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#ReadersUnite: Our Summer Reading Challenge for Adults


lion bannerSummer means one thing to librarians: summer reading.

This year, we developed Summer Reading Challenge for older kids and teens as part of our city-wide program. It's meant to be fun, of course, but it also helps combat the summer slide — the slip in some students' abilities that occurs during the months when they're not in school. It helps keep kids reading every day, which is one of the most important keys to retaining their comprehension skills.

But why shouldn't adults get in on the fun? Summer is a great time for adults to squeeze in a little extra reading on vacation or just to escape from the daily grind. And if you're a parent or a caregiver, there's no better way to model the reading behavior you'd love to see in your kids.

So we've expanded our Summer Reading Challenge, based on the theme of "Build a Better World," to adults! If you read one book from each suggested category below in June, July, and August, you'll have knocked out three great new-to-you books before the fall. 

And no matter what you’re reading — whether it’s one of our recommendations or just a book you're excited to pick up — let us know what you’re reading this summer with the hashtag #ReadersUnite.

Happy (summer) reading!

Try a book...

...about immigrants or refugees.


exit west

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (fiction)

Two young lovers are thrown together just as their city falls into civil disarray -- and their relationship takes on the velocity of their surroundings. 

This book is: bittersweet, character-driven, a love story. 






We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (fiction)

We can't stop recommending this book. A truly unforgettable story that traces a 10-year-old girl's journey from Zimbabwe to Detroit.

This book is: haunting, moving, seriously good writing.






The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui (graphic novel memoir)

This beautifully illustrated memoir depicts the author and her family's journey from Vietnam to the United States during the war.

This book is: charming, inventive, reflective, spare.





...about an unlikely friendship.



Kindred by Octavia Butler (science fiction)

An African-American writer in the 1970s travels back in time, against her will, and forms a bond with the son of a cruel plantation owner before the Civil War. (Kindred was recently adapted into a graphic novel, too.)

This book is: compelling, exciting, plot-driven.





Arrival by Ted Chiang (short stories)

The title story -- originally called "Stories of Your Life and Others," made into the 2016 film Arrival -- is about a linguist trying to connect with alien visitors. The rest of these thinky sci-fi stories won't disappoint, either.

This book is: atmospheric, otherworldly, psychological, world-building.






We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (fiction)

The chimpanzee in this novel is more than a friend -- she's like a sister to Rosemary, who grows up alongside Fern for part of her childhood.

This book is: issue-oriented, moving, thought-provoking.





...that’s nonfiction, about an issue that’s important to you.



The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa Al-Sabouni

The author -- an architect who grew up in Homs, one of the Syrian cities hit hardest by the ongoing conflict -- traces the war through the physical imprint of her city in this powerful memoir.

This book is: haunting, historical.





The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

A thoroughly researched investigation into the brutal murder of a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in the summer of 1955.

This book is: compelling, detailed, thought-provoking.




Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt by Sarah Jaffe

How do modern-day grassroots resistance movements get started? Jaffe, a reporter for XXX, investigates and connects the dots between a wide range of groups, from the Tea Party to Black Lives Matter. 

This book is: engaging, political.




Want more recommendations for your own summer reading? Email us for personalized suggestions, ask us on Twitter, listen to our podcast, and take a look at our blog posts and Staff Picks on NYPL's Recommendations page.


Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

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