By Nupur Lakhe
Summer is a time that brings back nostalgia. The memories of summer vacations, swimming lessons, enjoying a Popsicle, and spending days watching our favorite cartoons, immersing ourselves in books used to be the things we awaited the whole year to do as children. While we sure have kept a sliver of it for ourselves even today, referring a recommendation list on the internet is a trend one succumbs to. No qualms there as we all agree that it comes in handy for something we are planning on doing anyway. It just makes our life easier. Summer reading is one such important event that everyone plans. While for some it is a way to conquer their reading goals, for others it might be a way to relax and unwind whilst on their holiday. When I think of summer reading the first thing that pops up in my head is an investing story that will gauge your interest and keep it intact until the last page. So here are my recommendations of books that master not only in impeccable storytelling but also give you characters, you'd like to spend time with. This is a book stack of myriad moods, themes, and genres presenting you with options to explore.
- Americannah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- If I had to describe this magnificent book briefly I'd say- it is one of the finest from Adichie. A notable book in the African American literature by a black female author who through beguiling prose gives us Ifemelu, a steadfast woman of voice, our protagonist who finds herself in America and under the shanties of racism numerous times until she decides to voice it out in her blogs. Her blogs form one of the characteristic features of the book. Parallel to the motifs of racism and debates around colored people is a heart-melting love story that defines home and relationships.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath- This popular classic is an amalgamation of themes, an investing account that makes available to us the primary reasons giving birth to mental pressure and health problems. Not only does it handle the topic of mental health with finesse and sensitivity, but it also speaks of a stereotypical society that lays pre-defined ways for a woman to lead her life offering her with less or no choices at all. Defying these unconventional norms is our protagonist Esther Greenwood. Concealed and encapsulated in her mental health is a clever, witty, and opinionated woman every generation should read about. Not because literature asks us to but also because we all go through mishaps that push us in the worst corner of our mental health. And this is what makes this book purposeful. With an interesting plot, Plath's piercing words are just what you need to lean on.
- 10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak- This recommendation list would be incomplete if I failed to mention my most favorite author, the one who combines storytelling and feminism impressionably whilst choosing her backdrop as the city of Istanbul. This book is the story of Leila who is found dead one night on the streets. A phenomenon claims that once the human heart stops beating, the mind works precisely for about 10 mins and 38 seconds and here we see Leila's mind exploring her life's nook and crannies in this small window. With wilful characters, Shafak emphasizes on the silenced people in the society, the one's often rejected. This Booker prize Shortlist 2019 nominee carries in its pages the beautiful writing highlighting a society that talks of eternal friendships and identity crisis in a multi-faced city like Istanbul amidst political rift.
- Conversation with Friends by Sally Rooney- The book is a story of two people- Frances and Bobby and how their lives entwine with this couple they meet and befriend. Brewing with conversations is a book that explores relationships at various levels- as lovers, friends, and an affair; each peeling the layer of emotion, invading the property of trust, and crushing it. What remains are pieces of Hope. The hope of gaining a lost friend and finding love again. Sally Rooney, the clever writer bases her prose on themes like capitalism, gay relationships, adultery, and elite society thriving on art. The conversations in the book are heart to heart and some heartbreaking. There is a certain warmth the characters exude through their emotionally complex insecure personalities, one which compels and plays with the mind to have a conversation with them. Unputdownable and gripping, this is a book that will give you all sorts of summer vibes- talk of lazing on a beach or taking a dip in a lake or traveling for a holiday- it's all in it.
- Hot Milk by Deborah Levy- This book has it all in its capacity to make a brilliant summer read. To start with- its size. It is not too long, not too short but the perfect length to keep your attention confined to itself. A very investing story of Sofia and Rose, as they decode the reason for Rose's ailment when they travel to Spain to meet a doctor. Through the journey of Rose's treatment both, the mother and the daughter also take an inward journey and explore themselves, and the familial relationships they feel held bondage to. The scenes that have been written with the beaches of Spain as a backdrop are surreal. Deborah Levy's prolific writing will leave you wanting more as you turn the last pages of the book urgently and with a sigh. The grandeur of her writing is lean but immense and leaves an impression of awe, captivating in the truest form. Your summer reading is incomplete without this gem.
- The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden- There is no joy greater than being held in captor of a good series- Bookish or television. This Trilogy consists of three books as three parts in the order- The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower, and The Winter of the Witch. The backdrop chosen for the series takes roots in Russian folklore. When colloquial meets creative is where the magic happens- the magic of words, scenes, and characters. It is my most loved fantasy series because even though there persists a mystical element all through the book, Katherine Arden's writing is what makes it connective. Wonderfully layered and fantastical, Arden drops you amidst beautiful winters, sorcery, witchcraft, horses, and creatures that will run a chill down your spine. You cannot escape this series without making favorites, rooting for them, and detesting the villains. A literary fairytale, as often called, will provide you the immersive fantasy experience that you might be craving.
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry- The book might look intimidating at the first sight but if it is some assurance, one wouldn't feel the weight of the book for the pages fly by, captivating you in its magnanimous scope of characters and story. They brim with a story capacitated to infect and leave you with a soreness you'd nurse for days. The plot sees four people struggling to strike a balance in their life around the Emergency act of the 1970s. The event captures India under turmoil with politically driven movements like- Beautification, removal of slums, mass sterilization, and arrests. Mistry's storytelling causes an upheaval of emotions as you wait for the silver lining causing a juxtaposition where you can't stop reading because hope beckons but the hurt makes you feel otherwise as the protagonists fight their odds of life. A book that requires your commitment, given its size, but also a book that makes it easy for you to commit.
- Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra- This spectacular non-fiction explores partition of India (1947) through a very interesting concept of Material Memory. People who were displaced to a new home from a place they called home, took with them objects that held special value while crossing the border. After years of having witnessed the grotesque bloodshed event of a partition, they revisit their fond and painful memories through these objects when they start narrating their side of the story to the author- Aanchal Malhotra. The book makes you time travel in an era where Humanity was considered prime. Beautifully poignant, eloquent and emotionally choking are 19 handpicked stories from both sides of the border of India and Pakistan, colloquial and surreal, it almost feels like conversing to these people in their living rooms, where they sit and narrate their part. Wonderfully compiled, written, and presented is a book that withholds life experiences during and after the partition of India. It must be a mandate on your reading list to learn more about this important event for the two countries- India and Pakistan.
- A Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh- My first tryst with Ghosh was during a summer when I was on a college break at home and had nothing to read. This book came as a surprise and a recommendation from one of our neighbors. She was and is an avid reader herself and a fellow Ghosh fan too. Hence, I vouch for this beauty to be included in your summer reading stack. Ghosh's writing is spellbinding and impressive as he weaves a story of a marine biologist Piyali Roy and an illiterate fisherman in the Sunderbans- Fokir. The book runs on the themes of Humanism and Environmentalism. Viewing Sunderbans as beauty and at a time of catastrophe is what tests the reader's imagination. Ghosh's words form a lens for us to admire it, making it a memorable experience for us
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones- From where do I start my praises for this Women's Prize winner 2019! It is a beautifully written book with flawed characters and a story that revolves around a riveting theme- being a black man at a very inopportune moment. Roy is incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit- rape of a woman who he meets briefly at the hotel lobby where Celestial and Roy are putting up. What follows are letters that Celestial and Roy write to each other while he is in prison, how their relationship transforms from one of love to being questioned of love and what marriage means. The book is a miscarriage of relationships but what makes it emotive are the minute moments of love, bringing out the best of every relationship explored in the book. With lucid prose and captivating style of presentation, Tayari Jones weaves a masterpiece with her storytelling skills.
Detailed reviews of all the above books are on my Instagram page (@nupur_flipaleaf). Do feel free to drop me a note if you pick any from the list and love it as much as I did.
Have a wonderful summer and happy reading!