Travel Expert Yasmine Awwad selects the ten books that can inspire, provoke thought and fuel your last days of summer.
My perfect summer reading list contains two distinct types of books: ones that I’ll get lost in, with characters I fall in love with, who make me laugh and cry, my hand itching to turn the page before I’ve even reached the bottom. And then there are those that make me think or even better change the way I think, that by the end of a day at the beach I’m desperate to talk about. Here are my top ten books, to help you draw out those last few summer days.
- Crudo by Olivia Liang
I’ve never read anything that so perfectly captures what it’s like to be alive right now, the anxiety and the fear of the future, the feeling that we’re on the brink. Crudo was written in real time last summer, mixing the personal with the global in run-on sentences that switch rapidly between trains of thought. It’s both overwhelming and gripping, funny and sharp; exciting, experimental fiction at its best.
- The Summer House by Philip Teir
With a backdrop of saunas, the Finnish forest and a sun that never goes down, The Summer House is a quiet and unsettling Scandinavian novel about a family holiday. There’s a strange smell; the children find a dead moose, the parents come across another group by the lake; it’s ominous and absorbing, and I read it with a constant fear of what was coming next.
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Less is perfect beach reading that also happens to have won this year’s Pulitzer Prize. Each chapter is an adventure in a new place – India, Morocco, Mexico, Italy – as Arthur Less travels to literary events around the world to avoid his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. It’s funny and surprisingly poignant; a fast, warm book about travel and love.
- Feel Free by Zadie Smith
Somehow Zadie Smith makes everything interesting: celebrities I don’t care about (Justin Beiber), TV shows I’ve never heard of (Key and Peele), art I haven’t seen (Christian Marclay’s The Clock). In this new essay collection, she covers everything from pop culture and family life to Brexit, art, despair and why she isn’t on social media. This is a book to savour, it’s insightful and never judgemental, and it challenged the way I think.
- To Throwaway Unopened by Viv Albertine
Viv Albertine was the guitarist of one of the most innovative punk bands of the ‘70s. In her second memoir, she delves into her childhood, gender and class, considering why she went on to rebel so completely when so few women do. She’s an angry outsider, willing to be truthful about things that no one else is, and her honesty is a gift.
- Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
I loved the characters in this book. I loved them from the first page and would have happily followed them anywhere; they’re funny and charming, flawed and real. Standard Deviation is a feel-good book with substance. It’s well observed and clever, dealing with ageing and divorce and parenting, while also being (genuinely) laugh-out-loud funny.
- Calypso by David Sedaris
David Sedaris’ latest collection of funny personal essays is my ultimate holiday book. His stories are full of the light and shade of life, from buying clown trousers in Japan to his mother’s alcoholism. Read them individually or devour them all in one big gulp if you’re greedy like me and can’t get enough of his humour, wit and warmth.
- The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
The Water Cure, a hypnotic debut that’s just been longlisted for the Booker Prize, is about three sisters living alone on an island. To protect them from a toxin-fuelled world, they’re made to endure ‘cures’ by their parents, sewn into coarse fainting sacks, forced to kill animals, submerged into weighted drowning dresses. It’s a haunting fever dream of a novel, otherworldly and claustrophobic, and I loved it.
- Year Of The Drought by Ronald Buti
Set in Switzerland during the heat wave of ‘76, Year Of The Drought is about a rural family’s life on the edge of collapse. As the scorching heat continues longer than anyone could have predicted – the dry land of the farm like a ‘hard, stale cracker’ – this short, foreboding book builds towards an inevitable storm, for both the family and the landscape.
- This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
This Is Going To Hurt is a hilarious and heartbreaking memoir that I flew through. Made up of short diary excerpts, Adam Kay describes the sacrifices, 90-hour weeks and life and death decisions of his time as a junior doctor. His anecdotes made me laugh, cry and recoil in horror, and I was left with an even deeper gratitude for the UK’s National Health Service.
Illustrations by Aysha Awwad