For me, the summer season is always a very active time in my reading life. Whether it’s because reading is, in my opinion, the BEST accompaniment to travel, or something enjoyable that you can do outside whilst enjoying the beautiful weather, or just because you might have some free time on your hands to simply be able to read – I always find that I reach for my book much more during the summer months.
In lieu of this, over the past couple of weeks I have been endlessly browsing the internet for some potential reads to fill my summer days and I have discovered that personal recommendations written by real people with real opinions make a book much more irresistible (or not) to me. In case any of you feel the same way, I thought I would put a selection of the books that I have read and enjoyed so far this year into a blog post, so that you might be able to take your own reading inspiration from it! Enjoy!
The Secret History
This book is categorised as a psychological thriller, but I found that it also contained so many Romantic elements! It tells the story of a group of young, eccentric students, living and studying in New England and wishing to break free from all social norms. Together, and under the guidance of their mysterious yet devoted professor, they explore the boundaries and limitations of humanity and what is right and wrong.
I was totally hooked on this book. I found the way that Tartt uses her narrative to create such suspence to be really clever and very addictive; the way the book evolves from beginning to end is staggering, and somehow reminds me of a kind of decent into hell. It is a dark story, beautifully written and totally compelling.
The Neapolitan Novels
- My Brilliant Friend
- The Story of a New Name
- Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay
- The Story of the Lost Child
I have spoken about my experience of reading these four novels on my blog before, and all I can say is that these are some of my most favourite pieces of writing ever. I have never felt so touched, high as a cloud, depressed, questioning of my own life and choices or simply in awe of any book before.
Ultimately, this is one recounted telling, from start to end, of the lives of two heroines, Lila and Elena, from the beginning of their childhood friendship, right up until the present day. Their stories take us through their lives, with all of the difficulties and challenges that they face in different situations; what it means to be a woman, suppression, political angst, breaking free from their roots, marriage and children, love, friendship… The books are so packed full of emotion, passion, intelligence, and I don’t think I have ever gone from loving to hating one character so much and so often as I did with Lila.
Some people have said that it is a good idea to read other books in-between these novels, which I might concur with, just to feel part of the real world again, although in reality I absolutely could not take a break from book two to book four! Reading these books was one of those life events that I won’t forget.
-Kayla Rae Whitaker
I really enjoyed this artistic and powerful novel. The story is about two female animators who meet in art school in New York, one of them being the reckless, outgoing and exceptionally talented one, the other being more inwardly troubled, quiet and introverted. They develop a strong connection to each other, out of respect for the other’s work and also through each feeling like a somewhat of a ‘misfit’ or an ‘outsider’ in this world, and decide to make a long-lasting business partnership. Together, they create stunning and hugely successful animated movies based on their own lives and experiences, which bring up all sorts of personal issues for each of them, and for me, this is really what gave the book such depth. The story ended up being about so much more than art, but about relationships and sexuality, told through the wonderful subtleties of this incredible art form.
I found the story to have a rich and capturing narrative, and the book gave me a huge appreciation for animation and the work that animators do, which I really had no idea about before reading this. It is such an intimate and sad novel, but also totally heart-rendering.
All The Light We Cannot See
This poignant and heartfelt war novel is told from a slightly different perspective than what you normally get from this genre. Set around World War Two, we follow two different stories, told inter-connectedly alongside each other, from two different sides of the war. The first is about a young, blind, French girl and her father, who is the keeper of keys at a museum in Paris. We fall in love with this pair immediately and become very emotionally drawn into their experience of the war in France. The second story is about a young German orphan boy and his sister, who live in an orphanage in Germany. The boy ends up in a special, elite, Nazi school, and here Doerr portrays some hideous and revolting events that went on from this side of the war through the eyes of this boy, somehow making it feel even worse.
Although, of course, the life of each child is completely different, and they each experience incredibly different versions of war life, they are also somehow connected and, on reading the book, you feel very much the bond between the two. Doerr cleverly draws on the innocence and confusing emotions of children from both sides of the battle, making it an exceptionally touching and refreshing read. I would definitely recommend this book.
All Grown Up
I was really interested to read this book, as I had not seen or heard of anything like it before. The story focuses on a woman in her middle age, who has chosen not to marry or have children and her struggle to find her own identity in our society that doesn’t yet know how to categorise or view women who choose this direction in their lives. I found it really brilliant how the story unfolded right within the inner workings of the mind of this woman – it felt like we got a real window into her thoughts and struggles and this made it even more captivating and revealing.
I think a book like this is highly relevant right now, whether you are a woman or a man, a feminist or not – this book makes a point which is something we can all think about. The ‘old spinster’ view of single women in their 50s and 60s, who don’t have children, just doesn’t apply; it’s old-fashioned and out-dated and reading this book really made an impact on me and how I thought about this issue.
This book tackles issues of race, class division, politics and gender stereotypes. It’s about two girls, growing up on council estates in ‘rough’ London. They each struggle with the challenges of their social contexts, but find a connection and a ‘place’ for themselves within dance. For one girl, dance is a way to achieve a form of success, a chance for her to express herself and to be good at something. For the other, it’s more of an exploration of her ethnicity, all about body shapes and rhythm which intrigue her.
Although I went through several different phases of being really engrossed in the book and not loving it so much, overall I found to be quite a powerful read and I would definitely be interested to check out more work from this author. I found Smith’s writing style to be very vibrant and colourful, it’s almost effortless reading.
Reading this book has also made me very aware of social issues, particularly focusing on minority groups, which, for some reason, were escaping my reading choices. I would really like to expand my reading to explore and discover much more in this category, especially any books written by authors from social minority backgrounds, so if you have any recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments!