Welcome to Part 2 of my recommended list of summer reads. In case you missed it, you can catch Part 1 here, where I discuss books on relationships, coming of age, long and shorter reads, and more. Read on for some more suggestions relating to stories far from, or near to, home, meaningful and thought provoking stories, and others!
For All The Smokers And Former Smokers
- Nicotine – Gregor Hens: Gregor Hens’ unconventional memoir is both a love story and a breakup letter to the cigarette. With comedy, insight and precision, the author analyses every aspect of his dependency and offers a brilliant discussion on the psychopathology of addiction.
- Zeno’s Conscience – Italo Svevo. Readers are taken deep into the hyperactive and endlessly self-deluding mind of Zeno Cosini, a neurotic Italian businessman who is writing his confessions under instruction by his psychiatrist. In the text, you observe Zeno’s attempts to quit smoking, his wooing of the stunning yet uninterested Ada, his unexpectedly happy marriage to her sister Augusta, and his stressful affair with an untalented singer. Teaser: the ending (the last page in particular) is the best I’ve read.
If You’d Like To Go To Europe
- Outline, Transit, Kudos Trilogy – Rachel Cusk. This trilogy is simple in its premise: the reader follows a British writer called Faye as she goes about her daily personal and work life and encounters a series of friends and strangers. Each sentence is packed with dense truths about life, art, love, and relationships. Warning: the conviction of Cusk’s cool and detatched style is addictive, but rest assured, there are three in the series.
- Sunbathing – Isobel Beech (Fiction). Set in Summertime Abruzzo, Italy, this beautiful debut novel details the inner workings of the self after losing a loved one. The narrator navigates her grief from the summer villa’s birthing room, where generations of women once gave way to babies. It oscillates between her inner world and outer environment to ultimately reveal the redemptive power of paying attention to the everyday.
From Our Backyard
- People Who Lunch: Essays On Work, Leisure, And Loose Living – Sally Olds. In this debut collection, the author uses a different character for each essay to commentate on and discuss all the modern woes from labour and leisure, resenting work but needing food, technology, intimacy, money, and love. She challenges the current landscape of clubbing, communes, cults, cryptocurrency, and relationships. The author makes a strong case for the need to live lightly with the structures we esteem.
- Bodies of Light – Jennifer Down. This critically acclaimed Miles Franklin prize winner novel has been regarded as both brutal and beautiful; uncompromising and extraordinary; tender and spikey. It entails a young woman who leads a small-town existence and is jolted back to the past by an unexpected Facebook message, forcing her to face a history she thought she had buried.
- Too Much Lip – Melissa Lucashenko. An epic dark comedy that follows Kerry Salter, who has spent the better part of her life dodging prison and her hometown. However, as the law catches up with her and Pop’s health deteriorates, she makes the trip to Bundjalung Country, where a series of old wounds are waiting to be re-opened.
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong. A letter from a son to a mother who cannot read, this story reveals a family history that began far before the narrator was born. It speaks to Vietnam, the trauma of the war and an immigrant family’s desire to pave a new future. Full of poetic detail, profound episodes, and a genuinely original way of seeing the world, Vuong has earned his title as a prodigy.
- My Mother Laughs – Chantel Ackerman. This is the last published work before the writer and filmmaker died in 2015. The book details the time in which Akerman cared for her dying mother while also grappling with her own struggles and relationship trauma. This is an intimate portrayal of the writer’s creative life and internal pain, though, at its core, it is one version of the most remarkable love story of all: that between a mother and daughter.
- The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion. Didion, who is known for her icy clarity, opens up her mind to us at a time in which it is clouded with grief. She has lost not only her husband but also their only daughter. This book will speak to anyone who has ever loved or been loved as a husband, wife, or child and further reveals the fragility of sanity and life itself.
Important and Thought Provoking
- Talking to My Daughter About the Economy – Yanis Varoufakis. World-renowned economist and Greece’s former finance minister, Varoufakis writes to his daughter in the hope of teaching her about the dangers of capitalism through a series of tender letters. He samples moments from her childhood as well as a series of well-known tales while all the while drilling home the hard truths.
- Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion – Jia Tolentino. A brave and bold confrontation to the self-delusion that surges through all our lives. Once you read these essays, you will see everything anew, including what is reflected at you in the mirror.
- In the Dreamhouse – Carmen Maria Marchado. After years of emptiness, searching for the words and the right form, then writing and re-writing, Machado finally articulates her experience in an abusive same-sex relationship, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece. The memoir is an incredibly radical, candid, informative and harrowing depiction of the enmeshment and entrapment that is characteristic of an abusive lover.
A Spoonful of Joy
- View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems – Wisława Szymborska, and;
- Love and Other Poems – Alex Dimitrov
I will continue to reach for these two playful, refreshing, and diverse collections whenever I need to be reminded of how special this world is and how lucky I am to be alive. In a time of horrific headlines, bad habits and climate anxiety, these readings are a pleasant reminder that we are not entirely doomed. Born 62 years apart, these writers both possess the same magic skill for elevating the every day and speaking to you as if the poem was written just for you. If you need a little joy, which we all do, you will not regret having these collections within arm’s reach. In fact, I always carry one around in my handbag.
Thank you for coming with me on this journey of potential literary adventures! I hope you can enjoy some of these recommendations as much as I have. I can’t wait to see what new stories I come across this year! Wherever you are as this year gets underway, happy reading.