While many people picked up new hobbies during quarantine this summer, I rediscovered one of my old ones. Growing up I was an avid reader and would read anything and everything, and I’m so happy to have found my way back to one of my favorite things. This list includes 5 of my favorite books that I read this summer, both rereads and first time reads. While I definitely enjoyed reading these books outside in the sun with my feet in the sand, they’ll be just as good when you’re curled up under a nice blanket this fall.
“Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had witnessed as an American prisoner of war. It combines historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, and satire in an account of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son turned draftee turned optometrist turned alien abductee. As Vonnegut had, Billy experiences the destruction of Dresden as a POW. Unlike Vonnegut, he experiences time travel, or coming “unstuck in time.” – Amazon Description
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is one of my all-time favorite books. Vonnegut’s unique style of writing make his stories like no other. He has a very unique way of writing semi-biographies where some scenes of the novel are all too real while others are completely alien (literally). His take on the function of time is something that always blows my mind every time I read this book again. He takes a truly absurd story and somehow makes it profound and thought-provoking.
Eat Pray Love
“In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want—husband, country home, successful career—but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she was consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and set out to explore three different aspects of her nature, against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.” – Amazon Description
I was 6 years old when this book first came out, but I have vague memories about how much it was talked about. I’ve seen it on my bookshelf back home for 13 years but always thought it was overhyped and truly had no interest in reading it. Once the cabin fever got too much for me in quarantine, I ultimately decided to give it shot – hoping that the description of Elizabeth Gilbert’s travels around the world would relieve some of my wanderlust. While it only made my wanderlust more intense (which I should have expected), I am very glad I decided to pick up the book. I definitely enjoyed certain sections of the book over others (I think I was hungry the entire time she was in Italy), overall the book is very inspiring to the fact that it’s never too late to do the things you’ve always wanted to do and reimagine yourself.
“Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins. A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other. Normal People is the story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find that they can’t.” – Amazon Description
While it took me a little bit to get over the fact that they author doesn’t use quotation marks while writing dialog (maybe it’s an Irish thing?) I immensely enjoyed this book. I finished it in two days if that tells you anything. It’s such a bittersweet story of two people who clearly love each but get pulled apart as much as they are drawn together. It’s very interesting witnessing how the dynamics between Marianne and Connell change as they get older, it gives a very realistic look at how people mature over time and how relationships grow. I highly recommend this book. (Also it’s now a show on Hulu!)
Little Fires Everywhere
“In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned—from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren—an enigmatic artist and single mother—who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town—and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.” – Amazon Description
I’m not going to lie, it took me a little bit of time to get into this book, but I’m so glad that I did. This book is also full of very interesting dynamics; mother/daughter dynamics, friend dynamics, romantic dynamics, etc. I’d say one of my favorite things about this book was how the first scene was actually the last scene, and the whole novel is the story of what happened to lead up to that point. And while the story is not primarily about race, there’s clear classism and systemic racism seen in the way some characters are talked about and treated, and I enjoyed the way the author addressed it fluidly within the novel.
A Man Called Ove
“Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down” (Booklist, starred review).”
If you know me you know I don’t cry very often, and never over books or movies. I almost cried reading this book. The only reason I didn’t cry at the end of this book was because I was at work and a customer came up to me moments before the water works were about to start. This book is so incredibly touching and quickly worked its way up to being one of my favorite novels. I love the author’s writing style, so much that immediately after finishing this book I started reading all of his other novels (they’re all amazing too). This book will touch your heart. If you’re only going to read one of these books, please choose this one.