Elementary Rules for Summer Reading

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I get it—you’ve been so traumatized by a semester of academics that you can’t even lay eyes on a field of text. Luckily, you already have the skills to make it through this crisis. Any primary school graduate can read the summer away by sticking to these six childish rules.

Look at the Pictures

You may remember the picture book. Gateway drug to the chapter book, it tricked you down this long and winding road of all-nighters and sweatpants. However, now may be the time to forgive and forget, because graphic novels have gotten too good to pass up. Chester Brown details his life as a patron of prostitutes in his frank and fascinating Paying For It and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home explores her lesbian identity alongside her father’s homosexuality and suicide. So, unlock your inner child and read for the pictures—these graphic novels are better than Goodnight Moon.


As the long days of summer idleness wax and wane, you may begin to yearn for your school days of intellectual stimulation. No fear. There’s no reason your un-air-conditioned living room can’t have the cerebral atmosphere of Gertrude Stein’s circa 1920. Return to the maxim of kindergarten classrooms around the globe and share your reading list with friends. Literary debate will spice up nights of beer and stale gossip. After a few drinks, you may find yourself throwing punches at anyone who calls American Psycho failed satire or labels Holden Caulfield a phony. 

Indulge Your Mood

Before prompts and term papers, it was all about what you wanted to read. This summer, pick up whatever sates your current state. Shirk shame and race through the Nora Roberts romance oeuvre. Existential crisis? Have a philosophical volley with Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. And if your misery needs company, take up with the Fran Lebowitz Reader. With lines like “life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep,” she’ll make you feel positive by comparison. 

Use Your Imagination

In the good old days, any kid with a stick and a dream could be Harry Potter. Now, your taste has grown, but your budget hasn’t seen the same evolution. While you probably can’t finance a European vacation, I bet you have ten bucks. Splurge on The Sun Also Rises and A Room with a View in paperback and spend the summer abroad. Hemingway and Forster render these luscious European settings so vividly that they will become your own. A field of violets and the San Sebastian waters will stick with you long after the likes of Lucy Honeychurch and Jakes Barnes have faded.

Hop in a Time Machine

Looking back at the books we read as kids, one would assume that there’s nothing publishing houses love more than peddling sugar-coated history to children. War, slavery, death, kidnapping—our protagonists stayed cheery and well adjusted through it all. Now, return to America’s dark history with a mature eye. Random Family by Adrian LeBlanc harrows and humanizes Bronx ghetto life in the ‘80s. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood recounts the 1959 murder of a family in Holcomb, Kansas. Both are excellent reads, and definitely not for children. 

Senior > English and German > NYU

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