Tag: school

Summer Reading

7 Summer Reading Books That I Ended up Loving

As an English major, my eyes have crossed paths with more books than I could really remember. Sometimes I see or read something that reminds me of a specific scene or plot and it triggers a feeling. Not always, but sometimes. From elementary school onward, I remember certain books that left a mark on my adolescent self. I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night, but I could tell you what happened in precise parts of these books. Useful, right?


I’m not sure if it was my age or the fact that life was simple enough, but I would take my time absorbing every page. The following books were mostly on my summer reading lists. I spent hot days and long evenings getting through them instead of jumping in the pool. Yes, it was for the sake of a report due in September, but in the process they struck chords of humor, sadness, simplistic happiness, and feelings that weren’t familiar in my twelve years of life. Now, I think of them fondly and how I felt in the moments when I just couldn’t put them down. Here are a few of the books that stayed with me long after the summer reading list was through.


1. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes


'Flowers for Algernon'

 Image Via Goodreads


A sad read from the start, this one digs itself deep into your heart when the main character’s newfound intellect stirs up the truth about life. Life, love, death, and friendship are the themes that make this novel so hauntingly beautiful.


2. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry


'Number the Stars'

 Image Via Amazon


I had to write a book report on this one. Its tone always made it feel like a close friend’s story. Lowry does a fantastic job creating a juxtaposition of gentle, childhood innocence and strength that could withstand a war.


3. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


'The Outsiders'

Image Via Amazon 


It’s a classic that’s stood the test of time and inspired every generation who’s read it. How incredible could one book be? When a local greaser, who always finds himself on the outside, gets into some serious trouble, he ends up on the run. This is a coming-of-age story about counting on the ones closest to you. As tough as these boys seemed to me, their vulnerability is what I remember.


4. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo


'Because of Winn-Dixie'

 Image Via Goodreads


I read this sweet novel at the same age as the main character Opal, who went to a grocery store and brought home a scruffy little dog. Her new friend, named after the Floridian grocery store, helps her make all new friends. Strong bonds are formed, including the one she has with her dad. I can still recall how easy it was to put yourself in Opal’s shoes.


5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell


'Island of the Blue Dolphins'

 Image Via Amazon


This book was one of my favorites and my older sister had recommended it. An 18-year-old Native American girl had to spend her whole life on a rocky island, but this story was more than survival. Karana learns self-reliance, appreciation for nature, and she builds ties with the wild animals who were on the land long before her. The rich details let you actually build this island in your imagination.


6. Shiloh (The Shiloh Quartet) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor



 Image Via Simon & Schuster


Nothing could erase those big, brown Beagle eyes from my mind. This is the story of a young boy who comes across a young Beagle whose owner is terribly abusive. Adventure and love face trouble and danger, but bravery is what leads us through the book. Another heart breaker for sure. I think I cried, but who could turn down man’s best friend?



'A Light in the Attic'

 Image Via Amazon


Although this isn’t a novel, there are enough quirky little poems and characters to make it feel like a series of stories. Shel Silverstein has charmed his way into our hearts and I can recall library days spent at rickety wooden tables reading page after page of his books. Even now it’s hard to explain the feeling they evoke for me. Perhaps nostalgia or wistfulness or just complete and utter silliness.


These are only a few that really pulled at my heart and made me reflect long after they were over. Everyone’s got a list like this, and I’m sure we’d all go back to any of these books in a second.


Feature Image Via Collaborative Summer Library Program

English Major

The 8 Types of Students You’ll Definitely Meet in Your English Class

I can fondly recall almost every single one of my college English classes and the great experiences I had within each of them. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in them. The first day is always a bit shaky since you don’t know what to expect. But as the semester starts kicking in, you’ve pretty much got a feel for how the professor is…and your classmates. Yes, those folks.


Just as a novel needs its characters, so does your class. English majors silently fill in certain stereotypes that are both true and humorous. They tend to change between semesters, but I think I’ve got it down to a few specific kinds. Here are some of the English majors you will always have in your class…


1. The Nirvana Fan. The edgy mysterious girl with short hair whose outfits consist of dark colors and quirky backpack patches. She loves Edgar Allan Poe and can deeply analyze any poem. She seems rather aloof, but gets very excited when she mentions her cat in casual group discussions




2. The Marxist. The one guy who acts like he knows everything and maybe he does. Usually wearing dad-sunglasses when he first walks into class. He gives deep, three-minute-long answers when the professor discusses Jack London and tries to tie everything to Derrida.




3. The Shy One. The quiet English major who never speaks up and sits at the side of the room. The professor seems to like them a bit extra. You almost forget they’re there, until they answer a question that leaves you very impressed and rethinking why you ever raised your hand in the first place. D’oh.




4. The One Who Maybe Sells Drugs. The kid who sits in the back looking like he’s doodling and never answers questions. He will come in late to class then ask who ever is closest what page you’re on. When you peer review his poetry assignment, it may be about his cousin…or dog. Prone to falling asleep. Prone to showing up every three weeks.




5. The Classic Goof. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, their answers will cause an uproar of laughter within the class that may cause you to think that you’re not funny and never have been. But they also save everyone’s behind by repeatedly asking the professor detailed questions about a novel that wastes close to thirty minutes of class time. Thanks, funny guy.




6. The Snapple Facts. The one who knows all there is to know about one particular dead author. They will tie the current book back to something they have written. They will recycle their analysis from that author’s books to connect to the one in class. We get it, you like Tolstoy.




7. The One Who Grinds My Gears. He’s a hotshot who thinks his middle name is Hemingway. He will sit by the front (surprise, surprise) and vigorously take notes. The professor is the only other person in the room on his level. He will spend an extra five minutes after class at their desk asking additional unnecessary questions. His questions aren’t meant for a class discussion; to him, we are merely peasants.




8. The Mocha Latte. A guy or girl, but they will consistently show up right after the professor arrives and begin unpacking. They’re sometimes late, but always have a coffee in hand and, occasionally, wear sweatpants. They will sporadically raise their hand and offer an analysis that is deeper than your own or totally out of left field. Either way the professor dances around it enthusiastically and supportively.




These are merely what I’ve come across in the five years of my English major courses. Some make me laugh while others make me think, and some just made me want to drop the class. Either way I’m glad they were around. The semester wouldn’t have been the same without these classic characters.


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15 Stories Every Creative Writing Professor Has Read

As a former adjunct professor of creative writing, I can’t offer the world much besides $4 for one cup of tea and my teaching stories. I’ve already spent $4 for a cup of tea this week, so I am now going to share with you my limited teaching wisdom. The one piece of advice I can offer to creative writing students is this: use your imagination.


Don’t try to write a technical masterpiece. Nobody writes technical masterpieces. Most readers probably don’t even enjoy technical masterpieces. Just think of some funny, crazy, maybe emotional thing and put that thing into a Word document and send that to your professor. You have an imagination. You once played with toys. Go back to those days. But whatever you do, please, for the love of underpaid, misguided adjunct professors everywhere, AVOID writing one of these.


1. The one that’s surprisingly religious.




2. The one that makes it look like you’ve done a lot of drugs.




3. The incomprehensible fantasy one that’s ALSO really religious.




4. The one about two strangers meeting in a coffee shop.




5. The one where your grandparent dies.




6. The one where you reveal a lot of personal information about yourself and your adjunct professor isn’t sure if he should walk you to the school therapist.




7. The one about your crush.




8. The one about your professor.




9. The one about your professor who you have a crush on.



10. The one about your dog, but it’s fiction so she can talk.




11. The one where a homeless person does something stereotypical and offensive.




12. The one where an unhappily married woman drinks wine and looks out a window.




13. The one where none of the characters want anything and there is no conflict, but there is one metaphor everybody likes.




14. The one that’s edgy, so none of the characters have names.




15. The one that is so experimental it fundamentally rethinks what literature as a medium is capable of accomplishing. And so the writer never does a second draft, thus earning a C in creative writing.




Feature Image Via Unsplash

Guy writing in journal

I’ve Never Read These Books But Here’s What I’m Guessing They’re About

For a lot of people, their reading careers begin and end in high school. The works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, William Shakespeare, and a bunch of other white guys are piled on them until they believe there’s no other type of literature besides the kind that are allegedly well-written and conclusively boring.


But sometimes these books (a.k.a. literary canon) slip on by. There are a number of books it seems like everybody who graduated from high school besides me read. But I’ve heard about them through the grapevine, rumors and hearsay. I don’t plan on reading these books at this point because I’m pretty sure I know exactly what they’re about. Here are a few books I’ve heard so much about I think I probably know their stories.


1. Animal Farm by George Orwell


Animal Farm

Image Via Amazon


George Orwell’s classic has been read by high schoolers worldwide, and I’ve been told it has something to do with communism. Going off the title and what I know about communism, here’s what I think this book is about:


A bunch of animals live on a farm. They’re probably farm animals. I would guess pigs, chickens, and maybe some cows. Since it has something to do with communism, I’d say the animals have to share what they produce. So this book probably follows a hen who lays some eggs. A cow makes a bunch of milk. The hen takes some of the cow’s milk, and the cow takes some of the hen’s eggs. They then realize they want back what they respectively produced, but the farmer gets involved, things go awry, and a revolution happens. The book ends with the animals making an omelette that includes all of the farm’s produce.


2. 1984 by George Orwell



Image Via Amazon


Here’s another Orwellian classic sixteen-year-old me was not provided with. As far as I know, Orwell skipped farm animals this time around and went after the 1980s. Also, I know Big Brother is involved. Here’s what I’m guessing 1984 is about:


This high schooler living in 1984 just wants a new Stratocaster like his hero, Eddie Van Halen. But, just as he saves up enough money to buy a new axe, Big Brother (i.e. his older brother) spies on him and finds where he’s hidden his savings. Big Brother then takes the high schooler’s money and uses it to update his wardrobe to impress a girl. The little brother then takes it upon himself to ruin Big Brother’s first date with this dream girl, which happens at the junior prom. It’s like a John Hughes movie set when? In 1984, of course.


3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut



Image Via Amazon


I’ve read The Sirens of Titan so I’m not as lost with Vonnegut as I am with Orwell. But, still, the plot of Slaughterhouse-Five has been delivered to me secondhand, and probably by people who only read half the book. Here’s what I think it’s about:


In a world where time travel exists, a man named Billy Pilgrim is a butcher on the run. He’s on the run from ravenous alien hunters who hunt people named Billy. As a cosmic butcher, Billy’s only hope is to travel between the galactic hubs called slaughterhouses. He goes from slaughterhouses one to four searching for safety from his alien hunters, but to no avail. His only hope is to try Slaughterhouse-Five, which nobody’s heard from in several thousand years. What will Billy Pilgrim find at the final cosmic slaughterhouse?


4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway


The Old Man and the sea

Image Via Amazon


I once did a presentation on Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” so you can say I’m something of a Hemingway expert. Also, I saw Midnight in Paris (not bragging). I get the impression the title explains quite a bit of the plot, so, in the sparse style of Hemingway, here’s my impression of this book’s plot:


An old man goes fishing. Also, he drinks a lot. Probably says something misogynistic.


5. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien


The Things They Carried

Image Via Amazon


This one I’ve heard has to do with Vietnam and it’s quite touching. It’s either a very understated, dramatic title or one O’Brien came up with right before he sent the manuscript to his editor. Here’s the plot:


Set during the Vietnam War, a battalion of American soldiers are stuck in Vietnam, all communication cut off from base camp. They’re deep in enemy territory. Each soldier has a distinct personality and something back in America they have to get back to. Also, they each carry something, such as backpacks, guns, and canteens. But, it becomes clear as the stakes rise, that the heaviest things these soldiers carry are not on their backs…but in their minds.


Feature Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash


Imagine You’re at Hogwarts With These 10 Magical Schools

Mean people may tell you to give up waiting on your Hogwarts letter, that if you haven’t got it by the time you’re eleven, you’re a hopeless muggle and you must accept it. Those people are of course wrong and merely jealous of your evident magical qualities.


I imagine what happened is that the owl carrying your letter encountered a Chinese lantern or some other such hazard and your letter was lost in the fiery mess. I’m sure Hogwarts will notice your absence sooner or later and realise what happened. Until then, perhaps consider these other schools?


1. Flagler College, Florida



Image Via Flickr


2. Bryn Mawr University


Bryn Mawr

Image Via Swarthmore Phoenix 


3. All Souls College, Oxford 


All Souls College

Image Via The Telegraph

4. Rosenwald Hall, University of Chicago


University of Chicago

Image Via CollegeVibe


5. Cambridge University



Image Via 24IndiaNews


6. Vassar College, New York



Image Via College Magazine 


7. Trinity College, Dublin



Image Via College of Global Studies 


8. Suzzallo Library, University of Washington 


library washington

Image Via fpiw.org


9. Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


cathedral of learning

Image Via Campus Tour


10. University of Paris, Sorbonne


Image Via Brian Pirolli


Feature Image Via Hypable