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5 Summer Reads For Your Jollies

23 JUL
Girl reading in the park

It’s July! It’s (intermittently)  sunny! The ice cream van keeps driving tantalisingly close to our office without stopping! Yes - summer is here. Now that schools have finally broken up, we are all excited about our summer holidays. Some of us are jetting off to to foreign lands, whilst others are staycationing - but all* of us are looking forward to the opportunity to lie in, do a little bit of daytime drinking and maybe even crack a book or two.

For anyone else in search of a good read this summer, here are our recommendations.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Recommended by Sophie

What’s it about?

Since the abrupt departure of his father, schoolboy Theo Decker enjoys a peaceful, privileged life. That is, until a sudden, tragic accident tears his world apart. The Goldfinch chronicles Theo’s turbulent adolescence in the wake of this disaster. Haunted by his loss, Theo becomes the ward of a New York socialite, a latchkey kid wandering the Nevada desert, an antiques aficionado, until his eventual descent into a dangerous criminal underworld.

Why read it?

This is the last book I’ve read that I found ‘unputdownable’. Seriously, I was trying to read it while washing up (don’t try that). It is by turns exciting, harrowing, funny and touching. Theo is a developed, intriguing character, surrounded by a vast supporting cast, every one interesting and believable.

Combining pacey action and complex twists and turns with passages of stillness and minute detail - this book does everything to draw you in.
 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
Recommended by Katie

What’s it about?

An armed robber and heroin addict has escaped from an Australian prison and gone on the run. We meet Gregory as he arrives in India and makes his home in a Bombay slum. There, he turns his hand to money laundering, establishes a free slum health clinic, joins the mafia, learns Hindi and Marathi, falls in love, acts in Bollywood films and fights with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan...and builds a slum family who accept and help him as he tries to rebuild his life.

Why read it?

I wish I’d never read this book...I’m that sad that I’ll never read it for the first time again. It’s busy and vibrant, but ultimately it’s a story about love, friendship and the strength of the human spirit. Based on true events of the author’s life (although admittedly with some creative license), Roberts had to write this book three times after prison guards trashed the first two versions and I’m glad he persisted...it’s a triumph.
 

Look to Windward by Iain M Banks

Look To Windward, Iain M Banks
Recommended by Jamie

What’s It About?

The late Iain Banks was more famous for his regular fiction (viz. The Wasp Factory, The Crow Road) but he was also an established and widely lauded science fiction writer too. The novel tells the story of an attempt to assassinate an Artificial Intelligence “Mind”. The mind in question happens to run the Masaq orbital - an artificially constructed world, home to many millions. The plot follows Major Quilan, ostensibly a diplomatic guest on the orbital, as he mingles with the inhabitants and plans his attack. The book paints a fascinating picture of how a post-scarcity, utopian society might look and behave.

Why Read It?

If you enjoy cerebral sci fi then Banks’ books are both enjoyable and thought provoking. I often find the concepts he weaves into the plot can linger on in my mind long after I’ve finished the book. The interaction between the humanoid species and the vastly superior omniscient AI minds is fascinating. The pleasures and pastimes of of a semi-anarchist, hedonist society are vividly portrayed and form a colourful background to the main themes of grief and guilt.
 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
Recommended by Sophie

What’s it about?

Written sometime between 1928 and 1940, The Master and Margarita is regarded as one of the best and foremost critiques of the Soviet regime.

The story begins with appearance of the devil and his hellish entourage (which includes a fallen angel and a talking cat) in contemporary Moscow. Satan makes sport of the city’s inhabitants and soon after his arrival death, carnage and chaos abound in the Russian capital. The sole two citizens with any hope of restoring order to the city are The Master, the writer of a novel detailing the last days of Christ, currently imprisoned in a mental asylum, and Margarita, his loyal and courageous lover.

Why read it?

This book is a little hard to follow. In fact I had to start making notes to keep track of the huge cast of characters, all with very similar-to-me, Russian names. However, the work is worth it.

This book is brilliant and insane. I mean, if 5ft tall, gun-toting cat isn’t enough to intrigue you, it also includes a ball in Hell and people turning into pigs to be ridden through the sky by naked witches. It is witty, at times disturbing, and entirely unforgettable.
 

Finally we have a very special guest review! As Ellie isn’t much of a reader (in her own words “because I don’t really like sitting down!”), her son Dan (aged 13) has very kindly written a recommendation in her stead...

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner, James Dashner
Recommended by Dan Eastwood

What’s it about?

When Thomas opens his eyes all he can remember is his first name. He has been brought to a dystopian society called The Glade of Boys against his will, as all the others had been before him. They are faced with the daunting challenge of, not just solving, but also surviving the maze. Not long after another ‘newbie’ turns up, but this time it’s a girl and she’s the last one, ever! Strange things start to happen to ‘the gladers’ as they try to outwit ‘the creators’.

Why read it?

I recommend this book because it is pure brilliance and has twists and turns within the unravelling story. This peculiar novel is so packed full of excitement that I would read, on a night, whenever I could. It is extremely enticing and grips you from the instant that you start reading it. The thrill that you feel from it is incredible, because of the unpredictable storyline. The characters truly make the difference, as each one of them is different in their own way and still great at the same time. Everything in the book is linked to completing the maze that their compound is in the middle of. There are 3 others books after this, making up these amazing chronicles.

 

*  Si’s just had a baby so...maybe not so much Si. Sorry Si.