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As we’re getting closer to the end of the quarter at Cal Poly, reading textbooks can become a drag. Textbooks filled with professional jargon and uninteresting pages start to feel like a burden to read and finish for class.

Should you somehow find yourself with some free time, consider reading for pleasure. Fiction is a great way to relax as well as get away from any screens for a period of time. It’s important to take breaks and pick up something completely different from the textbooks you’re currently reading. Here are some suggestions for books to read. 

1. “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir (2015)

“An Ember in the Ashes” is a book that you’re sure to love. The story is about a girl who is a Scholar, a people that were conquered by the Martial Empire, and what happens when her brother is arrested for treason. This story also introduces another character, Elias, who is considered a fantastic soldier for the Empire. However, he is the most unwilling to be a soldier. These two main characters interact and many things change for the two of them in the world as they know it. Laia, the female protagonist, is unlike many women we see in novels. She is often afraid and does not think of herself as brave. But, her willingness to get things done and take risks makes her more brave as the story goes on. She is admirable because she is not fearless, and having a protagonist that isn’t is refreshing.

2. “American Panda” by Gloria Chao (2018)

This book is a fantastic read! It follows a Taiwanese-American teen named Mei going to college at MIT. Her parents already have her life planned out for her; they want her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese boy from an Ivy League school, despite how much she dislikes germs and crushes on a boy who is not Taiwanese. Mei has a great personality that is well-developed. Taiwanese culture is central to this novel and an important part of Mei. 

3. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (2017)

This story is incredibly important and relevant to our political climate in the United States. It follows Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old African-American girl whose world changes when her best friend Khalil is unarmed and shot by a police officer. It takes the reader through Starr’s struggles with her two different worlds: the neighborhood where she lives and the prep school she attends. The story also follows how the media treats what happened to her friend. This story is eye-opening and relevant. The movie has just come out, so there is an opportunity to see it on screen after reading it!

4. “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo (2015)

This story follows six outcasts in a gang who team up to complete an impossible heist. Sounds epic, right? It will not disappoint. It has action, good dialogue, a bit of romance and some cool heists. As a multi-point of view book, you are able to read about different character’s thoughts and feelings about events happening in the story. It is a genius way to write and is done well with these characters, as they are fleshed out more the farther along you get in the book.

5. “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli (2015)

This story follows a sixteen-year-old boy named Simon Spier who is gay, but not publicly out. You get to follow his high school story as he starts messaging another gay boy at school who uses the alias Blue. This story is an important first step for LGBT representation, and that representation even goes all the way to the movie screen with “Love, Simon”, which came out earlier this year. The messages between Blue and Simon are included in the text.

These stories bring some much-needed representation to the world. Happy reading!


I am a fourth year English major at Cal Poly. I love reading as many books as I can, and it's rare to catch me without one. When I'm not reading, I'm scrolling through social media or hanging out with friends.
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