Serious Summer Reading

By Holly McKie

For some, going away on holiday means the chance to read some feel-good books that don’t require too much thought.

They are purely for relaxation purposes, and you don’t think much about them after turning the final page.

For me, going on holiday also gives me the chance to devote all my time and energy into the words on the page and I tend to opt for ticking off some of the more thought-provoking titles on my TBR or checking out for myself the latest release that has everyone talking.

Whether you are working at home to save for the next year of university, or heading abroad to lie beside a pool and get severely sunburnt, here are a selection of books that you might want to take with you to keep your mind busy this summer.

It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race edited by Mariam Khan

After a comment from David Cameron in 2016, Khan wanted to know why she was only hearing about the struggles of Muslim women from people who were neither Muslim nor female.

This book brings together 17 women who speak openly and honestly about their experiences of faith, love, feminism, sex, queer identity, and racism.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

On the longlist for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in addition to making the Man Booker longlist last year and winning the Costa Award for Novel 2018.

Normal People follows Marianne and Connell through adolescence and into early adulthood and is set in the backdrop of Ireland. Rooney’s writing is sharp and moving, and is a perfect reflection of what life is really like.

Absolutely Smashing It by Kathryn Wallace

This debut novel tells the hilariously dysfunctional story of Gemma through witty one-liners and expertly constructed characters. What starts off as a light-hearted account of her stumbling through life becomes a book which manages to explore more serious and contemporary topics too.

Flexible working, gender stereotypes within the home and single parents are all topics explored with candor, as well as a topic which I have never seen touched on in a regular ‘rom com’ for women – male mental health. Absolutely Smashing It manages to do all this while keeping an enjoyable reading experience and sense of escapism.

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland’s own ‘Book Town’, and this is his hilarious account of the people he comes in contact with in the trade. My favourite bit is his description of the elderly woman who tells him her book club are reading Dracula next, but she can’t remember what he wrote.

Perfect for people who may be heading to the Wigtown Book Festival this year, this also highlights the growing concern for independent booksellers in the age of Amazon.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Set one year on from 9/11, Shirin is still feeling the effects of racial stereotypes as a 16-year-old Muslim. This draws heavily on the writer’s own experiences and is heartbreaking in its genuity.

Praise Song for the Butterflies – Bernice L. McFadden

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, this novel is set in the fictional African country of Ukemby. This is the heartbreaking story of the trokosi and shrine slavery in West Africa, spanning several decades of Abeo Kata’s life.

McFadden’s writing lends itself perfectly to the subject matter, not a spare word in sight. This is the best book I have read, and likely will read, in 2019.