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How to create the perfect summer reading list

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MAY 21, 2015

A suggested summer reading list will always claim to have something for everybody, and it will always be lying. There are a lot of people in this world, and people read different things, especially at a place such as UC Berkeley. So rather than tell you that Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall is really, really good or that Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train is poised to become this year’s “Gone Girl” or that Milan Kundera is coming out with his first new book in 13 years June 23 and it sounds awesome, we at the Clog have decided to help you create your own list rather than handing you one. Here are four tips to help you find the book that’s going to keep you flipping pages until you crash face-first on the book itself at 7 a.m. the next morning.

1. Judge a book by its cover.

The age-old advice to the contrary is not necessarily accurate. If you like zippy thrillers, then the pocket-size paperback with the author’s name in giant raised letters is probably going to do the trick for you. If you like historical intrigue, then the book with the corseted girl in profile is probably going to be exactly your cup of English breakfast tea. In the same way the guy in the bro tank and Hawaiian-print shorts is probably an upstanding member of the Greek community, the book featuring a pair of women’s Mary Jane shoes overlaid in sepia is probably going to be something sad and poetic about adolescence. So go to a bookstore (go independent!) and browse until you find a cover that pops. Then read it, because chances are you’ll have a great time — and you’ll look good doing so.

2. Don’t try to read Tolstoy.

Fifteen-hundred pages of wealthy Napoleonic-era Russians in the cold will not keep your attention when your friends are off to the beach to have picnics and sunbathe. Don’t even try. Don’t read Leo Tolstoy. Don’t read “Les Miserables” or “Infinite Jest.” Don’t read to say that you read — read to have a good time, and save the heavy stuff for colder weather, when it’s a much easier choice between the groundbreaking unintelligibility of James Joyce and the gloomy, rainy outdoors. The failure of not completing the Herculean task of reading “Anna Karenina” when it’s sunny out and you’ve been invited to a brunch of Nutella pancakes will make you feel sad and inadequate. Don’t even go there.

(Side note: If you really have an itch for the Russians, try Ivan Turgenev’s much shorter, still sad but very romantic “On the Eve,” or Mikhail Bulgakov’s absurd and totally fun Soviet satire “The Master and Margarita.” If you are really into Tolstoy, that’s great, too! We’re just saying you need to be realistic with your reading list.)

3. Read anything and everything.

Read a comic book. Read a magazine or your little sister’s fun but formulaic young-adult books. Re-read the “Harry Potter” series. Read articles and your mom’s shopping list. And definitely read the silly beach thrillers, rip-off sci-fi series and famous comedians’ totally consumable books of essays. Any and all reading counts. More than anything, get into the habit of reading again, and give yourself a break from the serious and monolithic. You just spent a year diligently highlighting hundreds of pages of dry course-reader material every week — have a bit of fun!

4. Shop for books at home.

If you’re the type of person who formulates a summer reading list, you probably did the same thing last year. And you probably then went shopping and overdid it. So shop at home! Browse your own bookshelves for the books you didn’t quite get to last summer. Chances are the books that interested you last year still sound pretty fun. You’ll save money, and the deep satisfaction of actually finishing what you started last year will make you and your thrifty mother very happy.

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MAY 21, 2015