Summer Reading 2011: Suggestions from Teens

Summer is coming, and now is the perfect time to start compiling your “Must Read” list for this summer. Whether you are planning to tackle a stack of new (or new to you) books or revisit some of your favorites, the summer offers the chance to read, reflect, and refresh yourself.
We asked some teens “What books or magazines do you plan to read (or reread) this summer and why?” Here are their responses:

Eric, a student at Brookline High School, is looking forward to reading about his favorite athletes in Sports Illustrated and ESPN Magazine.
If You Like Reading About Sports, you might be interested in the new book by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, Those Guys Have all the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN. For baseball fans, Roger Kahn’s classic explores the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers leading up to their World Series win in 1955 in The Boys of Summer. If you have hockey on the brain because of the Stanley Cup Finals, The Game by Ken Dryden gives an insider’s look at the world of professional hockey.

Emma is looking forward to reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. She also wants to finish the Harry Potter series, since she only started reading the books last year.
If You Liked Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert released a follow-up in 2010 called Committed: A Love Story.

Lesley hopes to reread John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. ”It’s beautifully written, but not the frivolous and overly embellished writing that you find so often,” said Lesley. “His writing is clean and concise and the plot is extremely well executed. Loose ends tie themselves together at the end like highbrow episodes of Seinfeld, in print.”
If You Liked A Prayer for Owen Meany, you should check out John Irving’s other works, such as The World According to Garp. Also, you might be interested in The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, which Irving greatly admired (and supposedly paid homage to in Owen Meany).

All-Time Favorites

Several clients suggested F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby. Ollie in particular was impressed by “its language and the way it is written.” Besides being a constant presence on many a “Best Book” list, this classic’s lyrical prose and cultural presence make it a book perfect for reading and rereading. As an added bonus, most of the plot takes place during the hazy months of summer. Slip into your best tennis whites, grab a cool drink, and take a trip into the scandalous world of 1920s New York.
If You Like The Great Gatsby, you might want to explore Fitzgerald’s other novels, such as Tender is the Night, and his underrated but compelling short stories. You can also read some Ernest Hemingway, another Lost Generation author and occasional friend of Fitzgerald.

Ollie also suggests The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which gives readers a glimpse into the tumultuous history of Afghanistan. As Ollie notes, it is an “awesome story, extremely well written, and very entertaining.”
If You Like The Kite Runner, you might like Hosseini’s second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, which focuses on the lives of two Afghan women.

Eric’s favorite books include Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, which is a perennial favorite with teens (this book has been frequently recommend in past student surveys). Straddling the line between fiction and non-fiction, The Things They Carried offers compelling storytelling and writing, even as it leaves you scratching your head trying to separate truth from fiction.
If You Like The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s critically acclaimed autobiography If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home addresses many of the same themes and focuses on the author’s experiences in Vietnam.

Emma’s favorites include the works of Jodi Picoult as well as Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, which focuses on the themes of racism, friendship, and family relationships.
If You Like The Secret Life of Bees, another coming-of-age book that includes many similar themes is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

If you are looking for something a bit more macabre, Lesley suggests the “weird and gruesome” short stories of Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor, whose work often employs the Southern Gothic style, is perhaps most famous for the story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”
If You Like Flannery O’Connor and the Southern Gothic style, you should definitely check out the works by William Faulkner, particularly his novel As I Lay Dying and his short story (and literature textbook mainstay) “A Rose for Emily.”

One of Kelly’s favorite books is The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, which explores the relationships between immigrant mothers and their Chinese American daughters.
If You Like The Joy Luck Club, we recommend that you read Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, which is a multi-genre collection of nonfiction writings.

Of course, if you’re stuck in a reading rut, there are many resources to help you find something new and exciting. There are the usual suspects, like our past book suggestions (from 2010 and 2009) and NPR’s list of the top 100 beach reads, taken from their listener’s suggestions. There are also sites like and What Should I Read Next?, which let you put in books and authors and then give you suggestions based on them.

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