As a college student, I often find it impossible to pleasure-read during semesters. With all the class readings and assignments to keep up on, getting hooked on a new book is dangerous. So, summer usually becomes my time to flip through hundreds of pages whilst not worrying about annotations or possible essay questions. For example, last summer I read The Scarlet Letter for the first time and discovered that it was nothing like Easy A. It is about 10 times more depressing and 25 times more heart wrenching, but filled with faith and hope in unexpected ways. This sunny season, my lineup includes 1984 by George Orwell, One Day by David Nicholls, and the entire set of Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. Sun’s out, books out, am I right? I may just be an English major who loves books, but all cheesiness aside, the ones in this list have had a huge impact on me, both as a reader and a person. And I think they’re worth the Netflix-deprivation.
“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: When I was 14, I read this book for the first time. I was in my sophomore year of high school and I was extremely curious about who this “incredible and progressive” female writer, Jane Austen was. Six years later and I’ve recently read it for the fifth time. It is undoubtedly my favorite book, but my bias isn’t really all that biased – Austen’s writing style and feminist thinking epitomizes in this “love and marriage” novel. It’s witty, quick paced, humorous, and inspiring for both the independent woman and the hopeless romantic. It is the book that made me fall in love with literature and I feel that it could easily do the same for others. Or you can just found out why it’s still so damn important, centuries later.
“What’s the reason for studying history? To understand the present or avoid it?”
2. Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides: This book was a bit of a personal journey for me, which sort of reflects the theme, being a fictional autobiography of a “hermaphrodite” or middle-sex gendered person. It was suggested reading for my Human Reproduction class this past fall semester, but I had already bought it, so I figured, why not? It took me an entire semester to read this book (which is why this a life-changing book list for the SUMMER) but it was probably my hardest college semester thus far and it kind of went through those tough times with me. The book chronicles Calliope, a girl, who eventually transitions to a man (which you learn in the first two sentences) and the trials and tribulations her and her family go through to get there. It’s addicting because of the historical contexts and reflexive chronology – you’re always wondering how, when, and why something happened until the very end. Despite the thrill that the book contains, at its heart it’s just a story about personal growth. And everyone needs a reminder that life gets better.
“Four legs good, two legs better! All Animals Are Equal. But Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others.”
3. Animal Farm by George Orwell: Orwell, man. There’s too much one could say about him. He has a knack for writing the most explicit messages with the most simple, lyrical writing. You just have to read between the lines. Animal Farm is a satire about the Russian Revolution, but can also be applied to any dictatorships, past and present, around the world. Orwell personifies all the animals on a farm who plan to take over their land and the farm owners (the humans). The eerily familiar way in which a social hierarchy forms within the animals, eventually following a dangerous political system makes this novel resonate with every generation and any kind of reader. How animalistic can humanity actually be? We often don’t think of ourselves that way, but it’s the sole reason most revolutions arise – humans not treating others like humans.
Some books who didn’t make this list, but are also perspective-changing novels, in my opinion:
“It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”
*Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
*Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
“Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.”
*The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
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