Pleasure reads: Books for when you feel swamped by academia


Avery Neuner

Castilleja’s favorite pleasure reads!

School is tiring. There is little doubt about that. With students busy with school work, extracurricular activities, and other commitments, leisurely reading rarely makes it onto their priority list.
But fall is in full swing and rain is coming in torrential downpours. It’s the time of year to curl up with a cup of tea and find a book to read for simple enjoyment. This is my comprehensive list of the Castilleja community’s favorite pleasure reads.

Among the most popular genres in Castilleja’s community are fantasy and science fiction.

Ash Ehrenpreis ’23 enthusiastically recommended Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Carry On is a novel about the chosen one and his vampire roommate at a school of magic. The pair embark on their breakneck quest to defeat an evil villain. Ehrenpreis said that it is “gay Harry Potter. It’s so transparently fanfic disguised as a published book. I love it so much.”

Librarian Ms. Bergson-Michelson recommended with equal enthusiasm A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, the first book in the Scholomance series. The fantasy YA novel follows students at a school for magic, always on the run from demons and monsters. Ms. Bergson-Michelson enthusiastically said that A Deadly Education “is frothy and light and brings me joy.”

Reece Sharp ’24 recommended The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller. The book follows a fierce female protagonist with an agenda to gain a crown. Sharp found this book a pleasure because “it was cute; it was fun; it was quick; it was really fast paced” with tropes she typically enjoys such as “romance and fake relationships.”

For all those who don’t prefer world-building in their leisurely reads, plenty of the Castilleja community recommends romantic comedies.

In addition to fantasy novels, Sharp cited The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther as a favorite. The Summer of Broken Rules takes place in Cape Cod Massachusetts, focusing on two teens on summer vacation. Sharp remarked, “There was a storyline; there was a romance developing. It was really cute.”

Heavier on the comedy than the romance, librarian Ms. Seroff recommends Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. This series of graphic novels is about a group of four students newly arrived at college. The reader follows them as they become friends and navigate life on their own. According to Ms. Seroff, there is a “laugh per panel,” and it is “a great one to fall into.”

One of the greatest high school romance novels in my opinion as well as Ms. Bergson-Michelson’s is Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This charming high school romance is centered on Anna when she transfers to an American school in France. Her new life is rich with new friends, drama and romance. This book was my first thought for a comfort read. I’ve reread it six or seven times.

Despite the fact that we’re in high school, many Castilleja students recommend their childhood favorites.

Ayda Goturk ’25 and Kira Libby Robertson ’25 reminisced about a childhood comfort series, Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems. A series of picture books about two friends, Elephant and Piggie work together to solve problems and conflicts that “a six year old might have,” according to the sophomores. They enjoy the books because “they are simplistic but enjoyable,” and “they have feel-good endings.”

When asked, Fiona Brooks ’23 immediately recommended the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. Brooks opinionatedly stated, “Percy Jackson, all the time every day. It’s way better than Harry Potter.” The Percy Jackson series follows son of Poseidon Percy Jackson from age 12 to 17 on quests to defeat a resurging villain. It is a childhood favorite among the Castilleja community.

Lexie Stinson ’24 recommended a book from her childhood, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede. Dealing with Dragons is a “nice chill chapter book” about a princess who wants to escape a prince and purposefully gets kidnapped by dragons. Stinson liked that the princess “just becomes the dragon’s librarian slash assistant” and that it’s about “best friends going on adventures.”

Sometimes we’re made to feel as if these books that we love aren’t sophisticated enough. They aren’t enriching our minds. To that I say, that is exactly the point. In the words of Ms. Bergson-Michelson, “There is absolutely nothing wrong, even if it’s the 87th dumb highschool romance. If you can find rest through that, then you go.”