Summer is here and the summer holidays are upon us, but is your reading list ready?
Last week we wrote about defining your capsule wardrobe and packing it for your hotel barge holiday, which is easily adaptable for any boating holiday. What we forgot to mention was leaving room for a book or two, or ten.
14 July is an important date in our calendar because it is the Fete Nationale, more globally known as Bastille Day. In 2015, 14 July is world famous for being the release date of Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird.
Go Set A Watchman has already accrued much interest and acclaim from those who’ve had a sneak preview. The first chapter was made available on The Guardian with an extract read by Reese Witherspoon along with an animated version. If ever you were unsure whether a book was for you or not, there are so many glimpses into what this long-awaited sequel has to offer, you’ll feel like you’ve read the book before you’ve picked it off the shelf or unwrapped the Amazon packaging.
Go Set a Watchman is told from the perspective of Scout, the daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch. It’s set some 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird. Reviews of the book label Finch, a ‘bigot’ and a ‘racist’ – a far stretch from his morally bound incarnation in To Kill A Mockingbird – as he takes an unpredicted turn towards sticking with the white status quo. Thought to have been written around the same time as To Kill A Mockingbird there are naturally some questions regarding its late surfacing as the author heads towards 90, but make of it what you will; it’s bound to be a bestseller.
Clearly this is not the only book hitting the shelves in time for summer downtime. So if you’re keen to avoid the hype, we’ve picked a handful of alternative reads to trigger your imagination and generally assist your drift from everyday life into the perfect relaxed summer condition.
The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips is just for you if your holiday is an escape from a mindless job. However mindless you think your day job is, take some respite in the intrigue that dullness creates for Josephine. Day to day data entry leads to intrigue then to anxiety and curiosity. Taking a step back from all this mindlessness she finds herself in a complex and secretive world in her endeavours to save those who matter to her. Be prepared to be surprised as you attempt to spot the twists and turns.
The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yukanavitch will throw all your assumptions, preconceptions and self-awareness into a spin. Driven by an iconic photo from war-torn Eastern Europe the story unravels to demonstrate the power of friends and networks, the pull of tangible experiences, virtual or present. Reassess who you are, your love and your losses in the context of stricken times.
The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein is the tale of two solo travellers from New York state attempting to discover and comprehend solitude. If you believe in love, its bonding power and its ability to serve up contentment then you’ll appreciate the essence of this novel. If you’re sceptic, perhaps you’ll simply delight in a world with a bird’s eye view, a strikingly described Norway and storytelling that will, at the very least, determine your next holiday destination.
Foul: The Secret World of FIFA by Andrew Jennings is a more topical read now than when it was originally published in 2006 given the events in the FIFA empire in early 2015. The result of four years’ investigative sports journalism is packed with exposé and whistle-blowing (no pun intended). The finest back page journalism delivers compelling firsthand storytelling, which makes it so much more than a book about football.
Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske by Julia Blackburn is a biography effusing a journey of discovery and research. Craske, a fisherman of the Victorian and Edwardian eras painted and embroidered his way through illness. Depicting the sea, boats and coastlines through his works, he is most renowned for his large embroidery The Evacuation of Dunkirk. But this book carries more than his story; it also bears the story of the author’s meanderings to fulfil her research and her own experience of grief. Historical, biographical, impactful.
New American Stories edited by Ben Marcus collates 19 short story authors and their wares to demonstrate the lifeblood and variety of short story writing in the 21st century. In his introduction, Marcus proudly defines the value of the collection as something “you could build a civilization with”.
While this diverse collection of novels certainly isn’t your typical chick-lit beach reading list, we hope to have opened a few literary doors that perhaps you may have left closed previously. It’s our aim to read something out of our comfort zone this summer and see what we discover. But whatever you read, from this list your own, devour every twist and turn, and if it’s any good spread the word!