Summer reading

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Jacob Jankowski, the book’s main character, literally jumps right into the story as he hops a train to join the Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show on earth. This book has many powerful elements: the struggle of circus life during the Great Depression, the power and pain of memories, and of course a daunting romance.

Why read it? The circus life portrayed in this novel is raw and riveting. It allows the reader into a world of performance at its most insulting, and leads you into the depths of morality and self-worth. Not to mention the book has also been recently made into a feature film.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

From the author of Everything is Illuminated, this novel is narrated by various characters. The primary story focuses is on 9-year-old Oskar Schell through his journey to uncover the answer to the last riddle given to him by his father, who died in the World Trade Center collapse. The book also follows Oskar’s grandmother and grandfather through the development of their love and into the WWII bombing in Dresden.

Why read it? Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close presents ideas of delicate creation and provokes the complete expanse of emotion. This is a story of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. And is, by far, one of my absolute favorite books.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby throws the most extravagant and lavish parties in the 1920s. The shallow party goers represent 20s glam at its best. And Gatsby himself is living the American Dream. The Great Gatsby delves into the notion that “money can’t buy happiness” and that even with hundreds of guests a night, a man can still feel entirely alone.

Why read it? Not only is it a classic, it’s a great read. From the vivid parties to the subtle need for companionship, The Great Gatsby shows life at its best, and at its worst.

Nox by Anne Carson

This Book-in-a-box opens accordion style. Nox may be classified as a book of poetry, but it’s not just a book of poems. It’s more of a scrapbook memorial to her brother containing photos, paintings, poems and handwritten letters amongst many other keepsakes.

Why read it? The first page of the book is a poem written in Latin, but there is no translation in footnotes neatly below. Instead, bit by bit, the poem is defined to you throughout the book, and by the end you finally have the entire meaning.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

Despite its overall simplicity, the message has an astounding depth. The Stranger attempts to answer questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” or ” What makes you human?” along with many other philosophical questions. This book questions and develops the meaning of and influences on human perception.

Why read it? If you have an interest in existentialism or philosophy this is definitely a book for you.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury knows how to deliver classics, so you know that you’re in good hands, but if that doesn’t convince you, here are a few details that might help. The Martian Chronicles is a collection of short stories about man’s conquest on Mars. It’s a direct examination of human nature and focuses primarily on the fear of the unknown.

Why read it? Because it’s an eloquent post apocalyptic sci fi novel written by Ray Bradbury. What more do I need to say? It’s bloody brilliant.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves is Mark Z. Danielewski’s debut novel. This complex piece of metafiction has many layers. It’s told in documentary style, and despite convincing footnotes, appears to be entirely fiction. The many layers of this novel make it hard to give any reasonably brief and understandable synopsis. My only advice: come ready to untangle the layers, and don’t expect anything to be straightforward.

Why read it? It’s a masterpiece. Each layer builds it up to a monstrosity to keep up with but delivers a powerful message that’s worth the journey.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw give the world a haunting but classic love story. Exploring romance and tragedy, Wuthering Heights will remain with you long after you finish reading.

Why read it? “If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

You’re not about to step into a novel about a man with the superpower to make himself invisible; instead, you’re about to entering a powerful allegory of social invisibility due to the color of your skin. Invisible Man is about the loss of identity, of your voice and therefore, of your visibility entirely. Invisible Man will give you insight into another individual’s alienation. Not only will it make you sympathetic, it will also instill a sense of camaraderie within you.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This story encompasses themes of power, greed, envy, lust, love and especially of difference. The story jumps between various narrators as we get to see from the eyes of a great lord, then a bastard son, and a young girl recently wed in an arranged marriage. The many themes and characters give the story a great depth that allows for a wide range of readers to find at least one character with which they hold some common ground. The characters are so real you will quickly find yourself enveloped into the plot. Also it has recently been made into an HBO series, so once you finish reading this book along with the rest of the series, you’ll be just in time to rent the entire season!

Why read it? Each layer builds it up to a monstrosity to keep up with, but delivers a powerful message that’s worth the journey.

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