As an English Literature student, reading fiction, simply for the sake of reading, has become a rarity over the past few years – my programmed desire to discuss and analyse what I have just encountered has become frustratingly difficult to switch-off.
Summer, therefore, is where I like to combine this innate need to find meaning, whilst escaping to worlds far away from the reading list I have been set for my degree. Consequently, in this summer reading list, I have tried to choose books that are both enjoyable to read and thought provoking, allowing us that well-deserved break, whilst providing us with new perspectives, ready for the terms ahead.
To Kill a Mockingbird
I know, I know, I know. I can hear the moans of your frustrated GCSE memories loud and clear, but the truth is, aside from the exam boards butchering this incredible novel, it remains to be one of my favourite books. I insist everyone must read it at some point in their life, especially with the greatly anticipated sequel, ‘Go Set a Watchman’ coming out on 14th July this year (see below). The book is set through the eyes of young Scout Finch, in which we are taken on a journey to Maycomb, Alabama, following a court case in which Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is defending Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman. This book deals with the issues of segregation, racial inequality, rape and how we perceive and treat others in our societies. Noted ahead of the bible by librarians as one ‘every adult should read before they die’, this is a must read to learn unforgettable life lessons, especially in light of the recent social gains in the LGBT community and the racially-charged tragedy in Charleston.
Go Set a Watchman
Now, hopefully I have managed to persuade you to visit, or re-visit, Harper Lee’s classic novel, and join the rest of us literary fanatics in the long awaited release of its sequel, ‘Go Set a Watchman’. Originally written in the 1950s, we follow Scout, some twenty years later, visiting her father Atticus in Maycomb after moving to New York. Dubbed as a magnificent novel in its own right, this book is well worth reading!
This Book Will Save Your Life
A. M. Homes is one of the few authors whose books you actually cannot put down. I have spent many nights on my last holidays with a torch under the sheet to finish the next chapter of her latest book! But this novel, in particular, is one I feel many of The Worldly readers will appreciate. It tells the tale of middle-aged Richard, living the high-life in LA – a divorcee, trading stocks from his hilltop mansion – and his journey into opening up to the world around him. Richard soon realizes that financial success, a gluten-free diet, a personal trainer and a beautiful house are incomparable to the discovery of the world around you, and the difference people can make if you let them in. Definitely worth a read for the overwhelmed student that needs some perspective before we enter into the next big step!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer & Anne Burrows
I often find myself being asked how important fictional books actually are to our society, or even Arts degrees as whole, and I think this answer is beautifully summarized in this novel. Set in WWII, Shaffer describes the struggle of writer Juliet Ashton facing the infamous writer’s block. In a twist of fate, Dawsey Adams, from Guernsey, contacts Juliet to inform her that he happens to have a book that once belonged to her. Their love of literature spurs on an ongoing correspondence, which reveals Dawsey as a member of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’, a community that has formed as a result of the current German Occupation. As Juliet learns more about this extraordinary society, we learn about the power of love and hope in times of trouble, and the important role books and community have in such times of need.
I have been a major fan of Amy Poehler since falling in love with her hit comedy ‘Parks and Recreation’, so when I heard that Amy’s witty charm would be in book form, it was like Christmas came early. Full of great life advice, funny personal stories touching on friendship, love, sex and all of life’s obstacles, Poehler’s book is definitely worth a read for a good giggle, and not just one for the girls!
I Am Malala
Now, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few years, I’m sure you’ve heard the incredible story of Malala Yousafzai, fighting for the right to female education against the Taliban. In 2012 she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, but miraculously survived, and went on to continue her campaign, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her works. She remains to be one of my greatest heroes, and ‘I Am Malala’ is her story through her own words. One I think everyone should read, to appreciate all that we do have, and to also remember the importance of fighting for what we believe in.