By Susan Lowman-Thomas
Full-time Instructor in English, American Public University
Summer has many glorious aspects, but a special one for students and teachers is that it offers a unique chance to read. Escaping academic routine through books has long been a special summertime pleasure. Even if you’re an online student with classes this summer, it’s still a good time to catch up on some classic literature.
Below is a list of books that will transport you from the ocean to the wild western frontier to the outer limits of the galaxy. You’ll find four novels, two historical pieces, and two “how-to” books, as well as one volume of poetry and one of nature essays. The novels have all been made into movies, so reading and then watching them would be particularly fun. Each work offers escape through the magic of words to unexplored places. Enjoy your downtime this summer with a list of some of my favorite reads!
1) The Old Man and the Sea — Ernest Hemingway puts us in a small dinghy with a courageous, desperate man as he ventures far out to sea in quest of a giant fish. You will feel the man’s terror, frustration, and elation. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for this small volume.
2) The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous novel is probably his best. This delicious rendition of the Jazz Age tracks Gatsby’s rise and fall, mirroring the self-indulgence of many Americans in the 1920s.
3) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams launches us into outer space in this goofy book. Two earthlings become interstellar trekkers, sharing their wild adventures with a bizarre creature, a robot, and odd humans.
4) The Hunt for Red October — Tom Clancy takes us deep in the Atlantic for one of the most exciting chases ever: the USA is after the Soviet sub Red October that is heading toward America. Clancy’s novel is so realistic that it’s rumored he had White House briefings.
5) The Right Stuff — Journalist Tom Wolfe introduces us to the American space program, beginning with the testosterone-driven racer/pilots who became our first astronauts. You’ll never look at NASA and its heroes the same way again.
6) Undaunted Courage — Historian Stephen Ambrose turns this account of the Lewis and Clark expedition into a gripping drama filled with more than just the amazing, uncharted landscape. The characters of Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and Jefferson unfold with brilliant intensity.
7) A Book of Luminous Things — Lithuanian poet CzesÅ‚aw MiÅ‚osz shares 300 poems from around the world, helping readers understand and appreciate them with his insightful introduction to each work.
8) The Solace of Open Spaces — Nature writer Gretel Ehrlich tackles grief and endurance by trading the urban East for stark Wyoming. Tending sheep, she observes nature closely and shares with us a meticulous and inspiring vision.
9) Man’s Search for Meaning — Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist who worked in four concentration camps; he lost his parents, wife and brother at the hand of the Nazis and then treated other concentration camp victims. Frankl offers help in time of trauma by telling us we can’t avoid suffering but we can find meaning in it and move ahead purposefully.
10) Pukka’s Promise — Ted Kerasote wants dogs to live longer. This Wyoming outdoorsman shares his extensive research on breeding, vaccinating, feeding, training and living with dogs so that we, too, can enjoy more time with our fuzzy friends. His dog Pukka has to be the happiest dog ever!
About the Author
Susan Lowman-Thomas is a full-time university instructor, having taught writing, literature and research at APUS since 2010 and at a state university since graduate school. She has served as a human resource director for a small business and a state agency serving veterans. A ravenous reader, Susan is committed to lifelong learning.â€‹