Southerner Summer Reading Selections

Alexander Voses recommends And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Mystery novels, as a genre, just feel like summer books to me. What better way is there to pass your summer days away than unraveling a masterfully crafted puzzle of deception and intrigue? Agatha Christie is renowned by many as the best mystery writer of all time; And Then There Were None is the perfect example to prove why. The story of a slowly diminishing group of visitors to a remote island, this book will have you on the edge of your seat until the final page.


Amanda Putter recommends The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Summer is upon us and so comes endless days spent outside in the sun. If you are looking for a quick read while you are bathing in the sun, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the book for you. The book is written as a collection of journal entries collected throughout the school year by a high school freshman named Charlie. Charlie suffers from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. As you watch Charlie navigate these struggles with his newfound group of friends, you can’t help but want to join them. The perfect realistic fiction book for high schoolers, you will find yourself wanting to hug Charlie through the pages by the end of the book.


Lilac Zhang recommends Untamed by Glennon Doyle

When I think of summer, I think of freedom: the freedom from school, routine, and assignments. But there’s also the freedom to be yourself. In Untamed, renowned author Glennon Doyle explores topics of sexuality, gender, race, identity, and self-love. This book is one filled with life lessons about simply being yourself—about being human. From small anecdotes about her kids to the inexplicable magic of meeting her wife, Doyle tells every story to be told. Especially to female and/or queer readers, Untamed is quite the wake-up call to loving and accepting who you are.


Joy Song recommends The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s a classic for a reason. Set in the roaring twenties, this novel revolves around Jay Gatsby, a millionaire who seems to have everything—except the woman he loves, Daisy Buchanan. Enter Nick Carraway: he’s the key to reuniting Gatsby with Daisy. This is much easier said than done because Daisy is already married to the wealthy Tom Buchanan. From the vivid imagery and complex structure, F. Scott Fitzgerald skillfully incorporates universal themes still applicable to our lives today. It’s the perfect nine-chapter book to read by the beach or on an airplane—you’ll only put it down once you’re done.


Farah Daredia recommends Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Today, some of you might know Trevor Noah as the host of the Daily Show. But in this memoir, Noah shares his story of life in a world where he wasn’t supposed to exist and how, with the help of his mother, he grew up into who he is today: an incredibly successful comedian who was named one of “The 35 Most Powerful People in New York Media” by The Hollywood Reporter in 2017 and 2018 and the recipient of an MTV Africa Music Award and a Primetime Emmy Award from 11 nominations. So, join Trevor Noah as he paints a portrait of life in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa in the 80s and 90s. Through a deeply personal and touching recounting of his family’s history within the context of a racist society, Noah utilizes his unique voice and life experience to expose the insensibility of systemic racism. With humor and conversational prose thrown into the mix of his biographical narrative, this thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, and perspective-shifting memoir is just perfect to read before starting a new year. 


Ruisong Lan recommends We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

For many, summer is a wonderful time filled with joy, laughter, and endless opportunities. But for 17 year old Cadence Sinclair, the narrator of the novel We Were Liars, summer is the bridge between broken promises and everlasting traumas. Being strong, beautiful, and rich, the Sinclair family is as perfect as a family can be. However, this mirage of perfection is merely a facade that shadows over the family’s internal chaos. The narration alternates between past and present as Cadence details how blissful moments of family time could spiral into a nightmare filled with anger, pain, and tragedy. While Cadence comes to terms with the memories she tries so desperately to forget, readers are drawn in by her powerful voice as they discover the hideous truth of what really happened during that painful summer night. If you ever find yourself to be too happy during your summer break, this book is perfect for you to remember how even the brightest days can be turned into nights of never ending darkness.


Sophia Liu recommends Imagine Us, The Swarm by Muriel Leung

How do you recollect a lineage of silence? Of violence eschewed under tormented tongues? Of queer and colored bodies acted upon by greater systems of power? In Muriel Leung’s second collection, Imagine Us, The Swarm, she reinvents poetic forms to challenge intergenerational trauma and piety. A quick read, Leung’s seven hybrid pieces engrave her own history—conquering grief, displacement, labor, illness, and womanhood. Her lines are beautifully lyrical, viscerally intimate, and rigorously political. “How do you write a history that is both [yours] and [not yours] but an extension of an improbable future?” Leung asks. “What does it mean that our lungs are 90 percent water, and yet, we are capsized every time?” 


Amy Susnea recommends Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Although not your typical summer read, Giovanni’s Room tells the story of a Parisian affair between an American and Italian man. However romantic that may sound at first, the book opens with the assurance of tragedy, and their ultimate unhappy end haunts the narrative like a specter, rendering even the most romantic moment bittersweet. Giovanni’s Room—first published in the fifties—handles heavy themes of masculinity, alienation, and sexuality with empathy and grace; David, the protagonist, is made complex and empathetic by the depth and care of Baldwin’s writing. Every choice he makes is painful but understandable, every action a step towards his heart wrenching fate. Beautifully written, this book will take you on a somber journey of a love and loss that devours.


Ryan Chen recommends A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

During the summer, there are two types of people: there are those who enjoy bathing themselves in the sweltering heat of the sun outside and there are those who enjoy kicking back in the invigorating air conditioning inside. Regardless of which type of person you are, summer is always a time in which the bibliophile can indulge in their favorite pastime: binge reading. But with which genre? Perhaps a combination of romance and fantasy? Consider A Court of Thorns and Roses, a young adult fiction novel by Sarah J. Maas. This story takes place in a mythical land where mortals live in fear of fae, highly magical immortal beasts. When our 19-year-old mortal protagonist, Feyre Archeron, accidentally kills a faerie disguised as a wolf while hunting, Tamlin, a high fae, immediately demands that she die or return with him to the faerie realm of Prythian as compensation for the death of his friend. In repenting her sins, Feyre agrees to go to Prythian and remain there alongside Tamlin. Justifiably, Feyre develops a sense of paranoia and dreads every moment while she lives amongst the fae. But soon, that all begins to change as she explores an entirely new side of the fae. Filled with moments of twists and tension, this novel will keep you at the edge of your seat all summer long.


Richard Zhuang recommends Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

While summer is typically associated with frolicking in the outdoors and enjoying the beautiful bright weather, sometimes it is better to retreat from the sweltering heat and stay inside, reaping the benefits of modern comforts like air conditioning, television, and computers. Eliza Mirk, the protagonist of Eliza and Her Monsters, would certainly prefer the latter. Eliza suffers from social anxiety, but unbeknownst to anyone else, she is actually the famous LadyConstellation, author of the popular web comic Monstrous Sea. Initially, Eliza doesn’t want to socialize with others—she would rather chat with her online friends and fans, work on her comic, or watch cheesy soap operas in her room. However, as Eliza begins opening up to others, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to maintain her solitary lifestyle, and she starts learning more about herself and her relationship with others. This well-written novel is an excellent modern portrayal of teenage perspectives and relationships and will certainly keep you entertained this summer.