The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are perfect for JAM summer reading. Whether you’re lying on your camp bunk, lounging on a beach chair, or camping out in a tent, make one or more of these great reads part of your summer.
We’ve compiled a special list just for you, with some classic reads and contemporary picks that we’re sure you will want to check out.
So here goes:
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird, a cultural touchstone which tells the story of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch who defends a black man accused of rape in their home town. Four new editions of the novel will be published next month, each with a different cover to be placed on special “Mockingbird” themed floor displays in bookstores. The book won a Pulitzer Prize when it was originally published in 1960, and it has sold nearly one million copies each year since publication.
News anchor Tom Brokaw vividly recalls reading the book when he was in university, and said: “I just remember being utterly absorbed by it, and inspired by Atticus, and very taken by Scout [the pre-teen heroine]. Those are very powerful characters. And I don’t remember another book about the South that treated race in quite that fashion.”
In addition, the book was made into an Academy Award winning movie starring Gregory Peck. It is listed in the National Film Registry and ranked 25th on the American Film Institute’s 10th Anniversary List of the greatest American movies of all time. The American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th Century. After you read this outstanding book, you and your family will enjoy screening the award-winning film.
The Diary of a Young Girl is a book based on the writings from a diary written by Anne Frank while she was in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne began keeping the diary when she was only 13. She died in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, and after the war her father Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, found the diary. It has been published in more than 60 different languages and is one of the world’s most widely read books.
The book and its teachings play a prominent role in the recent movie Freedom Writers starring two- time Academy Award winning actress Hillary Swank. She plays a young teacher who inspires her class of at-risk students, also known as unteachables, when she intercepts a racist drawing by one of them and uses it to teach them about the Holocaust. The class eventually reads The Diary of Anne Frank and they invite the real Miep Gies, the woman who sheltered Anne Frank during the Holocaust, to speak to the class, raising the funds necessary to bring her to their school from the Netherlands. Miep tells the class that she was just doing the right thing when she helped Anne and her family during the war, which leads to unexpected and dramatic consequences for one of the students in the class.
The teacher asks the students to write their diaries in book form and compiles their entries and names in the Freedom Writers Diaries. Freedom Writers is an outstanding film for you to screen with your family and friends, demonstrating that the teachings of The Diary of Anne Frank are as relevant today as they were 60 years ago.
Pretty Little Liars follows the lives of four girls — Spencer, Hannah, Aria and Emily — whose clique falls apart after the mysterious disappearance of their leader, Alison. Three years later, they begin receiving text messages from someone using the name “A” who threatens to expose their deepest and darkest secrets — including long-hidden ones they thought only Alison knew. These books are downright addictive; once you start reading, you’ll have a hard time stopping! Watch out for the ABC Family series and the 8th book in the series (Wanted) — both coming out on June 8th!
The Kimani Tru Series keeps it real with the triumphs and obstacles of today’s true-to-life African American characters, written with wit and realism. Our top picks in this series include Chasing Romeo by A.J. Byrd about three best friends who all have a major crush on the high school star athlete (and create some major competition for his attention) and The Pledge by Chandra Sparks Taylor about a girl who made a commitment not to lose her virginity until marriage — but her new boyfriend has started pressuring her to “prove” that she loves him by having sex. Will she decide that he’s the one… or will she refuse to be pressured into something she might not even want?
Skeleton Creek is the first of its kind: a book accompanied by a video that can be viewed online, bridging the gap between technology and books. The book is about Ryan, a boy who loves to write in his journals. After an accident at an abandoned dredge leaves him bedridden and banned from contact with his friend Sara, he secretly feeds her information and she films the developments as she discovers the truth about the dark secrets of Skeleton Creek — and the vengeful ghost that might be haunting the dredge!
When Milton and Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Follow the adventures of Milton, Marlo, and their friend Virgil as they try to break out of Heck. If you want to look like a super genius, this is a great introduction to classical literature like Dante’s Inferno (which you’ll definitely have to read in high school or college).
Possibly the best young adult novel of the past decade, the first volume of this sci-fi series introduces sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen who lives in a world where a powerful government called the Capital has taken power. The Hunger Games are an annual TV event where the evil Capital selects one boy and one girl from each of 12 districts who are pitted against each other in a game of survival and forced to kill until only one of them remains.
A sci-fi novel set in the future where everyone is turned “pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery when they turn 16. This book tells the story of Tally Youngblood who rebels against society’s enforced conformity after her friends Shay and David show her the downside to becoming “pretty.”
Copies of Marlene’s Special Picks for JAM Summer Reading are available at your local library. You can reserve books online at most libraries, just ask your Mom or Dad for help. Or use some of your allowance or money you’ve earned at your summer job to treat yourself to a book from your local bookstore. Have fun reading this summer!