I know what you're thinking: the school year just ended! Why must you make me use my brain?
Calm down, friends. I'm merely encouraging you to use some of your free time doing that wild and crazy thing called reading for pleasure. You likely didn't have time for it throughout the school year, and there's no way you're going to spend every last minute at the beach.
So, without further ado, here's my list of worthwhile, meaningful, thought-provoking fiction to make your summer a little more interesting.
1. The Harry Potter series
Truly, this one goes without saying, but if you need me to say it, READ HARRY POTTER. Start with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and don't stop until you've had your fill. Not only is the series wildly entertaining in every way imaginable, but it also shows the beauty of friendship, bravery, love, and everything in between. J.K. Rowling breathtakingly illustrates the importance of acceptance and tolerance throughout her seven-part battle between good and evil. If you've ever felt scared and alone, read these books. If you've ever felt misunderstood, read these books. If you've only seen the movies, READ THESE BOOKS.
2. The Hunger Games trilogy
At the surface, this series by Suzanne Collins is an exemplary work of dystopian fiction, with action, star-crossed romance, and a fiercely courageous protagonist. Under the surface, however, is a beautifully written, violent exploration of the consequences of war. You'll find yourself cheering for Katniss at every turn, as you follow the Mockingjay on her journey to the Capital.
3. The Alchemist
This famous fable is required reading in schools worldwide, and for good reason. Written by Paulo Coelho, it tells the story of Santiago, a young boy in pursuit of his wildest dreams. In his search of riches, he finds so much more. The Alchemist helps readers remember to follow their dreams and pursue self-discovery in spite of fear.
4. Thirteen Reasons Why (Trigger Warning)
This book was recently made into an explosive Netflix show, and for good reason. Following Hannah's very own narrated tapes, Thirteen Reasons Why tells listeners the various reasons she chose to end her life. Make no mistake: this is an extremely difficult, painful read. It explicitly illustrates ******* and other forms of sexual assault, as well as bullying, self-harm and suicide. It was intended to be hard to process, and it was written to spark the hard conversations that many are afraid to have. The issues brought up are extremely relevant to young adults and people in general, and this book does an excellent job of giving context to readers. Be kind to yourself when reading, but please… read this book.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird
Another classic, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will take you on a journey of racial tension, discrimination and economic inequality through the lens of Scout, a young tomboy living in the 1950's deep south. I can guarantee you will have to read this for school, but please do so when you can do it at your own pace. This is a phenomenal read and truly changed fiction as we know it today.
Read. Read when you need a break, read when you're alone, read when you're in public, whenever. Just do it. Not only is it immensely enjoyable, but it'll also help keep your brain stimulated until those dreaded classes start up again come September. Not to mention, there's a relatively high chance some of these titles will be required reading at one point or another; many of them show vast character development and explore deep societal and psychological issues.