If you’re looking for a novel to help you relax after finals, pick up one of these recommendations that students suggested from a Google poll as their favorite reads ! From murder mysteries to supernatural forces to real-life stories wilder than fiction, these books are perfect to enjoy as the days grow shorter and colder.
The Quiet Game by Greg Iles
The Quiet Game is the first book in author (and Ole Miss graduate) Greg Iles’ popular Penn Cage series. Set in Natchez, Mississippi, the story follows former prosecutor Penn Cage and his daughter as they return to the south to seek some peace and quiet after Cage’s wife passes away. However, once reinstated in his old town, Cage becomes embroiled in a decades-old investigation of the murder of a black man that involves his father, high school girlfriend, and run-ins with the FBI. From an author who was a longtime proponent of removing the confederate symbol from the Mississippi state flag, this mystery centers on race relations in the Deep South. It is an essential read for anyone who calls Mississippi home.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward released her third novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, in 2017. Sing follows the collective and individual journeys of a mixed-race family in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi as they work through the ghosts of their past. The supernatural elements tied through the pages highlight the intergenerational trauma suffered by black Americans, and leaves readers with a poignant account of timeless racial and familial struggles.
Quote: “It really highlights the racial struggles in MS and is very eye opening.”
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
A classic novel that combines Gothicism and romanticism, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë follows a stoic orphan from an abusive childhood who begins life with a gloomy outlook on the future. After graduating from school, Eyre becomes a governess, moves to a grand mansion, and begins to fall in love, shattering the lowly expectations she once had for herself. However, as she grows happier, she can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite as it seems within her new life. Jane Eyre is a mystery filled with beautiful prose, and the woman at its center sets a remarkably modern example for individuals who wish to stay true to themselves through whatever life throws at them.
Quote: “It was one of my favorite novels in high school and I decided to revisit it for the comfort it could provide during these stressful times.”
Dare Me by Megan Abbott
A murder sparks the plot of Dare Me by Megan Abbott into motion, and the plot continues to pick up through the ensuing pages with the speed of fast-paced cheerleader chants. The book explores the dynamics between longtime best friends and the threat introduced by new rivals, all set against a backdrop of the American high school cheerleading scene. If you haven’t had enough drama and intrigue by the time you flip the last page, you’re in luck- Dare Me was recently turned into a critically acclaimed TV series!
Quote: “I’m reading it for my Gender Studies class. It’s full of mystery and reminds me of an extremely warped 90s high school movie.”
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mashima
Published in 1963 by the infamous Japanese author Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea is a story in two parts: one about a sailor named Ryuji, and the second following Noboru, a boy who admires him. Both love the sea and see the typical adult life as clichéd and unfulfilling. However, things change for Ryuji once he meets Noboru’s mother and falls in love with her. Betrayed by his idol, Noboru decides to take matters into his own hands, and the result is a novella that leaves readers reeling from the viciousness humanity is capable of.
The Mercenary Mandarin by David Leffman
This biography tells the story of William Mesny, a nineteenth-century Englishman who left home at the age of twelve to become a sailor. Contrary to his original expectations, Mesny ends up spending the majority of his life not on the high seas, but in China. He earned the rank of General in the infamous Qing army, but also held a whole host of other jobs, including hotelier, blacksmith, arms dealer, and bridge designer. If you’re looking for a wild (but true) ride, look no further than The Mercenary Mandarin, which is, as one reader described, “packed full of fascinating historical detail and cultural, geographic, and linguistic knowledge”.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Set during the heart of World War II, All the Light We Cannot See is a story told from multiple perspectives across multiple years. The two main characters, Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig, are on opposite sides of the war. Marie is a blind French girl who lives in the German-occupied port city of Saint-Malo, while Werner is a young German soldier with a knack for fixing radios. Through the eyes of his characters, Doerr masterfully creates an unforgettable story using poetic metaphor and beautiful imagery, reminding us that we alone- not the societies we inhabit- choose what the course of our lives looks like.
Quote: “I read this book for Honors 101 and loved it! The plot was so interesting, I had a hard time putting it down!”
Factory Girls by Leslie Chang
This exposé-type story by Leslie T. Chang follows two female migrant workers on their journey through China’s booming manufacturing system. The girls undergo extreme hardships like open discrimination, twelve-hour workdays, and low wages. Not wanting to return to the rural towns they come from, they deal with trials in search of brighter prospects. This spotlight on 2 of 130 million Chinese migrant workers is one of the first of its kind, showing the lengths that people will go to in order to ensure better futures for themselves and their families.