Summer is coming up and that means sunny days and plenty of idle time to catch up on your reading, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. Here are five books that have significantly affected me, almost all of which were assigned to me in an English class over the last four years. All of these, except for Warriors Don’t Cry, I think, sit next to my bed in a big plastic box of books. The reviews I wrote were copied from my Goodreads.com account where I rate books I read and review them for other people considering them.
1. Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
I read this book my freshman year of high school in my Pre-AP English class, and I swear it was one of the most affecting books I’ve read. I was still making my transition from young adult fiction to real, deep literature, and this story blew me away. It’s Melba Pattillo Beals’s first person account of what it was like to be one of the Little Rock Nine: the first nine black students who attended Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. This girl was the same age as me when all of this happened, but she endured such amazing events and experiences that I could not even have conceived of at the time. This was the first time that I felt connected to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, since the narrative was so intimate (written like a diary). I admire the Little Rock Nine’s bravery and I still get a little choked up thinking about the huge sacrifices they made to serve a greater cause: man’s equality in the United States. I would recommend this book to anyone.
2. True Tales of American Life edited by Paul Auster
A collection of short essays and stories divided into several categories (Animals, Objects, Families, Slapstick, Strangers,War, Love, etc.), this book made me feel tiny in such a huge world. There are stories of supernatural, unrealistic things happening in real life, as well as reflections and meditations on the smallest and simplest things, such as the way an olive floats in a fresh martini. It’s an eclectic collage of what all it is like to be an American. It seemed to heighten my senses as well as my appreciation of life and all its subtle nuances.
3. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
This book brought me back to the days of young adult fiction with its strong narrative and simple plot line. While the story is ultimately a search for identity, a task which immigrants and their children face constantly in this country, the plot is simple enough to follow. It’s entertaining in its basic narrative while still addressing an issue that affects much of the population. I can’t wait to read her collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000.
4. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
Who knew that a simple grammar book could bring such entertainment? This book illuminated so much about the English language that had previously lived in an obscure fog in my mind. I love this. I need this. Read it if you haven’t.
5. I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World by Martin Luther King, Jr.
An influential piece of literature in every way. Knowledge of its purpose and ultimate goal is completely crucial to a rounded outlook on society, both in its progressive and conservative aspects. Read it if you haven’t. It can be dense at some points and the themes frequently repeat themselves, but it’s like taking your vitamins: any minor drawback will be replaced with a lifetime of good health.