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Five Great Summer Reads

Rachel Bell, Messenger Reporter

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1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Everyone needs to read something by Hemingway once in their lives, and this is the perfect summer novel. Centered around a group of expatriate friends living in France, this novel clearly portrays the freedom of adulthood, but the struggles that come with that freedom. The young friends travel to Spain to watch bullfights and party. Relationships and friendships are strained, and they all struggle to find themselves in a foreign land. This classic book is considered to represent the “Lost Generation” of artists in the 1920s. Hemingway is most famous for writing about war; The Sun Also Rises is a fantastic exception to that rule.

2. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

This historical fiction novel was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and it’s not hard to see why . Teenage delinquent Molly Ayer is assigned community service, and she chooses to help an elderly woman clean her house of possessions. Molly soon learns that the woman, Vivian, was a child on the controversial orphan trains during the 1920s and 1930s. As they become closer, Vivian tells her story, and Molly, a foster child herself, begins to understand the woman’s struggle. The book switches back and forth from Molly’s present day point of view to Vivian’s as a child. It’s a must-read for anyone with a special place in their heart for history.

3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

At 1200 pages, this is a long one, but it’s summer! For all its long-windedness, this book is very much worth it. Set in nineteenth-century France, it tells the story of Jean Valjean, who was arrested and jailed for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. Deciding to turn his life around, he breaks parole upon release and becomes mayor of a small town, where he meets a suffering factory worker, Fantine, whose daughter is in the care of a corrupt innkeeper. He promises to find her child, Cosette, and raise her as his own. He does, and she grows up with him in hiding from the law. As a young woman, Cosette falls in love with a young student named Marius, who is part of a plot to overthrow the oppressive king. It is a story of redemption, love, and faith, and is regarded as one of the best books ever written.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This book is considered to be the original romance novel. Published in 1813, this book is over 200 years old, but it still holds up incredibly well. Elizabeth Bennet is the second-oldest out of five daughters of a English middle-class family, so her parents plan to marry her off to a rich gentleman. Her older sister Jane has her eyes on the formidable Mr. Bingley, who brings his friend Mr. Darcy to a dance with him to meet eligible women. With Darcy pretentious and Elizabeth a free spirit, they take an instant dislike to each other. However, when a childhood friend lies about circumstances surrounding their past and takes Elizabeth’s youngest sister away to be married, both Darcy and Elizabeth discover their love for one another.

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Narrated by Death, this book tells the story of Liesel, a young German girl sent to a foster family during World War II. She begins stealing books from various places, including book burnings held by the Nazis. Her family takes in a young Jewish man, and he hides from the government. They become friends, as they both foster a love of words. Liesel has adventures with Rudy, a neighbor boy her age, who helps her steal her books, and who enjoys getting himself into trouble. It is a bittersweet story of love, friendship, and courage in the most turbulent time in history.

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