By Aurora Soriano
Despite it being only about three weeks into the semester, the college course load is already starting to feel overwhelming. Midterms are right around the corner, and class assignments seem to get longer with each passing day. Considering that some of the stress of assignments can be due to lengthy textbook readings, it may seem like reading for pleasure during your free time would not be the optimal way to relieve stress as a college student.
However, University of Sussex studies have shown that reading can actually reduce your stress by 68%, and even better, just six minutes of reading is enough to do it. So next time you’re stuck on a long train ride, wanting to think about anything other than school, consider reading something not on your syllabus and escaping for a few minutes into a different world that’s waiting in the pages for you.
Below are some recommendations by both booksellers and students at CCNY of what books to consider picking up this semester!
Olivia Murphy, a senior majoring in Sociology and Theatre:
“I have been reading James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk. It’s been hard to fit into my schedule, but to sit and read on a lazy Sunday afternoon is the most wonderful feeling. He’s an intense writer but he takes you into the story and you get swept away from your personal worries.”
Angelica Sumner, a senior majoring in Theatre Performance:
“I love to read everything. At the moment, I’m bouncing between Dracula, adapted by William McNulty, and The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy. The plays I read throughout the year are really to keep my enthusiasm for stories alive. The Ethical Slut is both for personal exploration into my own sexual preferences and for professional, educational purposes.”
Katie Herchenroeder, a third-year double majoring in International Studies and Sociology, as well as being The Campus’s very own Editor-in-Chief, recommends Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay:
“Through Roxane Gay’s use of intersectionality and introspection, she allows the reader to feel at once comfortable in their own feminism and uncomfortable in the ways they still must grow. With each turn of the page, I felt like I was laughing, learning, and allowing myself to be imperfect in some ways, while extremely staunch in others. Overall, Gay finds a balance between fun and anger that pulls the reader in, while not leaving them feeling like they wasted valuable time on recreational reading.”
As I work at a bookstore, Book Culture on Broadway, I thought it would also be appropriate to get another bookseller’s recommendation.
My coworker, Grainne Daly, who is a 2nd year Psychology graduate student at The New School, recommends Circe by Madeline Miller:
“For a retelling of an Ancient Greek myth, the tone is surprisingly modern. The book is fast-paced, I read it in maybe 4 days, poignant, beautifully written, and has a bunch of action and a good bit of magic thrown in. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking to escape the world and get lost in Ancient Greece.”
And finally, I’m a senior here at CCNY, majoring in English, and I recommend A People’s Future of the United States – edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams.
A recent 2019 release, the book is a collection of short stories written by a diverse group of skilled, speculative fiction writers. As the back-cover states, each of these stories “challenge oppression and envision new futures for America.” It especially addresses marginalized communities’ fears for what the future will look like for them, considering how dystopian their present already feels. This collection does not always present a hopeful view of the future, but it is still giving an option of some future, one where humanity will be resilient despite it all, which is, in some ways, hopeful and incredibly powerful. Short story collections are always a great option for when you do not have a lot of time to read, and these stories will certainly keep your attention, as they are engaging, disorienting, enlightening, and all too real.
+Bonus: I always recommend a Young Adult book or series because I think that while they’re no less well written, they are usually quick page turners and I think more people should be willing to give them a try!
My YA recommendation is a four-book series titled The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. The worldbuilding and fantasy concept of The Raven Cycle is unlike anything I have ever read before. It will pull you in with its quest for dead Welsh kings, magical forests, dreamers, and ghosts to the point where you will realize that you’ve finished all four books in one sitting, and that you’ve been left with a longing for an adventure of your own. It tackles topics of gender, sexuality, and class while creating complex, flawed characters that feel so tangibly real to the reader. Even more, it is the combination of compelling characters, a unique plot, subversive tropes, and engaging writing that make it a piece I would recommend to anyone looking to escape into the pages of a book.
All in all, there are some great recommendations here, but of course, pick up whatever book feels right to you! When buying books, consider that there are some lovely local bookstores in the area, including Revolution Books on 437 Malcolm X Blvd, Sister’s Uptown Bookstore on 1942 Amsterdam Ave, and Book Culture on 2915 Broadway or 536 W 112th St.
Author’s Note: Even as a non-resident, any student attending a college or working in New York State can apply for a free New York Public Library card. NYPL and other libraries also have free eBooks and audiobooks accessible to those with library cards.