Back to School Must Reads

by Jharna Kamath, Reporter

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson 

With “The Way of Kings,” the first book of Sanderson’s new series “The Stormlight Archive,” readers are introduced to the vivid world of Roshar and the prolonged battle on the Shattered Plains. The first book focuses on the flashback and narrative of Kaladin, a former squad leader in the army who was forced into slavery under false pretenses. 

Sanderson uses world-building skills on par with fantasy classics like “The Lord of the Rings.” This, combined with an engaging storyline and sympathetic, complex characters, results in a book that is a joy to read, regardless of its 1252-page length.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Tartt’s most recent novel has received wide popular and critical acclaim, having won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in literature. 

“The Goldfinch” follows the story of Theo after his mother’s death in a museum bombing. The reader sees Theo as he struggles to adapt to his new environment in the wake of loss, finding solace in a fellow survivor of the bombing: his mother’s favorite painting that he wandered out of the museum with. 

Tartt’s beautiful writing style and the evolution of Theo’s character as he ages make the daunting 976-page count worthwhile. 

“The Goldfinch”  has a movie adaptation coming out on Sep. 13.


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

In “Everything I Never Told You,” Ng tells the story of a Chinese-American family who finds their eldest daughter, Lydia, drowned in the lake by their house. The book follows each member of the family and the varying ways they deal with their loss and life without Lydia, who they all described as the pride and joy of the family.

The way Ng explores the different threads of the Lee family unwinding reveals a different side to each character, showing us people who are deeply flawed, but trying their best to move on and live. 

This book is perfect for those searching for a tender, realistic story that will make them cry, and at 292 pages, is easy to finish for even a hesitant reader.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“The Raven Boys” is the first book in “The Raven Cycle,” a series rich with magic and atmosphere. Blue Sargent, the protagonist, knows that if she kisses her true love, he will die, but this has never been a problem before. However, when she sees Gansey’s ghost in the graveyard and becomes caught up in his quest, searching for a dead Scottish king, everything changes.

The atmosphere in this book makes it impossible to put down. It is easy to process, and the gentle relationships and magic feel almost like a dream. The lyrical writing, overlaid with intertwining storylines draws you into the world of Blue, Gansey and the Raven Boys. This is another relatively fast read at 408 pages.


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” follows McNamara’s search into the Golden State Killer, a previously little known but prolific serial killer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 80s. McNamara draws parallels between her search for the killer and his search for his victims, making this book an autobiography, to some level. Through her journey, the reader becomes even further absorbed into the story, and it feels like having a personal stake in it. While the violence can get a little heavy to read in one sitting, “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” is addictive and entertaining. 

Unfortunately, McNamara died unexpectedly before finishing the book, and the last section was pieced together from her notes and files, so this last section of the book is of significantly lower quality. 

At 344 pages long, this book is perfect for those wanting to get into the true crime genre, balancing storytelling and factual information in a gripping, fast-paced package.