10 books for your summer to-read list

It’s finally summer break for us! Whether you’re heading 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 is stocked with all kinds of books I’ve read and hundreds more I’m keen to read, I’ve curated a special handful for the summer months. Here are 10 recommendations I give you based on what type of book you’re looking for!

If you are looking for…

1. … for a read on the beach or in the park: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

This sci-fi and fantasy anthology of poignant short stories will capture your attention. I love going to a nearby park for my lunch break in the summer and I always grab a book to read in the sun. If you like a sense of “finality” before heading back home or to work, this anthology of short stories is perfect!

2. …to learn more about the relationship between indigenous and scientific knowledge: braid sweet grass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist and 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 it can be improved. After finishing this book, I felt a renewed sense of responsibility and gratitude.

3. … for a popular #BookTok title to bite into: The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller

I read this book when it first came out and it immediately became one of my favorite books. It’s definitely one of my comfort books! It is a reinterpretation of the events before and during Homer’s Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ famous companion. It’s a book that you can’t put down and want to read again as soon as you finish it. I’ve read it absurdly many times!

4. …to get to know a Nobel Laureate better: A hundred years of loneliness by Gabriel García Marquez

This Nobel laureate and literary masterpiece tells the magical story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the city of Macondo. This book is the cornerstone of the “magical realism” genre and is nonsensical, alluring and confusing. 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 more encouragement online and at school to invest in my mental and emotional health during the pandemic. One way to do this is to read non-fiction books about mental and physical health. This book examines how we respond to what we experience, particularly trauma, and is a good place to start understanding our own behavioral patterns and those of others. 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 as Jesse Wente, an Ojibwe member of the Serpent River First Nation, shares the stories of his childhood and adulthood. He discusses his personal experiences with indigeneity and criticizes the actual definition of reconciliation. He writes with an honesty and vulnerability that is difficult to ignore.

7. …for something to read with your younger siblings: Smelly socks by Robert Munsch

This was my absolute favorite story to read with my parents before bed. We showed the various animals fainting from the smell of the stinky socks and burst out laughing until it was time to sleep. I kept my copy to read with my cousins. It’s an easy read with an important message and colourful, humorous images!

8. …for a 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 play. It follows the life of an unnamed narrator from childhood to adulthood who lived in a black community in the United States in the early 20th century. It addresses issues of race and nationalism that, no matter how overwhelming or sobering, you the reader must consider.

9. …for a fantasy series you may not have heard of: The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors, not just in the fantasy genre but of all time. This trilogy pays homage to JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings, and while you can see the influence, this story is unique, poetic, and very touching. If you’ve been trying to start an epic fantasy series, this is definitely for you. (And if you’re a screamer, I’d recommend keeping some tissues handy, as I did).

10. …for an autobiography of an iconic role model: Will by Michelle Obama

This autobiography is the coming-of-age story of Michelle Obama’s journey as an adult, mother, and First Lady. It is an engaging read, captivated by her honesty, humor and confidence. Her confidence, determination and worldview will surely inspire you.

Quick tip

If you’re an aspiring multilingual, try finding translated works from any of these recommendations. You can read the translated version while having a copy of the original in English (or your native language) at your side. If you find a particular scene or phrase difficult, you can easily pull up the original and compare! This is a great way to practice reading in a language you’re learning while fully understanding the context – because sometimes Google Translate just doesn’t cut it!

Whether you devour every book you get your hands on or take the time to savor every word on every page, I hope you find time this summer to enjoy some of these recommendations.

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