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The Best Summer Reading List for Language Learners

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Happy summer, librarians! Hopefully you’re already enjoying a well-deserved break from the craziness of the year. The library sure does seem empty without all the students, doesn’t it?

Even if most of your patrons aren’t physically with you, there’s no reason not to check in with them virtually. Interesting content, shared with them over email or social media, is a great way to keep in touch with students when they’re off-campus (and make sure they’re still learning!) If you’re not sure what to share with students, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Today, we’ve put together a quick reading list for you to share with students of all ages to keep their minds fresh. And because we’re Mango, we’ve made sure that every recommendation can help readers learn some language and culture while they’re at it. Here are our top books for summer 2016.

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

What Shakespeare is to English, Cervantes is to Spanish. For any student who’s got intermediate or advanced proficiency in the language, a reading of Don Quixote is sure to give them the vocabulary and style necessary to communicate como uno hispanohablante nativo. Even in its English translation, this is a classic that every college student should read.

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

One of the best (if not the) best graphic novel of the past ten years, Persepolis chronicles the author’s upbringing in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. It’s a fun, funny and engaging portrait of a young girl growing up in a culture very different than that of the United States. Anyone interested in the politics and culture of Iran owes it to themselves to pick this one up.

Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami

Many college students will be familiar with Murakami’s writings: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a modern classic. But Kafka on the Shore is just as good, and students in any discipline will love how the novel intertwines Western philosophy and psychology with traditional Japanese culture.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

When summer gets a little too… sunny, there’s nothing like turning to a classic Russian novel to bring a student back down to earth. This novel is way more interesting than it’s made out to be, and students reading it in Russian will recognize the lyricism of the original works right away. For those less беглый (fluent) in Russian, the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is regarded as one of the best and most accurate ones out there.

Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante

So this is technically a series, but Elena Ferrante is the hottest (and most mysterious!) writer out there today. This four-book series follows two girls growing up in a poor neighborhood outside Naples, Italy. Not only are they some of the best books recently published, the secret identity of the author (“Elena Ferrante” is a pseudonym!) will pique the interest of any reader.

Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

Sure, it’s widely read. But revisiting Kafka’s masterful novella about a man who turns into a cockroach is a whole different experience for a student who’s spent a few semesters learning about central and eastern European history and language. In its original German, the book packs an even bigger punch thanks to the differing sentence structure.

Sisi: Empress on Her Own, Allison Pataki

The second part of Allison Pataki’s series on Elisabeth of Austria details the early reign of the beloved empress (called Sisi by her friends and subjects alike). Anyone interested in European history, royalty and a little bit of romance will enjoy sitting down on the beach with this book and a nice pálinka (or other Hungarian beverage of choice).

Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol

Any student enamored with the works of Gary Shteyngart, Jonathan Safran Foer or David Foster Wallace owes it to themselves to read Dead Souls, the granddaddy of modern-day darkly humorous novels. The protagonist Chichikov travels around a Russian town, offering to purchase the “dead souls” of serfs who have worked for different landowners. It’s a weird and weirdly hilarious satire of life in pre-Revolutionary Russia.

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

For those out there who only know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her feature on Beyoncé’s last album (flawless!) it’s time to get acquainted with this Nigerian author. Americanah is a brilliant new novel about a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States. If any students are interested in learning more about US race relations or Nigerian culture, picking this book up is a no-brainer.

Let us know: what are you reading this summer? And for more information on top innovations in academic libraries, take a look at our checklist: 9 Innovations Shaping Today's Academic Libraries

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Lindsay Mullen
Written by Lindsay Mullen

Lindsay Mullen is CEO of Prosper Strategies, working behind the scenes to support the Mango team's world of lovable language learning. A language aficionado herself, Lindsay oversees a team of marketers fluent in public relations, content development and strategy (and they speak some German, French, Spanish and Chinese as well.)

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