Reading List: Summer

pexels summer

There’s something special about reading in the summer. Maybe it’s because you finally have more time to read because of summer break, or because the evening weather invites you to read outside. Either way, summer reading lists are popular among schools and libraries across the country.

After looking over reading lists for the Jackson Madison County school system and several local private schools, I’ve compiled a list of classic library books that are often used for summer reading. Whether you need to read for school or not, you can read these books along with students in our area this summer.

*Book descriptions are provided by the publishers, c/o the library catalog. Click the link to see where each book is located in the library and to check availability. If you are not a Union student or employee, your Union library access may be limited; please refer to our guest policies or visit your local public library if needed. The Union library does not provide a summer reading program for children or current summer reading lists for local schools; these are merely a compilation of books that have often been used for “summer reading” in general for those interested in reading along or catching up on classics that they missed.

 

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore

The co-author relates how he was held under plantation-style slavery until he fled in the 1960s and suffered homelessness for an additional eighteen years before the wife of the other co-author, an art dealer accustomed to privilege, intervened.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

On Long Island in the early 1920s the mysterious Jay Gatsby tries to rekindle his romance with Daisy, a young woman who has married another man, the wealthy and cruel Tom Buchanan.

 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda’s freshman year in high school.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

In a future totalitarian state where books are banned and destroyed by the government, Guy Montag, a fireman in charge of burning books, meets a revolutionary schoolteacher who dares to read and a girl who tells him of a past when people did not live in fear.

 

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

The Darling children begin the adventure of a lifetime when Peter Pan flies into their window one night.

 

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

A bratty prince and his whipping boy have many adventures when they inadvertently trade places after becoming involved with dangerous outlaws.

 

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent. When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Read our review here.

 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The struggle of three brothers to stay together after their parent’s death and their quest for identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society.

 

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Tuck family is confronted with an agonizing situation when they discover that a ten-year-old girl and a malicious stranger now share their secret about a spring whose water prevents one from ever growing any older.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The adventures of the well-to-do hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who lived happily in his comfortable home until a wandering wizard granted his wish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

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Donna Tartt is the bestselling author of The Goldfinch, The Little Friend, and The Secret History. Each of these novels involves suspense and intense character studies.

The Secret History is about an eclectic group of college students who find themselves in a lot of trouble as close-kept secrets are revealed.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Secret History gets right: Terrible people doing terrible things? Check. Secrets, murder, drugs, and pagan rituals? Check. An engrossing setting, to the point that you feel like you are actually in the book? Check.

Donna Tartt is excellent at drawing you in to the world that she’s created. Right away, you are introduced to a bizarre crime, and the rest of the book has you scrambling to figure out how the story ends up there.

Any book with an unreliable narrator is going to have your brain spinning, but few books do this quite so well as The Secret History. A lot of the book’s events and character development is seen through the eyes of someone who slowly begins to realize that he doesn’t really know that much about anything after all. This allows the reader to piece together the puzzle, and guess what? Some of it is entirely up to your imagination! I guessed several twists accurately throughout the book, but there were a few that weren’t fully explained (such as the characters’ true motivations and feelings).

Reading about Richard, the story’s narrator, and his university experiences in Hampden reminded me of both my own time in college and the college students that I manage at work. I loved seeing the dichotomy between Richard and his friends’ great intellect and their terrible decision-making and lifestyle habits. How can they be so intelligent as to speak to each other in Latin one minute and then try to live in a freezing warehouse in the middle of a Vermont winter the next? Honestly, this dichotomy is pretty realistic for what I recall of myself and my friends in that stage of life.

Richard wanting to be a part of the strange but exotic Greek students group is a relatable feeling. It can be hard to find your place in a new environment; however, you don’t want to pick the wrong group of people that everyone else warns you about (as Richard inevitably does). Henry, Francis, Charles, Camilla, and Bunny are in turns fascinating, terrifying, hilarious, and deeply disturbing people; as Richard gets sucked further and further into their sordid lives, so do we.

In spite of the sometimes flowery prose and the pretentious characters who are spouting Greek one moment and stoned out of their minds the next, I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a testament to Donna Tartt’s writing that she made such unlikable characters and their various crimes so intriguing and their college, despite its obvious flaws, so nostalgic.

What The Secret History gets wrong: Most of the characters in this book are unlikable. It’s kind of like a modern The Great Gatsby in that way- still a great story, but you may get annoyed by how pretentious and selfish the characters are. (Side note: the main character’s favorite book is The Great Gatsby because he identifies with Jay Gatsby, which is hilarious because he is totally a Nick Carraway instead.)

Who should read The Secret History: Readers who enjoy academia, mythology, suspense, crime, and literary writing.

Who shouldn’t read The Secret History: Readers who are looking for a shorter, faster-paced story. It’s easy to get lost in the world of The Secret History, but the plot does take a while to develop. This is a dark story that explores the evil in human nature, so if you’re looking for a light read, don’t pick this one up yet.

 

The Secret History is available in our Recreational Reading section at the library.

Content note: violence; sexual content (most of which happens off-screen); moments of racism, homophobia, and sexism from a few characters; lots of substance abuse; pagan rituals. Reader discretion is advised.

Top 5 English Literature Databases

man reading

English majors are no strangers to writing papers, researching various texts, developing persuasive arguments, and integrating critical thinking. If you’re studying English, chances are you will need access to several different databases as you collect resources for your next assignment. Look no further: the library has you covered with the databases listed below.

 

MLA International Bibliography

The MLA International Bibliography provides “indexing for journal articles, books and dissertations in modern languages, literatures, folklore, and linguistics.” Here you can find articles like “Disembodied Voice and Narrating Bodies in The Great Gatsby” and “Will, Change, and Power in the Poetry of Adrienne Rich.”

 

JSTOR

JSTOR’s not just a database, it’s a powerhouse of information with a strong social media presence. JSTOR is your go-to for older documents, high-quality scans, and quirky viewpoints. You can also narrow down your JSTOR search by discipline, which helps give you an idea of the many subjects they have content on.

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Literary Sources (Gale)

The great thing about Gale databases is their “Topic Finder:” a tool that helps you find new topics and connections when you enter in phrases. This Topic Finder can be a helpful resource in developing a thesis. Literary Sources features articles like “Hemingway’s Hunting: An Ecological Reconsideration” and “Edgar Allen Poe as a Major Influence on Allen Ginsburg.”

 

Fine Arts and Music Collection (Gale)

This database is particularly attuned to how literature connects with the arts. If you need research on a play or other dramatic works, this is a go-to database. With more than “150 full-text magazines and journals covered in databases such as the Wilson Art Index and RILM, this collection will provide support for research in areas such as drama, music, art history, and filmmaking.”

 

Oxford English Dictionary

Need to define a tricky word, or want to discuss its etymology in your next research paper? The OED is here to help! It contains the meaning, pronunciation, and history of over 600,000 words.