Spinebreaker Hannah gives us her fantastic recommendations for great summer reads. Do you agree with her choices?
There is not a more wonderful a feeling, in my opinion, than lazing in the sunshine, a book shading your eyes, towards the end of a long summer’s afternoon. The prospect of such afternoons stretches infinitely into the distance in a comfortable haze of literary indulgence. In my case this lasts from the very first day of the holidays right through to the very last as I work my way through a stack of reading matter.
Finally, the holidays don’t seem so far away. I’m beginning to plan the foundations of the stack of books that will carry me through to the end of August. This planning takes place during those awkward periods at the end of an exam where you try not to look like you are ‘non-verbally communicating with another student’ (my year had it rigorously drilled into us that smiling was an offence which merited disqualification) as they collect in the papers.
I’m sure many of you intend to spend your summer in a similar way to me, so I thought I’d share with you the top 5 books I’ve read and loved in previous holidays.I hope some of you will share your own thoughts in the comments too!
1. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin -Louis de Bernière
This novel, set on the beautiful Greek island of Cephalonia, tells the story of some of the lesser known events of the Second World War, through the eyes of an extremely diverse and colourful range of characters. It is 100% better than the film, should you have seen it, though the ending remains mildly irritating and slightly implausible. There is some brilliantly humorous monologue and the author, Louis de Bernière, has a talent for developing the personality of each member of his cast and presenting his readers with a group of ordinary, flawed people living on either side of the Italian and German occupation of the Ionian islands, who stay with you long after the end of the book. It is a love story, but it is also hilariously funny, excruciatingly sad and frequently surprising. It is a truthful and wonderful book that plays the reader’s emotions with an expert touch, and it is one I come back to summer after summer.
2. Looking for Alaska – John Green
There had to be at least one John Green book on this list and ‘Looking for Alaska’ is my absolute favourite. The first time I read it, it had been recommended to me by someone who had confused it with ‘The Fault in our Stars’, and so I spent most of the time very confused, wondering when someone would be diagnosed with cancer. However, it is a brilliant book in its own right and I have to say I am still hoping that someone in my school will replicate Alaska’s prank in tribute to such an awesome novel.
3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy – J.R.R Tolkien
This is a bit of a marmite choice. Most people tend to love or hate this series based on their tolerance for incredibly detailed battle scenes and ability to accept and embrace the concept of a three book series devoted to the destruction of a particularly malevolent piece of jewellery. I am a fan, though not of the sword bearing, convention-going ilk, but I have to admit I did once learn how to write elfish. I respect people’s right to reject LOTR as ridiculous nonsense, but I urge you to try it and the summer is the perfect time to get through the whole series in one fell swoop.
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Another nerdy book, but it is brilliantly funny if slightly bizarre. Douglas Adams is a comic genius in my opinion and if you encounter anyone else who has read this book, and the others that follow it, you can spend hours recounting particular running jokes, which will sound like the weirdest things on Earth to anyone who has no idea what you are talking about. I once spent a 6 hour coach journey having a conversation which mainly revolved around a whale and a bowl of petunias. A fairly light read, but if you like it there are about five more books to keep you occupied.
5. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
This book is not for the faint-hearted or easily-shocked. It’s a very gritty semi-autobiography of a man who escaped Australian prison and found himself in Mumbai, India. The author is a sort of Robin Hood character, albeit an ex-heroin addict imprisoned for armed robbery, with a strong sense of social justice. He was eventually recaptured, and Shantaram was written in prison. Several times, prison wardens destroyed his work, and he had to rewrite it completely from scratch. The book is a stark view of life in the Indian slums but is also a very touching story, all the more so because it is true (or mostly true – it is hard to believe that anyone could live a life which plays out so much like the plot of a novel) and in places very funny. It’s not exactly the typical light, pool-side summer novel, but I read it last year and by the time I had finished (it is very long), I felt like a changed person, and slightly shell-shocked, though in a positive sense. I would recommend it to anyone who is open to a little philosophising, is looking for an exhilarating, adrenaline fuelled read and can cope with the violence.
So, there’s my list. I hope that you found it useful, or at least interesting. Now, over to you in the comments: what have you enjoyed reading in past summers and what would recommend?