BY DEANNA KALIAN ’20
What makes a good summer read? It’s something experts and book lovers have long debated. According to Reader’s Digest, books that are “an escape in and of themselves” make the best beach reads. PBS claims that summer is for “endless reading,” and therefore the perfect time to tackle a hefty volume which would present too much of a task during the academic year. According to Sarah Paust ’20, “If I’m home on the beach reading it, it’s a summer read!”
From young adult fiction to literary classics, this diverse selection makes for some memorable summer reads.
“An Abundance of Katherines”
Green’s quirky young adult novel follows former child prodigy Colin Singleton as he and his best friend take a road trip from Chicago to Tennessee. Colin has dated nineteen girls named Katherine, and devises a mathematical theorem which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship so he can finally win the girl of his dreams. Colin’s determination to prove his theorem, and his anxiety about his intelligence, make him a unique character while still grounding him, keeping the character relatable. Colin and his friends will make the reader laugh out loud, and the conflation of mathematics and love offers an intriguing perspective on young adult romance. “An Abundance of Katherines” is a heartwarming coming-of-age story perfect for summer.
“Life of Pi”
This fantastical adventure examines spirituality and faith through the eyes of Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian teenager who survives 227 days on the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck. Stranded on a lifeboat with a ferocious beast, Pi uses ingenuity and perseverance to overcome incredible obstacles. The novel, often interpreted as a religious allegory, grapples with the relativity of truth and forces readers to ponder the existential. While not a light read, “Life of Pi” presents vibrant and masterful storytelling that captivate the reader.
“The Joy Luck Club”
“The Joy Luck Club” is a classic work of fiction about four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters in 1960s San Francisco. The mothers create the titular “Club” to play mahjong, eat and share stories. But the novel opens with the death of the club’s founder, whose story is told by her daughter, who takes her mother’s place in the club. Vignettes of the mothers’ and daughters’ lives constitute the bulk of the novel. “The Joy Luck Club” examines the challenges of the immigrant experience, especially between generations, and poignantly illustrates the bond between mother and daughter. This book will make the reader reflect on the importance of family, and perhaps appreciate their own.
“The Red Tent”
Diamant’s historical fiction novel tells the neglected story of Biblical character Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah. As the only daughter among 12 sons, Dinah becomes the heiress to the stories and hopes of her many mothers (Jacob took several wives). According to ancient law, women were confined to the red tent while menstruating or giving birth. Dinah’s first-person narration provides the reader with a rare glimpse into this ancient women’s world. Looking deeply into an unknown perspective, it imagines Dinah’s future after her original story leaves off. Diamant’s well-researched novel gives a refreshing, feminist perspective on Biblical events. She fleshes out an ancient world both believable and whimsical enough to engage readers, one that has been under-discussed in the standard Biblical narrative.
Laymon composes a unique, invigorating coming-of-age narrative through the eyes of teenager Citoyen “City” Coldson in post-Katrina Mississippi. After causing a scene during a televised quiz show and becoming famous on YouTube overnight, City’s mother sends him to his grandmother in Melahatchie, where teenage girl Baize Shephard has recently vanished. City then receives a book called “Long Division,” the narrator of which is also named City; however, this version of the book takes place in 1985. Laymon’s novel employs time travel as a device to consider issues of race, violence, religion and authorship. While a young adult novel, “Long Division” is thought-provoking and well-written enough to draw in readers of any age, and will keep readers guessing until the very end.
These five books, while vastly different from each other, all make for great summer reading. As Ellie Viggiani ’20 remarked, “A good summer read is just a really good book that you can sit outside and read for hours.” Similarly, Sarah Dauer ’20 considers the perfect summer read to be “a book [...] recommended to me by someone I love that I didn’t have time to read during the semester.” Although a list of summer reads, all of these books are enjoyable at any time of the year. Hopefully one of these five books can make it feel like summer, even as the leaves begin to fall.