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How to Make a Great Summer Reading List

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hamilton chapter.

Right before finals week, what you’re going to read this summer might not be what you want to think about. However, it’s never too early to get some ideas going, and this way you can check the campus bookstore or borrow from friends before taking off for the summer. Or, you can revisit this article in a couple of weeks! Either way, you’ll end up with a perfect plan for the summer. 

If you’re already a big reader, this article might not seem so odd to you. On the other hand, you might be keen to dismiss it if you typically don’t read for pleasure. I encourage you to give it a chance. You don’t have to follow everything on this list or read a million books, but you might surprise yourself if you pick up the right book. Reading can be a super relaxing and even inspiring activity. It’s also a way to learn about new things without being tested on it or sitting in class, and a way to experience other worlds and lives while lounging in bed or on a pool chair. 

Why bother putting together a list? It might make you more motivated to read if you’ve been meaning to do more of it, and if you want you can make a physical copy with pretty handwriting and cute doodles. But the list shouldn’t make it feel like homework. You don’t necessarily have to stick to it; you can always add things or take things off or just ignore it entirely. Still, here are some recommendations to create the best summer reading list: 

1. The book that’s been sitting unread on your shelf. 

There are so many books out there that I find myself buying them and then not actually getting around to them for ages. I think I’m probably not the only one, so make a dent in your “To Be Read” stack and read at least one of the books you have lying around. 

2. A classic. 

While classic literature isn’t the end all be all of what’s worth reading, it doesn’t have to be boring either; you just have to find the right one for you. Try Jane Austen if you like romance, or Kafka if you’re into surreal writing. Dystopian fiction is popular right now, and if you’re on board that train you should pick up Brave New World, 1984, or Fahrenheit 451. 

3. A long book.

It can be intimidating to look at a 400+ page book when there are so many other things to do in a day other than read, but by avoiding bigger books you’re depriving yourself of some great stories! Not to mention it can be so rewarding to finally finish a hefty volume. Maybe you want to finally see what all the fuss about Game of Thrones is about, or crack open something less well-known. Last summer I started the A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V. E. Schwab, and I would definitely recommend it to fantasy lovers. 

4. Non-fiction.

I used to assume that non-fiction was boring, but it’s not all dry and academic. Find a book on a topic you’re already passionate about, or seek out something you you don’t know anything about and learn something new. You could also read a biography or memoir of someone you admire. 

5. A hobby or skill-related book. 

Get a DIY arts and crafts book to teach yourself a new skill, or a cook book to improve your adult-ing skills. If you’re ready to put some work in, get a book to help you learn (or continue learning) a new language, or one to help you study for grad school tests or prepare you for a tough course you’re taking in the fall. 

6. Something a friend or family member is reading. 

Make your own mini book club! It can be fun to discuss a book you both loved with someone you care about. If you both had very different opinions, you can have a different kind of fun arguing about it. This can also be helpful if you want to read more but need motivation. 

7. A form you don’t usually read. 

Branch out a little. If you usually just read novels, try a book of short stories or a graphic novel. Likewise, if you read short stories or graphic novels regularly, temporarily go more mainstream with a basic novel. It will switch things up a bit, and you may find a new form that you love.

8. A genre you don’t usually read.

Similarly, venture into a section of the bookstore or library you usually stay away from. Don’t dismiss a whole genre because you have preconceived notions that horror is too scary for you or you hated historical fiction in middle school. You might surprise yourself, and even if you don’t it’s worth trying in order to broaden your reading horizons. If you really hate it, you can always stop reading! 

9. A stereotypical “beach read.”

If you’re already a fan of this genre, this one’s a freebie. I personally don’t tend to go for romance novels, but it can be nice to indulge in a cheesy love story sometimes, especially if you’re actually going to be on the beach at any point this summer. 

10. A book you loved when you were young. 

Revisit your childhood! It’s so much fun to bring back memories, and you might be surprised that something you read in elementary school has more substance than you would expect. 

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Allison Donlan

Hamilton '18