Need a good summer read? We’ve got your one-stop list of the 10 books to read this summer, including ones that will offer advice, the next cult-following novel to bond over with your roommate, and a few classics, too (don’t just skim the SparkNotes!).
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Everyone is talking about Gone Girl this summer. The book follows the town’s golden boy in the wake of his wife’s mysterious disappearance. Flynn pulls back the mask on “perfect relationships” and explores the darker side of marriage. The book has a wicked twist in the middle that will grip you into the final few chapters, and Reese Witherspoon has already signed on to produce the film adaptation!
2. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Warning: this nonfiction book is extremely graphic. But the up-close-and-personal look into the American farming industry might be the push you need to change your eating habits to a more sustainable lifestyle. If you can get through this book, it provides real information about where food comes from, which is good to know about as you become 100 percent responsible for your eating habits in college. “In college I didn’t realize really the freedom I had with food choices, and how quickly they can add up to negatively impact your health,” says vegetarian Chelsea Krivanek, a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. Are you thinking about becoming a vegetarian, vegan, or animal activist? College is the perfect time to experiment.
3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
What better way to start your journey to college than reading about finding one’s destiny? The Alchemist follows an Andalusian shepherd boy’s journey to his true purpose in life. College is all about figuring out who you are in life, and this philosophical book is full of advice and wisdom. The New York Times referred to the bestselling novel as “more self-help than literature.” The book has lots of important lessons applicable to college, like balancing a relationship with the rest of your life.
4. Penelope by Rebecca Harrington
This book follows Penelope, the clumsy, socially awkward girl inside all of us, as she takes on her freshman year at Harvard. Penelope goes into college armed with advice from her mother, like, “don’t play Tetris on your phone at parties.” This work of fiction parodies the traditional college stereotypes and lets readers know that college is what you make of it—it’s not just academics and parties, but also about relationships and self-growth, too.
5. Life Of Pi by Yann Martel
This fantasy adventure novel offers lessons perfect for your college years. It tells the story of a boy named Pi, who is trapped on a sinking boat with a tiger, with a hefty dose of philosophical musings. “It makes solitude okay, and I feel that in freshman year there is a lot of solitude in yourself,” says Kate Borden, a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. In your first year of college, it is important to learn to do things alone, which Pi has to come to terms with. Bonus points if you read it before watching the movie!
6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Let’s give it up for Elizabeth Bennet for being so sassy at the turn of the 19th century. She’s just the role model we need: a strong, female character who teaches us about the power of love, the importance of standards, and the greatest snarky comebacks ever. This classic novel follows Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters through their mother’s blundering attempts to marry them all off. Austen crafted a tough female lead who would rather be alone than marry someone who didn’t truly respect or understand her. If you liked the movie, you’re going to love the novel!
7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
John Green might have usurped Nicholas Sparks in the category of heartbreakingly good love stories. This novel follows a 16-year-old cancer patient into her support group for kids with cancer, leading her to love. The Fault in Our Stars reminds us about the preciousness of life, fleeting moments, and treasuring your loved ones. Spoiler alert: you’ll need to stock up on tissues before reading this book.
8. The Freshman 50 by Carly A. Heitlinger
Don’t worry; this isn’t a diet book. The Freshman 50 is a book detailing 50 lessons Heitlinger learned her first year of college. It’s written as a hybrid between a memoir and a survival guide. Heitlinger is the girl behind popular blog College Prep. She has great fashion and organization advice, which will come in handy when trying to fit 18 years worth of stuff into a half a dorm room.
9. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Firefly Lane is a coming-of-age story that delves into the topics of popularity, friendship, and family. This story about two best friends spans 30 years. An act of betrayal forces the two girls to take a good look at each other and themselves. Firefly Lane offers many lessons to college-aged girls, mostly about the power of choices, and reminds us that our best friends are the people we’ll want by our sides through everything (so keep in touch!).
10. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
What used to be gibberish read to you by your parents before bed is actually some of the best life advice you’ll ever get. As the book says, “you have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Sounds like great motivation for starting college!