Ten Sizzling Summer Book Recommendations
Wednesday 24 June 2015
For me, summer in Michigan conjures up images of long lazy days where it stays light until almost 10pm. In the afternoon, the sun beats down while we swim in the crisp Lake Huron water. In the evening, after dousing ourselves with mosquito spray, we sit around the campfire, telling stories and roasting marshmallows to make smores. In the town nearby, Little League baseball teams line up at the local ice cream store after their season is over, pushing each other as they wait to get their cones, most of which will end up on their face.
It’s a wonderful time of year.
And while I hope my students are able to take a complete break from school and enjoy the long days spent with family or friends, I also hope they find reading books of their choice is part of that summer equation too.
With that in mind, I want to make ten sizzling summer book recommendations for your students. I cringe to even write this, but if you live in a community where censorship is rampant, vet these books before recommending them. I also want to tell you about four books I plan on reading this summer in the hopes that you might pick them up too, if one interests you. Finally, I want to point you in the direction of the New York Times’ summer reading challenge.
Student Book Recommendations
A science fiction novel sure to engage all types of readers, it follows the tale of Mark Watney, an astronaut and botanist accidentally left stranded on Mars by his crew. Will Mark survive and make it back to Earth safely? How will he cope with his impending starvation? It's a fast and fun read and your students will enjoy it immensely. Read it before the movie comes out (the trailer is already online).
The plot revolves around a high school in the US where teen girls are mysteriously getting ill and having seizures. Is it the water? Vaccinations? Copycat syndrome? Mystery and suspense are in abundance from this Edgar Award nominated writer. It is not YA, but rather adult fiction that appeals to teens.
Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, writes this fantastic book about the absolute hysteria that is university applications in the United States. He argues that where you go to college will not determine who you become in life. The book starts with listing the CEO’s of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies. Only one of the ten went to an Ivy League school. Anecdotes and information continue from there. If you are worried about university applications, this is a good read to quell that anxiety.
"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet," is the start to Celeste Ng's haunting novel Everything I Never Told You. It tells the story of Lydia, an Asian-American teen living in Ohio, trying to grapple with her identity and the combating desires of her parents. You don't find out until the end the how and the why surrounding her death and it is sure to keep you engaged. It was amazon.com’s best book of 2014, a New York Times best 100 book and an Alex Award Winner (a book written for adults that teens will enjoy).
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant is a graphic memoir by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. It deals with old age, and Chast having to deal with the demise of her parents as they reach their 90's. Chast is such a wonderful storyteller and her memoir is honest, raw, funny and heartbreaking.
Atul Gawande's new book Being Mortal is a must read for any aspiring doctors as well as anyone who has parents that are aging. He argues that the West, and the U.S. in particular - where he is a highly acclaimed surgeon - is great at keeping people alive, but poor at improving their quality of life. He explores alternative options and begins the conversation about how to best take care of our elderly.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year, All the Light We Cannot See follows the story of two main characters. Marie-Laure is twelve-year-old blind Parisian during World War Two. Werner is a sixteen-year-old German solider during the same time. Doerr tells both stories in interchanging chapters and he has you hooked until the end.
The Georgian Flu Pandemic has wiped out most of society. There is nothing left of society as we now know it. Most of the novel though takes place a few years after almost total destruction of the world. Station Eleven revolves around a travelling band of misfits who perform Shakespeare and play instruments for the small little hamlets of people that have survived. Nominated for a National Book Award, it’s not your typical post-apocalyptic novel.
For students who have read Gone Girl and are looking for their next thriller, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is the book for them. It is everything you want in a holiday read: fast, fun and full of twists and turns. Dive into the life of Rachel, an unreliable and alcoholic narrator who has witnessed something that connects her to a major crime while commuting on the train. Can we believe what she has seen? Can we trust her information? Who has committed this horrendous crime and is Rachel the key to finding out who is at fault?
If you are looking for a book similar to The Hunger Games, meet Darrow, the main character of Red Rising. Set on Mars, Darrow is a Red, part of the lowest of the low in this caste-based society. Yet, he isn’t content for his people to remain that way forever. Penetrating Gold society (the highest ranking officials), Red Rising tracks Darrow’s assent into power. It’s fast, violent, and very engaging.
4 Books I Want To Read this Summer
This must be the most anticipated book of the year. Do I think it will live up to To Kill a Mockingbird? No, not really and I also don’t care if it does. I just cannot wait to read about Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem again.
For fans of The Windup Girl and his YA novel Ship Breaker, Bacigalupi’s new book has just been published. It’s timely too. Drought in the Western United States – and California in particular – is devastating that part of the country (in real life and in the novel itself). Post-apocalyptic and perhaps a bit prophetic, I eagerly want to read this one.
Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics, the go to book for teaching how to read comics, has a new graphic novel out in stores. I saw it in the airport and the art looks stunningly beautiful.
I wanted to include some nonfiction and perhaps something lighter. The comedian Aziz Ansari has teamed up with NYU professor Eric Klineberg and written a book about dating in the modern era. It seems to offer an interesting look at dating in an era of texting and Tinder. If Ansari brings his regular humor to it, it’ll no doubt be entertaining as well.
The New York Times Summer Reading Contest
For the 6th year in a row, the New York Times is holding a summer reading contest. If you want your students to read nonfiction over the summer, you may decide to direct them to this website: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/the-sixth-annual-new-york-times-summer-reading-contest/