Summer reading selections take a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on what kind of fun you're having under the sun. For a poolside page-turner, the best-selling book that friends keep gabbing about is the perfect companion. Books for readers who would rather pursue other intellectual stimulation during their free time, giving them ideas and thoughts to ponder, offer another alternative. Classic tomes that sit neglected throughout the rest of the year are worth consideration on a sultry summer day. Finally, books divided into popsicle length segments, are perfect for a half-hour reading break in the sun with a frozen treat that melts in time with the plot's pacing.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The crumbling city of Chicago, located next to the dried and swampy remains of Lake Michigan, creates the perfect setting for this dystopian novel by Veronica Roth, a recent graduate of Northwestern University. In a society divided into five factions based on different virtues, one girl must find her place within the social settings of Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless or Erudite.
Tris, short for Beatrice, fights to fit into her chosen faction, but she soon learns that what keeps her on the outside could be the only attribute that can save her and the ones she loves. Into the slick network of this futuristic society, Veronica Roth spins breath-shortening action, pulse-quickening romance and enough laughter-inducing wit to keep readers wanting more. Roth reminds readers that they can be gifted in any number of ways, but how they use their talents is what really changes them and the world.
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs
Lazy summer afternoons may inspire lounging in front of the television, surfing the Internet and texting friends rather than prompting a desire to continue chugging through the next book on that summer reading list. Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Illinois' Wheaton College, highlights the struggle to focus on the page when the eyes are itching for the screen. He argues that those who read well can evade this temptation.
When readers take up a book in the spirit of just getting through it, or in the hope that he or she might look fetchingly intelligent behind that mammoth volume, the result is wasted time spent on poor reading. Jacobs spurs his readers on to take up the books that delight them even more than the latest YouTube hit. Ultimately, the book accomplishes its purpose-inciting readers to read on, and to read often.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Though one of John Steinbeck's longest and finest novels, readers often overlook East of Eden in favor of his more easily digestible novellas. But this classic is worth the 600-page time commitment. California's Salinas Valley is home to farmer Adam Trask and his twin sons Cal and Aron, a family modeled after the relationships of the biblical Adam and his sons Cain and Able.
Steinbeck's masterpiece weaves together the drama of a dysfunctional family, the beauty of California rural living and the events of the book of Genesis with powerful and poetic diction. Steinbeck, a native of Salinas, brings his homeland to life in a manner that can only draw readers in, enveloping them in the story and drawing them from their plush armchairs onto the dusty roads of Salinas Valley.
Popsicle treat tales:
Meditations from a Moveable Chair by Andre Dubus
Broken into 25 brief narratives, Andre Dubus' work is the perfect afternoon treat. Ranging in topics from the beauty found in the act of making sandwiches for his daughters to the tragic car accident that robbed him of the use of his legs, each story stands as a window into the heart and soul of the author. Dubus' gift with word imagery invites readers to slip into his mind and spend a moment viewing the world through the eyes of a vastly talented man who is restricted by the limits of his wheelchair.
Dubus' clear, direct style does not sugar coat reality, even when writing about the horror of his sister's rape. It is this open honesty that makes Dubus' book most engaging, grabbing readers' interest with contrasts like the shocking collision of a car accident and the simple pleasure of running up a hill, just to make it to the top.
Editor's note: This is the third in a series of summer reading recommendations from World on Campus writers. Each writer chose a few of his or her personal favorites to share with readers who might be looking for something new, or old, to dive into before class starts next semester. Don't miss the other reviews in ourSummer Reading series. Enjoy!