? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey
I’ve seen a lot of more encouragement online and at school to invest in my mental and emotional health through the pandemic. One way I’ve tried to do so is through reading nonfiction about mental and physical health. This book explores the way we react to what we experience, especially trauma, and is a good start to understanding our own and others’ behaviour patterns. I appreciated the mix of real-life stories with very clear scientific explanations.
6. …to discover a debut Indigenous author: Unreconciled 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 critiques 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 favourite story to read before bed with my parents. We would point out the various animals fainting from the smell of the smelly socks, and burst out laughing until it was time to sleep. I’ve kept my copy to be able to read it with my cousins. It’s a light read with an important message and colourful humorous imagery!
8. …for a must-read classic you just can’t put down: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
A pivotal novel in American literature and winner of the National Book Award for fiction, this is a powerful, eye-opening coming-of-age piece. It follows the life of a nameless narrator from childhood to adulthood living in a Black community in the United States in the early 1900s. It discusses questions of race and nationalism that you as the reader have to contemplate, no matter how overwhelming or sobering.
9. …for a fantasy series you may not have heard of before: The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favourite authors, not just in the fantasy genre, but of all time. This trilogy is an homage to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and while 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’d recommend keeping some tissues handy like I did).
10. …for an autobiography by an iconic role model: Becoming 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 her honesty, humour, and self-awareness captivate you. Her confidence, determination, and worldview are bound to inspire you.
If you’re an aspiring multilingual, try finding translated works of one of these recommendations. You can read the translated version while having a copy of the original in English (or your mother tongue) beside you. If you find a certain scene or sentence tricky, you can easily pull up the original and compare! This way, you get to practice reading in a language you’re learning, while fully understanding the context—because sometimes Google Translate just isn’t enough!