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Must Reads for Students: Our top 5 reads

Updated: Feb 5

We've reached out to five current Carlson students to see what books they're reading. These are some of their top reads, which come highly recommended.




Every Summer After - Carley Fortune

For fans of beach reads and romance novels, Every Summer After is a thoughtful reflection of what it means to leave the people and places we grew up with and what it means to come back to them. The book follows the main character, both in the present day revisiting her small town and her past self growing up there in the summer, as she navigates relationships with family and friends. For Carley Fortune’s debut novel, Every Summer After is a sweeping evaluation of our first love and how it impacts us even as adults. I found it to be particularly nostalgic as someone who grew up surrounded by lakes and cabins and a small town culture, so I recommend it to anyone who can relate. 





The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah is a captivating historical novel that unfolds during World War II, focusing on the lives of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne tries to keep things normal in their small village, dealing with the challenges of war, while Isabelle joins the French Resistance, showing bravery and sacrifice. Kristin Hannah’s writing makes you feel like you’re right there with the characters, going through all the ups and downs. This book is not just about history; it's also about love, courage, and never giving up. It’s a special and touching story that leaves a lasting impact, makes you think about family, resilience, and the strength to face challenges even in the darkest times. 





Man’s Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning is a book that follows Viktor Frankl’s journey through the Holocaust. He was an Austrian psychiatrist, who documented his time in different concentration camps. The first half of the book is the profound story of his survival through four separate camps (Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Dachau, and Türkheim). It explains the journey he takes from one camp to another and what he saw while there. The second half of his book focuses more on his philosophical journey and explains his views on how prisoners still found meaning/purpose during these times. The book is an eye-opener and something I believe everyone should read. It gives readers a much different perspective on life and the meaning of suffering. It gives insight into the atrocities of the past but provides a different outlook and tone compared to many other books about the Holocaust. Overall, the book is a testament to the human capacity to find purpose and meaning, even in the most strenuous of circumstances. Providing the reader with historical knowledge about a past that shouldn’t be forgotten and a philosophical approach to help readers with any circumstances that may arise.




On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous - Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter written to a mother who can not read. This heartfelt story follows Little Dog, a first generation Vietnamese American, as he unearths and unpacks his family history. As he reminisces on his own experiences, he uncovers and learns more about his identity, his family, and the unconditional love of a mother. A truly raw story that dives deep into conversations about race, culture, and generational love, it shows both violence, trauma, and struggles in parallel with a deep sense of compassion and tenderness.

As readers, we are taken on a journey filled with emotion and self discovery. Ocean Vuong is very intentional as an author and poet, making the novel feel almost lyrical. Written as a letter to someone who will never truly receive it, the book feels incredibly intimate as the writer shares himself fully and authentically. Personally, reading this book as someone from an immigrant family hits home in a unique way. However, regardless of your background, this book gives great insight on diverse experiences and personal identity - definitely give it a chance!







The Other Wes Moore - Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore tells the true story of two men who share the same name, race, and birthplace, but two very different stories. The book follows two men both named Wes Moore and both from the same neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, they both grew up without a father, and turned to petty crime at a young age. However, one of those boys went on to become an Army veteran, a Rhodes Scholar, and the current Governor of Maryland, and the other a convicted murderer serving life in prison. Their stories show the impacts of your environment and the choices you make. Similar circumstances don’t always end with the same outcome, and this book perfectly exemplifies that. Their lives are told through a number of individual narratives, interweaving throughout the story, leading them up to the present day, 2010. In these stories they explore the impacts that their families had on their lives, and how they influenced the choices that they made. Overall, the book tells a riveting and eye opening story about the societal issues that many individuals in this country face. It leaves the reader feeling both remorseful but also quite frightened at how similar their upbringings were, and different things could’ve been had certain events not transpired. It is a terrific read, that I would recommend to readers of all different ages and backgrounds because it is truly a relevant story to us all.


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