Summer Reading List for Adults

Instructor: Donna Smith
Back in high school or college you may have been required to read certain books. If you're thinking about revisiting some of those classic works or if you missed out on them the first time, summer may be the time to get started. This article offers a list of classic literature for your summer reading.

Suggested Summer Reading List

Summer Reading TitlesAuthorsYear Published
The AwakeningKate Chopin1899
Beowulfanonymous8th to 11th Century
Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury1953
Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding1954
Pride and PrejudiceJane Austen1813
The Scarlet LetterNathaniel Hawthorne1850
Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe1958
1984George Orwell1949

Summaries of Additional Books for Summer Reading

The following book summaries give you a small glimpse into some additional books not mentioned on the list above. The books below span the 20th century, and tell stories that unfold during the Depression, Prohibition, World War I and the Holocaust and in such settings as a barnyard and the American South.

Animal Farm

The novel Animal Farm is a satirical, allegorical, dystopian fable. The story is told from the point of view of the barnyard animals through an anonymous narrator. The animals rise up against the authoritative farmer only to be subjected to the dictatorship of Napoleon the pig.

George Orwell's story is believed to be a commentary on the Russian revolution. Orwell is an English writer who served with Burma's Indian Imperial Police, and fought in the Spanish Civil War. He is also the author of another dystopian book, 1984.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque's book All Quiet on the Western Front is a fictional account of his experiences as a young soldier in the German army. Remarque's protagonist is Paul Baumer. Paul is a conscripted soldier who struggles to continue fighting while facing the atrocities of war.

When he enlisted in the army, Remarque was eighteen. During his service, he was injured five times. Remarque is the author of many novels. Some of his titles include Three Comrades, A Time to Love and a Time to Die and The Night in Lisbon.

The Great Gatsby

This novel is a romance and tragedy. The Great Gatsby reveals the spontaneity and frivolous consumption of the Jazz Age as told through the narrator, Nick Carraway. Nick is a neighbor to the mysterious Jay Gatsby who is in love with Nick's married cousin, Daisy Buchanan. The story progresses through a summer of extravagant parties and secret affairs in the fictional Long Island town of West Egg.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American writer known for his short stories like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. His other novels are Tender is the Night, The Beautiful and Damned and This Side of Paradise. Before his death in 1940, he was a scriptwriter and was working on an unfinished novel titled The Love of the Last Tycoon.


As a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel's memoir Night recounts his time spent in the Nazi camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Wiesel was fifteen when his family was forced into the camps. Night is part of a trilogy which consists of Day and Dawn.

Wiesel worked as journalist, and taught Jewish Studies at City College in New York and Humanities at Boston University. Some of his books are The Trial of God, A Mad Desire to Dance, and The Gates of the Forest.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck's novella, Of Mice of Men is set during the Great Depression and relates the story of George Milton and Lennie Small. George and Lennie work together as California migrant laborers. Lennie is a big man with a limited intellect. George sees himself as Lennie's caretaker, which at times can be stressful. The close friends hope to one day own their farm.

The American writer wrote two other novels that centered on migrant workers and labor issues. One was his well- known book The Grapes of Wrath and the other was In Dubious Battle. In addition, Steinbeck wrote East of Eden, The Pearl, and Cannery Row.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's novel can be described as a mystery, courtroom drama and coming of age story. Scout, the protagonist, lives in a small southern town with her brother, Jem, and widowed father, Atticus Finch. Atticus is in the midst of defending Tom Robinson. Tom is a black laborer who is unjustly accused of rape. Scout, Jem and their friend Dill become obsessed with the mysterious recluse, Boo Radley.

In 1961, Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird. She grew up in the South where her father was a lawyer for the Alabama State Legislature. One of her closest friends growing up was the writer Truman Capote. Lee released a second novel in 2015 called Go Set a Watchman.

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