As the middle of the semester approaches, college students are often overwhelmed by assignments and exams. It can be difficult to find time to take a break from studying during this hectic time. It is easy to forget about reading for pleasure as our schedules become increasingly busy. While it can be challenging to find time to read for fun, it is a practice that is beneficial to high levels of stress and can allay feelings of indifference with schoolwork. Instead of watching Netflix or aimlessly scrolling through social media during a study break, try picking up one of these books below. Not only are all the stories captivating, but they are also very inspiring. Scan the summaries below and read one of these novels that catches your eye during your next study break!
1. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
An Iowa native, Bill Bryson decided to reconnect with his mother country by hiking the length of the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail after spending 20 years in England. Inspired by the camping section of his local sporting goods store, Bryson dives into the wilderness and emerges with a humorous account of a novice hiker learning difficult lessons about self-reliance. Bryson accepts the Appalachian Trail with amazement and comedy. Perhaps most entertaining is Bryson’s crude and grumpy companion, Katz. The uneasy but always entertaining relationship between Bryson and Katz keeps their never ceases to make the hike interesting. Bryson completes the Appalachian Trail and he chronicles his adventure with fascinating insight and knowledge.
2. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
This captivating book is a compilation of Malcolm Gladwell’s most popular columns from The New Yorker. Throughout the several tales told in the book, Gladwell explains fascinating phenomena in a charismatic way. Gladwell meets with the “king of the American kitchen” Ron Popeil as he sells rotisserie chickens and talks with Caesar Milan, the “dog whisperer”, to learn the secrets of calming misbehaved canines with the touch of a hand. Gladwell has written several books that change the way the readers view the world but What the Dog Saw captures the highlights of his writing over the course his time at The New Yorker.
3. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Kidnapped in Washington, D.C. and sold in to slavery where he would work for twelve years, Solomon Northup’s narrative is both heart wrenching and inspiring. Northup gives an account for the torturous and humiliating life as a slave on various plantations in Bayou Boeuf. Northup describes his time as an enslaved man by providing vivid details about cotton and sugar cultivation on Louisiana plantations. Additionally, he offers insight to the horrors of the slave trade and slave markets in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans. Northup’s vocabulary and way with words is powerful as he writes with sharp awareness of the emotions he experienced throughout the twelve years he was separated from his family.
4. Room by Emma Donoghue
Through the eyes of five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. Told from Jack’s perspective, Room is an entrancing tale. While Room is home to Jack, it is a prison for his mother who has been kidnapped by Old Nick. With fierce determination and prevailing love, Ma formulates an escape plan that relies on Jack’s bravery and a lot of luck. Room is a celebration of the never-ending love between a mother and child. The novel itself a is brilliantly written book about the journey from one world to another.
5. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in South Carolina in the mid 1960s, The Secret Life of Bees tells the tale of Lily Owens, whose life has been formed based upon the murky memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Rosaleen, Lily’s fierce African American stand-in mother, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides that they should both escape. They run to Tiburon, South Carolina, a town where the secrets of her mother’s past are held. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is exposed into the wild world of beekeeping, honey making, and the Black Madonna. This is extraordinary novel about divine female power is a story that will be passed on for centuries.
6. Same Kind of Different as Me by Denver Moore, Lynn Vincent, and Ron Hall
This book is particularly interesting because it is a dually voiced autobiography. The voices of the narrators alternate about every other chapter. The story follows Denver Moore, a poor black man who eventually becomes homeless and drifts around Texas. Denver is a spiritual man who has a skill for surviving, whether on the streets or in prison. Ron Hall is an educated, white Texan raised in comfort, who has accumulated a fortune through trading fine art. Their relationship unfolds in narrative written to reflect their own life experiences. Ron’s wife, Deborah, is able to encourage the two men to come together before her untimely passing.
7. Wonder by R.J. Pelacio
Centered around ten-year-old Auggie, Wonder is an inspirational and uplifting book to all who read it. Auggie has a genetic facial deformity and has been homeschooled until fifth grade, when he decides to enter a brick and mortar middle school. The novel follows Auggie through middle school and documents his experience in school, which is altered due to his facial deformity as he must cope with a range of reactions from his classmates. Auggie is bullied and his family faces hardships throughout the book, but goodness eventually unfolds from Auggie’s middle school experience as he eventually flourishes in the new environment.
Written By: Cameron Gaubert