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  • Anya Fernihough

What I Read This Summer

If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not the best of readers. I don’t read that often and when I do it takes me ages to get through the book, so much so that it puts me off reading another for a good couple of months. When I do read, I have to admit that it’s largely for the aesthetic (think sitting in a Parisian café with a coffee), however this summer I aimed to take full advantage of the time off school to change that.

One of the subjects which I have chosen to study for my A-levels (exams that take place at the end of the last two years of high school in the UK) is English Literature. Now, you may be thinking: ‘why on earth would you want to take that when you haven’t read a proper book that wasn’t for school in almost two years?’, and to answer that: I’m not quite sure myself.

In an attempt to start reading significantly more than I usually do, I compiled a list of all the books in the ‘to be read’ pile on my nightstand (as well as some that I have previously read that have become my all-time favorites!), and hopefully this might give you some reading inspiration for future summer (or in general!) reading.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I feel like this book is a classic, and I had been meaning to read it for years. I will admit that I started this book over six months ago, nevertheless I am putting this down to exams and schoolwork rather than my inability to get off my phone and actually start reading it. The book is

about a young woman’s breakdown and her struggles through themes such as identity, societal expectations and mental health. It was quite interesting to see an approach to mental illness from a while before our

society today, and how people’s actions and views on the matter are affected by this. To read about a woman facing similar issues to what young people experience today, but without the addition of social media in a sense that we’re used to, is rather fascinating too. To tell the truth, initially I only read this book as it seemed like one of those must-reads you see all over the internet, however I quickly began to enjoy it; the plot and writing were amazing! I finished this a few weeks into the summer and found that it was one of those reads that leave you thinking about it for several days afterwards, sort of in a thought-provoking, philosophical state and, in my case, in awe that you actually managed to finish a book.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Another not so light-hearted read I’m afraid! I remember when I dragged my friend to the bookstore downtown so that I could buy it. Of course, knowing me, it remained untouched on my bedside table for the four months following its purchase, except for when my mum borrowed it and managed to finish it within a day. Many of you may have seen the film adaptation by Sofia Coppola, of which I have read reviews that praise it for being visually stunning with lots of inferable meaning and emotion. The book upon which it is based is about the lives of the five Lisbon sisters, and the boys in their neighborhood’s obsession over them and their doomed fates. It’s interesting to see how their surface-level understanding of the girls affects how they try to figure out their motives, showing the sad reality of the male gaze. Reading online reviews, you get the sense that Eugenides captures the sisters’ mystery, beauty and eccentricity, and I greatly enjoyed this novel.

Everything I Don’t Remember by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Khemiri is one of Sweden’s most acclaimed authors, so I made sure to bring this book along with me on my trip to Stockholm, in an attempt to soak up more of the Scandinavian culture. It tells the story of a writer working to piece together the death of a young man named Samuel through accounts from Samuel’s friends, family and neighbors. I do enjoy a narrative puzzle as well as some themes of philosophy, so I am excited to continue reading this book.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This is the only book on this list that I have read many times already. In fact, I read it almost every year, especially in the summer. I don’t tend to read many teen romance books, but there’s something about this one that I absolutely love. The combination of the writing style and intriguing plot make it near impossible to put down, and it is the only book that I can seem to ever read in a somewhat short space of time. As much as those overused YA fiction tropes cringe me out, there’s something about this one that is really enjoyable, and before I reveal too much, I will say that this is a summer must-read that you should definitely try if you haven’t already.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Taking a sharp turn from a summer romance is this detective, murder-mystery novel. I love Agatha Christie’s writing with all my heart, and Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite characters ever written. I have already read Death on the Nile and And Then There Were None, which were both utterly amazing, and the film adaptation of The Body in the Library is among my all-time favorites. I find who-done-it stories really interesting and I love trying to work out who the murderer is (although I will admit I’m often quite wrong with my suspicions). Not only is this considered one of Christie’s best works, it is also my mum’s favorite by her, so I thought I ought to give it a go. Although I may not have gotten round to reading it over the summer break, I am still sincerely looking forward to picking it up and hopefully reading it before the end of this year (being realistic).

There are a million other books that I want to read, but I thought it was best to just stick to this list and see how far I got through it in the time I had over the summer. It was quite a challenge for someone who rarely reads, but I managed to get through quite a few, so I was somewhat prepared for when September rolled around. I might try to make it a goal of mine to keep up with these reading lists for each season, so that I can actually add something to my Goodreads page. If all else fails, I can just read the Harry Potter series for the hundredth time!

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