5 Books I Read This Summer That Everyone Should Read

This summer hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized that, for the first time in months, I was going to have free time. Free time! To be honest, I really didn’t know how to handle it at first. I rewatched most of the Michigan basketball season in the first two days. Finally, though, once I settled into my schedule, I realized there was one thing I really wanted to do: Read books. I finally finished up the stack of books by my bed, then the ones in my bookshelf, then I started making weekly trips to Literati and the public library to stock up. I powered through lots of books that I really didn’t enjoy, and I read quite a few that were “just okay.” However, some books just stuck with me on another level, and those are the books I’m going to gush about. Keep reading for the best five books I read this summer!

1.  The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas​

This book...Guys. This book. The Hate U Give is a novel about a sixteen-year-old girl named Starr whose friend is killed in a police shooting. This book takes place primarily in the poor black community where Starr lives, and it was probably one of the most important books I’ve ever read. I grew up in white suburbia, and most of the books I’ve read feature characters who also live in white suburbia, so I’m disgustingly long overdue in reading books that open up my mind to worlds that may be different than my own. It covers some controversial topics like racism and police brutality, but it’s self-aware enough that it won’t feel like political propaganda, even to the most politically conservative reader. 

It’s also such a fun book to read! The dark, deep parts are kept to a minimum and most of it’s somewhat funny and lighthearted. It was written for a teen audience, which means it’s very digestible. The characters just jump off the page and come to life and the plot moves super quickly. I read it in a day and a half because I couldn’t put it down! Side note: the movie adaptation is coming out in October, so READ THIS ASAP before it hits theatres!

 

2.  Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

If I could require everybody in the world to read one book, this would be it. Reverend Gregory Boyle, the author, is “the founder of Homeboy Industriesin Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world.” Basically, he’s a Catholic priest who dedicates his life to becoming friends with gang members in Los Angeles, and, if they so desire, providing them with resources to re-enter the workforce. Although Rev. Boyle makes it very clear that his Christian faith is his motivation to do what he does, I highly recommend this book to people of all religions and faith backgrounds. It tells an invaluable story of what it means to love those that our culture deems unlovable.

My favorite thing about this book is that Rev. Boyle talks primarily about the life lessons he’s learned from his friends who are gang members. He doesn’t put himself on a pedestal and talk about the lessons that he taught them. He doesn’t seem to believe he’s any better than his friends who are gang members. He just loves them. This book moved me and made me cry and changed my entire perspective on life.

 

3.  The Fab Five by Mitch Albom

I read a lot of books about Michigan sports this summer, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, but this one gets to make the list because anyone would enjoy it, even if you’re not a diehard Michigan basketball fan. If you don’t know, The Fab Five were five members of the Michigan basketball team in 1991 and 1992 who are still world-renowned today for being cultural icons and for changing the course of college basketball. 

This book is beautifully written—if you’ve read anything by Mitch Albom, you know what I mean. He manages to make it a story, rather than a biography with facts and statistics. If I somehow didn’t know that the Fab Five were real people, I would still enjoy this book as a novel. He manages to perfectly capture the personality of each of the boys, to the point to which you really feel like you know them. It speaks a lot about race, socioeconomic status, culture, and hard work. Plus, it takes place at U of M, which is always so cool to read, because a lot of the scenes are in South Quad or on the Diag, and I’m like, “Hey! I know that place!”

 

4.  Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I thoroughly believe the world would be a significantly better place if everyone read this book. For me, this book didn’t read as quickly or easily as some of the other books on this list, but it still tore me apart and changed my perspective on life, and for that reason, I recommend it to everyone. Bryan Stevenson is an attorney and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which is “a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system.” Just Mercy details some of his experiences with the fundamental flaws of our criminal justice system.

This book is similar to Tattoos on the Heart in that it taught me valuable lessons about loving those whom our culture sees as unlovable. It made me cry more than once, but it also just taught me so many things I didn’t know about how pertinent racism and injustice still are in our culture. If you’re not sold yet, watch Stevenson’s TED Talk and then decide if you want to read it.

 

5.  Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I’m not very good at binge watching Netflix shows (I get distracted too easily), so this wonderful piece of contemporary fiction was like my Netflix binge watch for the summer. It seriously reads just like a good Netflix binge. The characters are so likable and real, the plot has crazy twists and turns, and you can’t get yourself to put the book down because you have to know what’s going to happen next. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give it away, but if you want a super engaging but readable novel, definitely check this out.

Side note: Okay, guys, you’re not going to believe this, but I just Googled this book and it turns out they’re turning it into a TV show! I swear I didn’t know that when I wrote that above paragraph, but definitely read it before the show comes out.

 

I know that the start of the semester makes it significantly harder to find the time to sit down with a good book, but let’s all make a pact that we’re going to make that a top priority! If you enjoy one of the books on that list, reach out to me and recommend a book that I should read. Let’s spread the love of words!

 

Images courtesy of wordcounter.net and westoahu.hawaii.edu