Stuck At Home All Summer? Here Are Some Books To Take You Away!

Ah, summer. The freezing chill of winter and the slushy rain of spring are finally behind us, and the next four months will be full of sunshine and (hopefully) plenty of time outside before it is time to return to Ann Arbor for yet another year at U of M. While summer is often a time of fun and travel, you may find yourself stuck at home with a job or internship, unable to get away. There is a great deal of value in a summer spent working hard, but it can also be disheartening to spend four months stuck in one place. If your plans for this summer include one job in one city, check out this adventurous and escapist summer reading list. Two books for each month of the summer, each novel providing an enveloping trip to another time or place. There’s no reason to stay in one spot all summer when you can find yourself all over the world with the help of these imaginative authors, be it by the pool on the weekends or on a shady lawn during your day off.

In May you should read...

1. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

It is the year 2044, and most people spend the majority of their time jacked into an immersive virtual reality game called OASIS. Wade Watts is a teenager who only feels truly alive when he is gallivanting as his online persona. Wade has spent most of his life searching for clues within the OASIS (supposedly left by its enigmatic creator); puzzles hidden within and around references to the pop culture of the 1980s, which will lead him to an impossible fortune. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself in a race for his life as he battles madly to reach the end of the quest and collect his fortune, forced to come face to face with the reality he has always tried to escape.

Ready Player One is an absolute romp through both the future and the past as Wade navigates OASIS and endless 80s references. While not the most intellectually stimulating novel ever written, it is extremely fun and will suck you into Wade’s fast-paced and interesting future, introducing you to compelling and quirky characters along the way.

2. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

In the Bible, Jacob has twelve famous sons who go on to become the tribes of Israel. However, Jacob also had a hinted-at daughter, Dinah, who is only mentioned in relation to a particularly nasty event in the book of Genesis. In The Red Tent, readers are introduced to the fascinating and rich world of ancient womanhood alongside Dinah as she tells her coming-of-age tale. Watched over by Jacob’s four loving and complex wives, Dinah experiences hardship, adventure, love, and horror in a distant world brought brilliantly to light.

Written absolutely beautifully, The Red Tent is compelling and immersive, providing a voice to an often forgotten Biblical character and highlighting the women central to such a key religious tale. Thought provoking and lovely, The Red Tent will haunt you long after you put it down (if you’re able to put it down at all).  

In June you should read...

1. Atonement, Ian McEwan

On a scorching summer day in 1935 England, Briony Tallis witnesses a misunderstood encounter between her older sister Cecilia and Robbie, the son of an employee and long time family friend. However, Briony’s ignorance and her love of storytelling and embellishment lead to a criminal misunderstanding that will alter the course of all their lives. Told over the course of nearly a century, Atonement follows the Tallis sisters through war and beyond as Briony comes to grips with the irreversible chaos and pain she has caused.

Readers will be engrossed both in the impeccable world of the characters as well as the gorgeous prose. A 100% guaranteed ugly cry, and yet a heartbreak you will seek again and again both through the book and through the 2007 film adaptation. 

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling.

The Boy Who Lived really needs no summary, but in case you missed your whole childhood or the last 15 years, here is a quick overview. Harry Potter is a forgotten and mistreated orphan living with his cruel and snobby aunt and uncle and their horribly spoiled son Dudley. However, upon receiving an odd letter around his 11th birthday, Harry discovers that he in facts belongs to a very different world, one in which he has been famous for nearly his whole life. Harry is whisked away to a magical school for Wizards where he practices spells, hatches dragons, and learns to play Quidditch on a flying broomstick, and is swept up in his dangerous destiny as he battles to save the world along the way.

 This is probably a book you have read once, if not several, times before, and it is also likely you can recite some of the more famous lines of the film adaptation’s dialogue complete with a botched British accent. However, Harry Potter is certainly worth revisiting, especially if you haven’t read it since you were a kid. It is absolutely (forgive me) magical, transporting you to a enchantingly wonderful world of discovery and adventure. But it is also an easy and fun read that could hopefully reawaken the wide-eyed kid inside you that has been forced into a corner by the stress of college.

 

In July you should read...

1. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison

Georgia Nicholson is a ridiculous and spirited teen living in the gray suburbs of England. She spends her days trying to keep her massive cat, Angus, from eating the poodle next door, preventing her toddler sister Libby from pooping in her bed, and trying to snog Robbie the Sex God even though she accidentally shaved off her eyebrows. Told through her obsessive and hilarious journal entries, Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging is a laugh-out-loud teen book that remains enormously entertaining for readers far passed the pains of puberty.

If you have only ever seen the movie adaptation, please immediately disregard all preconceptions of this book. The film was horrible, but the books are endlessly funny and quirky, plunging readers into Georgia’s strange and shallow mind. Though they center on the struggles of a young teen, they remain a great escape from the seriousness and maturity of daily adult life, perfect for a summer stuck at home working. Be willing to be a little silly, and this book (and the series that follows) will brighten your summer and put a smile on your face.

2. The Martian, Andy Weir

One of the first people to ever walk on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is now fairly certain he will never make it home. Stranded by a sandstorm that separated him and his crew, Mark is now stranded without a crew, a way to contact earth, or much hope of survival. If he is lucky he will live long enough to starve to death, but more likely than not his damaged gear or good old human error will get to him first. Propelled by a persistent will to survive, Mark utilizes his intelligence and ingenuity to extend his resources and survive as long as possible, hoping for a miraculous rescue.

The movie adaptation of this novel stars Matt Damon and does a great job of capturing both the humor and the scientific aspects of the book (they are both Neil deGrasse Tyson approved). If you have any interest in chemistry or botany, this book will be of a particular interest for you. If not, it is still a hell of a ride, funny and engaging, and will keep you hooked the whole way through. 

 

In August you should read...

1. Euphoria, Lily King

Inspired by the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria tells the story of Andrew Bankson, an isolated anthropologist studying the Kiona river tribe in 1930s New Guinea. He has been alone in the field for several years, haunted by painful memories and on the verge of suicide when he meets two colleagues. The controversial Nell Stone, her volatile husband Fen, and Andrew find themselves in a dangerous but passionate love triangle that will threaten their careers and their lives.

Euphoria is one of those magical books that not only pulls you in with a rich and compelling story, but is also steeped in the well researched and beautifully described culture of a foreign land. Though not a difficult read, Euphoria is immaculately written and will keep readers hooked from the get go. It is the perfect summer read. 

2. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

Recently orphaned and penniless, Jacob Jankowski finds himself in the magical and mercurial world of the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show on Earth, zipping through the American Midwest on a train the circus calls home. The group is both Jacob’s salvation and his personal hell as he grapples to learn their strange rules and be accepted into their grimy ranks. It is the Depression, and everyone aboard that train is grateful to have any job at all, even if it is one with a failing circus. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, Rosie, the goofy elephant meant to be the show’s saving grace and grandest attraction, and Jacob form an odd friendship as they struggle to survive the cruel world in which they have found themselves. This bond leads to a love that will put them all in grave danger.

Another novel utterly immersive in its detail, Water for Elephants will pull you into a world you didn’t even know you could be interested in, let alone one that even existed. Gruen’s characters leap from the page as you struggle to put the book down for even a moment. It is fascinating and often fast-paced, and readers will experience a lingering excitement and longing long after they turn its last page.

Images courtesy of Nerdist.com, and Giphy.com