With the school year coming to a close and summer in full swing, for a lot of people, reading is the last thing on their minds. Nevertheless, this list is for anyone looking for their next page-turner, anyone who says, “I’d read more if I could find books that I liked,” or anyone that wants to keep the habit going to prepare for college this fall.
Here are 10 books that were recommended by the class of 2017 for the class of 2017, to inspire, entertain and give a new perspective on life.
1. 1984 by George Orwell
Starting this list off is a classic that many of us were required to read in school. 1984 was the book that received the most recommendations during preparation for this article. The book follows a young man in what was once Great Britain but is now a country under totalitarian rule by the political party in power and their leader, Big Brother. The book, which was once said to represent the Iron Curtain in Russia, has made a chilling reappearance in recent times with many comparing the rise of Trump to the rise of Big Brother. Orwell’s novel has been called one of the most important of the 20th century, and many of the expressions we use today, especially in politics, originated from this novel. You can find it here.
2. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Next on the list is a book that many people may not have heard of yet. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is about the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. The book weaves together the stories of several people over the course of the riots, including Victor, a nineteen year old runaway hoping to buy a plane ticket by selling weed to the protesters; Police Chief Bishop, Victor’s estranged father and Seattle’s Chief of Police and Dr. Wickramsinghe, Sri Lanka’s delegate to the WTO convention hoping to gain his country membership. A truly inspiring novel, and very timely with the surge of protests that have swept the nation over the past couple of years. You can get your copy here.
3. Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne
Breathers: A Zombie's Lament invites us to consider an important question: At what point is something considered “human” with all the rights and privileges accompanying that label? The novel follows Andy, a recently reanimated zombie, as he grows tired of living in his parents’ basement and hiding from the outside world that views him as less than human and decides to lead the legal fight for zombies to be granted human rights. A very honest, very funny and very thought-provoking satiric look at human rights today. You can find it here.
4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
One of the best novels by Nobel Prize winning author, Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye follows a young African American girl’s struggle with her own beauty amidst a community that views “beautiful” and “white” as one and the same. The Bluest Eye is a message to everyone that different doesn’t mean ugly and to NEVER apologize for something you were born with. This book may not be for everyone, as it contains graphic descriptions of rape and child molestation, as well as incest, domestic violence and mental illness; however, if you choose to read it, it is well worth it. You can get a copy here.
5. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Tell the Wolves I’m Home follows a girl, June, coming to terms with the death of her uncle Finn due to complications with AIDS by carrying on their relationship through his now-widowed partner Toby. As June and Toby grow closer, June’s relationship with her family is strained until it all comes to a head one night when Toby is arrested. A heartwarming, heart-wrenching novel about all kinds of love. You can find the book here.
6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The perfect summer novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe follows two young Latino boys as they bond with one another and begin to navigate their racial/ethnic identities, sexuality and family relationships. A book for anyone who likes those deep, late night conversations with their best friend about the big things in life. You can find it here.
7. The Stand by Stephen King
The next book is for anyone that loves horror and/or has a lot of time on their hands. King’s 823-page monstrosity of a book, The Stand, offers readers an intense, in-depth look at the collapse and extinction of society, as well as a look at the human condition as a whole. After a genetically modified version of the flu is accidentally released, 99.4 percent of the earth’s population is wiped out, leaving the survivors to rebuild their lives and their world. For all the fans of the popular television show The Walking Dead, this was the original! You can purchase your own copy here.
8. Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn
While not a novel, Our Numbered Days is such an inspiring collection of poetry that not putting it on this list would be doing a disservice to the readers. Even if poetry isn’t your thing, Hilborn’s style reads more like you’re listening to him tell stories over coffee. Hilborn’s poetry discusses love, heartbreak and mental illness all at once in a truly fascinating collection of reflections on life. You can get it here.
9. Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes
One of my personal favorites, Insomniac City is a collection of memoirs from artist and photographer Billy Hayes on his move from San Francisco to New York City following the death of his longtime partner, Steve. Once in New York, Hayes falls in love again, first with the city, with its eccentric, ever changing ways, and second with one of my personal heroes, the brilliant author and neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks. What follows is Hayes's beautiful and thought-provoking reflections on the world around him, as well as glimpses into his personal relationship with Dr. Sacks. Read it in honor of pride month, but it holds its value any time of year. You can find it here.
10. Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni
Finishing off the list is a fantastic book to read BEFORE you apply for college, but still holds its value for the graduated senior. Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be explains exactly that: The college you attend does not determine your success in life! A reminder to everyone who is attending their first choice school that a big name will not make up for everything else; and a reminder to everyone who is not attending their preferred school that the choices you make in college and beyond will make you far more successful than the name on the diploma. You can get a copy here.
Some of these are books for the hour, some are books for the century and some are books for all time. This list will make you laugh, cry, think and grow like you never have before. If you’ve got a free moment this summer, or if you’ve deliberately set out to do some reading before college, I encourage you to give one of the books on this list a try! The famous fashion photographer, David Bailey, once said: “The best advice I ever got was that knowledge is power and to keep reading.” So on that note, good luck to the class of 2017, and keep reading!
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