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Books for Busy Readers: The Crimson’s Top Picks

By Courtesy of Theodor Sykes, Unsplash
By Serena Jampel, Crimson Staff Writer

With the start of the fall semester, many Harvard students face long reading lists and packed Google Calendars — gone are the lazy summer days of “hot girl reading.” Problem sets and essays might be sucking up every minute of your free time, and the thought of reading for fun might even make you a little queasy right about now, but don’t worry: The Crimson has you covered. If you need a break from studying or if you’ve exhausted Netflix, cozy up with a captivating, quick read recommended by The Crimson. Here are our top book picks for the busiest students:

“Thin Places: Essays from In Between” by Jordan Kisner

Essay collections are a great way to read if you are pressed for time. Each essay is a self-contained topic, so you can easily read as many or as few as you want. Jordan Kisner’s collection of essays is fresh and interesting, on topics ranging from colonial ceremonies on the Texas-Mexico border to experimental religion. Her writing is lucid, and these essays will have you thinking about American culture in a new way.

“The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss

“The History of Love” is short and packs a punch. Krauss, an astoundingly talented writer, crafts a story about a 14-year-old girl’s journey to find the author of a book her mother is translating. Set in New York City, this novel blurs the line between memoir, fiction, and reality itself through its book-within-a-book structure. Full of life and energy, this book posits itself as the anti-obituary, seeking to memorialize and immortalize living people.

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The entire internet seems abuzz about this book, and for good reason. If you haven’t read Taylor Jenkins Reid’s masterpiece yet, it’s a must. “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” is a sexy, speedy novel about a Hollywood star’s complex public and private life. It’s glamorous and fast-paced, with loveable characters and a twisty, surprising plot. This is fiction at its finest.

“Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah

Generally fairly compact, memoirs are a great way to engage with reading because, as the stories of real people’s lives, they are inherently accessible. And who doesn’t love to read about other people’s drama? Trevor Noah’s memoir is poignant and deeply hilarious. He tells the story of growing up in apartheid South Africa and his journey to becoming one of the most famous comedians in the world. The particularly engaging audiobook, full of Noah’s signature comedic timing and impressions, is another great way to consume this gem.

“When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

“When They Call You a Terrorist” is the must-read memoir by one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. Treated as a terrorist by the U.S. government for fighting against racism and white supremacy, Khan-Cullors’s life story sends a compelling message about the state of American justice, the power of speech and resistance, and what it takes to lead a nationwide movement. In 250 pages, Khan-Cullors reveals her difficult, harrowing, and inspiring work. It is a fascinating and important read.

“Night Sky With Exit Wounds” by Ocean Vuong

At just 89 pages, “Night Sky With Exit Wounds” is slim, but it leaves quite an impact. Vuong deftly engages figurative language in his series of poems about grief, family, and love. While his poems are not always transparent, the art is in his word choice. Vuong’s poems are achingly beautiful and well worth reading in your (however limited) free time.

—Staff writer Serena Jampel can be reached at

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