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Reader's List: All the Books to Read Before Going Back to School

Reader's List: All the Books to Read Before Going Back to School

After having your fair share of summer fun, consider picking up a book from our reader’s list and getting lost in a different world.


5 min read

August 14, 2021

Reading isn’t exactly a bucket list summer activity for many students, but these books right here show why it should be. After having your fair share of careless summer fun, consider picking up a book from our reader’s list and getting lost in a different world. From beloved classics to modern graphic novels, these books explore ever-relevant topics any student navigating life could benefit from and relate to. Without further ado, these are the top books to read before going back to school.

Top Books To Read Before September Rolls In

Man Enough transcends the limitations of media to create a community with reimagined masculinity.

1. Man Enough: Undefining my Masculinity

Author: Justin Baldoni

Originally published: 2021

North of Trinidad Harbor and Pier lies a lengthy expanse of sandy beach known as Trinidad State Beach. While there are many water sports to enjoy along the shore, one activity to try is tide pooling if you're not into splashing about. Go to College Cove near the northernmost part of the beach for the best tidal pool exploring.

This is a really picturesque, short trek to get to this tidal pool attraction in California. You'll stroll past blooming wildflowers in season, through wooded areas, across open bluffs, and down to the shore. When you see the natural arch at the north end of Trinidad State Beach, you'll know you've arrived.

Navigating life in high school or college is hard as it is, and sometimes, all you need is to see someone raising the same questions as you and showing you that you’re not alone in your fight. This book belongs on a student's reader’s list because that’s what it does, and it does it so well. 

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2. What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self

Author: Ellyn Spragins

Originally published: 2006

For a good dose of pure motivation, add What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self to your back-to-school reader’s list. This moving collection combines letters from 41 famous women addressed to their younger selves full of advice and insight on what they wish they knew when they were younger. You’ll find letters from famous Californian women in the book like Maya Angelou, as well as other inspirational and remarkable women like Madeleine Albright, Queen Noor of Jordan, and more.

3. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Author: Cheryl Strayed

Originally published: 2012

If reading inspirational letters isn’t something you’re interested in, take the less straightforward route and read a book about a motivational true story. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail tells the story of author Cheryl Strayed, who at 22, had already thought her life was over. She had lost her mother and her marriage, and with nothing else to lose, decided to embark on a journey of a lifetime, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Told grippingly with plenty of warmth and humor, this powerful story is a must-add on any reader’s list—it’s bound to inspire and strengthen anyone on their own personal journey.

4. Kindred

Author: Octavia E. Butler

Originally published: 1979

Kindred is as important today as it has ever been and belongs on your reading list—it’s a groundbreaking, genre-bending novel that explores the serious topics of slavery and prejudice through an exciting and thought-provoking approach. This book tells the story of a young African American writer forced to shuffle between her 20th century life in Los Angeles and the drastically different world of a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation through time travel.

Pasadena-native Octavia Butler, an African American woman, was a pioneer in science fiction writing, a field historically dominated by white men. Kindred, which combines elements of sci-fi with the U.S. slave narrative is perhaps her most famous work and one of the great novels of all time.

There There was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. The book was also awarded a Gold Medal for First Fiction by the California Book Awards.

5. There There

Author: Tommy Orange

Originally published: 2018

A large portion of American literature and history taught in schools presents Indigenous cultures in a manner that is somewhat constrained, idealized, and less realistic for young children. Tommy Orange's song "There There" doesn't fit in that genre, however. Put this book on your reading list if you want an alternate perspective on Indigenous peoples to the one that is usually taught in high school. It offers a regretful and correcting look at the people. 

This contemporary story follows 12 people from Native American tribes as they navigate problems including addiction, despair, and cultural displacement while living in Oakland in the twenty-first century. This book demonstrates to readers how Indigenous cultures have endured and flourished to this day via its examination of contemporary Indigenous peoples and urban life.

With deep insight into character and the modern search for personal freedom, In the Not Quite Dark is powerful new work that's timeless and urgent.

6. In the Not Quite Dark

Author: Dana Johnson

Originally published: 2016

In the Not Quite Dark is a collection of 11 bold stories all set in Downtown Los Angeles touching upon topics like love, class, and race, and how they influence and define our most intimate moments. These are all topics that are forever relevant, but they’re especially important to read about and explore as students questioning life. Hence, this is a reader’s list must-add that you should definitely check your local bookstore for. Depicting the search for personal freedom and portraying how differently relationships can progress, In the Not Quite Dark offers a timeless reading experience anyone will find relatable in at least one instance.

7. Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

Originally published: 1937

You most likely already have John Steinbeck on your list of great literature. If not, however, you ought to spend your leisure time reading Of Mice and Men. The two migrant ranch hands George Milton and Lennie Small, who are constantly moving around California during the Great Depression in quest of fresh employment prospects, are the main characters of this novella. The majority of Steinbeck's narrative is based on his own experiences as a youngster in the 1910s working among migrant laborers. Although the novella is written in an antiquated style, it nonetheless has enough worthwhile life lessons and excellent writing to be included in many school reading lists.

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde.

8. Drama

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Originally published: 2012

The book on our reader's list that is perhaps the most tween-friendly is Drama by Raina Telgemeier. The main character of this graphic book is Callie, a theater enthusiast in middle school who participates in her school's acting group. As she leads us through her coming-of-age journey, Callie maneuvers through adversity, perplexing crushes, developing friendships, and middle school turmoil. As Callie examines her relationships with those around her, the book also touches on the themes of friendship, cooperation, inclusiveness, and tenacity.

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