Whether you’re at the beach with friends or sipping smoothies by the pool, you never want to be caught without a good read. Not only are books a good way to pass the time, but they’re also great conversation starters! Or maybe you’re like me and just hiding inside trying to stay cool – guess what: you’re going to need something to do when that next Flex Alert is issued. If you like reading or are just looking for something that will finally interest you, I think I’ve come up with a list that is perfect for everyone. If these don’t suit your fancy, I would also recommend looking into other work by those involved with the below.


Letters to a Young Artist by Anna Deavere Smith | Non-Fiction
Rating: 10/10

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I first read “Letters to a Young Artist” in 2013. I had signed up for a college level theatre course at my local high school, and two days a week I met with an amazing professor. Not only were most of our assignments really simple, but we also had the chance to see plays and musicals for credit – most of the tickets and entries he supplied himself. Then he offered us an extra credit assignment: read “Letters to a Young Artist” by Anna Deavere Smith and “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff and write an essay comparing the two, detailing what we had learned. Immediately I began looking for the cheapest copy of both I could find, since we had to supply our own copies. Once Smith’s book arrived at my house I dived in and did not stop reading until the pages were marked from top to bottom and I had memorized nearly everything that she had said. This is definitely a book for anyone who wants to be or would consider themselves an artist.

“From the most exciting individual in American theater” (Newsweek), here is Anna Deavere Smith’s brass tacks advice to aspiring artists of all stripes. In vividly anecdotal letters to the young BZ, she addresses the full spectrum of issues that people starting out will face: from questions of confidence, discipline, and self-esteem, to fame, failure, and fear, to staying healthy, presenting yourself effectively, building a diverse social and professional network, and using your art to promote social change. At once inspiring and no-nonsense, Letters to a Young Artist will challenge you, motivate you, and set you on a course to pursue your art without compromise.” (Goodreads)

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss | Fiction
Rating: 9/10

This is a book that I can honestly say should be considered one of the best-written books of all time. I’m surprised at the lack of people who actually know of this book, and further the lack of people who have read it after I’ve suggested it. Nicole Krauss writes with a voice that would make you think much of this writing is real and true, and I was surprised to find out that it was actually fiction. At first the way the writing is done may come across as confusing or hard to concentrate on, which is what makes this the perfect summer read – you can read a few pages here and there, take a swim break, and the pick it right back up. As the novel progresses, it just gets better and better until you can’t put it down. At the end, there’s this huge wish for more and this huge ache over what has happened throughout the story. This will make you think, feel, cry, laugh; everything a good book is supposed to do.

“Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn’t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of “extraordinary depth and beauty” (Newsday).” (Goodreads)

Ever by Jessa Russo | Young Adult
Rating: 8.5/10

Who doesn’t love a good Indie read? If you haven’t yet read something written by an Indie author, I seriously beg you to start doing so. I’ve been reading Young Adult novels since I was in middle school because I was always ahead quite a few reading levels. One thing I notice about YA novels is that there’s always work that gets a ton of praise but isn’t well written, doesn’t have good description, character development is terrible, and yet the plot just manages to draw people in. “Ever” is not one of those types of books! While there are certain things readers have argued to be missing, I think “Ever” has the perfect amount of mystery, complicated romance, and description that it brings you right into what you are reading. Be warned: there is a major cliff-hanger so if you hate those, be prepared to order or Kindle one-click a copy of the second novel, “Evade.”

“Seventeen-year-old Ever’s love life has been on hold for the past two years. She’s secretly in love with her best friend Frankie, and he’s completely oblivious. Of course, it doesn’t help that he’s dead, and waking up to his ghost every day has made moving on nearly impossible. Frustrated and desperate for something real, Ever finds herself falling for her hot new neighbor Toby. His relaxed confidence is irresistible, and not just Ever knows it. But falling for Toby comes with a price that throws Ever’s life into a whirlwind of chaos and drama. More than hearts are on the line, and more than Ever will suffer. Some girls lose their hearts to love. Some girls lose their minds. Ever Van Ruysdael could lose her soul.” (Goodreads)

Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing | Native American Studies
Edited by MariJo Moore, Foreward by Vine Deloria Jr.
Rating: 10/10

It’s very worth noting that this book is a collection of essays written by many different Native individuals from different tribes and all types of backgrounds. These essays are then found in one of five sections, which basically come down to Urban Natives, young Natives, Native languages, mascots, and memories/misconceptions/modifications of Native peoples. Each essay is very powerful and contributes greatly to the message of each section. Each author has a different voice, but all of these authors has the power to make us as readers think and feel as they paint pictures of what it’s like to live as a Native and Urban Native today. This is a powerful read for Natives and non-Natives alike. Anyone with an interest in the history of our country, history in the making, etc., this is something you will really enjoy.

“After five centuries of Eurocentrism, many people have little idea that Native American tribes still exist, or which traditions belong to what tribes. However over the past decade there has been a rising movement to accurately describe Native cultures and histories. In particular, people have begun to explore the experience of urban Indians—individuals who live in two worlds struggling to preserve traditional Native values within the context of an ever-changing modern society. In Genocide of the Mind, the experience and determination of these people is recorded in a revealing and compelling collection of essays that brings the Native American experience into the twenty-first century. Contributors include: Paula Gunn Allen, Simon Ortiz, Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Maurice Kenny, as well as emerging writers from different Indian nations.” (Goodreads)

he Amory Wars: The Second Stage Turbine Blade by Claudio Sanchez | Comic
Rating: 10/10

While the Ultimate Edition proved to be somewhat hard to come by, it was definitely worth it. For anyone big on comics, definitely order this via Amazon Smile online. Every store that had this in stock magically only had one copy that could not be found when I went to purchase it. It appears there was a limited amount of prints done, and so this isn’t something you can find 10 copies of on one shelf. I am a major Coheed and Cambria fan, thanks to my friend Jack, so when he told me that Claudio had created this whole world of characters inside the songs and albums and that there were comics that went along with that, oh man. I have read this so many times and it just doesn’t get old. Not to mention the stunning artwork that was created by multiple artists and colorists. Utter perfection. If you’re in need of some summer playlists, just pop on Coheed and Cambria to really get the full effect.

“Over 350 pages of science fiction wonder from the genius of Coheed and Cambria creative force Claudio Sanchez. The complete Second Stage Turbine Blade epic, collected in its entirety for the first time! Over 350 pages of science fiction wonder from the genius of Coheed and Cambria creative force Claudio Sanchez. The story that has captured the attention of millions of fans worldwide is found here in one volume, overflowing with images of terror and wonder. Featuring never-before-seen bonus material.” (Goodreads)

Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav | Poetry
Rating: 7/10

“Love & Misadventure” is a great example of life, love, loss, and all of the emotions that come along with it. I think there is a lot of leeway when it comes to rating poetry. There’s this idea that “poetry isn’t for everyone” and I both agree and disagree. When I look for poetry to read I look for things I can relate to, I look for things that are beautiful. If I come across something I just don’t find interesting, it’s usually because I find zero relation to it. What I like as far as poetry goes, another may not. And not everybody understands poetry because many poets don’t write for their readers, they write for the people who are going to understand how they feel and what they’re trying to convey. This is all something I took into consideration when reading “Love & Misadventure.” This book quickly went from self-published to available at large chain bookstores, which made me wonder about the content. There is a mass amount of dog-eared pages and highlighted passages in my copy – but then there are the poems that I read and just though “did I really just spend $20 on this when I’m here to visit family?” The same poems I disliked I found many others liked – and vice versa with the poems I liked. There is room for improvement, but the same can be said for any author ever. If you’re big on going green, I definitely recommend a Kindle copy because there is a lot of blank space here.

Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully conceived, Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights- through to the devastating plunge. Lang Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.” (Goodreads)

Novio Boy: A Play by Gary Soto | Script
Rating: 7.5/10

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Something for everyone! This is a really short read, and perfect if you are into film or theatre or are just going into high school. I found a copy in my high school’s library a few years ago when I decided to take on the role of student teacher to my advanced theatre class (we were underfunded, okay?) Once I started reading this I couldn’t stop! There are plays that are interesting and plays that are boring. There are plays that have you on the edge of your seat and plays that have you wondering why you even bothered. “Novio Boy” is definitely a play that is more of the former than the latter. Hilariously written, the story starts with Rudy getting a date with a girl two years above him, and all of the things that lead up to their date at Steaks, Steaks, y Mas Steaks. This was written in Spanglish too, but don’t worry because there’s a trusty dictionary in the back that translates everything you may not know.

“Ninth grader Rudy has a date with eleventh grader Patricia. Now he has to come up with the money, the poise, and the conversation to carry it off. This one-act play, by turns heartwarming and heart-wrenching, follows Rudy from his desperate search for guidance through the hilarious date itself–all the way to its happy conclusion.” (Goodreads)

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July 5, 2015