Back to better books: reading for the summer

By Jennifer Constable, Editor-in-Chief (@Peculiar_Jenny)

A common complaint amongst students at university is that they don’t have enough time to themselves to read for enjoyment- between reading set texts for our tutorials and cramming for essays and exams- we barely have time to keep on top of our studies, let alone sit down to read 500 pages worth of fiction. It’s a highly ironic situation that while, for many of us, our love for literature is what inspired us to go to university, the reality of completing a degree means we have little time to actually indulge in our beloved hobby.

It’s this high intensity level of studying that leads us to feel at a loss, when it comes to picking up on new literature, when we finally have a little time to ourselves. With summer just around the corner, and beach holidays on the horizon, now is the ideal time to start looking about for summer reading material, and here are my top three picks to get your started.

Us by David Nicholls

From the same novelist that wrote ‘One Day’, David Nicholls has returned with his acclaimed novel ‘Us’, which was long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

The story follows protagonist, Douglas’s, attempts to save his marriage, after his wife, Connie, tells him she wants to leave. Embarking on an interrailing trip with their son, Alfie, before he moves away to college, ‘Us’ explores the intricacies of both romantic and familial relationships in a way that’s never been done before.

What appealed to me most about Nicholls’ style is the simplicity of his writing, and his ability to tell a deeply moving and emotional story in a very understated, yet effective way. It’s a romance of sorts, but it definitely leaves the reader questioning their own definition of “love”, and leaves us with a bittersweet taste in our mouths.

Today will be different by Maria Semple

One of The Guardian’s Best Books of 2016 and named as a Notable Book of 2016 by the Washington Post, Maria Semple’s second published novel, Today will be different, follows a day in the life of, self-confessed “mess” Eleanor Flood, after vowing that today is the day she will initiate sex with her husband, Joe, and spend quality time with her son Timothy. However, Eleanor’s day doesn’t go quite to plan as a series of unforeseen, and at time hilarious, events begin to unfold, starting with her husband’s suspicious disappearance from work. What’s most appealing about this book, to me, is the sheer quality, and personal nature of the narrative voice; it’s refreshing to have a middle-aged protagonist represented in a feisty manner which I feel would appeal to readers from every generation.

Fishnet by Kirstin Innes

The debut novel from Scottish author Kirstin Innes and winner of the Guardian Not the Booker Prize 2015, Fishnet is a groundbreaking work of literature, which takes an intimate look into the world of prostitution. Taking four years to complete research, from conducting interviews with sex workers and thorough online investigation, Fishnet tells the story of protagonist Fiona Leonard’s interest in the sex industry, after finding out her estranged sister had been involved in the trade prior to her disappearance. What I liked most about this debut was the sensitivity in which it was written, despite the challenging subject matter, Fishnet manages to inform the reader about prostitution in a compassionate and humanising way. A must read for feminists, and those who want to learn more about the reality of sex work.