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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Best books to dive into over summer

After a long, hard school year of reading hundreds of textbook pages, lecture notes and classic literature, there’s something luxurious about relaxing with a book of your own choosing on a hot summer day. Check out some of these fiction and non-fiction titles, recommended for college students by literary experts and students who love to read.


Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy, a disciple of both Faulkner and Melville, uncovers the horrific events that took place during the tough and deadly border disputes between Texas and Mexico in the 19th century. UC Davis English professor Matthew Stratton said, “Sleeping too well at night? Wondering whether good guys really wore white hats in the old West? Curious how to make gunpowder using your own urine? Here’s your novel.”

Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker

Readers are invited into the humdrum life of suburbanites, who ask and expect more than just the ordinary, in this collection of short stories. “[It’s] bitter, hilarious, unexpectedly contemporary, page-turning short stories from one of the famous American literary voices of the early 20th century,” Stratton said.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Larsson’s worldwide bestseller is a mystery novel centered around the disappearance of a young Swedish girl 40 years ago and an uncle who refuses to discover the truth. This thrilling tale engages with issues that have come about in the new millennium and weaves them into a story that stretches into two sequels. “At first it’s totally overwhelming, but almost immediately it grabs you and it’s not just because it’s scary – the writing is amazing,” said Lilly Fried, a student at California Lutheran University.

If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Holmes

The book spans four days in the life of an African American who just returned from World War II and is forced to endure a racist world. Although it takes place nearly 60 years ago, Stratton said it is, “Classic, troubling stuff.”

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Kristin Lavransdatter is a window into the culturally rich 14th-century Norway, delving into its political, cultural and social corners. “If it’s very long, romantic, medieval, beach reading you want, you can’t do better than one of the great historical novels of the 20th-century: this account of a woman’s life in 14th-century Norway by a Norwegian Nobel Prize winner,” Stratton said.


Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This summer’s hit movie was originally a hit memoir. Gilbert takes you on her journey to find happiness again through a wondrous exploration of Italy, India and Bali. By studying three different cultures and aspects of life, she realizes what she wants out of life for herself, with the help of a lot of humor and delicious food along the way. Rowena Murray, a student at UC Santa Barbara, said, “The way she writes is so entertaining. Gilbert is just so honest, and there’s no way you can’t relate to what she’s saying.”

Breaking the Sound Barrier by Amy Goodman

This collection of articles takes a close look at the soundbites of the media and what they’re really telling us. Goodman explores the world of politics through media and how issues are “handled” inadequately. “It’s a great chance to hear an uncommon-sense perspective that will never, ever be invited to appear on ‘Meet the Press,’ ” Stratton said.

Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth

In this self-help novel, a person’s relationship with food is regarded as a mirror to their relationships with people. Roth explores the dangerous issues associated with overeating, undereating and what in life motivates our eating patterns. Chris Klein, manager at Barnes and Noble in Westlake Village, Calif. said, “It is a very engaging and honest look into weight problems from someone who’s really been there.”

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

Foster takes you into the slightly incessant minds of college professors and how they approach the literary classics. This insightful guide gives helpful tips on how to find deeper meaning from your readings, how to distinguish important themes and simply how to enjoy reading in general. “It is one of the most helpful and useful things for college students to understand how to read properly. This book does a great job of getting that across and inspiring you along the way,” Klein said.

Ordeal By Hunger: The Story of the Donner Party by George R. Stewart

This chilling look at the tragic events suffered by the Donner Party in 1846 incorporates diary entries from survivors and historical documents. Serra Netzley, a Barnes and Noble employee, said the book “is haunting, but irresistible. The story is thrilling and I cannot put it down.”

BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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