For many students-myself included-the workload for the school year leaves little (if any) time for pleasure reading. The beginning of summer marks a time when tedious textbooks are traded in for more enjoyable novels by our favourite authors. These books, spanning several genres, are my top picks for books you should read before the end of the summer.
The Martian by Andy Weir (2011)
Even if you’ve already seen the blockbuster Ridley Scott adaptation of The Martian, this book is still worth the read. Although most of you are probably already familiar with the plot, The Martian tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut presumed dead and abandoned by his crew following a massive dust storm on Mars. The book chronicles his struggle to survive as well as the efforts of NASA to rescue him.
Painstakingly researched and filled with impeccable detail-much of which didn’t make it into the film- The Martian felt less like a science-fiction novel and more like the recounting of an actual event. Weir skillfully blends humour and tension in his book, creating a protagonist that, through a series of written log entries, makes his readers laugh and worry at the same time. One thing this book made abundantly clear is that I would not be smart enough to survive on Mars.
A Simple Plan by Scott Smith (1993)
This book by Scott Smith tells the story of an accountant named Hank, his deadbeat brother, and his brother’s unpredictable friend who stumble upon a downed airplane containing a duffle bag filled with over $4 million in cash. The men devise a simple plan that will keep them all free of suspicion and allow them to keep the money they found. The lives of these three men quickly begin to spiral out of control as they are forced to commit treacherous acts to protect their newfound fortune, turning them not only against those around them but against each other as well.
A Simple Plan is perhaps one of the best examples of the corrupting power of money that one could read. For Hank, the money represents a new, better life with his pregnant wife far from their small town and away from his dull job. The reader is forced to put himself or herself in the position of Hank, pondering how they would react in the various situations he finds himself in and exactly how far they might go to protect a big bag filled with cash. This is a book that will definitely have you feeling a number of conflicting emotions all at once.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
The second entry on this list that has been made into a very successful movie, Gone Girl was intriguing and riveting until the end. Happily married Nick and Amy Dunne are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy mysteriously disappears. Suspicion soon falls on supposedly perfect husband Nick, who, under intense scrutiny from the police and the media, begins to appear increasingly guilty.
Gillian Flynn encapsulates her readers and brings them on a journey of lies, deceit and betrayal as they explore the twisted relationship of Nick and Amy Dunne. Frustrating at times simply because of the urge to know whats going on and the need to find out how the story ends, Gone Girl is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The book serves as a creepy reminder that people are often not as they seem and will probably make you question the sanity of all of your loved ones.
Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye (2014)
If there was one thing I enjoyed about science class in elementary school, it was watching Bill Nye the Science Guy (Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!). It was educational and yet quite funny and presented in an interesting and engaging way that appealed to pre-teen me. This book is Bill Nye the Science Guy but aimed at an older audience, including everyone from high school and university students to their middle-aged parents and even grandparents. In it, Nye makes an argument for evolution, one which he believes to be ‘undeniable,’ proving his point by presenting a plethora of evidence chapter by chapter from all across the world.
Undeniable is filled with the same cheesy jokes and anecdotes that one would expect from Bill Nye but is at the same time a more serious work. For Nye, evolution isn’t just about disproving the existence of God, it’s about ensuring a positive future for not only the United States but for all of humanity. Religion is counter-productive to Nye and cannot account for the wide range of evidence that surrounds us clearly pointing to a long and complicated history of evolution. The only downside with this book is that it isn’t called “UndeNYEable”.
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (1981)
As a fan of the deliciously creepy NBC show Hannibal (2013-2015) as well as The Silence of the Lambs (1991), I couldn’t help but include this book on the list. While quite dated now, Red Dragon remains a psychological thriller of the highest degree, introducing us to characters such as Will Graham, Jack Crawford, and of course, Hannibal Lector. The book follows early-retired FBI profiler Will Graham after he is pulled back into the FBI on a consulting basis following the massacre of a family in their home by a killer known as ‘the Tooth Fairy’.
The book provides an interesting look inside the minds of the main characters, demonstrating Will Graham to be a gifted and yet disturbed profiler and the Tooth Fairy to be more complicated than simply a faceless killer. Truly sinister and dark, Red Dragon is sure to make you double-check the locks on your doors at night and is a must-read before the summer comes to an end.