Inspiring Summer Reads

It is the first official day of summer so it seemed like a fitting day to share with you all our Inspired Summer Reads! I am sure you all have piles of books to read this summer, but which ones do you put at the top of the list? Each member of Team Inspired has written a personal recommendation, so allow us to help... 

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman – Harper Collins

Crowned ‘Book of the Year’, among other accolades, at the Nibbies Bookseller Awards this year and with record sales, this book is not to be missed.

While many books on the bookshelves will take you to fantastical lands, explore the supernatural or the impossible, how does this book that takes you on a journey of loneliness in Glasgow succeed with such superpower? Honeyman’s rendition of the human condition is painful, hilarious, unusual and somehow familiar all at once.

We meet Eleanor, unheroic by name and nature, a creature of habit and ‘completely fine’ at living alone without flatmate or friendship. Her quest for love as she sets eyes on a handsome band member, allows us as the reader to see the world through her eyes in all its oddities. Imagine clothes shopping or visiting the nail bar if your entire worldview was structured in the most practical way with priorities of getting the right bus to work and the right vodka to see you through the weekend.

As the plot thickens, we go deeper into Eleanor’s past and questions emerge as to whether she is even a little bit fine. I won’t spoil it here but those of you who have read it will agree that Honeyman’s clever, insightful, moving and witty writing deserves every award it’s been nominated for and won and every good review. 

Part of the beauty of reading a good book is not just it as a channel for escapism but also for it to act as a window into our own worlds. With a slightly different frame around things, we are able to see everyday situations in a new light. How often do people respond ‘absolutely fine’ to your ‘how are you’ question? Perhaps it’s time to take a moment to wonder if they really are and what we can do to help them be even a little bit more fine.

Enjoy this book, read it again, share it with your friends and applaud its success.

 

The Note, Zoë Folbigg – Head of Zeus

The perfect book in which to lose yourself over the summer – whether on a beach, on the sofa at home or stuck on a bus on your daily commute, this book allows you to completely switch off and become immersed in Maya’s world. It feels so real, like it could be any one of us telling the same story. Falling in love with a complete stranger and the subsequent note, changes Maya’s life forever.  It is compelling whilst comforting, happy and hopeful, and offers something that everyone can relate to. I cannot wait to read Zoë Folbigg’s next book, The Distance, due to be published by Aria, Head of Zeus, on the 18th June.  Watch this space:  https://ariafiction.com/ .

 

Coming Home, Fern Britton – Harper Collins

This is such a feel good read! Coming Home by Fern Britton is a story about families, set across three generations of women who walk these pages. Fern writes with genuine spirit and this book is one that draws you in and makes you feel like you’ve known the characters forever. Ella and Henry adore Cornwall, and when their grandmother dies the past throws up new possibilities, and old memories – not all of which are welcome. Ella and Henry’s mother fled from home 20 years ago, unable to cope and with the draw of finding the father of her children; we follow her journey, her mother and her daughter and see how their lives entwine together. The aching intensity towards the end made me will for the book to go on and I had everything crossed for a happy ending. Coming Home is such a lovely read, deeply passionate and comforting – it is so easy to become a part of their lives in Cornwall and I didn’t want it to end.

 

My Not So Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella – Black Swan

Okay guilty pleasure alert! Kinsella is my beans on toast! I know with her, I will always feel comforted, laugh out loud and enjoy a few hours of escapism without having to think too much. My not so perfect life is the Perfect antidote to several months of GDPR planning and implementing I can tell you.

More about the book though… Katie/Cat took the plunge and moved to London for her first role in her career. She lands herself an assistant role at a branding agency, where the usual strong characters are lurking. She gets given some terrible tasks, is completely over looked for her talent and loyalty and sadly gets made redundant and has to move back home to Somerset to live with her Dad and Stepmother. Whilst in the agency, she also falls for her boss, Alex, oops!  But yay! Enter the powerful, handsome protagonist we can all swoon over or not… 

Full of fun, silliness and a few twists and turns. The good ones triumph in the end and there is a happy ending for all! For all that is, apart from the mean girls!

Highly recommend for any chicklit fans, avoid if you are not!

 

The Idiot, Elif Batuman – Vintage
 

This is a unique summer read—yes, the protagonist embarks on a Europe trip in the summer to Paris, Budapest and then teaches English in a small Hungarian village, but oh this is so much more! The Idiot is by Turkish American writer Elif Batuman and her protagonist Selin is a naively intelligent student at Harvard in the mid-90s not unlike the author and her own experiences.

Selin is different from the other students; she doesn’t like to drink and doesn’t seem to understand her emotions and what she wants. She gets swept along with what others want to do and in particular Ivan, the devil incarnate, a tease and a horrid bloke. Selin meets Ivan in Russian class and begins a strange platonic and overwrought relationship with him over email that then progresses into real life. There is no intensity of plot but we are on a journey with Selin, who is incredibly smart but she is also our “idiot” while she struggles to grow from teenager to adult and deal with her first love infatuation.

There’s lots of intertextuality and references that I really liked; for example, she reads Madame BovaryDracula and references (obviously) Russian novels and in particular Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Selin is essentially a female Prince Myshkin—innocent, unworldly and awkward. It’s interesting and nostalgic this being set in pre-technology (email had just become a thing) academia. The Idiot was published last year by Penguin and is shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Batuman’s twitter handle says it all: “Like Dostoevsky, I wrote books called The Idiot and The Possessed. Mine are shorter.” So totally worth putting on your summer to-read pile! 

 

Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity, Carlo Rovelli - Penguin

I read Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons in Physics two years ago and it was a delightfully well-written and digestible introduction to physics, geared towards non-scientists like me. Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity is his second book and addresses one of the biggest questions puzzling physicists today. Carlo Rovelli has dedicated his life to studying quantum gravity and he takes us on a journey through all the discoveries that have led up to our current understanding; from Anaximander and Democritus to Einstein and Faraday.  Understanding gravity on a quantum scale is key to understanding things like black holes and the beginning of the universe. It is also key to finally solving the mystery that has perplexed physicists for many years; how two of the most important theories can both be accurate and yet completely incompatible. General relativity and quantum mechanics describe reality at the largest scale (galaxies) and at the smallest scale (atoms) respectively, and so if we can understand how gravity works at the quantum scale, this could unite both theories. Carlo Rovelli writes about the latest ideas about quantum gravity in his intuitive style, allowing us to go on a mind-expanding journey that makes us question the most fundamental elements of reality.  When you study the universe at the smallest scale, neither time nor space exists.

I would encourage anyone who is curious about physics to read this book!

 

Into The Water, Paula Hawkins – Black Swan

As the Girl on the Train was covered in the Inspired Summer Reads blog last year, it seemed only fitting to choose Hawkins’ next offering, Into the Water. Already taking the book world by storm, at the time of writing it has just had its second week at number one, published by Penguin Random House. It had been burning a hole in my reading pile for too long! 

We learn about this ominous water straight away, discovering that many deaths have occurred there, the latest being the focus of the story, with mysterious circumstances surrounding how it happened... 

There were some high expectations, considering the success of Hawkins debut novel, which were not only met by exceeded. As with The Girl on the Train, suspense is drawn from the first page and twist and turns were weaved through, right up until the last sentence; I’m still processing the ending! The plot is cleverly layered with stories intertwining; we hear from each character individually, and the constant reference to the water throughout the book allows for powerful imagery, and a reminder that the water is the scene of the crime – you will be left guessing until the last minute, what it was that happened there!

 

Five Years From Now, Paige Toon – Simon & Schuster

Do you ever feel like you’ve met the right person, but they came along at the wrong time? ‘One day, maybe five years from now, you’ll look back and understand why this happened…’ 

Nell and Van met as children when their parents fall in love, but a little while later, they are forced apart and too young to do anything about it. Set in Cornwall, they meet continuously every five years and each time they must separate - leaving behind their bond and new found feelings for eachother. With relationships being at the core of this novel, not just between Nell and Van, but their families too, will they ever find true happiness without being divided?