Although your calendar packed with finals and research papers might be getting you down now, summer’s not too far away. Aside from the break from your 10-week stress cycles, one of the best things about the season is that you can put down your textbooks and pick up something you actually want to read. But here at NBN, we know that reading moods are about as complicated as navigating CAESAR. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best summer stories to fit your every whim.
"Go U Northwestern": *Literature*
These books are best for the beginning of the summer, when you secretly kind of miss that intellectual feeling of being immersed in ~academia~ and your bedroom just isn’t as atmospheric as Deering. So maybe you'll decide to actually finish the English literature and psych books you should’ve been reading for classes all quarter (thanks, SparkNotes!).
- Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy. Pretend you actually paid attention in Russian Lit, or just get ahead for Fall Quarter by reading this gigantic book about a tangled web of super dysfunctional Russian marriages.
- Moby Dick – Herman Melville. It might seem unlikely that a 19th century novel about the whaling industry would be an enjoyable summer read, but just wait until you sift through all the whale anatomy jargon to get to the slyly hidden sex jokes [Read: sperm whales]. It is one of the greatest novels ever written, after all.
- Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst – Robert Sapolsky. If you want to know why your little sister is so annoying or why you sometimes find yourself craving Sargent even on days with no hot cookie bar, Sapolsky’s got you on neural, cultural and evolutionary levels.
"Summertime sadness": angsty novels
Even though being home means laundry machines that won’t shrink your favorite formal dress and meals that don’t taste like (or literally are) canned mystery meat, you might realize that you probably shouldn’t have wished away all those finals and research papers so soon, because being home sucks sometimes. Your parents keep telling you to clean your room, and that kid you made out with when you were in 10th grade keeps hitting you up. Turn up The Smiths and settle into the angst.
- The Virgin Suicides –Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s depressing, but it's beautifully written and takes place in a quaint little suburb, just like the one you’re trapped in for the next three months!
- In the Woods – Tana French. The first in a brilliantly dark Irish detective series, it features little kids in the summer (just like you can pretend to be before the soul-crushing weight of your 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. internship sets in), but also murder and a painful friend breakup.
"Getting hot in here": Sexy and sappy romances
It’s the middle of your summer and it’s just like one of those ‘80s teen movies – you and your S/O are starring in some steamy summer lovin’. Or maybe you’re having an adorable text chat with that crush from work and you hope it’ll become something more.
- Eleanor & Park — Rainbow Rowell. Maybe you actually decided to text that creepy guy from 10th grade back, and then maybe he’ll become your own Park, and then maybe, finally you will be inspired to write the next great young adule novel.
- Literally anything – Nicholas Sparks. You know you’re secretly a sucker for a sappy love story and Sparks is the king of them.
- I Can’t Think Straight – Shamim Sarif. When Tala and Leyla meet in this sexy romance, everything from their nationalities to their religions challenges the two women’s love, but just like you persevered through winter quarter, they figure it out as best as they can.
"Takin’ care of business": For uber-busy people
During Reading Week, you were super pumped to tell all your Facebook friends that you’re interning for a senator or working at your local coffee shop, but now that the time has come to punch the clock, you are nearly as busy as a Wildcat Welcome freshman. In the five minutes between shifts, you can satisfy your desire to read with a few poems from an anthology or the next scene in a play.
- Upstream – Mary Oliver. This poet will leave you spellbound in this quietly gorgeous anthology about her relationship with nature.
- Sally’s Gone, She Left Her Name – Russell Davis. When was the last time you read a play that wasn’t Shakespeare? Start out with Sally’s Gone, which gives you all the drama as it follows a family with a very depressed mother and a relatably angsty teenage daughter.
- Morning in the Burned House – Margaret Atwood. Save The Handmaid’s Tale for later and set off on a poetic journey. Don’t miss the odd complexity of forest fires (“The Fire Place”) and stripping (“Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing”).
"I’m gonna be (500 Miles)" (and maybe 500 pages?): For vacationing
You’ve finally escaped your house and you’re off to some beach or mountain or lake to relive your childhood summers. Before you have to return to your job or internship, you probably need an escape within your escape: fun reads while your toes are in the sand or exotic foreign tales to top off a trip abroad.
- On the Road – Jack Kerouac. This novel follows its characters on a cross-country road trip around the U.S. filled with sex, drugs and booze. Settle down with it on your very own family road trip. You’re living like Kerouac now – just with a cramped minivan and a lot less fun!
- The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain. It’s set in Paris and centers on one man’s romantic quest to find the owner of an abandoned purse that holds (you guessed it) a red notebook, belonging to someone who might be his soulmate. If you pick it up on your trip to France, we’re not guaranteeing you anything, but we’ve heard life imitates art...
- The Magicians – Lev Grossman. So you’re a little too old for Harry Potter and you want a new universe to get lost in on vacation? The Magicians answers questions you never knew you’d ask, like whether college-aged magicians just do spells all the time on Saturday nights or whether they get drunk. (Of course they do; butterbeer doesn’t cut it forever.)
"Wish you were here": For that awkward August stretch
When all your home-friends leave for school and all your school-friends are still traipsing around their hometowns that are hours away by plane and you’re lonely and you need a really cool protagonist to be your stand-in-best-friend – here’s your solution.
- How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran. This story follows follows Johanna Morrigan in her shift from awkward preteen to rock-n'-roll goddess Dolly Wilde. Dolly is the kind of friend you always wanted. She sneaks into clubs, drinks with the best of ‘em and hangs out with rock stars. Coolest of all, the story is set in the U.K., so Dolly has a killer British accent.
- Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. In addition to having two authors, this fantasy novel also has two witty protagonists: the demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale, who have misplaced the Antichrist in a world quite like ours, except it’s almost time for Armageddon. So, exactly like Northwestern during Finals Week.
- The First Bad Man –Miranda July. Cheryl is the most nerdy, neurotic protagonist you will ever meet – she has an imaginary baby and an imaginary boyfriend and a lump in her throat she is convinced is growing by the day. Cheryl is that friend that always has so much going on that when you listen to her, you almost forget how tired you are of sitting on your couch refreshing Instagram to see all your friends’ crazy Welcome Week party pictures.
Good luck with Reading Week, and get ready for a very satisfying summer of reading!