Whether you’re a devoted reader hungry for a new book or in need of a good read after a long day of work, we’ve assembled for you a short list of light summer reads. Peruse it to find historical fiction, novels, memoirs and magazines destined to impress the pickiest of readers.
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
For contemporary fiction lovers, “Americanah” presents a familiar style in an unfamiliar setting. The novel, written by activist and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, follows two young lovers studying in Nigeria. The students, Ifemelu and Obinze, are separated during their transition into adulthood, each moving to different parts of the globe. As Ifemelu explores what it means to be black in America, Obinze tries his luck immigrating to London. After decades of being apart, they suddenly find themselves back in Nigeria, coming to terms with their old relationship. Adichie artfully infuses her own Nigerian culture into this novel as it comes alive with descriptions of life in Lagos and across the ocean.
“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles
Amor Towles presents a complex historical fiction in his recent novel, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” which explores the life of a Russian count imprisoned in a lavish hotel for writing a controversial poem. While the premise is simple, Towles skillfully intertwines the lives of Count Alexander Rostov, hotel staff and wealthy patrons throughout decades of Soviet control. Towles turns the mundane into magic, sparking life and conflict through Rostov’s every move. While Towles paints Rostov to be an invincible, intellectual aristocrat who can outwit every situation, the third-person narrator delves deep into the inner workings of the count’s mind, allowing for commentary on fear, mortality and unrequited love. Philosophical musings combined with an original adventure story gives “A Gentleman in Moscow” the perfect recipe for success.
“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion
Journalist and novelist Joan Didion is known for her multitude of sharp, down-to-earth essays about the 1960s. “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” shines among them all. The compilation jumps throughout California, exploring the parched farms of the Central Valley to the timeless stars of Hollywood. From the collection of previously published short essays, the most famous one is the eponymous piece that describes Didion’s experiences in San Francisco. This groundbreaking work offers a grim display of the counterculture — she adeptly writes about her experiences with cult members, drug dealers and runaway teenagers without the glamorization of the culture that was common at the time. Didion’s ability to insert herself into the situations and twisting journalism into casual prose places her amongst other literary giants, and rightfully so. If you’re a fan of non-fiction and the news, dive into Didion’s masterful storytelling this summer with “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.”
“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi
Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian-French author and illustrator, puts her talents to work in her graphic autobiographical novel “Persepolis.” The two-part comic explores her life as a child in Iran and her adult years abroad during the Iranian Revolution. The illustrations are entirely in black and white, effectively portraying the oppressive years of Marjane’s school days and her depression later in life. The first book in the series tells the tale of an innocent girl learning the truth about the Islamic regime and the role her family plays in the politics of the time.
In the second book, Marjane arrives in Austria for school and soon starts assimilating into Western culture. Satrapi strategically employs her artistic and writing abilities to enhance the emotions behind her betrayal to her heritage, her failed relationships and her attempt to bridge the gap between her present and past life in Iran.
“Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance
In his memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy,” author J. D. Vance returns to his impoverished childhood in rural Ohio, exploring the troubled lives of his family and the working-class as a whole. This memoir-turned-nonfiction commentary captivates his audience through raw, thought-provoking stories of Vance’s life and philosophical questions regarding personal responsibility and the origins of misfortune and suffering. Vance’s no-nonsense presentation of the working class may put off unprepared readers, but this memoir seeks to educate above all else — and does so successfully. In a place where jobs are scarce, college graduates are rare to come by and drug user rates are higher than ever, “Hillbilly Elegy” prompts discussion about the merits and downfalls regarding individual accountability, leaving readers questioning their prejudices and ideals.
The New Yorker
As an internationally recognized and respected magazine, The New Yorker deserves a spot at the top of every reading list, whether it is summer or not. For those uninitiated to the critically acclaimed publication, The New Yorker offers short essays, works of fiction, profiles and art and film criticisms all wrapped into one magazine with a beautifully illustrated cover, usually a commentary on current events. For lighter reading, the one-page satirical column, Shouts & Murmurs, has earned rave reviews and is a staple in every monthly issue. The New Yorker’s blend of nonfiction and culture works surprisingly well and is the perfect companion for long summer days and hours spent traveling. The publication also has a website with a limited number of articles available for non-subscribers each month.
Those with a love for the West Coast and a hankering for travel and lifestyle tips should look no further than Sunset Magazine. Started in the late 1800’s with a goal of enticing travelers to the Pacific, Sunset now provides a more modern look at gardening, home design and seasonal recipes for West Coast inhabitants and international readers alike. Each monthly issue gives subscribers a taste of a new location, from Death Valley to the mountains of Montana, and highlights the best eateries, hotels and outdoor adventures for each destination.
Contact Sophie Kroesche at so3.james14 ‘at’ gmail.com.