Summer can be a busy time for college students. For some, summer means adjusting to their very first internship or taking part in amazing research. For others, summer means waiting tables to save some money, or maybe just relaxing by the pool until it’s time to go back to school. And as for my fellow book lovers out there, summer means a lot of time for reading. Personally, I’ve been reading a lot and discovering new authors this summer, so I wanted to share my list of current favorites and maybe inspire you to read as well.
1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Set in Prague during the late 60s, the book explores the lives of four characters as they struggle to survive during one of the most turbulent periods in Czechoslovakian history. By intertwining the lives of the characters as well as the social and cultural changes happening in the country, Kundera poses an important question of what it means to live with “lightness” in our lives. One of the themes Kundera talks about is love and how “unbearably light” it can be. The book definitely makes you think; it made me examine my relationships with others and my own “principles” for building these relationships. However, no matter how deep the book can get, the reading itself is exciting and filled with enough drama to feel like you are watching a really good soap opera.
2. The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
If you’ve ever read Murakami’s novels, like the famous Kafka on the Shore or 1Q84, and absolutely hated them and think that Murakami is a pretentious narcissist who can’t write a paragraph without describing a perverted scene, then you should at least give this book a try. The Elephant Vanishes is a collection of his short stories, and it might change your opinion on Murakami as a writer for the better (as it did for me). The stories are often surreal and dream-like, dealing with relatable topics like loneliness, confusion, and loss, and they’re easy, straight-forward reads that are perfect for summer. My personal favorite from the collection is Sleep, which has also been published in The New Yorker. It’s a story about a woman who does not feel the need to sleep and doesn’t for seventeen days. During her weird and intense change of mental state, she re-discovers herself and her identity that is independent from her husband and son. Without spoiling anything, I will tell you that there is a huge twist at the end, and it is one of those twists that stays with you for a long time.
3. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
It’s a weird assortment of people; an English burn patient, his Canadian Army nurse, a British Army engineer, and a Canadian thief. Together, they live in an Italian monastery filled with bombs from World War II and form relationships with each other. From his bed, the English patient slowly begins to reveal his actions during the war, and the story focuses on the emotional effects the English patient’s story has on others. This is probably not the happiest book to read for the summer, but the writing is intense and exciting, and it is certainly thought-provoking. The movie is also really good.
4) Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
Joan Didion is one of my favorite writers because she writes in a straight-forward way that still captures all the important details and is exciting to read. Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of Didion’s essays that describe her experiences in California during the 1960s when she worked as a journalist for various magazines. Many of the essays talk about her first-hand encounters of the dark side of counterculture in America. It is an intriguing read, as it provides a different and grim perspective on the topic of counterculture during the 60s.
That’s the end of my short list of recommendations for summer reading. Let me know if you have recommendations for me!