Summer Reading List


I was one of those kids with her nose always in a book.  I remember looking forward to high school because I heard older kids complaining about having to read a long list of books in their literature classes, and even over the summer!  I couldn’t think of better homework than to read Great Expectations and then talk about it in class!  Get this: I never got one of those formidable English teachers that required his students to actually read anything good.  I specifically remember once, when my teacher on the first day of school said, “you will be happy to know that you will only have to read one book this semester…,” I was snobbishly disappointed while the other kids cheered.

So I skimmed through high school with not much more than Moby Dick (skeletally interpreted) and Where the Red Fern Grows (please, so middle school) under my literary belt.  One day while dashing into B & N, I came up short at a stunning table.  The sign was matter of fact: Summer Reading.  Dickens, Elliot, Poe, Wells, Angelou, Salinger, and a million others.  I felt neglected.  This is what the high school kids are reading?  I got out pen and paper and made my summer reading list, a tradition I would continue for many years.  Have you missed out too?  Allow me to be your teacher.  I want ten books with reports out of you by the end of the summer.  10 pt Times New Roman, double spaced.  Happy reading!  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens.  Sweet little boy, mean ol’ stepfather, eccentiric aunt.  It’s the life of David, and what a life it is!  My favorite Dickens.  And it cost me a great deal of effort to not just list 10 Dickens books.  Read them all, please.
2. The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan.  Non-fiction.  It’s a surprising history of four primal human desires, traced through the botanics that satisfy them.  The apple (sweetness), marijuana (intoxication), potato (sustenance), and tulip (beauty) are followed from origin to present day.  His more popular book, The Omnivores Dilemma is excellent too.
3. One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.  She writes poetry in prose form.  It’s a beautiful reminder of the everyday things that bring joy and gratitude.  Start listing things throughout the day that you are thankful for.  Gratitude breeds gratitude.
4. House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne.  It’s dark and anxious, mysterious and covert.  The old house is heavy with memory and regret, inhabited by a woman not strong enough to bear it.  There’s hope and love too, by the way.
5. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas.  Oh, the Count!  It’s a love story with every beauty and horror.  There are swords and disguises, revelations and betrayals.  This will have you gasping, you won’t be able to put it down.
6. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier.  Murder mystery of delicate and subtle rendering.  There’s a subversive housekeeper, a first late wife of whom the second believes she can’t compete with, and a mysterious death lingering over the story.  Surprise ending.
7.  The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis.  You were a child once, right?  You’ll feel like one again!  There is a witch, talking beavers, sword fights, poisonous Turkish delight, and a magic wardrobe that will take you there.
8.  Midwives, Chris Bohjalian.  This is a local Vermonter!  Most of his novels take place right here, you will feel right at home in all his stories.  It’s the story of a harrowing delivery at a remote Vermont home in the dead of winter.  Questions and a lawsuit arise surrounding the midwife who did everything she could to save the mother’s life (or did she?).  Like most of his other books, it asks the ethical questions.
9.  Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes.  Alright, so you should read this so you wont be totally in the dark whenever you encounter a Don Quixote reference, because people, they are everywhere!  It’s adventure and chivalry, idealism and modernity, comedy and tragedy.  There’s a social message.  Someone important said it was the best literary work of all time, ahem.
10.  Night, Elie Weisel.  Non-fiction.  This is an account of Elie Weisel’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  He was there with his father and was rescued at age 16.  It’s raw, hard to read at times, and deeply moving.  This is one for when you want to be in touch with humanity’s sharp edges.  Follow up with Dawn and Day by Weisel.  Weisel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
And just for free, here are four that got the ax for really no reason at all: Dracula, Bram Stoker, Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte.
What’s on your summer reading list?


  1. Thanks for the suggestions! I’m always looking for new reading material…and I must say that “Night” is one of my all time favorites!

  2. Christin — with your great love for reading — you could be a great high school English teacher.
    Hope your love for reading is passed on to Jude and Wren. Reading is a best friend and adds
    tremendously to a person’s life.

  3. Well – you made me want to read them all. But, the concentration camp one is going to be purchased today.


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