No matter how cool you think you are, you’re at Penn; chances are you were probably kind of a nerd when you were younger. You lived for every Eragon book, you were front in line at each Harry Potter midnight premiere and you killed it at your local library's summer reading program. Hey, it’s okay. I did, too. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer of my peers really read for pleasure anymore. Sure, as college students we still read a lot. I have friends who have binged Atlas Shrugged or begrudgingly read and re-read all of Homer time and time again. But it’s all to finish that paper or cram for a final.
When was the last time you fell in love with a book? When you were last compelled to stay up late into the night because you just had to know how it ended? Was it last month? Last year? When you were a kid? Here are the books that made you feel some kind of way when you were younger and the ones you should be reading now if you want to find that sweet, sweet magic again. I’m an English major, folks. I promise reading can be fun.
If you liked: The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Read: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Just as you got to follow around Bridget, Lena, Tibby, and Carmen on their various adventurous and saw how their friendship grew, A Little Life centers on the changing relationships between four college roommates as they face fame, addiction, and personal turmoil all while still attempting to stay together. Granted, A Little Life is a much heavier book than The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series (in all senses, it’s over 700 pages and is, at times, incredibly disturbing) but its prose leaves you feeling a little more empathetic, a little older, and a little more understanding about the beauty within the families we carve out for ourselves.
If you liked: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
Read: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
As you may or may not know, in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, a farm mouse works together with lab rats to save her home and her family. The stakes are raised in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (a book with an equally long name as its childhood counterpart) set during the Chechen wars as Akmed, a man from a rural village travels to find the loCAL doctor for his neighbor's daughter, who he finds after her house is burned down and her father is kidnapped. It’s a stunning portrait of life and relationships against the destructive backdrop of wartime.
If you liked: The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz
Read: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Alex Rider was the cool kid that you wanted to be. I mean he’s a teenage spy who saves the world and kisses cute girls, you still probably want to be him. But one of the main pulls for Anthony Horowitz’s young adult series was the fast paced action, suspense, and thriller elements of the books.The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo may seem like an obvious choice for a thriller to read, but the Swedish series deserves the hype. The first book takes about a hundred pages to really get going, but once the action and mystery start, Larsson weaves a story like no other.
If you liked: Matilda by Roald Dahl
Read: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
A Tale for the Time Being is told in two parts, there’s Ruth, a novelist living on Vancouver Island, who after the 2011 tsunami finds the diary of 16 year-old Nao, a Japanese girl suffering extreme bullying from her classmates, washed up on the shore inside a Hello-Kitty lunchbox. The interweaving stories are tender and touching without being overly sentimental. It’s overall a big–hearted book that focuses on the way a young girl chooses to escape from her own realities reminiscent of the magic Roald Dahl creates within his Matilda.
If you liked: The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan
Read: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
It’s difficult to find an fantasy book catered for adults worth reading. Some feel too juvenile and then some are basically just 50 shades of Grey with some magic thrown in there. But Neil Gaiman hits this one on the head. It’s thought provoking and will give you your fix of modernized mythology you’ve been missing since you first picked up The Lightning Thief. Need more of a reason to read it? Starz is coming out with a TV series for Gaiman's books á la Game of Thrones next year so when 2017 rolls around you can be that guy and tell all your friends you read the book before you saw it.
If you liked: Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Read: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
So on the surface The Goldfinch isn’t a fantasy book. There are no wands, no dragons, no redheads, yet somehow within her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Donna Tartt manages to create magic. The beauty of the Harry Potter series lies in the fact that you get to grow up with these characters and be a part of even the most minute episodes in their lives. In the Goldfinch, Tartt doesn’t let one detail slide. She creates fully-realized, achingly true characters who are flawed and lovely, and that’s something difficult to achieve without the luxury of a seven book series. As with Potter, you follow a young Theo Decker through his life after a major familial tragedy. His life is strange and tortuous and leads him into the black market of the art world and there’s no way you won’t get sucked into it all. Read it. Even if you only saw the Harry Potter movies.
If you liked: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Read: Atonement by Ian McEwan
We hear that you love sobbing and deeply upsetting books about the power of a child’s imagination. Cool. That’s really specific. Read this one.