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I have always been a big reader. As a kid I would read anything I could get my hands on; I remember skimming “Hamlet,” not understanding anything, just because I was so addicted to words. Now, while a bit pickier about my novels, I am still a major bookworm. So, now I take advantage of summer break to read as much as I can before going back to school. After all the reading I did this summer, I discovered a few favorites.

While the Locust Slept” - Peter Razor

This heartbreaking memoir is based on the childhood of Native American author, Peter Razor, who grew up in 1930s Minnesota. He writes about the abuse he faced in the foster care system, as a farm hand, and in the infamous “boarding schools” in the US. “While the Locust Slept” was a fast read which covered many of the issues I learned about in ETHN 2703/ REL 2700.

Little Fires Everywhere” - Celeste Ng

My mom practically threw this book at me, knowing I would love it, and it turned out to be one of the best books I read this summer. Filled with secrets, young love, and friendship, “Little Fires Everywhere” is a story which left me angry, heartbroken, asking questions, and ultimately addicted. For readers who want to power through a story in one sitting, this is the book you need to check out. 

How I Live Now” - Meg Rosoff

“How I Live Now” is not at all what I expected when I found it hidden among novels on my bookshelf. About a teenager running from war and told in the voice of 15-year-old Daisy, this story is raw, youthful, and relatable. Although masked behind the informal word choice, “How I Live Now” covers the uncomfortable themes of violence, sexuality, and family; this book left me in tears. 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” - Suzanne Collins

For all “Hunger Games” fans, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a must read, especially with the upcoming release of the movie. This novel is set during the 10th annual Hunger Games and tells the story of young President Snow. Filled with notorious Suzanne Collins themes of rebellion, violence, and young love, this book was almost impossible to put down. 

The Chosen and the Beautiful” - Nghi Vo

Through the eyes of Vietnamese Jordan Baker, “The Chosen and the Beautiful” is a wonderful retelling of “The Great Gatsby” filled with passionate love affairs, never-ending parties, and undertones of traditional Vietnamese paper-cutting and magic. If this Asian retelling doesn’t interest you, then I also recommend “Beautiful Little Fools” by Jillian Cantor for a female perspective of “The Great Gatsby.”

The Good Earth” - Pearl S. Buck

“The Good Earth” was a joy to read because of the interesting characters. This story is about the life of a Chinese farmer during the early 1900s and his rise from poverty to wealth. By choosing a book outside of my normal reading material, I was exposed to many factors of ancient Chinese culture.

Although only a small selection of the various novels I curled up and read this summer, all in extremely different genres, the above books have one thing in common: they were amazing. From dystopian societies to stories of abuse to teenage love, one of these books is bound to interest you. To see what else I have read, and for more book recommendations, follow me on The StoryGraph @lanayao19.

Lanaya Oliver

CU Boulder '24

Lanaya is originally from Colorado but has lived all over the world. She loves to play sports, paint, write, and bake. She is double majoring in Psychology and Spanish and dreams of becoming a sports psychologist!
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