11 Best Books for English Majors to Read This Summer

Carolina Brown

Jun 28, 2021
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As an English major, it’s no secret that you love to read — in fact, you probably already have plans to spend the summer with your nose in a book in one way or another. Whether you have a stacked TBR or your list is empty and you’re in search of recommendations, there are so many great books that you can read as an English major over the summer. Of course, the school year and the academic semester are times filled with others telling you what to read, so you likely have no problem flipping through one volume after another. But summer reading is completely different in that you can read completely for pleasure.

Reading for pleasure after working away for a whole school year can sometimes feel a bit odd. Maybe you aren’t sure what you want to read, or maybe you have a list piled high already. Regardless of where you are with your summer TBR, this list might encourage you to find something new to explore. Here are eleven of the best summer reads for English majors everywhere!

1. Emma by Jane Austen

Depending on your courseload, you may have already read Jane Austen in school. However, Emma is by far the sassiest and quirkiest of them all. If you’re interested in some classic Austin with a bit of a kick, this is your summer classic.

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

To get a bit darker, you can check out another historical heroine in the form of Wuthering Heights. If you love drama, the dark side of things, and emotion-filled pages, this classic could be right up your alley. Plus, many schools surprisingly don’t teach this one.

3. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

If you’re looking to get a bit more contemporary and surreal, The Vegetarian is something you can sink your teeth into. Translated from its original Korean, it tells the story of a woman who stops eating meat, and the chaos that ensues around her. It’s a quick read, but you’ll be thinking about it for days.

4. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Speaking of surrealism, Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of magical realism you won’t want to miss. While this collection does get dark at times, it also has moments of thought-provoking levity and intrigue. 

5. The Girls by Emma Cline

If you want a blast from the past — but not a classic read — this novel about a Manson-esque cult could be your cup of tea. Told in beautiful prose, this story of the sixties woven into the present day is enough to entrance readers of all ages. While it’s intense, it’s also a quick read you can take to the beach and soak up with the rays of the sun.

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Let’s not kid — this one is a door stopper. But if there’s any time to get into some Tolstoy, it’s the summertime. Anna Karenina is filled with gorgeous prose that moves you through the story quite swiftly. Even though it’s long, it’s not necessarily difficult to get through, which can make it the perfect world to get lost in this summer. Who doesn’t dream of biting Russian winters on summer vacation?

7. Dracula by Bram Stoker

With the vampire craze going strong right now, it could be the perfect time to get back to the roots of this classic tale. Although a classic, most colleges and high schools don’t teach Dracula in the curriculum. But if you love things that go bump in the night, this could be the perfect book to try.

8. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi 

Back to more modern literature, Helen Oyeyemi is one of the best contemporary writers around, and where better to start with her work than Boy, Snow, Bird? A deep re-spinning of Snow White that deals with race, family, gender, and existentialism, Boy, Snow, Bird is a book that will have you on your toes at every moment. 

9. Norwegan Wood by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is another one of the best writers living today. His book, Norwegan Wood, is often heralded as “the book that everyone in Japan has read” and for good reason. Painting a beautiful and tear jerking portrait of coming of age in the 1960’s in Tokyo, Norwegan Wood is a book to savor. Translated from the original Japanese, you likely won’t read this in your standard English class — though maybe you should.

10. The Odyssey by Homer

If you want a classic to add to your summer TBR, why not hit the Greek classics for some inspiration? The Odyssey can truly transport you into another world and start you off on philosophy if you aren’t already interested in it. The summer could be the perfect time to meditate on a text like this one.

11. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Another more modern classic, Toni Morrison’s Beloved tells a tale of motherhood, race, and survival in a haunting surrealist form. If you haven’t read Toni Morrison, this is the best work to start on. This might be a great end of summer pick to give you something to think on before you go back for the semester.

Best Summer Reads for English Majors

Summer reading is all about self-direction. In a way, it’s like practicing for what life after college will be like. Whether you’re a classics junkie or a fanatic for contemporary, there are so many wonderful worlds to explore this summer without ever leaving your backyard.

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