Looking for some leisure reads?

A list of the favorite books of The Beacon staff

By The Beacon | February 24, 2022 9:16pm

With spring break right around the corner and newfound time on your hands, why not curl up with a good book recommended by our staff?

Photo illustration by Molly Lowney

Whether you plan to travel to your home for spring break, or stay close to campus, we are all about to have some extra time on our hands.

As a college student it is common not to get a chance to leisure read, or maybe you just don't know where to start. With spring break readily approaching, The Beacon has compiled a list of our favorite books to help you on your journey.

Airframe by Michael Crichton

Recommended by Brennan Crowder, Multimedia Editor

Engineering/STEM/mystery combo, but in an approachable way. I like that. Events in this book somewhat resemble those of the Boeing 737 Max crisis, the American Airlines flight 191 disaster, and the Air Florida Flight 90 crash, where planes mysteriously crash and a company must investigate the event subjectively while dealing with the financial and emotional fallout of hundreds of deaths due to  faulty design. If you’re looking for a suspenseful page-turner that breaks the mold of typical mystery novels, this book is worth checking out.

Art Record Covers by Francesco Spampinato

Recommended by Brie Haro, Community Engagement Editor

While I have just purchased this book this past weekend, I have been enthralled by the combination of music, art, and a medium not everyone appreciates – vinyl covers. The vinyl wall I have hanging up in my room would be a nod to author Francesco Spampinato’s research and telling of how vinyl cover artwork influenced and transformed the art industry. Within the introduction, the book explains why and how art doesn’t always have to be observed in galleries or museums and that records offer society a more attainable way to appreciate great art.

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Recommended by Janea Melido, Reporter 

Life is short, and you only get one. But diving into this novel will transport you into the life of a 1920’s socialite. Invest your time reading about Anthony Patch and his wife, Gloria’s devastating love story rooted in the heart of Manhattan. Experience the trials and tribulations that come with balancing wealth, love, vanity and all things decadent.

Becoming Trader Joe by Joe Coloumbe

Recommended by Andrew Gotshall, Video Producer

Joe Coloumbe, the creator of Trader Joe’s, shows readers how he built the Trader Joe’s empire his own way and beat the big guys. This is a great read for any lover of Trader Joes. If you often find yourself spending extra time reading product labels or admiring TJ’s business model, this book is for you. 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Recommended by Carlos Fuentes, Copy Editor

You’ve probably heard of this book, and if you haven’t read it, you probably think it sounds like a super long, super boring text written by some old white guy. I thought the same thing when I forced myself to read it last summer, but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. In almost 500 pages, Dostoevsky brings you into the depths of Saint Petersburg, Russia in the 1860s, and brings you into the dark and twisted mind of a young man, Rodion Raskolnikov. There’s murder, there’s love, sometimes all at once, and everything in between. After finishing the book, you won’t get the characters out of your mind, both in the worst and best ways, and I can guarantee that it will change the way you think. 

The Cult of The Saints by Peter Brown

Recommended by Aidan Sara, Photographer

I almost never read outside of required readings for classes, and this is a weirdly specific book that I read for class. However weird it is though; Peter Brown provides a good analysis and insight into why the saints in Christianity play a huge role in the development of the Mediterranean and European world after the fall of the Roman Empire. I read this book for one of my favorite history classes, Saints and Sinners in the Middle Age (taught by the well known Dr. Franco). While this book might be a bore to most and disconnected from our lives, it is important in helping understand the role of religion and worship, which connects to larger ideas of power relations, in a time of “barbaric and harsh life”.  (Spoiler Alert!) It is all about power and authority. If you want a book to better understand the development in the Church's authority and importance during the Middle Ages — or you simply want a relatively good history book to read — this is one book you can turn to. 

Emma by Jane Austen

Recommended by Tiffany Marquez Escobar, Reporter 

I bought a collection of Jane Austen books to read a while back and I just barely got to reading this book, but I really loved it. The story is about a girl named Emma who thinks she’s this amazing matchmaker and she makes it her mission to set couples up. One of those couples doesn’t work out and it leads to some problems for her. It’s a really cute, lighthearted book and I would definitely recommend it if you love romance novels or period-pieces. (It’s also a movie starring Ana Taylor-Joy!) 

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Recommended by Sadie Wuertz, Opinions and Faith Editor

I read this book for the first time five years ago, and it’s been my go-to re-read ever since. Jonathan Safran Foer will have you literally LOL-ing (L-ingOL?) one moment, and then audibly sobbing the next. The novel follows two stories, one taking place in the present day as an unlikely trio and their dog (Sammy Davis, Jr., Jr.) make their way through Ukraine with a mission. As their adventure progresses, Foer tells the story of Trachimbrod, a shtetl in occupied eastern Poland, from its fateful beginnings until present-day, when the two stories collide. Brimming with a delightful set of characters, questions about love and legacy, and the funniest narration I’ve ever come across, Everything is Illuminated will quickly earn its place on your bookshelf. 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Recommended by Marek Corsello, Photographer

A book that touches on fascinating topics like censorship, media literacy, and freedom of speech. The people in this city are discouraged to think their own thoughts. Firemen have the task of burning literature before they can be shared. One lucky fireman finally branches out to find what books can offer, leading them on a quest to revive books, and creative freedom altogether. Definitely topics that are important today and no doubt will still be thought provoking for years to come.

The Girl on the Train By Paula Hawkins

Recommended by Isabel Cornejo, Reporter

This book follows a divorced, alcoholic woman named Rachel who takes the train every day to go to NYC. While on the train, she passes the house that she and ex-husband used to live in. One day, she notices a woman (Megnan) who is known to be missing and reports it to the police. This story is a suspenseful mystery that asks: what happened to Megan the night she disappeared?

The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood

Recommended by Chiara Profenna, Reporter.

TW: This book talks about sexual assault and rape. I’ll come clean and let y’all know that this book was an English assignment. But it was the best assignment I’ve ever gotten and I will recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to anyone who will listen. Atwood’s dystopian novel follows a handmaid in the totalitarian Republic of Gilead (rebranded America) as she experiences the slowly-dying human race. Taking place in the future after a nuclear war, women are assigned to families to produce children, and you can imagine the political drama that ensues. Labeled as “speculative fiction,” The Handmaid’s tale is a satirical take on all the political and social oppressions of women in the US. And if you don’t have time to read a full-length novel, I got you – there’s a TV show that’s just as addicting.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Recommended by Laura Heffernan, reporter 

You may recognize the title from the Netflix series, but this 1959 gothic horror novel is far different from it’s televised plot. Hill House is a reported haunted mansion in a secluded, eerie location. Dr. John Montague, investigator of the supernatural, invites guests to the house for a study under false pretenses, hoping to find evidence of the supernatural. As the plot unwinds, the guests of the house start to experience unexplainable events. The fun of the book is trying to figure out if the house is truly haunted or if it is all in the guests’ heads. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be able to read the book in one day and keep rereading it in hopes to find logical explanations.

Home by Julio Anta

Recommended by Colby Wilson, Reporter

The story of immigrants trying to cross the border to come to the United States for a better life is a story a lot of people aren’t aware of. This graphic novel allows readers to see the realness that immigrants go through in order to look for a better life. 

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson 

Recommended by Ryan Reynolds, Photographer/Videographer 

I’ll admit that it’s been too long since I’ve actually read any books, but I would still confidently recommend any of the many different books and series that Brandon Sanderson has written if you enjoy the general genre of fantasy novels or are looking for a good introduction to it. Sanderson does an amazing job crafting incredibly complex and interesting worlds, usually with several different intertwining storylines that all come together at some point or another to create vividly enrapturing plots. 

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

Recommended by Sophia Truempi, Reporter

This book is just one of Maya Angelou’s series of brilliant autobiographies. In this one, Angelou takes a narrow dive into her relationship with her fearless mother as she begins to make a life for herself. She describes how she and her mother reconcile their relationship, after her mother sent Angelou away to live with her mother-in-law as a child, and how they build a bond of respect and love for each other that is inspiring to read. She lets us into the most intimate aspects of her life as she grapples with being a young single parent, bouncing between an eclectic mix of jobs, and developing a career as a dancer. Her humorous and bold prose will make you laugh and cry and wish that this short book wasn’t so short.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Recommended by Kimberly Cortez, Reporter 

TW: This book talks about sexual assault and rape. Follows a then and now timeline of a young woman and her experience being in a predatory relationship. The present timeline is her dealing with the repercussions of grooming and rape whereas the past timeline offers insight to the manipulative behavior of her abuser and the naïve perspective of her younger self. The book follows a really interesting dynamic between trauma, memory and the repercussions of such relationships. The author does a good job of depicting the sort of issues victims of abuse have and offers insight into how victims navigate life after the abuse ends. I recommend this book to those seeking a haunting and transformative book to read.  

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Recommended by William Seekamp, News and Managing Editor

Clean, quick and enjoyable are how I describe The Old Man and the Sea. It’s the perfect book for busy college students, at only 127 pages long you can finish it in an afternoon. The book is a reminder that there is always adventure to be had — although you might not achieve all your goals — but to not try is to not live. 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Recommended by Kate Cuadrado, Sports Editor.

A perfect read for the colder weather, The Secret History follows a young man attending a small and elite university in Vermont as he meets a group of fellow students who share his passion for Latin. As the group becomes closer the story grows darker, entering into a story of betrayal and murder with an inverted detective approach. I’ll admit, it starts a bit slow, but once you get into it the story is incredibly gripping, with brilliant writing by Tartt and horribly fascinating yet terrifying characters that ruthlessly propel the story forward. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Recommended by Haviland Stewart, Living Section Editor 

It is a rare day that I choose reading over sleeping. Yet, for nearly one week straight I stayed up till the late hours of the night glued to the pages of this masterpiece, desperate to learn more about the fictional Old Hollywood bombshell, Evelyn Hugo, as she shared her story with young journalist, Monique Grant. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a beautiful story of love, life, and loss. Evelyn Hugo uncovers the truth behind living in the spotlight, while incorporating themes including race, sexuality, and societal expectations in order to discover what it means to live a purposeful life. 

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Recommended by Austin De Dios, Editor-in-Chief. 

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or die. There is no middle ground.” What more could I possibly say. If you’re a fan of the hit HBO TV series, then I highly recommend carrying that passion into the books. Although some surmise that Martin might never actually finish the series — which currently boasts five of the scheduled seven books — I’d argue it’s still worth your time. The world Martin has built and the character arcs developed in it are fantasy gold. Even if we never get the closure that’s been promised, there is much to learn from the characters in the books. 

Vicious By V.E. Schwab

Recommended by Wilder Isom, Sports Reporter

In a world where super powers can be obtained by near death experiences, two college friends find themselves on opposite sides as the reader realizes, just because you have super powers doesn’t mean you’re a superhero. V.E Schwab is my favorite author by far, her Vicious series is a refreshing look at the comic-book/ superhero genre. The book skips back and forth from when the main characters; Victor and Eli were friends in college to ten years later when Victor is newly freed from prison and looking for Eli. This book has the perfect anti-hero archetype, my favorite trope of found family and some great dialogue. 

War and Conflict in Africa by Paul Williams

Recommended by Austin Thompson, Reporter

The nations within the continent of Africa have been the unfortunate victims of decades of conflict. Understanding the massive and multifaceted reasoning for this is crucial for anyone wanting to understand the intricate and delicate balances of power that African nations face on a daily basis. It’s complicated, dense, and honestly if nothing else it may be a great book to help put you to sleep at night. But if you’re like me (a gigantic nerd about global affairs) then surely this book is one to add to your shelf. 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

Recommended by Emma Sells, Photographer

This memoir is a powerful depiction of Jeanette Winterson’s search for an identity and belonging. Winterson recounts her tumultuous upbringing—how she was adopted into an abusive home, sheltered from the world, and taught that there was only one path for her to follow. This book depicts her struggle to accept her sexuality and how Winterson ultimately learned how to shape her own identity. I quickly fell in love with Winterson’s dark humor and beautiful storytelling. Why Be Happy is a must-read for anyone searching for a sense of self, especially those in the queer community. It is a tale of a painful childhood, new romance, introspection, and belonging, neatly wrapped up in 230 pages.     

10:04 by Ben Lerner

Recommended by Will Mulligan, Reporter

10:04 is a comfort read of mine. Lerner blends elements of autofiction and metafiction to tell the story of a semi-successful novelist dealing with fatherhood and writing a novel, all the while dealing with a chronic, potentially fatal illness. It takes its time to ruminate on the purpose of having a child in a world affected by climate change as well as how we can really connect with other people. You might say futurity is its primary anxiety. The novel tends toward the overly intellectual at times in a way that, strangely enough, brings the characters together instead of driving them apart. It is a novel that ebbs and flows like New York City (another of its muses) and reads like a poem in the best possible way.

This list was compiled by The Beacon staff, who are unanimously ready for summer. You can reach us at beacon@up.edu.