By Anna Hill
I’ve been enjoying even more than usual the summer time and its space for me to read, able to pick up and gorge myself on the books I want to read, rather than those picked out for me by out of touch, boring men. Here are a few that you might enjoy, covering a range of topics including violence, women’s lives, retellings, power, love and magic.
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Home Fire won the women’s prize for fiction this year – but that isn’t why you should read it. This is an incredibly brilliant and emotive novel; it’s a retelling of Antigone by Sophocles (although you don’t need to have read that to enjoy it), but this time including the war on terror, experiences of British Muslims and ‘radicalisation’. Its got wonderful multiple points of view from deeply complicated and wild characters with clear and poetic writing – lines that stop your heart a little so you have to go back and reread them. If you’re like me, once you’ve read this not only will it stay with you many books and weeks later, you’ll also want to read Shamsie’s entire back catalogue.
I Was Born For This – Alice Oseman
I Was Born For This follows the dual perspectives of Angel Rahimi and Jimmy Kaga-Ricci. One is a fangirl of the incredibly famous British boy band The Ark, the other; the frontman of the group. The novel spans a week (perfect for quick summer reading) and is fun and serious in equal measure – depicting anxiety, friendship and both critiques and celebrations of fandoms. The representation isn’t own voices but Angel is Muslim and Jimmy is a mixed race gay trans guy. I’ve loved Alice Oseman’s work ever since I stayed up all night reading her first Young Adult novel Solitaire, and her second novel, Radio Silence, was one of my favourite books the year I read it, it was so realistic and heartfelt. Oseman demonstrates her ability to astutely and non-patronisingly write about teenagers and internet culture in general but especially in I Was Born For This, with a gaze that is both generous and critical, tender and kind. If you’re a fan of anything then you absolutely must read this, especially if you’re part of a fandom for a boy band!
Circe – Madeline Miller
Sometimes you want a book that feels like a thunder storm, full of power and waiting; a delicious kind of electricity, a delicious kind of unexpected, waves of sound and feeling. That’s what Circe was like for me – depicting the story of a normally sidelined character; Circe the witch, this novel finally gives her the space and character depth and development she deserves. If you loved Song of Achilles, Miller’s other myth retelling, you will definitely love this too. She has a sensitivity to atmosphere and detail that is wonderful and enthralling to experience! Just a note there is a r*pe scene in this book.
To the river – Olivia Laing
This is a non fiction account of Olivia Laing’s journey tracing the river Ouse one June. Post break-up she decided to go on a journey and learn and share the landscape, personal memories and the history of the river. Much like a river this book fluctuated in pace and interest (for me personally), but overall was poetic, educational and enjoyable! Really lovely to read near water, especially a river; its very good at capturing the sunlight of a British summer, the itch to explore a familiar place and the heat of June.
Girls, Visions and Everything – Sarah Schulman
This is the perfect book to read in a heatwave, suffused with sweat and desire. Girls, Visions and Everything is a brief glimpse into the life of Lila, a dyke living in New York City, exploring art and relationships. It’s unapologetically queer, sexy and meaningful. The book is written really beautifully in a simple and clear style with a relatability that is exciting to feel considering it was first published over 30 years ago! After reading this I wanted to forever be part of Lila’s life, learning and watching her grow and connect and love all the more. The book does contain harassment and discussion of sexual violence, so look after yourself.
I hope you enjoy this mixture of different summer reading recommendations and are enjoying the summer yourselves (even if it does just feel too hot!).