Summer 2017 Reading Challenge

Illustration by Cynthia Kittler (via The New Yorker)

It’s the height of summer! Which means that you probably have more time on your hands. The days are longer, the pace is slower and everything glitters with possibility and excitement. If you were wondering what book to pursue from your spot on a beach towel, on an airplane, or from the comfort of your own home because it’s a thousand degrees outside, then you’ve come to the right place! The following books can help you familiarize yourselves with rather untouched topics and enrich your minds.

  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a novel that not only manages to tell a great story but also change the way you look at the world. It undeniably tells the love story of childhood sweethearts at a school in Nigeria: Ifemelu and Obinze. It follows their stories, together and apart, as Ifemelu, a spirited young girl, goes to America to college. Be prepared to laugh and cry as this poignant story takes you on a wild ride, touching on subjects such as race, politics, immigration, and culture. Americanah is a deeply felt book, telling a truly gripping human story.
  2. The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez tells the story of several immigrant families who all find themselves in Wilmington, Delaware, in most cases, they don’t speak English and struggle to survive on a very small amount of money. “We’re the unknown Americans” says a character in the book, “the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them.” It is a timely story, given the current debate over basically unknown Americans who toil every day to make this country better, which I believe is moving and profound.
  3.  Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris paints a heartbreaking and sobering portrait of the unknown and hidden struggles black girls experience across the country. Because of society’s deeply entrenched expectations of black girls, young women are often mislabeled and mischaracterized by how they look, act, speak or dress, which means that black girls are devalued based on how other perceive them.
  4. “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be” by Frank Bruni is a book that I, as a high school student, absolutely loved. I have been literally obsessing over college since I can remember, and reading this book has truly helped me understand that “where you go to college is not who you’ll be.” Bruni argues that where you go to college has less impact on success, happiness, and identity than you might think. In his book, he constantly highlights the fact that education is so much more than brand. He mentions numerous people who have gone to become really important figures who attended public universities and schools without major reputations. And this is exactly Mr. Bruni’s point: that the best education you can get is less a matter of going to the best college, but rather of making the best of where you go.
  5. Men Explaining Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit is a book of essays, the most powerful ones: “Men Explaining Things to Me” & “#YesAllWomen” clear-sighted-ly look at an undeniably massive and difficult topic. It’s truly saddening to realize the kind of backlash against women who speak out against misogyny, and her courage for speaking about this is truly admirable.

A few other books I would definitely recommend are:

  • The Circle by Dave Eggers
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal
  • Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
  • Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
  • The Social Animal by David Brooks
  • Teen Angst? Naaah… by Ned Vizzini
  • Into the Gray Zone by Adrian Owen


Let us know in the comment section below what YOU think about these books and if you have any other suggestions! 🙂

Featured image via The New Yorker, illustration by Cynthia Kittler.


Written by Sorana Bucseaneanu

Sorana is a high school junior who hopes she can use her voice to move the world towards a better place. In her free time, she loves to read and listen to Broadway music.

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