Spring break exists in part for young people to be young, to go on wild trips to Mexico or veg out back at home. However you choose to spend it, it’s a refresh from the day-to-day monotony of school, just in time to help you push through the last long stretch of classes before summer. With all that sweet, sweet freedom, it’s the perfect opportunity to finally binge-read whatever the hell you want to read, rather than what’s been assigned to you.
Now we’re not going to tell you what to read, but as fellow book-lovers, we’d like to recommend a few free stories that would be perfect for a variety of spring breaks: the staycation, the trip to Cancun, the reluctant family vacation, etc. These online reads are sure to be entertaining even if your break doesn’t exactly fit any of these archetypes, so feast away, readers.
1. Longing for a Hook-up? Read “Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula” by Lindsay Hunter
With all the free time, it’s hard not to fantasize about having a short but steamy affair during spring break. The best thing about “Three Things You Should Know” is that it feels like a line of gossip or a word of warning for anyone who ever even mentions the possibility of hooking up with Peggy. Whether you read the story feeling akin to Peggy or wanting to meet her, in the end, the story gets to the core of what it means to feel lonely. It might (just might) serve as an example of how not to self-destruct from your affairs.
2. Going to Cancun? Read “Mexican Manifesto” by Roberto Bolano
You’re probably looking forward to abandoning your winter coat and lying on the beaches of Cancun, to an early taste of summer, a few dozen pisco sours, the thrill of Mexico. We get it. But for a more authentic portrait of Mexico, try reading Bolano’s depiction of the bathhouses of Mexico City. “Mexican Manifesto” is a very odd story, full of steamy romance (pun intended) that will be sure to expose the hidden face of Mexico City and the country you’ll hardly see at any resort. Plus, it’s a story about pleasure, intoxication, uncertainty and all the adventure that falls in between.
3. Embarking on a Family Vacation? Read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
Family vacations can be hard to stomach when everyone else you know has hitched a ride with friends to wondrous, exotic locations. So what if you’re going on a family vacation to the same old place you always go? At least it can’t ever be as bad as the trip in O’Connor’s tale. In this classic short story, a family goes on a long road trip to Florida and is subjected to the snoring and begrudging comments of their cat-carrying, drama queen of a grandmother. Of course, there’s also the ever-looming threat that a killer on the loose known as The Misfit might be driving in the same direction they are….
4. Having a Staycation? Read “Shut” by Etgar Keret
It’s hard not to fantasize about being elsewhere during a staycation, but what about being someone else? Having someone else’s life? Being so removed from your own life that you close your eyes while driving a friend around? This is exactly the case with a man named Haggai in Keret’s story. He’s happily married with children, but can’t stop fantasizing about switching places with people who lead more dysfunctional lives. Something about the chaos excites him and drives him to the point of delusion and complete removal from everyone who loves him. This story will snap you right back into the moment. No matter what you’ve got going for your staycation, own it. At least it’s yours.
5. Writing the Next Great American Novel? Read “How to Become a Writer” by Lorrie Moore
So you want to be a writer, eh? “First, try to be something, anything, else,” Moore’s story argues from the start as a warning to anyone who romanticizes being a writer. It’s a cynical read, but it feel like the dearest companion to anyone who’s struggling to take on something big, doing so sheerly for the masochistic love of it all. So write that novel! And when you get discouraged, this read is a great reminder that you aren’t alone.
6. Terrified of Graduating in May? Read “The Museum of Whatnot” by Kevin Wilson
Sometimes the best way to address your fears is by examining the worst-case scenario — and this story is most certainly that. “I was just out of grad school, working part-time at a second-rate museum of history at a state university, and living with a man who was writing a novel about bird watchers,” the narrator says, before explaining how she came to work at The Museum of Whatnot, where people’s old keepsakes are put on display. Along with the constant nagging of her disappointed mother, this might hit a little close to home for soon-to-be graduates, but even here there’s a bright side: The narrator meets a wonderful man who gets her. If anything, Wilson’s story will convince you that there’s always a silver lining, even in the worst ruts.
7. Want to Experience Something Life-Changing? Read “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver
Sometimes it’s nice just to live vicariously through fiction. Carver’s famously epiphanic short story is one of those reads that will probably change you, encouraging you to open yourself up to experiences you might have otherwise dismissed.
8. Heading to Europe? Read Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Since you’ve got an eight-hour flight, why not take on a longer read? And what better to preface your trip abroad than Fitzgerald’s stunning portrait of the French Riviera. The love triangles of this classic novel read something shy of a soap opera, but it will certainly provide you with enough scandalous reading to counter your in-flight boredom. Plus, the book isn’t all scandal per say. It was Fitzgerald’s last completed novel before his death, the book that many say drove him to crack-up, so there’s plenty of literary sweat, tears and substance to keep you engaged. You might even begin to understand The Lost Generation and their reasons for leaving America (even if they could never quite leave all their problems behind).
9. Never Want Spring Break to End? Read “I’m Crazy” by J. D. Salinger
The worst part of any good vacation is its inevitable end. Nobody really wants to go back to school after having that kind of freedom, and who better to turn to than Holden Caufield for a bit of commiserative angst? In this wonderful story that would later become part of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden leaves Pentney Prep (later “Pencey”) and goes home to the looming threat that he might have to work in a “man’s office” if he doesn’t get back to school. School may suck, but at least you’ve got something to go back to.
10. Just Want a Great Story? Read “Where Will All the Buildings Go?” by Laura van den Berg
Growing up is hard to do, even for grown-ups. This story illustrates just that when a recently unemployed designer and a high school sophomore find out they’re both just as lost. It’s a gorgeous short story that will yank at your heart strings and make you understand that even when you’re lost, you’re in good company.
Freddie Moore is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her full name is Winifred, and her writing has appeared in The Paris Review Daily and The Huffington Post. As a former cheesemonger, she’s a big-time foodie who knows her cheese. Follow her on Twitter: @moorefreddie
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