Post columnist and blogger suggests five books to help you have a fulfilling summer.

It only takes a moment for the stress of finals, the burden of to-do lists and the weight of a semester to melt away during a springtime trip back home.

But aside from eating, sleeping and enjoying the sunshine, you might be wondering how you will fill the vacuum of college summers. Well, reading of course. It’s a healthy activity with no downside that allows you to see life in new, unthought-of ways.

The hazy comfort of summer makes it a perfect time to pass the sun-baked days on the back porch, book or e-book in hand, contemplating the deeper forces at work within us. And the last couple centuries have given us plenty of works that challenge our perception of the world and what it means to be a part of it.

Here are a few works you might add to your summer reading list if you want some mindful thinking and self-discovery at the ocean, in the cabin or the safari of your backyard.

1. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha is an incredibly relevant novel for the college experience. The story revolves around self-discovery, the temptation of vanity and the search for spiritual enlightenment. Siddhartha, the protagonist, spends the book looking for answers to these questions by living different lifestyles, studying different teachers and finding solace in an unlikely place.

The writing is swift and the amount of thought and research Hesse put into the work is extensive. And even if you don’t end up caring for it, reading Siddhartha will have made you think, something every great work should do.

2. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

Although Huxley is most known for his soma-infused dystopia in Brave New World, his later autobiographical book The Doors of Perception is just as influential. I’ve written before about how Jim Morrison named his band after this text.

The narrative of the book itself is Huxley providing an intellectual account of what it’s like to be under the influence of mescaline from a peyote cactus. He writes clinically and without embellishment as he details his impression of a Van Gogh painting in a museum and objects in various environments. It’s a fairly pleasant short read at only 63 pages and poses questions about perception, how we interpret the world and our instinctual desire to escape consciousness.

3. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Summer is about having out-of-the-ordinary adventures. Journalist and author Jon Krakauer’s second non-fiction novel, Into Thin Air, delivers a personal account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that left eight climbers dead. After a tense build up, the last 100 pages detailing actual events read incredibly fast and entertaining. The main takeaway is the unpredictability of circumstance and how plans can fall apart at any time.  

Krakauer also published another, less morbid, book about his climbing experiences called Eiger Dreams, which is equally worth the time.

4. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

No matter what field you’re studying, grammar is important. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a quick read that cements the fundamentals of grammar using a clear and humorous writing style. If you’re looking to finally get that whole grammar business down, be entertained, or both, look no further than this book.

5. The Stranger by Albert Camus

Since it was published in 1942, Albert Camus’ most famous book gives an account of what happens to someone who doesn’t play by society’s rules. It houses heavy underlying themes like the absurdity of modern life and an argument for the “gentle indifference” of the universe.

The Stranger is a book that opens many lines of thought about how society is set up and the unnatural leaps we must make to conform to it or face its punishment, whatever that might be.

And not to mention, part of it takes place at a beach.

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If you’ve made it this far and none of these books have piqued your interest, you should do some investigating of your own. There’s a book out there for everyone and it’s just a matter of finding the right ones.

Happy poolside reading.