Throwback Summer Reading List

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As high schoolers, our summers were always blighted by the prospect of that dreaded summer reading list. You put it off the first month of vacation thinking, “I have plenty of time.” July comes and goes until it’s mid-August, classes begin in a few weeks and you realize you haven’t cracked open a single book all summer. 

Those summer reading lists brought a great amount of grief to many students. But moving into the college years, the thought of only having to write a two-page book report sounds so much better than the stress of summer internships, classes and jobs. 

When I talked to some current college students about their memories of summer reading books, the immediate response was, “I don’t remember any!” But in reality, the ghosts of summer reading books past are still nestled in our subconscious somewhere, and what they taught us is more beneficial than what we once thought.

Katie Scire, a senior at Bryn Mawr College, remembers reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies before freshman year of high school. “I haven’t re-read any of my summer reading books,” she admits, “but Lord of the Flies is referenced a lot for the state of nature in my philosophy courses, about how people left alone on an island can turn ruthless.”

Some summer reading books weren’t always such a drag. Megan Phillips, a senior at Johns Hopkins University, was asked to read To Kill a Mockingbird one summer and genuinely enjoyed it —so much so that she followed it up with the 1962 film version and re-read it several years later because, “I loved it the first time and couldn't really remember what happened.”

Looking back now, what’s the sentiment toward those summer assignments?

“It’s nice not having to do summer reading because now I can read on my own,”Scire said. But she continues, saying, “summer reading was definitely beneficial in getting a head start on work for the school year and maintaining skills over the summer.”

And it also turns out that not all colleges have dropped the summer reading assignments, although the rules of the game may have changed a bit.

“For freshman year of college we had to read From Binge to Blackout for orientation,” said Phillips. “If we wrote the ‘mandatory’ essays on it, we got entered to win something!”

Below are six of the more commonly assigned summer reading books. What books were you asked to read? Did you have any favorites? Are you glad you never have to deal with these novels again?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Senior > Communication > American University

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