by Colleen White
If you’re one of the 57% of Americans who currently has a novel shoved under the edge of your wiggly coffee table, there are still four long, chilly months before the end of the year to help boost that NEA percentage!
With that in mind, I give you four selections-one for each month left in 2016-to jump-start your free-reading, along with my very official scale of how improved you will be in the areas of research from above. So get after it you academic, empathetic sex gods.
September: To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
I know, I know. You read it in high school. You may have hated it. But you might find that as an adult, you better appreciate how brilliant a parent Atticus is. Or how stifling a small town can be. Or what a hilarious smartass Scout really is. #girlboss
Academics: It was almost certainly on your SAT Test (or ACT for you quirky Midwesterners), which must count for something. 92% improvement
Empathy: Race, adolescence, family issues, rape, mental illness…what doesn’t this book cover? I mean, Atticus literally tells us to “climb into [a man’s] skin and walk around in it” to better understand people. Creepy metaphor, awesome message 1000% improvement
Sex Appeal: Gregory Peck played Atticus in the movie. Need I say more? 78% improvement
October: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
You saw the movie? Great. Now pick up the book. The writing is sharp, fast paced, and the best kind of pulpy. Plus, there’s something terrifying about reading Amy’s diary entries in her own voice. Haven’t read the book? Even better. I’ll say no more.
Academics: If you want to get into it, it’s a pretty interesting look at how the media covers crime and its effect on “innocent until proven guilty.” You could also read it in the bathtub and not care for one second about any bigger message and still enjoy it. 40% improvement
Empathy: Is it still empathy if you find the character(s) complete sociopaths? 2% improvement
Sex Appeal: No. For the love of God don’t read this for relationship tips.-10% improvement
November: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book is a little bit of everything: post-apocalyptic thriller, eerie mystery, love letter to civilization. It’s perfect for moody November afternoons, and the and dreamy tone set by St. John Mandel will stick with you long after you finish.
Academics: Like any good end-of-days novel, there’s lots of longing for lost civilization, so expect a healthy dose of Shakespeare and classical composers. 66% improvement
Empathy: The story weaves several characters together to create a story that we see from many different angles. 50% improvement
Sex Appeal: One of the buzziest books from 2015, this might earn you an admiring nod from a well-read cutie on the subway. 73% improvement
December: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
Admittedly, this might not be the most user-friendly book to get back into the swing of reading, but I promise it’s worth the effort.
Chabon’s titular policeman is based in a far-flung Jewish enclave in Alaska where he’s forced to investigate the murder of a remarkable young man from his community who just might have been the messiah. Set in an alternative history where Israel was destroyed in WWII and a temporary settlement is established in Alaska, the book is dark, twisting, and a little nutty. The Coen Brothers have picked up the film rights, which should tell you everything you need to know.
Academics: This could get really confusing if you don’t take a few minutes to brush up on what actually happened post-WWII with Israel. 20% improvement
Empathy: Lots of tortured, complex characters trying to make their way in an uncertain time. The literary sweet spot. 63% improvement
Sex Appeal: Winter wear is not that sexy, and considering most of the book is set just south of the Arctic circle, there’s not a lot of inspiration to draw from. But with a movie scheduled there are bound to be some sexy celebs rumored to play the leads, so the jury is still out on this one. 38% improvement
Related Reading: Reading Is Dying And Why You Should Care