People often ask me what I do for fun. I don’t really have any “hobbies” or “pastimes” like crocheting or tennis. I love to read. I read all the time for fun, to pass the time, or simply to relax. As a literature major, and lifelong reader and writer, I have been exposed to many titles ranging all genres, fiction and nonfiction. Along my journey as a reader and explorer of tomes, I have come across several books that have captured and haunted, and questioned my beliefs, and some that have changed my life.
Summer is my favorite season to read. It’s the best time of the year to sit outside with a book, preferably at a beach. Here is a list of some of my favorite summer reads (also good any time of the year, really).
1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I was relaxing on a sandy beach in Mexico with tropical waters in front of me and a pool behind me when I picked up this book.
This book will break your heart in the best way possible. It will vault you into a mysterious world, much like our own. This world, however, has a sad and strange secret that will be revealed as you read. The story follows the lives of a group of children at an idyllic boarding school called Hailsham–though appearances are not what they seem, and they are not shown anything of the outside world, and forbidden to leave school grounds. Eventually they must contend with the tragedy of their reality. This book is probably the most beautiful book I have ever read. Please read this book and share the joys and sorrows of Ishiguro’s masterpiece.
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
This book I purchased at an English bookstore/cafe in Prague, Czech Republic while studying abroad. It is an incredible book full of deep philosophical musings of its antihero, Tomas. Although this book is also somewhat of a tragedy, it is so beautiful and full, it might just make you feel okay with the human complexity and the issues that arise out of love, lust and jealousy.
3. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Finally, some comic relief. This is one of those books I could read on the bus surrounded by strangers and burst out laughing. It’s a cross-cultural, cross-historical adventure of a man searching for history and identity across Eastern Europe with a couple of unlikely guides. Not only is this book is quite funny, it is also a beautifully told tale of love, loss, and cross-cultural friendships.
4. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
I read this book right out of high school. It was a favorite teacher’s recommendation and it changed the way I looked at life. Like Unbearable Lightness of Being, Murakami’s popular hit is interlaced with philosophical musings between the doomed protagonist and the various characters he meets on his journey, like Nakata, a man who can converse with cats and predicts unusual weather (like when it begins to rain trout). This otherworldly tale of magical realism will take you on a literary journey of a young boy as he tempts fate.
5. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
As the only (semi-) nonfiction book on my list, Ishmael is a difficult sell. It’s one of those books that only sounds worse when one attempts to describe it, since it’s essentially about a philosophizing gorilla. But bear with me! Daniel Quinn has some very fascinating ideas about our culture and the world that we live in. This book will seriously turn your world inside out as it goes through history of our civilization and the ways in which we relate to one another and act as a society. Yes, through the eyes of a gorilla.
6. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
This is probably the only truly lighthearted book on my list. It’s another “laugh-out-loud-in-public” type of book. David Sedaris’s memoir takes you through short stories about his childhood and some from his adult life that are truly hilarious. If you have not read this book, it is really a delight and a purely entertaining selection.
7. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimb by Robert C. O’Brien
Though the book may seem juvenile as there was a children’s movie made of the story, etc., Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimb is anything but. This book takes you through the underground world of a very intelligent secret society of rodents who have escaped the clutches of a team of scientists. Mrs. Frisby, a mouse mother, gets wrapped up into the intricacies of the rats’ world as she seeks a cure for her ailing son. It’s an adventure and a sci-fi tale that brings up many larger issues surrounding animal intelligence, communication and animal testing.
I hope I have inspired you to read some of these books and share in the joy and wonderment they have brought me. After writing this I wish I could read each of these again for the first time. I suppose I will have to settle for a second (or third or fourth) read.
What’s your favorite summer read? Happy Reading!
Also see: 5 Soul-Quenching Reads for the Beach
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