Let’s be real—ain’t nobody got time to pick up a fun book during the school year, when you already have to read that 700-page novel for class or study for your chem midterm. Now, it’s summertime. Put down your phone and your Tumblr feed, and get involved in an actual story this summer (and I’m not talking about Snapchat). Whether you’re looking for a period romance to break up your summer work schedule or a new fantasy novel to indulge your YA obsession, crack open any one of these novels and you’ll find your nose in the pages all summer long.
Sure, classics might remind you of your reading assignments for class, but they’re surprisingly more fun when you can read them on your own time. Jane Eyre tells the story of a girl who deals with plenty of childhood trauma and abuse on her way to achieving an education. She eventually ends up moving in with the dashing Mr. Rochester and falling in love with him, but some unexpected roadblocks get in their way to happily ever after. If Jane can make it through school, so can you.
If you missed out on last year’s Oscar-nominated film adaptation, get it on wide release, like, now. But before you do that, you should read the book. You might think Brooklyn is your typical romance upon first glance, but the tale of a girl left to choose between her husband in New York and her roots in Ireland ultimately becomes an in-depth discussion of what home really is. “It’s a classic immigrant story with ties to 1950s Ireland and New York, told with emotional truth and beautiful understatement,” Northwestern sophomore Adina Goldman said. So whether you’re an Irish girl through and through like me or just want to see a twist on the classic YA love triangle, this novel has something for you.
Published posthumously, The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of writings by Marina Keegan named after her viral graduation essay. “This book is a mix of fiction and non-fiction short stories that range from really sad to inspiring and hopeful. The author wrote them while she was in college so everything is really relateable and often really poignant,” Gonzaga sophomore Elizabeth Terry said. So if you’re feeling like a reading rebel or just want to curl up with tissues and feel all the feels, definitely check this one out.
Reading a big-ass book like Anna Karenina can serve as the perfect summer project, and you’ll find it a worthwhile read. Basically, it tells the story of Anna Karenina, a high-society Russian wife who scandalizes everyone by having an affair with a much younger officer. Just think of it as a much thicker, more historical beach read with a bit of Scandal sprinkled on top. And you can treat yourself to the film starring Keira Knightley after turning that last page. Hint: if Russian lit really isn’t your thing, picture Keira’s fellow actors Jude Law as her husband Karenin and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the sexy young officer Vronsky. A modern touch to a classic novel can never hurt.
With a film adaptation starring Emily Blunt hitting theaters this October, you’ll hear about The Girl on the Train soon if you haven’t already. Reminiscent of Gone Girl, this thriller has you doubting the protagonist from the start. “It’s a fabulous and quick fiction read about deceit and cheating, and it’s a murder mystery all rolled into one. It’s told from three different viewpoints which shakes things up a bit too,” University of Wisconsin-Madison junior Catherine Zastrow said. If you think you’ve got trust issues, you’ll feel a lot better about your own problems after reading this book.
Charlotte wasn’t the only Brontë sister to create literary masterpieces–in fact, they all did! If you’re binge watching Scandal this summer, take a break and check out some Victorian scandal in this novel. During its release in 1848 Victorian England, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was hella controversial because it involves a woman escaping from her husband and even slamming the door in his face (how scandalous!). The themes of alcoholism and gender relations can be sensitive, but they also provide a roller coaster of a read for the summer.
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to delve into, look no further than The Way of Kings. As the first novel in the Stormlight Archive series, it tells the story of a war on a ruined landscape as one man attempts to restore ten orders of knights to their glory of centuries past. That premise might confuse you, but high fantasy can do that to you until you actually read it. And if you end up really liking it, Sanderson already planned out the release of his series in ten novels. He knows how to make the reading bug stick with you.
If you consider yourself a Harry Potter fan, don’t sell The Magicians short. “I’ve only read the first few chapters, but so far I’m loving it and it seems so smart to me, like a more realistic and dark Harry Potter,” Northwestern sophomore Kat Foley said. The final novel in the trilogy came out in 2014, so you still have time to scarf down all three in case a film adaptation pops up. Then you can say you were the first to know about it in true #hipsterfashion.
Told from the point of view of a dog, The Art of Racing in the Rain shows you the bone-eating, tail-chasing day-to-day life of a dog. “It’s fun and philosophical and lighthearted and deep all at the same time. It says all the things you suspected about your dog and all the things you wish he could say,” Northwestern sophomore Jason Mast said. It even lets you in on the fate of the dog from the get-go, so hopefully you’ll be emotionally prepared to make it through this totally #worthit read.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the film adaptation of this tearjerker romance hitting theaters on Friday. Me Before You stars Khaleesi—excuse me—Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin of Hunger Games fame. The novel tells the story of a young quirky woman who falls in love with a man paralyzed from the neck down after working as his caretaker. While critics were split over their opinion of the film’s message and how it treats disabilities, I recommend you stay in the know by reading the book and then seeing the movie before making your own decision.