Writing

My top six summer reads

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If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

–Oscar Wilde

When I was younger, one of my favourite things about the summer holidays was knowing I had six weeks to sit back on a sun lounger in my garden and read whatever I wanted. At 22, that really hasn’t changed much, and there are some books I come back to every year like a familiar old friend as well as discovering new books and authors that become holiday romances.

As a Creative Writing graduate, I definitely have a sense of pride when it comes to choosing what I read. I’m much more critical than my teenage self who was reading chick lit and vampire fiction and loving every second forbidden romance and hot vamp sex. This said however, everyone has those books that they should have outgrown years ago but they keep coming back to, so into this summer reading guide I’ve thrown a few of my timeless favourites in amongst the adult and grown up literature.

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1) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

I read this book almost in one sitting while lounging on a beach in Halkidiki, Greece last summer. The book was recommended to me by Amazon, and though I normally delete every email from Amazon or scroll past their recommendations, for some reason I bought this book, and I’m so glad I did. Though I definitely wouldn’t describe this book as chick lit, I would say it’s very easy to read and become immersed in, and my whole family has since enjoyed this book. The novel is from the perspective of Don Tillman, a genetics science professor who is completely unaware he has autism and OCD. Don goes on a pursuit to find a wife, naming it ‘The Wife Project’, and devises a questionnaire to find his perfect match. Don is specifically looking for a non-smoker, non-drinker, and non-late arrive to be his wife, and then he meets a bartender called Rosie who is none of the above. You can probably guess the rest of the plot, but it’s a really lovely if not predictable read, and the narrator is incredibly endearing and funny in his social awkwardness.

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2) Set the Boy Free by Johnny Marr

I think sometimes you can idolise a person; an actress, musician or public figure, but then you hear an interview with them, or read a bad article and realise they probably aren’t the god-like person you first thought. I was a little worried about being disappointed with Johnny Marr’s autobiography. I’d seen him perform live twice and had loved his music and persona for a very long time, but sometimes great presences don’t always write well, and personas are not true reflections on how a person actually is. Honestly though, from start to finish I loved this book, and in every sentence you get a sense of Marr coming through… even without the Audiobook it feels as though he is sat in a chair beside you speaking candidly about his life. The book took me seven months to finish purely because a) It is a beast of a book, and a lot of the events happened thirty years before I was alive so it was hard to keep interested in events I knew about but didn’t necessarily feel connected to and b) there is something about hardback books that makes me less inclined to just pick them up, so I wish I’d got the paperback. If you are a fan of The Smith’s you’ll love this book, but the book definitely isn’t centred on the band which I really liked, because I got to learn about everything else Johnny Marr has done. Reading this book, you’ll realise that those four years The Smith’s were present on the music scene were only a small part of Marr’s music career, and everything since has been just as epic.

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3) Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

I think most of my generation absolutely love the Philip Pullman ‘His Dark Materials’ Trilogy, purely because it felt like one of the only plausible alternate worlds. I didn’t read this book until I was 19, but even as an adult I fell in love with the world and honestly believed I was Lyra. Before I read the book, I had the entire plot and storyline told to me by a friend while driving to Devon, and I was enthralled even then without having picked up the book. This book is definitely one I come back to when I want to escape for a few hours, and Lyra and Pantalaimon are always there waiting for me to return.

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4) Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

Before I read the Handmaid’s Tale and knew Margaret Atwood as the strongly feminist and dystopian author that I do today, I read Cat’s Eye when I was 16 purely by chance because I happened to see the novel in a bookshop. I’ve recently started reading the book again, and it’s amazing how much more fluid and relatable I find the premise now as an adult with a lot more perspective on my teenage years. The book follows artist Elaine Risley, who is recalling her youth as she returns to Toronto where she grew up. Though Elaine recalls her childhood and on the surface it appears like any other adolescence, there is definitely a disturbing undertone to the book, and it scarily depicts the emotional torment and tribulations that come with growing up around influential girls, and the pressure to be like everyone else. The book isn’t light-hearted or necessarily an easy read, but it will keep you coming back, and certainly open your eyes to your own childhood and have you bringing up memories you thought would never resurface.

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5) Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

If you didn’t grow up reading the ‘Confessions of Georgia Nicolson’, then you definitely did your teenage years wrong. I come back to these books without fair every summer, and even though they are almost twenty years old now and not necessarily relevant to teenagers today, this series never fails to make me cry with laughter, and realise that everyone is an idiot between the ages of 13 and 17 and it wasn’t just me. When I heard Louise Rennison died last year, it really felt like losing an old friend, and her books had prepared me so well for life that it was somewhat devastating knowing she would never write anything again. This series was such an insight in womanhood and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. Sure, this series first came out in the early noughties when I was still in pull ups, and the books are more relatable to teenagers in the eighties and nineties due to the lack of mobile phones and the internet, but when I got round to reading these books when I was 12, I still found them very perceptive. Georgia Nicolson was my guru for all things friends, boys and makeup, and I can never thank her enough for teaching me about the snogging scale and phrases like nippy noodles.

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6) One Day by David Nicholls

This book is one that will always be significant to me. I remember my first time reading it, and thinking how I’d never be so immersed in two characters like I was with Dex and Em ever again, and that has definitely stayed true. The main characters are both incredibly flawed, irritating and often completely clueless, and that makes them even more endearing. David Nicholls’ writing style is very emotive and beautiful while also gritty and frank, and he makes the most everyday events and relationships feel very significant. There is a slowness and everydayness to this book which makes it one of my all-time favourites, and no matter how many times I read it, I still cry and laugh like it’s the first time. The novel follows two friends across the span of twenty years, and though they initially meet during a very brief fling at University, their lives become entangled, and the story shows how friendship can be fleeting and complicated while also very simply and comforting. If you want to have your heart torn out of your chest and be slightly tainted forever, this book is the one for you.

 

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