Reading For Better Writing: What (Old) Books to Read This Summer

The last month of summer is here, and there is nothing better than finding a nice shaded nook and curling up with a book. It doesn’t matter if you’re lounging on the beach, a secluded cabin, or even your own little reading space you’ve carved out of your living room, a book should be within reach.

In order for you to get the most out of your summer reading this year, we’ve compiled some of the best books to get your brain juices flowing. In order to help you get out of the mainstream line up of books, not all of these will be on the New York Times Best Sellers list. We have a book for everyone, everything from historical noir mystery to modern classics.

After pouring through some of these books, you may even be inspired to start writing one of your own!

1. The Historian: Elizabeth Kostova

If you’re in the mood for mystery and intrigue that spans generations, then the Historian, the 2005 debut novel of Elizabeth Kostova should scratch that itch.

The story covers the life of a young woman learning the history of her family.  As she rummages through her father’s letters, the tale becomes twisted with murder, history, and Vlad Tepes, and his fictional connection to Count Dracula.

In the midst of the young woman’s exploration of her father’s history, it parallels the same journey that her father is on as he searches for his mentor.

If you like beautiful and secluded Eastern European cities mixed with a mystery centuries in the making, then this is the book for you.

2. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden: Jonas Jonasson

Adventure and absurdity go hand-in-hand with Jonas Jonasson 2013 sophomore title The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden is a Swedish.

This is a peculiar tale of twins who aren’t twins, but who are, atomic bombs that are gigantic but don’t exist, and of one little girl named Nombeko, who begins the novel as a fourteen-year-old cleaning latrines in her hometown of Soweto.

How this little girl ends up on the run from secret government agents, accompanied by three Chinese sisters, the non-twins, an elderly potato farmer, and the king of Sweden is a fun ride.

If you love a good book while maintaining a sense of disbelief, then you should definitely pick this one up.

3. The Alchemist: Paulo Coelho

I’m hesitant to put this next book on the list, because most likely you’ve read it, your mom’s read it, and the person nearest to you has read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. There’s even a photograph of Bill Clinton floating around with him holding the book.

For those who are perplexed by that opening and have never heard of The Alchemist, it is tale of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who follows his dreams and the language of the universe to find a treasure.

His journey spans southern Europe to northern Africa, will parables of everyday life mixed in between the moments. The story focuses on listening to your own heart in order to see if your life is headed in the right direction.

If you like books that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, while giving you the courage to pursue your dreams, the put the Alchemist in your bag as you begin your own journey.

4.  The Prophet: Khalil Gibran

The Prophet by Khalil Gibran is a book of philosophy that gives its readers tiny doses of soulful bites. Some readers have lauded The Prophet as a roadmap for living a fulfilled life, while others have never heard of it.

It’s obscurity may be due to the fact that it was originally published in 1923, however, the book has been translated into over 100 different languages and has never been out of print.

The story follows Al-Mustafá, the titular prophet, who is giving his last lectures to the seaside village of Orphalese before leaving in a boat after a 12-year visit.

Before he boards the boat the villagers ask for wisdom and he recites poetic prose covering love, marriage, joy, sorrow, good and evil, life and death, plus all of the other facets that endeavor the human experience.

If you’re looking for a short book that you can pick up and drop down on the fly, then this book may help you live the best summer of your life.

5. The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West: David McCullough

I was going to avoid putting a recent New York Times Best Seller on this list, but I enjoyed The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough.

In The Pioneers, David McCullough tells the story of the early settlers of the Ohio River Valley. The story is about the families who first took to the frontier to settle the land and build a community.

While the story is centered around what is currently Marietta, Ohio, it’s not much of a stretch to see zeitgeist felt throughout 19th century-America. While I don’t believe this book panders to any political crowd, it does try and tell the stories of people that should be told.

If you want a nonfiction book vivid and rich in detail, then check out The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough.