What is it about summer vacations that inevitably makes one reach out for their novels? To crave for long hours of solitude with nothing more pressing on one’s mind than to finish that particular book?
Is it the fact that as kids we were taught to make reading a book before bed a habit? Or is it because it is much easier to stay in the comfort of the soothingly cold indoors in comparison to letting ourselves scorch under the sweltering sun?
Or maybe, it’s because in the silence of the summer nights, it is easier to get lost in the worlds of our favorite writers than to engage in world wars with the mosquitoes.
While I try to fathom the answer to why I once again find myself wandering down the aisles of our local bookstores, to ‘celebrate’ the start of my summer vactions with the “cha-ching” at their tills, and why I am again going through the yellow, fragile pages of those long cherished, too often read books of mine which I am afraid might literally ‘break’ in my hands, I will leave you with a list of some of my most recommended summer books. Whether you are heading out for a day at the beach, or traveling back home-these books are going to be perfect ‘partners’ for you.
The ones I am re-reading.
1. A thousand splendid suns by Khaled Hosseini
No one can put heart breaking realities into enthralling words like Hosseini, and this book is no different.
It is a moving story about two women from different backgrounds, different generations, different ideologies brought together by chance and finding through each other the most unexpected of hope, friendship and love so pure and so powerful that it gives birth to the unlikeliest of heroes in a Taliban-run Afghanistan.
It’s heart wrenching, it’s unimaginably beautiful and it makes you hurt for Mariam as Laila would, and worry for the later as Mariam would. In this story of love, loss and the inevitable pain which comes with the both of them, Hosseini brings to life two women whose story you will never forget.
2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Most know Tolstoy via Anna Karenina, but I personally believe this to be his better work. He is great at not just creating beautifully flawed characters, but he makes you appreciate the fact that nobody is perfect. And, above all, that no human is complete without the other.
This book highlights every flaw we humans are susceptible to, and how these flaws become more pronounced in the times of danger, of war. Placed in the time of French invasion of Russia, it shows through five aristocratic families (and their extensions) the impact of the war on the Tsarian society. When affairs ran torrid, sacred brotherhoods died protecting their secrets and young girls were for only to be flaunted to boys who wore their hearts on their sleeves, the book shows one how war can change everything and yet strengthen what was already strong. How nothing is inevitable when everything seems impossible. How gender doesn’t define heroism just as love is not infinite. A story about brothers, fathers, warriors and politics, lovers and affairs , murders and money-it has a bit of everything and, yet, just everything in perfection.
3. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Who does not know Jane Austen? Everybody does. Still, somehow, this book goes unread by the most avid of readers. It’s no Pride and Prejudice, but it’s serene flow and uncomplicated core makes it a must for any summer reading list. Charming, simple, funny-it stages a heroine who, when we meet her, has lost all she thought she could gain, but yet is still in the process of development. And, develop Anne does, much to the happiness of her mother’s best friend and the one person who loved the real her before she knew who that was. There isn’t much drama in it, and the fact that the heroine’s metamorphosis is believable, just as the characters are, makes the book like a soothing lemonade on a hot summer evening.
4. Me before you by Jojo Moyes
There is something sweetly enchanting about how Jojo writes which urges you to finish the book without putting it down. Funny, quirky, easy-flowing, this book deals with a sensitive topic so demurely that it touches your heart while at the same time showing you the day-to-day woes of quadriplegic patients. The book starts off with a dissatisfied Will Traynor, annoyed with the destruction an accident has left him with, till Lou comes in. Lou, a bundle of energy, is exactly what his bleak life required and she shows him, and us, why life needs to be not just loved but cherished. Poignant, sweet and reaffirming, it is a must-read, especially for a little holiday entertainment.
5. One Day by David Nicholls
David Nicholls really did it with this romantic-comedy wonder. The sharp humor, the unexpected laugh-out-loud wit, the chemistry with the will they/won’t they question every-looming above Emma and Dexter over a span of twenty years would have been enough, but add to it the undercurrents of some deeper realities, the hilarious chance encounters, the shocking reunions and the bittersweet (and extremely moving) ending chapters of the book and you have not just a best seller, but a book that you want to turn to as often as you can. (Caution-Some readers shamelessly own up to the fact that they shed a tear or two during it, hence, read at your own risk.)
The ones I haven’t read before
6. The Goldfinch
I just started reading this book, and, to say that it was hard for me to pull away from that and come write this, is an understatement. As I don’t know the whole story, I will leave you with Amazon’s summary of it and this; it won a Pulitzer for a reason, the book is perfectly, wonderfully written up till now.
Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by a longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. And , his talisman, the painting, places him at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
This work of Green comes strongly recommended from at least half a dozen friends. This book is also based on teenagers, but, why shouldn’t it be, when John seems to know them better than they themselves do, this line bearing proof to that, “In the dark beside me, she smelled of sweat and sunshine and vanilla and on that thin-mooned night I could see little more than her silhouette, but even in the dark, I could see her eyes – fierce emeralds. And not just beautiful, but hot too.”
Between Miles, who just moved to a new school, Martin, the friend who takes it upon himself to teach Miles how to do everything right, and Alaska, the gorgeous ‘cool’ girl who hides something behind her smiles, lies another eventful tale that draws the teenage life to perfection and shows you the harrowing reality of how precious life can be.
8. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
If you love online shopping, you will love this Cinderella story about Nasty Gal co-founder and CEO, Sophia Amoruso. General consensus? Inspiring enough to make you want to build your own empire. My two cents? The strength and wit of this woman have always been attractive and I can’t wait to read this one. Besides, who does not love Nasty Gal?
9. Paradise by Judith McNaught
For the romantics amongst you, there is nothing better than a McNaught novel. With characters you fall in love with in a second and dialogues that you will keep in your heart forever, it’s one of the best books to read to unwind yourself.
10. Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg
Not the breeziest of summer reads, but surely one of the most inspiring ones. I came across this woman wonder via Ted and a little research turned up this book. She is all about women empowerment, on an individual level as well as via helping others like us. And her tips on her Ted talk were amazing. So, if you want to improve any aspect of your persona (your presentation, speech, interpersonal skills) do give this book a read and learn how to take your career into your hands and succeed to your goals in leaps and bounds. After all, the tag line of the book says it all, Women, Work and the Will to lead.
I can’t wait to get started on these.
Hope you love any and all of them too if you decide to read them.