If there’s one thing I can’t survive a summer holiday without it’s a good book, so with less than a fortnight to go until I head off to the south of France, I’ve been picking my brains about what to pack.
Usually I’d have consulted the Guardian and New York Times Best Sellers lists on several occasions by now, but for some reason I seem to be in favour of re-reading books this year. Perhaps it’s because I have my own job and my own money, which I am rather unwilling to part with of late, or maybe due to to the fact that I have amassed a literary collection to rival the Hogwarts library.
Anyway, this time around I’m going to buck the usual trend: Rather than looking for advice on what to read, I’m going to give my two cents. Here are six books than I think you should throw in the suitcase if you’re heading on a trip at home or abroad this summer.
1. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
If you haven’t seen the film yet then you should definitely get your hands on this little novel. I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by the tale myself, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable summer read. Imagine how pretentious I felt, sunning myself on the beach in Nice with Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan dancing the night away among the pages. Sure who doesn’t love a good mystery, with a pair of star crossed lovers thrown in for good measure.
2. An Education – Lynn Barber
Now, if you’ve seen the movie, you should definitely still read the book, because the film was only based on one segment of it. Lynn Barber’s memoir had me hooked from start to finish, and was both hilarious and deeply moving at the same time. At less than 200 pages it’s one of those books that you can choose to devour in a day (if you’re a fast reader like myself) or flick through slowly while lounging in the afternoon sun.
3. The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
If you grew up in Ireland then Edna O’Brien’s Country Girls should be right up your alley. There’s something very powerful about this little tale, which was actually banned/censored for quite a while: When you read it you’ll understand why. O’Brien’s occasionally brutally honest depiction of the Ireland of old really rings true, while Kate and Baba really are the girls you went to school with. Once you pick it up you’ll find it hard to put down.
4. Miral – Rula Jebreal
Set against the background of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Miral is one book that really leaves a lump in the throat. Jebreal introduces us to some remarkable women across different time periods, starting in 1948 with Hind, a woman who risks everything to found a school for Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem. When Miral arrives on her doorstep, Hind is delighted, but as the young girl grows up and rallies against the injustice that surrounds her, things get a whole lot more complicated.
5. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Those Bronte sisters certainly know how to do misery, but Jane Eyre is one of those novels that really stands the test of time. Forget the films and lose yourself among the pages of this truly terrifying novel. You haven’t experienced the terror that is lurking in the attic until you’ve seen it through Charlotte Bronte’s eyes, and been a bit too nervous to sleep without a light on afterwards. Sure nobody will mind you screaming on the sun lounger…
6. The Moral Instruments: City of Bones – Cassandra Clare
It’s been almost 6 years since Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows landed on my lap, and not since then had I been so taken with a tale as I was with Mortal Instruments. Cassandra Clare’s tale of demons, angels and mysterious Shadowhunters originally landed back in 2007, but now that they’re making a movie it’s back at the forefront of the literary world. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that the story was good enough to convince me to devour all 5 installments (thus far) in the space of a few weeks… And sure there’s even a prequel series to keep you occupied until book 6 drops next year.