One of the reasons I love the summer break is that the stack of books beside my bed finally gets some attention. My interests are relatively diverse: from biographies of the famous and successful to John Irving’s great American novels. And yet there are some genres that I actively avoid such as fantasy and historical novels.
So in an effort to compile a reading list that would encompass that old adage ‘something for everyone’ I turned to crowd sourcing and consulted my Facebook friends. I asked them to nominate the best book they read all year and one they’re looking forward to reading. Here are their recommendations for your reading pleasure across the summer. Enjoy!
- Lights Out In Wonderland by DBC Pierre
“So it’s great to see Pierre back on top form with another hefty slab of outrageous black comedy: a stupendously over-the-top romp based on the excesses of 21st-century capitalism and all its orgiastic horror,” The Independent
Life by Keith Richards
“Mr. Richards’s prose is like his guitar playing: intense, elemental, utterly distinctive and achingly, emotionally direct,” The New York Times
- Look Me In The Eye, My Life With Asperger’s by John Elder Robison
“It is a very funny life story of someone who understands that there are social mores, but has to eventually learn to do them and even as an adult remind himself to follow them,” Kimberly, community comments, Good Reads
- 44 Scotland Street Series by Alexander McCall Smith
Serialised novel, fiction
“44 Scotland Street is a new venture out of an old tradition. McCall Smith … has revived the serialised novel,” The Age
“I am looking forward to reading the latest two novels in the 44 Scotland Street series.They are very funny,” Sylvana Maas, via Facebook
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
Short story, fiction
“Somewhere David Sedaris is giggling. His …collection of short stories — of mice and chipmunks and dogs, of cats and chickens — appear to be fables, but they’re not exactly,” Los Angeles Times
- Zoo Time by Howard Jacobsen
“A bitter satire on the demise of literary culture in the 21st century”, The Guardian.
- The Antidote – a guide to happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking by Oliver Burkeman
Anti self-help, non-fiction
“Burkeman’s tour of the “negative path” to happiness makes for a deeply insightful and entertaining book” Los Angeles Times.
- Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
“Educating Rita meets climate change in America,” Beverley Hadgraft, via Facebook
“What’s striking is that the high-stakes fictional world Kingsolver creates is one where we, as readers, want to linger,” The Boston Globe.
Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
New journalism, non-fiction
“A true-life version of Slumdog Millionaire without the Bollywood ending,” The New York Times.
- Sutton by JR Moehringer
“Mr. Moehringer is a good writer, bringing alive both the 1969 Sutton, cranky and cursing, and the younger versions, idealistic and determined,” The Wall Street Journal.
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Novel influenced by real events
“Shantaram is not so much a mirror as a mirror ball, spinning with relentless drive, dazzling but ungraspable. And, again, audacious. Gloriously audacious.” The Sydney Morning Herald
- The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
“The Night Circus is a strange beast, creakily plotted but boasting a fabulously intricate mise en scène,” The Guardian
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Historical novel, Fiction
“A giant juicy story,” Christina Larmer, via Facebook
“Wolf Hall has epic scale but lyric texture,” The New York Times
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Adventure novel, fiction
A classic, first published in 1884.
“Not a book for everyone, for sure, you have to like slightly odd Japanese fiction,” ryandake, community reviews, Good Reads
- The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.
“Not a new book, and incredibly sad, but an amazing tale of the Warsaw Zoo during World War II, ” Eliza Compton, via Facebook
Why Be happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
“What appears to be a straight narrative of her early life is actually tying the reader down with a thousand imperceptible guy ropes, so that when she unleashes a terrible sorrow, there is no escaping it and no looking away,” The Guardian.
- Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving.
I can personally vouch for this one. Like all of Irving’s books it’s a life struggle that is impossible to put down. It will make you laugh out loud and you’ll need a bath towel to mop up your tears.
“When John Irving’s novels are this exceptional, he can return to his favourite tropes as often as he likes,” The New York Times
- On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
“A quick, stunning read,” Christina Larmer, via Facebook
“In the painstaking and microscopic one-night structure of On Chesil Beach, McEwan advances his exploration of slowness in fiction,” The New York Times
Room by Emma Donaghue
Inspired by the Josef Fritzl case, novel
It was originally recommended to me by Channel Nine reporter Leila McKinnon via twitter. I couldn’t get further than three chapters in before I had to parachute out of that dark place. But three of my Facebook friends have also recommended it.
“I have read it a couple of times. It is my favourite book for so many reasons. You have to finish it,” Vicki Dale via Facebook
- Sinning Across Spain by Ailsa Piper
“Piper – better known for her work as an Australian theatre director and actor, including in Neighbours – is a convincing observer of people, not least herself,” Weekly Times
Is there a book that you would add to this list?