Time to put down the books and pick up the…new books.

I’ve been spending way too much time watching TikToks lately. I know I’m not alone in that, either; being in quarantine makes it shockingly easy to have screen time all the time.

A yellow cartoon humanoid wearing a blue shirt, blue pants and white sneakers sits in front of a television with wide, glowing eyes.

That being said, it’s summer. I know most students aren’t exactly tempted to flip through textbooks this time of year (unless you’re registered for the Summer 2020 semester, of course). Fortunately, you can fuel your future career without memorizing manuals.

IGNITE has compiled the seven best books to help students stay sharp over the summer. So, grab some tea and your fuzziest socks—it’s time to get reading!

1. The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Front cover of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's
“The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Published in 2007, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan has become foundational for anyone interested in business and economics. The Black Swan is the second installment in Taleb’s ongoing Incerto series, which to date comprises five publications. In it, the renowned statistician defines a “black swan” as an event that is:

  • unpredictable;
  • massively impactful on a global scale; and
  • explained away by experts retrospectively.

If there was ever a time to read up on the repercussions of dismissing the unlikely, this would be it. Tackle The Black Swan as a standalone summer read or check out the entire series.

2. The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenburg

Front cover of Patsy Rodenburg's "The Second Circle".
“The Second Circle” by Patsy Rodenburg.

Calling all the artists! Actually, you know what, I take that back. Calling everyone.

In The Second Circle, celebrated British vocal coach and thespian Patsy Rodenburg describes how to channel your vulnerability and effectively connect with those around you in all facets of life. That’s especially useful for those studying music, performance and media—but, truthfully, it’s a skill we could all use.

3. Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System by Cyntoia Brown-Long

Front cover of Cyntoia Brown Long's
“Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System” by Cyntoia Brown-Long.

Trigger warning: this book contains accounts of sex trafficking.

While not exactly a comfortable read, this is an important one. Cyntoia Brown-Long, who was also the subject of a recent Netflix documentary, shares her story of abuse, imprisonment and healing in this NAACP Image Award-nominated autobiography.

Free Cyntoia explores how Brown-Long overcame a lifetime of mistreatment, abandonment and rejection to found hope against all odds. Criminal justice and social services students might want to look into this one—it will definitely make you think critically about right and wrong.

4. Eat to Love by Jenna Hollenstein

Front cover of Jenna Hollenstein's
“Eat to Love” by Jenna Hollenstein.

Registered dietician and nutritionist Jenna Hollenstein is tired.

She’s tired of all the influencers, models and pseudo-scientists telling you to cut fat from your diet, and carbs, and to practice intermittent fasting, and to actually eat carbs but only on Mondays, and to count every calorie, and to drink a “magical” apple cider vinegar laxative every time there’s a full moon.

Hollenstein teaches readers how to decipher actual nutrition advice from dieting propaganda, listen to the body’s cues and exercise for energy instead of esthetics.

Kinesiology, psychology and health science students: this one’s for you.

5. Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy by Rinku Sen

Front cover of Rinku Sen's
“Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advocacy” by Rinku Sen.

Author, activist and community organizer Rinku Sen penned this guide to advancing social change in the age of globalization back in 2003, but it remains a genre-defining work in the sphere of community social services.

Sen draws on her personal experiences working with women’s groups to inform readers on how to design effective campaigns, engage in constructive leadership, conduct meaningful research and implement powerful communication strategies in order to bring about social change.

Readers are sure to emerge equipped and inspired to make the world a better place.

6. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Front cover of Yuval Noah Harari's
“Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari.

You know when you’re in the shower and you start having really deep thoughts about the future of humanity and the meaning of existence? There’s a book for that; it’s called Homo Deus.

Historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari presents abstract concepts in an incredibly accessible way in this 2017 international bestseller, drawing from humanity’s past to predict its future. Noting mankind’s near mastery of survival issues, such as famine, illness and war, Homo Deus attempts to answer the question, “What will our species focus on next?”

Flex your liberal arts and technology muscles with this thought-provoking deep dive into the future.

7. Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

Front cover of Ann Handley's
“Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” by Ann Handley.

You might think that, in the age of social media, writing skills are becoming less important for professional communicators. I mean, all you have to do is come up with an Instagram caption—easy as pie, right? Well, no.

Digital marketing trailblazer Ann Handley disproves that belief in her 2014 publication. Everybody Writes is the communicator’s comprehensive guide to writing attention-grabbing content in a world that speaks through emojis.

Whether you’re studying marketing, advertising, public relations, or you just want to up your writing chops, Everybody Writes is the summer read for you.

Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood in "Matilda" (1996) sits on an armchair reading a book and giggles.

Now that you’ve seen our top summer reading picks, go ahead and crack open the one that appeals most to you. Or, if you want more resources, search through the ebooks available on the Humber libraries online portal.

Happy reading!


All caught up on your summer reading? Check out more ways to keep busy at home.

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