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

As a part-time student this semester, I have had a little more down time to read plenty of good books! I am usually a pretty slow reader, but this fall I have tried to swap out mindless TikTok scrolls with getting lost in a good story. Here are my thoughts on the books I have read so far, and what’s up next on my TBR!

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees is a coming of age story, following a young girl named Ijeoma who grows up in the midst of the Nigerian civil war. Following an unexpected tragedy, her mother sends her away to an all girls boarding school for a few years, an experience that brings an unexpected friendship that quickly blossoms into much more. The novel follows Ijeoma through these primitive years and into adulthood as she grapples with her identity and her idea of love within a harshly religious society. The story was both heartbreaking and refreshing, and by the end of the novel I felt as though Ijeoma was an old friend.

Rating: 9/10

Favorite Quote: “Love cannot live by poetry alone.”

After I do – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Of all BookTok authors, Taylor Jenkins Reid is one who deserves all the hype she gets. Author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six, Reid is exceptional at writing characters we all fall in love with along with cant-put-it-down storylines. As one of her earlier novels (published in 2014), I could tell that Reid was still developing her writing style with After I Do, and it was cool to notice a few of her budding writing strategies that would later blossom into worldwide sensations.

The story follows a young married couple, Lauren and Ryan, after their marriage reaches a breaking point. The two decide to separate for one year with no contact, hoping to reconvene at the year’s end. Narrated by Lauren, she leads us through her life that year in a deeply intimate way. It is a heartfelt story about love in your twenties in every sense of the word- family, friendship, romance. One of Reid’s most down-to-earth novels, I think After I Do is her most hidden gem.

Rating: 9/10

Favorite Quote: “The sun will rise no matter what pain we encounter. No matter how much we believe the world to be over, the sun will rise. So you can’t go around assessing love by whether or not the sun rises. The sun doesn’t care about love. It just cares about rising.”

Tom Lake – Ann Patchett

Tom Lake is the book I am currently reading! A novel that takes place during the summer of 2020, it is the first work of fiction I have encountered that explores the pandemic as a setting. It follows protagonist Lara and her three grown daughters who come back home to their family’s orchard for the summer, picking cherries and passing time by storytelling. Lara reflects back on past relationship with now-famous actor Peter Duke, her daughters eagerly listening and weighing in.

Patchett does a beautiful job of capturing the slower pace of living that the pandemic brought to many of us. It reminds me of Taylor Swift’s folklore in that the pandemic inspired waves of nostalgia, storytelling, daydreaming, and more. Because of the slow-paced setting and tone, Tom Lake is more of a slow read, so I wouldn’t recommend it if action or excitement is important to you. I have been enjoying reading it a little at a time rather than all at once.

Rating (so far!): 7/10

Secrets of Southern Girls- Haley Harrigan

Secrets of Southern Girls is next on my to-read list, and I am VERY excited about it. This is one that caught my eye a few months ago (I love the title!) that I finally decided to pick up recently. It follows protagonist Julie Portland ten years after she supposedly murders her childhood best friend, as a missing journal is found that raises burning questions about how the death truly happened. I love stories that revisit the past in a way that rewrites it completely… Not to mention the mystery of it all!! It seems like a perfect book for late October and Halloween, and I cannot wait to see how it ends.

Rachel Arwood

Winthrop '25

Hi! My name is Rachel Arwood and I am a junior psychology major at Winthrop University. I transferred here this year from Loyola University Maryland. In my free time, I enjoy running, reading and creative writing.