So, summer is upon us, don’t look outside just take my word for it, and therefore the official season of lounging by the pool/sea/garden paddling pool with a good book is too. When looking for good book recommendations it seems they are saturated, for women at least, with romantic novels and perhaps a thriller thrown in for good measure. To this I say no more! We are intelligent beings who need to be challenged with our reading material, no longer shall we hide our copy of 50 Shades Darker in shame. Let’s up our game and sink our teeth into some seriously good books, I introduce to you my list of books that you should be reading this summer.
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
In all honesty, I came about this book by chance. I’d seen the film and was wholly underwhelmed (sue me Academy Awards) but I found the premise of a free black man in the 19th century sold into slavery intriguing, so when browsing free books on my new Kindle (reading on a budget) I thought, why not? I really despise novels, and while this book has a novel feel to it due Solomon Northup’s storytelling of his experience, I just found it totally addictive and couldn’t put it down. It’s interesting, sad, gripping, harrowing and gives an honest and enlightening look into what it was like to be a person of colour at that time in America, free or not. The language used is a little dated, as one would expect, but after a couple of pages you get into the swing of it.
This is one of my favourite books, inspired by Stephen Hawing’s A Brief History of Time, Bill Bryon’s offering is a much more accessible and humorous option. It explains the origins of the universe in Layman’s terms, enriched with innumerable fun facts. The best thing is that although it is in chronological order, you can start reading on any page and it all makes sense without context so after having read it fully once I tend to pick this up and read a few chapters at random when I’m in a book lull.
This book is in a similar vein to the previous book (the title may have given that away) but instead of the universe it investigates the human race. This book was recommended to me by our wonderful Editor, Emily, as her housemates were reading it and really enjoyed it. Again, it covers the birth of humankind and our journey to modern day life as we know it; accessible writing and such an interesting topic to start with. After the success of this book in 2011, Harari wrote a follow up in 2015, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, which I haven’t read yet but has been recommended by a friend who has and describes it as essentially Harari’s take on the possible future for the most powerful species on the planet.
Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden
This was another book I stumbled upon by chance, some down time during a visit to Germany had me reaching me for my friend’s Kindle. American journalist, Blaine Harden, wrote this book on behalf of Shin Dong-hyuk, a Korean political prisoner born in a labour camp. The book describes his life, what it’s like to live in a North Korean political prison camp and how he became the first person to escape not only Camp 14 but any camp in North Korea. I mean, if that sentence hasn’t piqued your interest then I don’t know what will. Another enlightening read on a topic and country much shrouded in mystery and secrecy.
There are some books that come into your life and forever change the way you look at things, for me The Righteous Mind was one of them. Another firm favourite of his worth noting is The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science which is partly informative, partly a self-help book that I really connected with. The Righteous Mind allowed me to put myself in positions I never thought I would be in to understand how someone of a completely different religious and political mindset got to their decision and to empathise with them. I keep this frame of mind in my life now and like to have a little re-read every now and then to reacquaint myself with the important messages.