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

While on my quest to read 50 books this year, I ended up doing the bulk of my reading over the summer. I spent 10 weeks, five days a week, commuting to New York City. To take away from the anguish of NJ Transit, I spent my time curled up against the window with my beloved train companion, my Kindle. 

Each day’s commute was a total of two hours, so I logged a minimum of 100 reading hours during those 10 weeks.

 In total, I read 19 books this summer. Here are my highlights. 

True Biz by Sara Nović 

True Biz by Sara Nović was hands down the most educational book I read this summer. This book follows a group of students at River Valley School, which is a boarding school in Ohio for the deaf and hard of hearing. The big problem? River Valley School for the Deaf is on the brink of closure due to school district budget cuts.

Throughout this novel, we follow Charlie, who is a new student at River Valley. He is suffering from painful cochlear implants while learning sign language for the first time. We also follow Austin, who is from an all-deaf family, until his little sister is born with the ability to hear. Finally, we have Headmistress February, who is a child of deaf adults but hearing herself. She is fighting tirelessly to keep the school open. 

This book is a typical campus novel filled with romance, mystery, drama, and entertainment while also adding an educational element for readers like me who have limited knowledge of the deaf community. Nović includes informational blurbs about deaf history, the deaf civil rights movement, and sign language throughout the book, which seamlessly weaves in with the rest of the story. For anyone looking to expand their understanding of the deaf community, this is the book for you. 

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang was a surprising favorite, as I randomly downloaded it on my Kindle one afternoon after only reading the back cover synopsis. 

This book is a witty satirical story about racism in the American publishing industry, specifically against Asian women. Throughout this novel, we follow June Hayward, who is a 20-something white woman trying to save her writing career after her first book attained only mediocre success. We are then introduced to June’s friend from college, Athena Xiu. Athena is a literary darling whose books are on every bestseller list, has hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, and has a coveted agent. Tragically, Athena dies in an accident, and in the chaos of her death, June happens upon her unfinished book about unjust Chinese labor during World War I. After one read-through, June realizes this book is a chart-buster and decides to take a stab at finishing it as practice for her writing career. 

Without giving too much away (much of the fun of this book is the twists and turns), June decides, why stop practicing finishing the book when she could finish it and sell it as her own? This book is a shocking and sardonic look at white privilege and how some people will go for success. If you are looking for a book with a strong message but not at all preachy, Yellowface fits the bill. 

Summer of ’69 by elin hilderbrand

This would not be a proper summer reading dump if I did not include at least one stereotypical beach read. And, it is scientifically proven that no one does the beach read better than the princess of Nantucket, Elin Hilderbrand. 

I read nine Elin Hilderbrand this summer, but the Summer of ‘69 made it to the top of the list. This book takes place in the summer of 1969 and follows a family of 5 as they navigate the summer during a tumultuous time in American history. 

Matriarch Exalta owns a grand home in Nantucket that her daughter Kate and her four grandchildren summer at every year. Except this year, everything is out of the ordinary. The oldest grandchild, Blair, is pregnant with twins and must stay behind in Boston with her scientist husband. Middle child Kirby wants freedom from her conservative family and decides to work at an inn in Edgartown to spend the summer on the more diverse Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard. The only male grandchild, Tiger, has been drafted into the Vietnam War and deployed shortly before the summer solstice. That leaves the baby of the family, Jessie, who is also the only child of Kate’s second husband, to spend the summer at her grandmother’s estate in Nantucket when she really would rather be home in the Back Bay with her girlfriends. 

Summer of ‘69 hosts a compelling cast of characters whose storylines are all equally interesting, which does not happen often in multiple-point-of-view novels. This book is a fun story of love, life, and hope set in one of the most alluring locations in the US during a fascinating time in history. If there is one beach read you pick up this year, let it be Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand. 

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn 

After much deliberation, I can confidently say that “The Rose Code” by Kate Quinn was my top book of the summer and a strong contender for my best book of the year. As a history major, nothing makes my heart happier than a story of female empowerment that is one hundred percent rooted in factual accuracy. 

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn follows a trio of young women in England during World War II. First is Mab, a tall, striking, and determined woman from the poor neighborhood of East End London. Next is Osla, the opposite of Mab in every way. Osla is a wealthy debutante from West End London whose friendship with Prince Phillip is slowly blossoming into romance. Lastly is Beth, a shy and mousey girl from the countryside who cannot break free from her mother’s control. While in a typical world, these three women probably would have never met, as soon as the war breaks out, they are each selected to serve at Bletchley Park, home to the allied codebreakers during World War II. 

This story follows all three women from 1939 to 1947 as they struggle with their love lives, argue like sisters, and acclimate to life in the workforce and away from home. But, most importantly, they make tremendous progress in the war effort that the Allied powers would not have been able to win without. The Rose Code is an epic tale of women’s involvement in the war, which is usually overshadowed in history books and school lessons. This book is for anyone who wants to read a dramatic story of love and friendship while also celebrating female empowerment and history.

Sara Fajardo

Rutgers '25

Sara is a Sophomore at Rutgers University majoring in History and minoring in Spanish. She loves reading really long books and listening to podcasts on the bus. In her free time you can find her going out with friends and religiously watching the Real Housewives.