10 Great Books to Read for Fun this Summer

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School

As busy graduate students, it can be hard to find the time to complete all the reading that is assigned to us, let alone pick up a book for fun. And yet, there’s nothing quite like lying on a beach or curling up on the porch in the summer for a relaxing read. And the benefits are many; research conducted by the National Literacy Trust has shown that pleasure reading is linked to increased grammatical and writing skills as well as logical decision-making capability, community engagement, and multicultural competence. Read on for a list of great cross-genre summer reads, from mystery to literary fiction to memoir. 

A pair of glasses sit on top of an open book.

1. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty- General Fiction

The perfect summer read, Gravity is equal parts lighthearted, bittersweet, witty, and heartwarming. A totally unique fiction story with a touch of magical realism, this book tells the story of Abigail, a single mother and café owner who begins receiving some mysterious mail which leads her on an unforgettable journey to discover the truth behind her brother’s disappearance many years ago. 

2. Educated by Tara Westover- Memoir

While the subject matter is far from light and breezy, this book should be required reading for anyone who has been educated in America. Tara Westover was raised by survivalists in rural Idaho and did not set foot in a classroom until the age of 17. Educated follows her journey from sheltered, uneducated, and abused child to undergraduate student and eventually Harvard/Cambridge doctoral fellow, Gates fellowship recipient, and acclaimed author.  

3. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune- Fantasy  

Celebrate pride month by reading this LGBTQ+ fantasy novel; it's funny, light-hearted, and sentimental, guaranteed to make you laugh and perhaps shed a couple of tears. The House follows Linus Baker, a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, as he travels to an orphanage on a remote island, tasked with the dubious job of assessing whether the magical children living there are likely to bring about the end of the world. 

4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi- Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction

An immensely powerful and heartbreaking read, Homegoing traces the story of one family over 300 years from Ghana to the U.S., beginning with two sisters who are separated when one of them is sold into slavery. Chapters jump from generation to generation, introducing new characters while exploring the continuity of themes such as power and oppression, enslavement, cultural identity, and family. 

5. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman- Nonfiction 

This true story follows Lia, a Hmong American child diagnosed with severe epilepsy, and her family and Hmong community’s attempts to navigate Western medicine while also practicing more traditional spiritual forms of healing. The author spends over a year immersing herself in Lia’s community, building relationships with both Lia’s doctors and her Hmong cultural group, allowing for a story that is nuanced and unbiased, depicting all individuals in their imperfect but genuine humanity. 

6. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi- Graphic Novel

Author and illustrator Marjane Satrapi tells the story of her childhood in Tehran, Iran, through insightful, thought-provoking, and entertaining comic strips. She explores the impact of a shifting political climate and national turmoil through the innocent yet discerning eyes of a child. Managing to tackle these large themes with grace and humor, Satrapi also depicts more personal experiences, including the immense love she holds for her family and community. 

7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- Mystery/Historical Fiction 

Where the Crawdads Sing is an atmospheric mystery set in southern marshes in the 1970s. Kya Clark, an orphaned girl living alone in the wild and known by locals as “Marsh Girl” is accused of murder. The book follows her life and story as well as her trial, leaving it up to the reader to interpret various clues and red herrings. A film adaptation of the novel is set to be released in mid-July.  

8. Recursion by Blake Crouch- Science Fiction 

This mind-bending futuristic novel explores a world in which memory is not necessarily truth, where an unknown disease gives people memories of a life that they have not lived. Full of unforeseeable twists and turns as well as thought-provoking questions about the links between memory and identity, this novel is sure to keep you guessing until the very end. 

9. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing- Nonfiction

This book crosses genres, blending memoir with insightful exploration of arts, culture, and social commentary, drawing from a multitude of voices in an attempt to define and explain the meaning of loneliness. To be human is to be lonely at times, and reading Laing’s musings on the subject somehow leaves the reader with a sense of understanding and solidarity that is paradoxically unifying.  

10. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer- Short Stories/Literary Fiction

How to Breathe Underwater is a collection of short stories that depicts the triumphs and tragedies of youth. Each of the nine stories is rich with emotion, spellbinding description and rich, evocative language that is sure to leave the reader wishing for more.