College-bound students do their summer reading

I was an AP Lit teacher for nine years, so I have fond memories of summer reading. I always read everything I assigned to my students, every year. So I did the summer reading along with them (or at least a few of them. I'm not naive, most of them didn't do the summer reading). 

You've got, more or less, a month left of summer. If you haven't completed your assigned summer reading yet, now is the time. You must read your summer reading assignments. 

I understand: it's really easy to blow off your summer reading. You've got other things going on. There's probably only going to be a single test or assignment over the reading, and a quick conversation with a friend who read it or a quick perusal of a summary will usually be all you need for that test. You may have some philosophical argument against doing school work when school isn't in session, or you may find the reading boring. You may really intend to do the reading, some time, eventually, but procrastinate until you just don't get it done. You've probably blown off your summer reading before, and it probably wasn't too big a problem for you.

But here's the thing: no college-bound student should skip the summer reading.

The real reason to do your summer reading has little to do with the book, the class, or the test. It's simply that we only get good at things that we practice. Aristotle said "we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Actually, Aristotle only sort-of said this). So when you blow off the summer reading and then have to cover your tracks, you're practicing the habits of procrastinating, lying, cheating, and doing things half-way. Those are not useful habits in college, and certainly not after college. 

Instead, doing your summer reading gives you an opportunity to practice some really useful skills. Reading and thinking are useful, for sure. And so is time management. And following through on commitments. And exploring new interests. And keeping your cool when the studying gets tough. If it helps, just imagine you're in a training montage getting ready for something grand. But do your summer reading!

What if you're one of the students who didn't get any summer reading assigned? I asked a group of smart people from different walks of life (i.e. my Facebook friends) to recommend a book written in the past three years. Here's what they gave me—it’s a long and varied list. I haven't read all of them (or even heard of all of them), so I can't personally vouch for the books. But I can vouch for my friends.

Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow.

Ng, Little Fires Everywhere.

Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Darnielle, Universal Harvester

Sullivan, Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Lamster, Man in the Glass House.

Lange, The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Shapes Independent Kids.

Grossman, A Horse Walks Into a Bar.

Washington, Lot: Stories.

Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.

Zumas, Red Clocks.

Hamid, Exit West.

Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves.

Coleman, Terra Nullius.

Sylvester, Everyone Knows You Go Home.

Mbue, Behold the Dreamers.

Talaga, Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City.

Pan, The Astonishing Color of After.

Westover, Educated: A Memoir.

Valley, Diaspora Boy.

Lazenby, Infinity to Dine.

Olivarez, Citizen Illegal.

Powers, The Overstory.

Mohr, Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Lukianoff and Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

Edugyan, Washington Black.

Bergner, Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family.

Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

Horn, Eternal Life.

Alderman, The Power.

Carreyou, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.

Thanks for reading! Please send this to someone who would like to read it, or share it on your social networks. I’m on my summer schedule, which means I’ll only have posts on Thursday for a while. I’ll be back next week.

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Photo by Angela Elisabeth.

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