Skip to content ↓
MIT blogger

My Summer Reading Challenge by Selam G. '18

Read with me!

If you are a college student, or even in high school, you may have found that your busy lifestyle leaves little time for reading for pleasure. And if you are like me, this makes you sad, because you were one of those kids that spent half their time in various awkward positions on a couch reading books for upwards of six hours a day sometimes.

Figure 1: An informative diagram that I doodled

Here’s a list of all the books I’ve read in college so far (I might be forgetting a few, but this is most of them!) and my (incomplete) list of 10 books for this coming summer! Suggestions welcome–I’d actually like to have way more than 10 books, maybe more like 20, on my list, so that I always have back-ups whenever one of them is checked out at the library ^^;




(nf = nonfiction)

Summer 2015



New Reads:

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddartha Mukherjee (nf)
  2. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
  3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
  5. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


6-12. The Harry Potter Series (yes, the whole thing) by J.K. Rowling

13. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Summer 2016



New Reads:

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (nf)
  2. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
  3. The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  4. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
  5. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan


7. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Honorable Mentions



Things I managed to read during Not Summer…

  1. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Winter ‘16)
  2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley (nf) (Spring ‘15)
    ^(Everyone!! should!!! read!!! this book!!! Everyone!! Check it out now!!!!!! iT’s RIDICULOUSLY Good!!!! And!!! IMPORTAnT!!!!)
  3. The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu (Spring Break ‘17) (it was the MIT Reads book selection so I got it from the MIT bookstore for free :D) (ridiculously good book by ridiculously good Asian American author)
  4. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Summer ‘14) (I read this before I came to MIT and it made me want to take his class so bad)
  5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (I read this book for a class, 21G.046: Modern Chinese Fiction and Cinema)

Started but never finished, and why:

  1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (nf) (this is ridiculous as it’s very short and honestly more of a long essay that happens to be bound than a book, but I got back to school and got busy ;__; will finish (starting from the beginning) as soon as finals is over!)
  2. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (nf) (ran out of time on the library loan, and had to get back to school) (through this cool library network we have, I managed to borrow it all the way from Princeton lol)
  3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (the first few pages told from the womanizer’s first person super turned me off, and I just stopped there…my freshman year roommate really recommended it though so maybe I should try again…)

Summer ‘17 List



I’m quite determined to get through all 10 this time. So far, I have…


  1. The Gene by Siddartha Mukherjee (the sequel-ish to a book above) (was too popular last summer to check out)
  2. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Huang (tried before, also too popular)
  3. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (one of few mixed celebrities that actually talks about the experience of being a mixed person, which I really appreciate)
  4. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks


  1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  3. Paradise by Toni Morrison
  4. 1984 by George Orwell

Inevitable Re-Read:

5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I’d really like to read more Asian or Asian-American authors and more nonfiction, as I’ve been trying to diversify the books I read. I’ve at least successfully read a few African and African-American authors by now, and Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie was really great and the first book I’ve read that also really reflected on the Asian/Asian American experience, through sci-fi stories (!!!!), in a very organic way. Going to try and add to that~

Some Thoughts

If there is one book that you read after reading this post, make it The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told by Alex Haley.



I promise you that it is not what you are expecting. It is not some dry book of a vaguely important historical figure, and the writing is not super dated or hard to understand. Rather, Malcolm X is like an action movie script, a teen comedy, a coming of age novel, a Shakespearean tragedy, and almost sci-fi-like in its weirdness (particularly Malcolm’s experience with Black American Islam and his rift with Elijah Muhammad), all rolled into one. This man lived an incredible life in ridiculous conditions. While reading it, I could hardly believe that it was all real. I really can’t emphasize that enough!!

Another comment I’d like to make is about the book that I have re-read every summer of college, from 2014 til now, which is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I really like how Achebe rolled together almost everything I feel about colonialism and now neo-colonialism. It’s a lot more complex than simply “the colonialists were bad”, and I feel like Things Fall Apart really reflects that. As much as you can see that colonialists profit more than you do from your own work, if your rural area now receives health care, how do you justify keeping them away? If your quality of life is generally better even though you’re being exploited, how do you actively combat that? How does this war of feelings manifest inside a person, destroying them from the inside as they are pulled apart by traditional culture and colonial exploits and fear for survival of a family…(ok I’m waxing poetic here, but the point is, the book is really good). This summer I’ll probably re-read it again along with a short story, “The Headstrong Historian” in The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which also discusses colonialism. It’s really interesting to read the differences between two amazing Nigerian authors in two different time periods, with different ideologies, and yet handling some of the same key issues that have, for better or worse, been woven into the societies of many nations.

Happy Reading!! Whatever book that you enjoy, whether it’s a new one or an old one or that one you keep meaning to start or finish, I hope you’ll find time to read this summer! It can be on the train, the plane, to work, at lunch, in the evenings, or my personal favorite, while “sitting” improperly on an armchair :)