Summer is here again! With school out and the return of long summer days, nothing beats lounging around poolside with a good book. If you need some book ideas this summer, The Diva Team has you covered! In this Campus Diva blog post, three of our Divas have shared some of their favorite book recommendations, so grab a summer smoothie and one of these literary treasures to help keep you company in the sun.
1) Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes is the creator and screenwriter for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Rhimes is both the author and main character is this book! What could be better? Rhimes uses the power of self-experience to portray the idea of saying “yes” to things you normally wouldn’t. Throughout this book, she rules the world of television, and teaches her audience how to rule their own lives. People who watch Shonda Rhimes’s shows would probably never know Rhimes behind the scenes; yet she describes in detail how she went from having major anxiety attacks and feeling uncomfortable with herself, to being a happy, life-embracing, self-loving woman. By using her quick wit and her ability to pull on emotion, this book is the perfect combination of humor and inspiration. Buzzfeed raves that “you’ll want to standup and cheer when she takes control, remakes her life, and learns to love herself.” So make like Olivia Pope (the character in the show Scandal), grab a glass of red wine and popcorn, and enjoy this truly empowering and hilarious read.
2) The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Kelsea grew up in secret, in a small remote cottage, knowing only two things for certain: 1. She would grow up to be the queen of the Tearling. 2. Many people would try to kill her before this ever happened.
In this, the first book of the trilogy, Kelsea leaves the cottage and her childhood behind to take back control of her kingdom and to learn what it truly means to be queen in a world where there are only difficult decisions to make. From fighting for her life to defending her long suffering people, Kelsea learns and must deal with the outcome of the many secrets kept from her since birth, including but not limited to navigate the power emanating from the mysterious jewel around her neck – a jewel that marks her as the true Tear queen. Kelsea is one of the most interesting female characters in a current fantasy fiction series. This book is simultaneously delicious, disturbing, and delightful. Overall, this is a great summer read. You will immediately want to pick up the second book The Invasion of the Tearling and then join the rest of us waiting with bated breath for book 3, The Fate of the Tearling (slotted for release on November 29th).
3) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This classic should be on any and all reading lists. Period. If you have not yet read The Handmaid’s Tale… well, we’ll just give you a moment to go ahead and do that now and then you can check out the rest of this list.
After a revolution in what looks like present day U.S., the Republic of Gilead is formed, a dystopian society in which there is a ruling class and the birth rate is so low that women who are fertile are kept as “handmaids” by the ruling class for reproductive purposes, making their entire value their wombs and their whole existence revolve around breeding. The story is told solely from the perspective of one of the handmaids named Offred (which literally means “Of Fred”), as she lives out her day-to-day life in Gilead with other handmaids while The Commander and his wife rule over the household with a totalitarian grip. This startling novel reminds us that while rights can be hard-earned, they can also be easily taken for granted.
Plus, reading this classic novel will mean you’ll be ready for next year’s release of The Handmaid’s Tale TV series from Hulu starring Elizabeth Moss!
4) You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
Are you having trouble finding who you are? Or are you not living the life you want? Then this book is for you! Jen Sincero is a world-travelling success coach who focuses on money and self-appreciation. She uses her personal experiences to illustrate how to move on from things that are holding you back, which is an even more empowering thought when it comes from a writer who claims to have once considered herself a “loser.” This book teaches you how to love yourself and your life, while making the necessary changes to dominate and take control of your own destiny. Bustle tells us that, “if you’re looking for purple unicorns and rainbows you won’t find them here, what you will find are practical and easy ways to connect with your inner badass and change your life.” When you realize enough is enough, pick up this book that will help you realize your potential and release your inner badass. This book is a poignant reminder that you create your reality.
5) The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Sometimes a pond can be an entire ocean. Only a master craftsman like Neil Gaiman can paint a world for us that is simultaneously deeply introspective and incredibly magical. This book will remind you of when you were a child and the impossible was entirely possible and a pond could contain an entire ocean. Moreover, it is a poignant reminder that as children we learn so much about joy, loss, and yes even about dangers (both imagined and lived) and sometimes taking that walk down that lane of memories and peering into that ocean of childhood experiences can remind us how we got to where we are. Neil Gaiman’s writing style in this novel is a delight. It will welcome and envelop you into this tale that really is at its heart of hearts, one about searching for or remembering your identity and carrying into adulthood the lessons of a childhood left behind.
6) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This classic novel by famous feminist writer and poet, Sylvia Plath, should be on everyone’s book shelf. The story follows Esther Greenwood, an observant young woman who wins a scholarship to be a model for a prestigious magazine in New York City in the 1950’s. Esther seems to have it all according to everyone around her, but she is unimpressed by the glamour and glitz of big city life and modelling; a life that many young women her age could only dream of. Esther doesn’t fit in in New York, she doesn’t fit in to the cultural norms of what her life path should look like, and she doesn’t fit into the ideals of womanhood. When she returns home from her internship, she is in low spirits and contemplates her life, career, and relationship status. On the brink of insanity, Esther falls into a depression and is institutionalized. She describes her depression as being inside of a bell jar, unable to breath, and stifled by her life.
We recommend reading this hauntingly beautiful novel this summer because it’s themes of mental illness while poignant are also immensely thought provoking.
7) The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Secret Life of Bees is a beautiful and uplifting, coming-of-age story about the strength that can be found in a community of women. Set in 1964 in South Carolina, the story follows 14-year-old Lily Owens who runs away from her abusive father with her African-American maid and friend, Rosaleen. Unsure of where to go, Lily and Rosaleen see a jar of honey with a picture of the Black Virgin Mary on it at a local corner store and decide to go to where that jar of honey was made. The trail leads them to a bee farm run by the Boatwright sister’s, three charismatic and wise African-American women, who agree to take the two travelers into their home. Lily not only finds solace in the three sisters and their beekeeping farm, but she also learns about the mystery behind her mother’s death.
This story will make you laugh, smile, and cry all at once while still being a quick and easy summer read. But most of all, you will appreciate the fact that nature herself becomes a character in this book, as the bees and their honey mimic the lifeblood and power of the sisterhood household.
8) Gregor the Overlander (The Underland Chronicles) by Suzanne Collins
Beware, Underlanders, time hangs by a thread
The hunters are hunted, white water runs red.
The gnawers will strike to extinguish the rest.
The hope of the hopeless resides in a quest
~ Suzanne Collins, Gregor the Overlander
Gregor is not like most 11-year-old boys. Ever since his father disappeared – two years, seven months and thirteen days ago – he has had to take care of his little sisters while his mother keeps the family afloat. When his baby sister, Boots, falls through a vent in their laundry room, Gregor finds himself in a war torn world miles below New York City where he must play the part of the Warrior and fulfil his role in a cryptic prophecy.
Written by Suzanne Collins (of The Hunger Games fame), this highly addictive young adult series features some of the most memorable characters imaginable, including the violet skinned people of Regalia, bats, rats, and even cockroaches. There are five books in this series and you will want to read them in a single sitting, before joining the fan base that writes Suzanne Collins letters daily asking for a sixth book. Gregor the Overlander and the Underland Chronicles reminds us to always seek light in the darkness for where there is light there is hope and life.
9) Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates
Set in the rock and roll era of the 1960’s in a small, fictional town of Hammond, New York, Foxfire is the story of 5 girls who meet in high school and start a girl gang after bonding over a shared sense of experiencing sexism, oppression, and inequality in their lives and their community. Maddy, Goldie, Lana, and Rita are led by gang leader Margaret “Legs” Sadovsky into solidifying the gang by getting tattoos of the gang’s symbol: a red flame. Their first act as a gang is to publicly humiliate one of their high school teachers for behaving very inappropriately, even sexually, towards Rita. After feeling empowered by this initial victory, this mission-driven gang’s next actions include: attacking Maddy’s cruel uncle, protesting an animal shelter to end animal cruelty and also donating money to charity. But after the gang goes on a joy ride and crashes the car, things start to go downhill.
This novel is a glorious mix between Animal Farm and Kiernan Shipka’s Sally from Mad Men when she attends boarding school and sneaks boys up into her room. It is both a delightful and insightful summer read: rebellious yet reveals the cynical powers of the status quo.
10) The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship, A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz
One must be able to fall in love with themselves before falling in love with others – that is the idea behind the book The Mastery of Love. Don Miguel Ruiz explains that you cannot put your happiness in others’ hands, but rather you must fill that void yourself. The harsh reality is that modern day has destroyed the concept of relationships, and this book helps remind us that we must love someone for all that they are in order to experience true love. If you are looking for a book that focuses on relationships, loving yourself and the fault in perfection, than this is an awesome book for you! Shed the fear-based beliefs about love as love is not supposed to lead to drama and sadness. Love yourself, forgive yourself, and let go of all that is tearing you down. Once you become love, everything around you embodies love. This book will help you open your heart and help you embrace other relationships that life has to offer.