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5 Back to School Reading Recommendations by Toni Elton

Going back to school calls for a lot of reading from the load of classes carried on your back this quarter. Reading is subject to having a bad rap, but reading can be more than just a source of stress in relation to your next research paper or pop quiz. Check out a few of these book recommendations that will keep your mind sharp and entertained as school rolls back into session.

"Maggie Cassidy" by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac is one of my favorite authors of all time, mainly because of his ability to encapsulate inner thoughts and feelings through various stage of life. He writes in a way that is free-flowing and deeply emotional, causing one to reflect on their own life. In Maggie Cassidy, Kerouac tells a story of young love and self-identification through a semi-autobiographical lens. The novel is a quick read that I believe is relatable to anyone who has been in love. It will add some comfort and reflection to your life as you navigate the treacherous waters of starting another year in school.

"The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is another short novel with an impact that extends beyond the 103 pages. The book follows Esperanza, a young Chicana girl growing up in Chicago. Stylistically, the novel is composed of vignettes that include various perspectives and lessons from Esperanza herself, as well as the characters within her community and family that leave an imprint on her life. This novel is a beautiful coming of age tale that is both immensely truthful and inspiring. Pick it up for a quick read that will give you some perspective and enlightening lessons. 

"Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

A banned book icon, Catcher in the Rye is the essence of youth exploration and angst. The novel follows the main character Holden Caulfield in his journey in the New York underground after leaving his prestigious East Coast prep school. This book touches on a lot of themes that are prevalent to youth across generations. Unfiltered and undeniably realistic, Catcher in the Rye is a novel filled with love, pain, and confusion; all topics that many youth are faced with every day. Catcher in the Rye is a classic novel that is easily relatable and can lead to many paths of self-exploration­­––not to mention, you’ll feel smart quoting it to fellow peers.

"Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami

On the surface, Norwegian Wood appears as a typical love story, but as with any Murakami narrative, it extends far beyond that face value judgement. This novel follows college student Toru and his friend/lover Naoko as they navigate their lives as lost and sexually liberated individuals, both faced with fears, loneliness, love, and the unbearable weight of the world. Norwegian Wood is a realistic examination of what it feels like to be lost in your own world while also struggling to connect with those you love most. In addition to all the amazing things I just listed about this book, it also has a ton of Beatles references which amplifies its likeability for me. 

"Just Kids" by Patti Smith

As exemplified in her awe-inspiring lyricism, Patti Smith has an undeniable talent for crafting narratives. In her novel Just Kids, Smith tells the true story of her move to New York and her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. This story is packed with so much emotion which beautifully paints an image of the heartbreaking realities of love along with the power of a lifelong connection with another person. It’s a great read for going back to school, as it highlights the uncertainties of entering a new place, as well as the importance of the people we meet and connect with.

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