We are officially in peak holiday mode: the school term is almost over, you’ve booked your time off work and it seems like the whole world and its neighbour are jetting off to some exotic destination. When it comes to holidays, we all know there are few things better than lounging outside in the sun by the pool (or in your garden if you’re not fortunate enough to be away this year) and that there a few essentials you need to be able to do this properly: namely, some suntan lotion, a fruity cocktail and a good book. In a world of Netflix binging, it’s amazing how much appeal an old-fashioned paperback can have when it comes to summer. Whether you’re an avid reader all year round or your holiday is the only chance you get to pick up a book, summer is the ideal time to try a new read or return to an old favourite. With many people now looking out for the book that will keep them going on the long flight to their holiday destination, I have listed six of my favourite ever books which are sure to educate, enthral and entertain you this summer.
When God was a Rabbit – Sarah Winman
Yes, it has a strange title, but don’t let that put you off. First published in 2011, this is a compelling book which never received as much attention as it should have. The book is narrated by Elly, a young girl who is part of a less-than-conventional family alongside her pet rabbit named God (hence the title). The story follows her whole life, beginning from her arrival into the world and all the way through her childhood years and onto adulthood, detailing the many life developments of both herself and her family. It’s a book that can have you laughing one second and in open-mouthed shock the next, by mixing a loving family dynamic and large characters with childhood traumas, consequences of real-life tragedies and the awkwardness of life. A lot can happen in a plot that spans decades, so the twists, turns and tribulations of Elly are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s also a book which reflects life brilliantly, showing the ups and down we all face, and will have you feeling nostalgic: a perfect summer read for everyone.
How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran
I’ve written before on this blog about the likes of Laura Bates and her work on feminism. If you’ve ever enjoyed her work, you’ll love this debut book from Caitlin Moran. Based on her own personal life and experiences, Moran explores gender equality and sexism throughout this book in a way that is side-splittingly funny, relatable and informative. When someone says ‘feminist’, it’s very easy to assume bra-burning aggression will be on the cards, but Moran successfully creates a humorous but hard-hitting exploration of complex subjects such as abortion, adolescence, gender rights and women in the media. Be prepared to have your views challenged, widened and affirmed as Moran gives a no-holds-barred opinion of feminism, as well as the stats and personal experiences to back it up. If you’re looking to be educated and empowered this summer, then this book is a fantastic introduction into the topic of feminism. Coincidentally, this book also gave me the best bit of advice I’ve ever had about how to deal with equality regardless of race, sexuality, gender and so on: just treat everyone as ‘the guys’ and, instead of scrutinizing whether something is ‘politically correct’, just determine whether you sound like an arsehole or not. Simple really.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
If you were recently hooked by Girl on the Train, it might be time to revisit this mystery thriller. If you haven’t seen the film, you’re in for a treat; if you have, then you’ll be glad to know the book version is even better. Following writer Nick Dunne after his wife Amy disappears, this book will keep you guessing and in suspense of what happened to Amy (something which the film didn’t represent terribly well). There are shocks in store, alongside grotesque moments that might make you squint, and the changeable plot means you never know who to trust. It also finishes with a haunting ending that will stay with you long after the book ends. Flynn represents a masterclass in writing a good thriller with this book, and it is the ideal holiday read if you like your stories with suspense.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
It’s not exactly a modern read, but there’s a reason Wuthering Heights is a literary classic. Following the troubled romance of Cathy and Heathcliffe, Brontë’s only novel combines a tale of passion and enduring love with the gothic to create a tale that is equal parts dark as it is ‘romantic’. It can be slow in areas, but if you stick with it, this book really pays off with controversial characters (seriously, I cannot work out if I love or hate Heathcliffe), tragedy, brooding and an epic plot spanning generations of hurt and hatred. It’s a book that will keep you going all summer, as well as one you can feel really clever about reading (discussion about Gothic conventions, anyone?). Plus, the description of the creepy moors has you shivering, you can always retreat back into the sunshine afterwards.
One Day – David Nicholls
Another book that may have become better known for its film version – but thankfully, if you choose to read One Day, you won’t have to sit through Anne Hathaway’s god-awful English accent. Following two university friends, Emma and Dexter, this book revisits the pair on the same day each year, chartering their ever-changing lifestyles as they pull apart, together and back apart again. It’s a really likeable romance in novel in a world where chick-lit and Mills and Boon seem to dominate, and shows love in an entirely realistic way where your soulmate might be under your nose the whole time. You always come to really care about Dexter and Emma as the story progresses, and will practically be dying for them to get it on by the end. As with all the best books, there are plenty of joyful, tearful and shocking moments to be had, but ultimately this is a book that will leave you with a warm feeling inside.
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
If you’ve ever experienced being single in recent years, you’ll know it’s pretty much a nightmare. Thanks to Tinder, it’s impossible to meet anyone outside of a computer screen anymore, and even then half the time they’re after a quick hook-up. Comedian Aziz Ansari explores this new ‘modern romance’ in his book, in a world where pressure to find the perfect person to share your life with is higher than ever. Ansari comes across as a very likeable guy in this book, providing an honest, researched, male take on today’s dating world. It won’t answer your romantic woes, but it will provide with a plenty of laughs, which might help after you’ve had your 1000th Tinder of the summer.