The idea of doing the summer reading that’s assigned at the close of every school year can be unappealing, daunting, and even infuriating. This is true for people who want to soak up their summer freedom and don’t want to think about any kind of academic responsibilities. But this can be as true for bookworms—people who fully understand the benefits and pleasures of literature but perhaps aren’t enthusiastic about or interested in any of the books that are on the school-approved reading list.
At one time or another, most of us will go to great lengths to avoid doing summer reading, or to somehow cheat on the assignment. This isn’t something to be proud of, but it happens, and here is a list of some of the forms this type of slacking can take.
1. Watching the movie instead of reading the book
Watching the movie adaptation of a book instead of reading the book is practically a rite of passage! Back in 1899 little slacker 19th century kids blew off finishing Cinderella by going to see George Méliès’s film version. Yes, the book is usually better than the movie but, in a pinch, this will do. It has to.
Key to success: Find a website that lists the differences between the book and the movie, because if you think that watching the 2010 adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels (a movie starring Jack Black in which characters, at one point, reenact scenes from Star Wars) is going to help you B.S. your way through an essay or a test then you are totally correct! (Just kidding.)
2. Consulting Yahoo Answers
Half-hearted cheating at its finest, this method simply requires that you visit answers.yahoo.com and ask the Yahoo community something like, “For whom did the bell toll?” or “Why did the caged bird sing?” or “What happened in Slaughterhouse Five and do I need to read the prequels (Slaughterhouse One through Slaughterhouse Four) to understand the story?” Then wait for a reply.
Key to success: If this is the only method you’re using to get around doing summer reading, then you have to make sure that you have the absolute bare minimum of concern about your grades. If you want to do well in school, there’s no way this will work.
Most of the book is filler anyway, right? Everything you need to know about a novel can be gleaned through reading a few of the shorter chapters, the last page, and the plot synopsis on the back. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but surely you can pick up on a few of its major themes and how the author uses hyperbole, right? Right?!
Key to success: This must be done no earlier than the night before the due date, otherwise you’ll have to re-skim later (because you definitely won’t retain everything you’ve crammed into your head for long). And if you’re going to take the time to re-skim then you might as well read the book.
4. Getting CliffsNotes or SparkNotes
These study guides are meant to supplement the reading, but with their detailed plot analyses and chapter summaries they are (sometimes) superb substitutes for actually doing the reading.
Key to success: When writing an essay on the book, never lift ideas or phrases straight from the guides. Not only is this plagiarism (and you’re already in murky territory ethically by not really doing your summer reading, so there’s no need to push things any further), but you’re basically putting yourself on blast. Long-suffering teachers everywhere have been reading the exact same stolen SparkNotes sentences for years, which means you will for sure be found out.
5. Listening to the audiobook
If you’re a responsible, studious kid and want to experience and engage with outstanding literary works, but prefer that the text be delivered to you via the deep, dulcet voice of Sir Ian McKellen, then this strategy is for you. Really, this is a completely valid way of finishing your summer reading, but for some reason (for students who aren’t visually impaired), it usually isn’t encouraged by teachers or presented as an alternative to reading a physical book.
Key to success: Be sure to download the unabridged audiobook. Because of the way that luck, cosmic coincidences, fate, and academic karma work, you will inevitably be given a quiz with, like, 20 questions having to do with the parts of the plot that were skipped in the abridged version.
6. Starting a family book club
At the beginning of the summer, go up to a parent or other trusted adult family member, say that you’d like to start a book club, and suggest that you two focus on the book that you’ve been assigned to read for school. But you don’t ever even crack open the book. When mom or dad or whomever sits down with you to discuss the story, write down everything they say. Ta-da! You’ve tricked someone you love into doing your homework for you.
Key to success: Carry the book around throughout the summer to really sell the whole “I am totally reading this thing” con.
7. Making excuses, excuses, excuses
Rather then scrambling last minute to fake your way through the assignment, go full Ferris Bueller and redirect all of your energy into crafting the perfect, plausible reason why you couldn’t complete the reading.
Key to success: To justify not doing something that you had nearly three months to finish, you’re going to need to be bold and have some kind of official-looking documentation to corroborate your lie (doctor’s note, presidential pardon, et cetera). It also wouldn’t hurt if you had the ability to cry at will or if you were raised by a group of swindlers who taught you their ways.
So yeah, those are your options! Or you could just, you know, read the book. ♦