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

One of the hardest parts of starting college was having to leave behind the life I’d led over the summer, during which I always had a book by my side. Reading is one of the things I love most in the world, and it hurts my heart to admit that I didn’t have time to read a single page of a book for fun during my first semester. I read five great books over winter break and tried to keep this momentum going second semester by always keeping a book by my bed and reading a few pages before I fell asleep on the rare nights I wasn’t up too late doing homework. However, nothing can compare to reading a book for fun in the comfort of your own bed at home, or on your comfortable couch with your dog on your lap, or wherever your own treasured reading spot may be.

We’re living in a really bizarre time right now, where life as we know it has come to a crashing halt and we’re all stuck inside our homes. Despite the disappointments and anxieties this time may cause, I urge everyone to pick up a book and get lost in a fictional world instead. I’ve found that sometimes the best way to deal with a stressful situation like this is to simply escape it, at least for a little bit. Reading offers that perfect and wonderful distraction from reality that may be more necessary than ever right now. Regardless of whether you’re a tried and true reader or haven’t read for fun since kindergarten, take this quaran-time and rainy spring season as a unique opportunity to stay at home and read some great books. 

    It’s always a daunting task to me which book I should read next, so I wanted to share a list of ten of my favorite novels to hopefully make your decision a little easier. There’s something for everyone, and as an added bonus, they’re all written by women!


“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

I decided to start out strong and begin with Fangirl, which is probably one of my top three books of all time. Over spring break I finished rereading it for the third time and fell in love with it all over again. Fangirl is a story about Cath, a freshman in college who happens to be a famous fanfiction author for the Simon Snow series, a fictional world not-so-subtly based off of Harry Potter. Cath is trying to figure out how to balance the ups and downs of college while maintaining her passion for writing and the world of magic that will always hold a special place in her heart. There’s a heart-warming family dynamic with her twin sister, Wren, and her single father, and the characters just burst to life right off the page. It’s a fresh and realistic novel as well as a love letter to Harry Potter and it deserves the spot at the top of your to-read list.

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

As a disclaimer, I haven’t technically finished this one yet (I’m about three-quarters of the way through), but I already know that it’s going on my all-time favorites list when I’m done. For some reason, I have an extremely unfair tendency to assume that all books written before about 1950 are going to be boring or difficult to follow. Little Women was published in 1868, so I was a little hesitant to pick it up at first. Within the first ten pages, however, I realized just how dreadfully wrong my stereotype of early novels was. 

Little Women reads like it could have been written yesterday. Even though the March girls are living in a country at civil war and a society with quite different social expectations than we experience today, the characters are timeless. They are lively and fun, with a beautiful sisterly bond that never fails to bring a smile to my face. Each character has their own unique traits and personality that you can’t help but love them all. My friend asked me today which sister I thought was my favorite, and I had difficulty answering. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are all my favorites, for different reasons, and they each bring with them important values and morals that are to be admired.

“The Astonishing Color of After” by Emily X. R. Pan

Upon completing this book, the thought that kept circling in my mind was, “Wow, that was the most beautifully written novel I have ever read.” Months later, I still feel exactly the same way. The Astonishing Color of After deals with themes of loss, family, culture, first love and the inexplicable wonders and magic of the world that can be found all around us. Emily X. R. Pan paints beautiful masterpieces with her words, literally weaving color into the story. 

    I believe that this is one of those books that is best gone into knowing nothing about it, so that’s all I’m going to say about it. But I sincerely hope you take my glowing opinion of it to heart, because it deserves to be read, loved and shared for the beauty it beholds.


“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is a twenty-nine year old woman who is clueless to most social norms in the most endearing (and at times, cringey) way possible. She lives by herself in Glasgow, Scotland, and survives on a strict routine. Every week is the same: go to work at her office job, come home to her flat, watch television alone in her flat. Over the weekends, she replaces work with a bottle of vodka.

    Her social interactions are mostly limited to jeers from her coworkers, the annual visit from the meter reader, the Tesco clerks and of course, her dreaded weekly phone calls with Mummy. What Eleanor doesn’t realize is that just living day-to-day isn’t the same thing as happiness. It’s “fine,” as the title suggests, but she shouldn’t have to settle for fine. And it takes little acts of kindness and vulnerability, both from her and from those around her, to make that change.

    This book received my laughs, smiles and all-around enjoyment throughout the entire thing. Eleanor’s very literal comments cracked me up and got me thinking about how weird some cultural trends really are, when you think about them. In addition to the humor, there is a mystery that unfolds during the span of the novel, a much darker sub-plot that was awfully sad. Honeyman’s ability to seamlessly transition from a witty joke to a heart-wrenching circumstance is incredible and very moving.

    If this interests you at all, please please pick it up and read it; I don’t think there’s any way you will regret it.

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” by Maria Semple

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is equal parts fun and frustration, laughing while simultaneously shaking your head. Despite being published in 2012, it’s gotten a lot of buzz recently, some of which is likely thanks to the movie adaptation that came out at the end of last year (I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know if it did the story justice). Bernadette Fox lives a life of mystery, with everyone knowing of her and her unique ways, but no one really knowing anything about her. She’s the mother of fifteen-year-old Bee, who loves her mother even more for her peculiarities. The family has plans to go to Antarctica, when all of a sudden Bernadette disappears. The search for Bernadette is told almost exclusively through emails, reports, and memos, making it a very interesting read. 

“The Fountains of Silence” by Ruta Sepetys

Honestly, I recommend any book written by Ruta Sepetys, but I think that her most recent work is her best yet. Ruta Sepetys specializes in historical fiction about teens, each of her novels taking place during a critical yet little-known part of history. The Fountains of Silence is set in post-civil war Spain in 1957, a country grappling with the lingering effects of the large-scale death and destruction brought about by the authoritarian rule of Francisco Franco. Daniel is an American visiting Madrid with his oil tycoon father for the summer when he meets Ana, a worker at the elite hotel for tourists that Daniel is staying in. Daniel’s passion and talent for photography causes him to want to document the truth of society around him, with Ana’s help. Sepetys flawlessly merges the themes of family, friendship, love and the heartbreaking history of twentieth-century Spain under Franco’s dictatorship. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of history or historical fiction, give Sepetys’s novels a try. She writes in such a universal way that anyone is sure to love it.

“Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli

I’m a firm believer that the book is always better than the movie, no matter how good the film is. Remember the adorable movie, Love, Simon? Well, this is the book that started it all, and if you loved the movie, you’ll absolutely adore the book. Sixteen-year-old Simon is gay, but he hasn’t told anyone yet. Except Blue, the boy that he’s been emailing and getting closer to. After one unfortunate day of forgetting to close out of his email on a school computer, Simon is blackmailed and his secret—and Blue’s—is threatened to be exposed to the whole school before the boys are ready to come out themselves. Simon is nerdy and lovable, and despite the immense stress you feel for Simon, it’s such a feel-good read with characters that make you laugh out loud.

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is so important, so eye-opening, and so needed. It should be required reading for everyone. The social commentary it provides is crucial in the political climate we live in, touching on police brutality and racism and stereotypes that still very much exist, but which many people choose to turn a blind eye towards. Starr, the protagonist, is a hero in every sense of the word, calling out injustice where she sees it and standing up for herself, her family and her friends. I hope in my own life to be half the person she is. This novel has taught me to see and understand different perspectives, and it really made me think about life and the daily injustices that remain prominent in our society. 


“Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy

If you’re looking for a book to binge-read in one sitting, Dumplin’ is it. Dolly Parton-loving Willowdean Dickson has no problems with her own body; she calls herself “fat” with no sense of shame in the word. What she does have a problem with, though, is the annual Miss Clover City beauty pageant that her mom won as a teenager and is still involved with every year. The pageant seems to feature only one type of girl: skinny and stereotypically feminine. Willowdean decides to enter the pageant with a group of her friends to prove that they deserve a chance to compete just as much as any of the other girls. 

    The book is full of flavor and fun from page one straight through to the end. When you finish (as you probably will in a couple hours), watch the movie adaptation (featuring Jennifer Aniston as Willowdean’s mom and containing plenty of odes to the great Dolly Parton) and then read the sequel, Puddin’.

Literally anything written by Morgan Matson

My final recommendation is not one book, but five: any novel written by Morgan Matson is sure to be a hit. Each of her books is light and heart-warming, with a deep family-centered storyline and, of course, an adorable romance. I’ve loved all of her books immensely and it’s impossible to choose a favorite, but here’s a quick guide to help you decide where to start:

    If you love road trips and music, read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.

    If you want a book that will make you cry, read Second Chance Summer.

    If you love scavenger hunts and fun summer nights, read Since You’ve Been Gone.

    If you love dogs and books, read The Unexpected Everything.

    And if you’re a sucker for weddings and family mishaps, read Save the Date.

Okay, so I may have gone a little overboard in my recommendations, but it just goes to show how many great books are out there, especially now that we have a little extra time in our lives. Hopefully you’ve found something that has caught your eye and inspired you to cozy up with a new book!

Abby Synnes

Wisconsin '23

Abby is a senior at UW-Madison studying English and communication sciences and disorders. She is an enthusiast of good books, Taylor Swift, and vanilla lattes.
I am a senior at the greatest university— the University of Wisconsin. I am in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, double tracking in reporting and strategic communications and earning a certificate in and Digital Studies. I am a lover of dance, hiking, writing for Her Campus, the Badgers and strawberry acais. I am also a president of Her Campus Wisconsin.