Now that summer is well under way and most of you have wound down from the rigors of the past academic year, it’s a great time to start executing a summer reading plan. Whether or not your school requires summer reading, it’s a great, relatively painless, and highly productive way to keep your intellectual wheels oiled and to position yourself to have a great start to the next academic year.
If you have a choice of some or all of your summer reading books, I recommend choosing classics. That is, pick books that you want to have read, even if you’re not thrilled about actually reading them. Regardless of how difficult or even painful they may be to slog through, you’ll have the whole rest of your life to benefit from and feel the satisfaction of having read them! There are many websites offering lists of Western classics—the so-called canon—and you all know how to use Google ;-).
Next, as long as you’re taking the challenge of reading worthwhile books, you may as well milk the experience for all it’s worth. Practice your best reading comprehension skills. Number one among these is ACTIVE READING, or underlining and adding marginal notes to your texts (I recommend you purchase these books and not borrow them from the library for this very reason). Not only will this help with your reading comprehension, but when it comes time to write your summer reading essays when you return to school, which most of you will have to do, you’ll have an annotated text to make the job much easier.
Finally, one of the best ways to improve your writing is to pay careful attention to the craftsmanship of great authors. Don’t simply read for the story-line (i.e., plot and characters) and themes, but actually take the time to look carefully at the grammatical formulations of individual sentences, the structure of paragraphs, and the precise use of diction (word choice). Just as aspiring musicians listen carefully to and scrutinize the virtuoso players of their instrument, and just as aspiring athletes watch hours and hours of professional athletes, so too will your attention to good writing automatically elevate the quality of your own writing. Give it a try!