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5 Books You Need to Read This Summer

I know, I know. I get it. Between finishing your exams and papers and getting ready for that internship, you’re probably not thinking too much about what you’ll read this summer. Besides, your school may already have a required reading list.

But if you do have required summer reading, chances are the books will be pretty lousy. Do you really want to restrict yourself to yet another assigned text?

There really is no better time than summer to indulge your reading habit. Freed from the demands of your coursework, you have more time for reading. And you get to choose what to read.

Of course, that freedom can be daunting. How do we pick what to read? We are presented with so many options, from the great books of the Western world to the latest blockbuster romance novel. It helps to get guidance from a trusted source. I’m always asking friends, family members, and colleagues what books have excited them lately.

When students find out I am the editor of ISI Books, they often ask me for book recommendations. I can rattle off a long list of titles (and have done so a couple of times when speaking on panels titled “Great Books to Read in College”). But I want to be mindful of two of your most precious resources: time and money.

So here are five recommendations for books that won’t take you long to read and that won’t empty your bank account:

  1. The Student Guides to the Major Disciplines: It’s amazing how much wisdom these pocket-sized books pack in to fewer than a hundred pages. Before you take your next class—whether it’s history, economics, politics, Classics, or something else—pick up your Student Guide to find out what you really need to learn and what your professors aren’t teaching you. You’ll see why the Wall Street Journal calls the Student Guides “mini–great books in themselves.”
  2. The American Cause: This slim book by the great Russell Kirk explains simply but eloquently the principles on which America is built. Townhall wrote that “this short, easy-to-read book should be required reading for every student.”
  3. William F. Buckley Jr.: The Maker of a Movement: Do you know who William F. Buckley Jr. was? I hope so: more than anyone else, he turned conservatism into a political and intellectual force that transformed America. This concise biography reveals the great thinkers who influenced Buckley, and in turn how Buckley influenced so many others. Mark Levin put it well when he said that this book helps you “understand not only the rise of the modern conservative movement but also how conservatives can regain their footing during these perilous times.”
  4. What So Proudly We Hail: Okay, I cheated here: What So Proudly We Hail isn’t a short book. But it’s made up of brilliant short selections from some our country’s greatest writers (Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, Henry James, Herman Melville, Willa Cather) and leaders (Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr.). As the Weekly Standard says, “What’s great about What So Proudly We Hail is that you can open it to any page and immediately begin exploring timeless questions of American creed and culture.”
  5. Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Have you ever wondered how liberal Supreme Court justices justify decisions that have no basis in the Constitution? Look no further than the progressive notion of the “living Constitution”—which translates as “the Constitution means whatever we say it means.” This insightful book shows you exactly when and how this idea originated and how it has corrupted our politics.

So there you go: five great options for summer reading. Of course, this is just a preliminary list. I urge you to go deeper as time allows.

Happy reading!

Jed Donahue is editor in chief of ISI Books.

Complement with R. J. Snell on leisure, the basis of summer, Susan McWilliams on why you should read bad books, and Jane Clark Scharl on Josef Pieper’s guide to getting over FOMO.


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