Now that it’s August, we’ve reached the inevitable dog days of summer and that four-week decline before school and college starts and our regularly scheduled lives begin again. Whether you’re an undergrad or a 9 to 5er, the next month is do or die when it comes to your summer reading list — the last time to get caught up on the books you’ve been putting off (because your relationship with Netflix is very demanding).
Here’s 51 books you should cross off that reading list before the Summer ends and why you should read them. You won’t get to every single one, but surely you can fit in a couple. Orange is the New Black can’t take up that much of your time, can it? And if not, there’s always your Fall Reading List. That’s a thing, right?
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Because you want to have an opinion on it by the time the movie comes out. (Also, everyone else in the know universe is reading it, because it’s terrific.)
2. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Because you want to be beautifully sad by the pool side, with a long cigarette and a martini.
3. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris
Because you need to laugh your ass off with one of literature’s finest satirists.
4. White Noise by Don DeLillo
Because it’s still DeLillo’s funniest book, a sharp suburban satire as weird as it is cutting.
5. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Because of all of Chuckie P’s books, it’s easily the most purely pleasurable.
6. Bossypants by Tina Fey
Because if you don’t love Tina Fey, you don’t love life.
7. Shame by Salman Rushdie
Because it’s a great intro to Salman Rushdie’s work, the Rushdie style as written for the masses.
8. The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Because you won’t just shit your own pants laughing. You’ll have to borrow someone else’s pants to shit in those too.
9. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Because Adam Johnson is so hot right now.
10. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Because you probably haven’t read this and if you have, you should marry me.
11. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Because you’ve already read it and you need to read it again, because it’s just as good a second time.
12. Sexually Speaking by Gore Vidal
Because it’s a collection of the late Vidal’s most frank and uproarious essays on human sexuality, like a playlist of his greatest hits.
13. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Because if you haven’t read it yet, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.
14. I Wear The Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
Because you’re always rooting for Chuck Klosterman to write something as good as Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs again.
15. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Because it’s not the dainty little book you remember in high school but a complicated, ambiguous look at social class.
16. Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
Because everything Jonathan Lethem touches turns to gold.
17. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Because you’ve got some extra drugs and need some good reading material for them. if you smoke enough, you might be on the same wavelength as Thomas Pynchon.
18. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Because Michael Chabon has written a lot of great books, and this is Chabon at his most bawdy and entertaining.
19. Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
Because you’re still in mourning.
20. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Because guys who like Game of Thrones are instantly hotter — and that goes doubly for guys who have read the books.
21. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Because it’s a glimpse into a great comic mind we lost far too soon and for my money, the funniest book ever written.
22. Broken Harbor by Tana French
Because frankly I haven’t read it either, and I’ve heard it’s fabulous, and we need something to read together. Tweet me when you pick it up @Nico_Lang.
23. Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James
Because why the fuck not?
24. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Because you read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and loved it and you need to read more of his work.
25. Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
Because if there’s any fiction book that can help you understand what’s going on in Russia right now, it’s this one.
26. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Because it’s the best possible tribute to Virginia Woolf and one of the finest novels of its decade.
27. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Because not enough praise can be heaped on Egan’s 2010 masterpiece.
28. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Because you want something to break your brain over.
29. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Because you’ll be one of those people who can honestly say the TV show is better.
30. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Because you need to buy the flowers yourself.
31. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Because you need something to hate read.
32. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Because you’ve always wanted to get that Gilmore Girls reference.
33. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Because you can read it in a single sitting and it will make you want to kick ass for social justice.
34. Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Because you’ve never actually read P.G. Wodehouse, and he’s a British national treasure.
35. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Because you want to read a book about characters who talk really fast and do old-timey-movie voice while you read it.
36. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Because you want to be really depressed.
37. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Because it’s a surprisingly nimble read for a “long” book, a work you can re-read a million times and always find something new.
38. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Because it’s a lot better when you don’t have to read it for English class and can just enjoy it.
39. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Because it’s way, way better than you ever expected it to be.
40. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Because Toni Morrison is a gift to literature and this one of her finest, most tender works.
41. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Because sometimes Oprah knows her shit.
42. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Because it’s about time you finished that book.
43. Ulysses by James Joyce
Because you need to cross something off your bucket list and it’s cheaper than skydiving.
44. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Because it still holds up as an adult.
45. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Because you need to see how Hollywood got it wrong.
46. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Because Entertainment Weekly recently named it as the best book ever written and even if you don’t agree (which I don’t), you should read it to debate it.
47. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Because Tobey Maguire will never be Nick Carraway.
48. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
Because every list needs a little Flannery O’Connor or you’re just doing it wrong.
49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
Because Philip Roth wrote a gazillion books and you should read at least one of them.
50. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
Because if any award-worthy book were meant to be read on the beach, it’s this one.
51. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Because you’re never too old to start reading Harry Potter (or read it all over again).