For years, I walked away at the end of a school year with a long list of “required reading”. I’m sure most kids stash those assignments away ’til a week (or a day) before classes start, but those Summer Reading Lists were like goldmines for me. I’d go panning through the list: crossing off books I’d already read, checking to see if I had a copy of a book in my expanding library, and putting stars next to ones that I wanted to buy. The books weren’t always golden; often they were too youthful, bland, or overly emphasized their themes. But regardless of the titles, I loved having a list at the beginning of the summer.

I am probably not going to have much time (or room in my suitcase) to read this summer. I’ve already decided that I am going to attempt Anna Karenina (for the 12th time) and hopefully make it through in three months. But I thought maybe some of you would enjoy some more entertaining, thought-provoking, summer reads. Here’s my official “Summer Reading List” for you:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins– If you know me, then I have probably tried to get you to read this book. But I simply cannot think of a more thoroughly enjoyable book! It is fast-paced, original, and meets its audience at a variety of levels. Technically, it is young adult fiction, and young people will find the characters both fun and heroic. Adults will enjoy the underlying themes of the dystopian environment.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer– The first word that comes to mind is “charming”. This book is a delight to read from start to finish. It follows the written correspondence of a female author during  WWII to her numerous subjects and sources. It brings a fresh perspectives to the war and to the people who lived through it. I particularly loved how much you learn about the characters through their own letters; it challenged me to think of the way that I present myself through writing.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman– Another book I have been rather vocal about this year. As the entire book is compose of individual essays, each chapter confronts you with a whole new, pop-culture-related topic. From The Real World to the Sims, from tribute bands to the long-standing rivalry between the Celtics and the Lakers, Klosterman keeps you hopping through fascinating ideas and provocative claims. (**Note: some of his chapters do tend towards the inappropriate… Even though there is an entire chapter about Cocoa Puffs)

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen– One of the most powerful, inspiring, true stories I have ever read. If you haven’t had a chance to read about Mortensen’s work in Pakistan, you need to pick up a copy at your local bookstore.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn– A dark look into the world of the circus. I was floored by Dunn’s writing; I can still imagine with infinite detail the characters and scenes she described. Comparing Geek Love to Water for Elephants, another well-crafted circus novel, would be like comparing books by Stephen King to Tom Clancy. Both contain a lot of action and an intriguing plot, but King goes for the weird and scary rather than just the thrills. In the same way, Dunn brings a whole new meaning to the term “circus freaks”. I want to give you fair warning about this book, but please don’t be scared away. It is wonderfully written and just about as interesting a story as I have ever read.

The Odyssey by Homer– This summer, I will be about 20 minutes away from Pylos, home of King Nestor, and the first stop on Telemachus’ journey to find his father. If none of this makes much sense, then it’s probably time you brushed up on your Homer! The Odyssey (I recommend the Robert Fagles translation) is not as stuffy as you remember it being, I promise. It is full of adventures and gods interfering in the lives of humans.

The Reason for God by Tim Keller– An excellent book that I picked up over Easter break (and am trying to finish up before I leave). Tim Keller presents some great arguments for the Christian faith and includes numerous, real-life testimonies and situations. Great for Christians looking to solidify their understanding of some key issues, as well as for non-Christians who seek answers to tough questions, such as “Why does God allow suffering?” and “How can you say there is only one way to God?”

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss– I couldn’t resist. I am a truly a nerd at heart who enjoys reading sci-fi/fantasy books when I have the time. I’m currently reading Rothfuss’ second book (Wise Man’s Fear, which I so kindly received the weekend before my final exams at school… terrible timing!). It is a well-crafted narrative that is engaging from start to finish. If you have never ventured into the fantasy world (beyond Tolkien/Lewis) this is a great place to start!

If you have any book suggestions, please feel free to share! I still have another week and a half at home with time to fill…

Happy reading!

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