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Ciara Knisely

Recommended Reading

by Ciara Knisely | Jul 28, 2017

During the summer, I usually spend a lot of time reading, especially because I don’t have much energy left for it while I’m working and going to class in the school year. However, I’ve spent this summer working and doing online classes, sadly limiting my reading time, so I thought I’d just reminisce on some of the books I recommend for anyone! I won’t give any spoilers, but I hope some of these books might appeal to you!

  1. Native Son, Richard Wright

    This is one of the most intense books I’ve ever read. One of my professors, Beate Gilliar, had my African American Literature class read it last fall, and it does not disappoint. It’s frustrating, heartbreaking, and disturbing in an amazing way. I think it’s very artfully written, but it also touches on themes surrounding treatment and stereotypes forced upon African Americans, set in the 1930s in Chicago. It’s one of those books that you could analyze forever. The story Wright tells is very socially aware and gets to the root of society’s evils, intentional and unintentional alike, while avoiding judgment and creating realistic characters. In short, it’s not a book that feels like it’s trying to teach you any lessons—it just does, because of how packed full of emotion it is.

  2. Maggot Moon, Sally Gardner

    This is one of the oddest novels I’ve ever come across, and it’s become one of my favorites. It’s a fictional dystopia involving young teenage boys, a wall, a secret, and an authoritarian government, among other random things. Again, this book is heartbreaking, but incredibly endearing, and weird enough to really make you think. People in the book routinely disappear, and violence and slavery are normal parts of their society. One artistic technique that Gardner uses is to make the plot and background very vague, allowing readers to fill in the gaps themselves. You may need some tissues by the time you finish this book.

  3. An Untamed State, Roxane Gay

    This novel could be rather painful to read, but is beautiful in its pain nonetheless. The main character, Mireille, is kidnapped for ransom while visiting family in her native country of Haiti, and the novel follows her struggle as her father refuses to pay her ransom. This novel is cruel and graphic, discussing the resulting anger of social classes and lawless governments. The hatred from poor gang members taken out on the daughter of the rich, using her until she is broken in the worst kinds of ways, is something that stays with you long after you finish reading. But greater and more powerful than that, is a woman determined to reclaim herself and face the demons that continue to follow her.

  4. Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton

    This is the perfect, imaginary-escape book, immediately transporting readers into another world. I love this book not only because the main character is a strong-willed, fearless young woman, but also because I am a sucker for intriguing fantasy worlds. Unlike some other fantasy-based novels, this book is mature, very well-written, and avoids any clichés or overused themes. In the world that Hamilton creates, magic is used in a way that I’ve never experienced before. The book is powerful in its rhetoric, but also in the characters’ journeys to liberate those facing a horrible fate—but you’ll have to read it to find out more. This is also the first book in a series, and the second one came out this year (which I just found out two minutes ago, so the very next thing I’m doing is ordering the sequel. Seriously. It’s that good. I might even pay extra for 2-day shipping).

  5. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

Yes, the classic. I just had to. I read this for the first time this past spring semester in my British Literature III class, for my advisor Dr. Watson, and I fell in love. If any of you don’t know the original Frankenstein story, this will totally blow the green, knob-headed monster out of your mind. Shelley wrote this when she was just a teenager, but the language, plot, and intellect woven into this novel is astounding, something that seasoned writers could only dream of imitating. It does involve a creation of a ‘creature,’ but the themes that Shelley touches on, like humanity, obsession, and emotion, are more real than you could imagine. It’s about a man and his creature, but there are layers upon layers that complicate the plot. This book is a classic for a reason, and I highly recommend it.

My list of favorite books could go on forever, but I tried to narrow it down. These are all books that I thoroughly enjoyed and could read over and over. Hopefully you’re able to find at least one that sounds interesting! These books mean a lot to me, and I hope that you can find something special within them, too. 


Ciara Knisely ’18 is an English-Creative Writing major and Journalism minor, and hopes to continue her writing career in the future. She spends her time working at the Writing Center on campus and is a Co-Editor of the Oak Leaves newspaper.

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