It's that glorious time of year again: the season of summer reading! We asked our summer interns to recommend a favorite book that belongs in your "must read" pile, or in your suitcase to accompany you on a summer adventure.
Eliza Blum, entering her junior year at Kenyon College:
"Caitlin Moran’s memoir How To Be A Woman reads like one hysterically witty rant on all the grievances, both big and small, of being a woman in modern society. Growing up as the oldest of eight children, Caitlin Moran recalls being left to her own devices to maneuver Great Britain in the 1990’s. The story follows her life from the first pangs of adolescence to the difficulties of raising a girl in a world that idolizes “Kim Kardashian instead of Sylvia Plath and Joan of Arc.” If I were to describe Caitlin Moran’s memoir, I’d say it’s a more sassy, British version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants turned modern-day feminist manifesto. It’s awesome."
Aimee Deutsch, spring 2013 graduate of The University of Michigan:
"My summer must-read is called In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. To be honest, I have not finished it yet. But I am a third of the way through, and it is so hard to put down! The book follows a young girl, Raami, and her family as they struggle through evacuation and other hardships during the Cambodian revolution in the 1970’s. The language is really beautiful, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to start a new book!"
Todd Hall, entering his sophomore year at Williams College:
"I highly recommend Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, a mind-blowing economic analysis of random everyday phenomenon. My hackneyed synopsis will not do the book justice, but here it is. This masterpiece of nonfiction actually evolved as a compilation of economic articles. The authors explore how incentives and rationality govern behavior through a series of case studies. For example, how could leaving bagels out at a large office and expecting people to pay for them be a successful business model? It worked, and the authors explain why. Another study follows a college student into the hierarchical, quasi-corporate underworld of a Chicago gang. One chapter discusses cheating in both education and sumo wrestling. Despite the smorgasbord of ideas, the book comes together nicely. Read this book; you will enjoy it!"
Julia Karant, entering her senior year at Brandeis University:
"I recommend 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The novel takes place in the fictional town of Macondo and tells the story of several generations of the Buendia family, switching back and forth between episodes in the lives of different characters. This book may not be for everyone, considering there is not much of a plot and it's difficult to keep the characters straight (at least half of them have the same name). However, the writing is beautiful and Garcia Marquez's message about the cyclic nature of existence is moving and thought-provoking. If you like a little magic in your summer reading, I encourage you to try it out!"
Amber Lee, entering her junior year at Syracuse University:
"I recommend The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride. This book tells the unlikely story of Ruth McBride Jordan, a Polish Jew who marries two good men and has 12 great children, all of which are black. Ruth's abusive and racist father led her to leave her home, her faith, her handicapped mother and young sister behind in Virginia. She found her true home in the "black world" of New York City, battling racism and poverty to raise her children with much turmoil, including the ex-communication from her own family. By sharing her story along with her son James, we see struggle and triumph through a small window made of racial identity in the 20th century."
Sophie Mortner, entering her senior year at Oberlin College:
"I recommend The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. This is the translated version of Kundera’s French novel that takes place in Prague during the Russian Invasion (1960s and 1970s). It is a disgruntled love story of an infidel husband and his self-conscious wife. This book follows the same poetic European love formula that one could often find in novels by Hemingway with the added perspective of the woman. The fact that I was unable to put this book down while reading it along the Garden Route in South Africa can attest to its amazing-ness!"
Ashlin Orr, entering her senior year at Rice University:
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer is definitely a must read! The book tells the true story of William, a boy growing up in Malawi who refuses to surrender his dream of bringing water and electricity to his community in a time of extreme national poverty and suffering. After having to drop out of school due to the burden of tuition fees, William teaches himself the skills he needs to make his vision a reality. I think this book is a perfect read for the LitWorld community because it shows how one person's passion can transform a community and also sends a powerful message on the importance of literacy."