Summer Reading List – so far..
Where do I even begin?! Seriously. This year may have been hard, and challenging, and completely gut-wrenching at times, but it has also been rewarding and the most life-changing, transformative period of my life. And, I do feel that Summer 2018-19 is going to be a damn goodun’.
I know I should probably wait to post this when the list is complete (but it will never be complete, let’s be honest), but I am so excited for the weeks I have off in the lead up to my due date that I couldn’t help myself this kinda’ dreary Thursday afternoon! I was scrolling through my instagram feed the other day for some reason that I can’t remember, and I got so far down my post history that I landed back in the summer of 2017. I remember that summer possibly better than any other one that preceded it, but not for the reasons that you may think. I was deeply unhappy, but it was the kind of unhappiness that became so ingrained in me that I accepted it and almost treated it as a friend. I was staying in the suburb of Cremorne a lot and found myself so comfortable in my loneliness which, looking back on now is equal parts devastating and heartbreaking but I remember it feeling so freeing. I wasn’t fighting against my pain, I instead made friends with it.
What that meant for me was a lot of walks to and from the shops early in the morning to pick up a coffee and the newspaper for myself. I had time off from the cafe where I was still working, while those around me were still at their jobs after Christmas so I had nothing to do except fill my days however I wanted to. I had been dealing with my anxiety which always flared up when I ventured into areas of Sydney or did activities that I didn’t normally do, however I think the deep and enveloping melancholy nature of how I was feeling made me look past the point of my anxiety. I didn’t care. This worked in an odd way for me. I didn’t care how sad or anxious I felt that I would numbly drive myself to Balmoral Beach before seven in the morning, set my towel up and plunge into the cold water for hours on end. Then I walked to The Boat House and bought myself breakfast and a coffee and sat watching the water. I also took myself on a lot of picnics, surrounding myself with punnets of berries, my notebook and whatever book I was reading.
All those days and hours that I spent alone, I spent reading. I churned through more books that summer than I ever had before. I was averaging almost two books a day, and had to buy new books every week to see me through those hot months. It didn’t matter where I was, I was reading. I found solace in the books’ pages and familiarised myself with the characters I was getting to know everyday. I had company when I was reading and I think that the loneliness I felt actually showed me a completely new way to read. Never before had I immerse myself in literature like I did that summer.
Whenever I think about maternity leave, I find my mind wandering to what books I will read in the lead up to our son being born. I get giddy when I think about it and yesterday found myself wanting to reread some of the books I read that summer. I wandered around my house when I got home from work yesterday and pulled titles from my shelves – some that I have already read and others that I have been meaning to read for years. I don’t doubt that I will add to this pile (I will have to, my initial picks will nowhere near see me through summer), but for now I am allowing myself to feel that indescribable excitement one has at the prospect of a ‘to be read’ pile just waiting to be devoured.
My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen
This is the only new release in my pile at the moment. I wrote a blog piece about this book and I am so incredibly keen to read it. I have never been one for biographies or autobiographies, but when news of this book and the stories it contains hit my news feed I knew I wanted in. Lily Allen has never been someone I have kept track of although over the years, I have enjoyed listening to her music when it pops up. When the news started reporting on the content of My Thoughts Exactly, I was immediately intrigued. I have often been told that the amount of stories and ‘life experience’ that I have had in my short twenty-seven years on this earth is almost unbelievable, and I don’t know – I guess I just felt that maybe I am not the only one who feels this way, who feels as though their person is but a tapestry of events and experiences and unbelievable happenings. Keen. To. Read.
A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay
At work, we have a shelf in the kitchen where people leave books they don’t want or ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) that they have received from other publishers. I picked up A Noise Downstairs, drawn to it because I am absolutely loving the thriller genre at the moment. I had never heard of this book before, but once I read the back and a couple of reviews online, I was anxious to finish the book I am reading at the moment just so I could start this one.. read the blurb online. Do it. Do it.
River Run by Nicole Alexander
Nicole Alexander holds a special place in my heart. She was the first person to accept my invitation to be a #WCW when I founded The #WCW Project through my old blog, Don’t Ask Leah. Nicole had no idea who I was, but when I contacted her out of the blue and requested an interview she immediately accepted and we had an amazing, long and incredibly humbling phone conversation. I didn’t feel as though I was interviewing her, instead I felt as though I was talking to an old friend. I hadn’t read any of her work cover to cover before then, however had flicked through all of her backlist during my time at Angus and Robertson. River Run is her most recent book and I bought it as soon as it came out and it has remained on my ‘to be read’ pile ever since. This summer, it’s happening; and summer really is the perfect time to read a Nicole Alexander book because her description of the Australian landscape and climate and smells and sounds are just impeccable.
Still Summer by Jacqueline Mitchard
This is another one that I grabbed from work the other day. I skim-read the back and it sounded like the perfect, light, drama-filled read that every summer reading list needs and deserves. Much like when I read Candace Bushnell’s Killing Monica, I go into books like this not expecting to be blown away by keen literary skill or turn of phrase, I go into them expecting to be entertained and not have to think too much. I think the blurb speaks for itself and I do love a good simple read so this is another one I am excited to devour (easily).
“In high school, Olivia, Tracy and Holly had been known as The Godmothers, and their friendship has endured throughout the ensuing decades. Now, with the death of Olivia’s husband, a wealthy Italian Count, and her return to America, the friends decide to reunite on a luxury cruise in the Caribbean. Along with Tracy’s college-aged daughter and a two-man crew, they begin their journey uneventfully, enjoying the sun and the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean.
Then, a series of devastating events unfolds, leaving the women crewless, starving and terrified. Almost overnight, what was meant to be a blissful vacation devolves into a desperate fight for survival, as they soon find themselves battling the elements, a horrifying attack by drug traffickers, and their own frailties. It is at once a story about the bonds of friendship, the love between mothers and their children, and the strengths we don’t know we possess until we are faced with our own mortality.”
To The Sea by Christine Dibley
This was one of the highlights of the summer I spent the first few paragraphs rambling about. The way the Dibley described the Tasmanian coastline and the natural elements that the story worked around was nothing short of genius. I absolutely loved every single moment of this book and was utterly devastated when I was nearing the end of the book, and even more so when I completed it. This is also possibly the book I am looking forward to (re)reading most this summer. It is a family drama/crime/thriller which delivers on all fronts; not only is it suspenseful, but the twist and conclusion of the story certainly delivered AND the writing was absolutely beautiful. If you haven’t heard of this one, do yourself a favour and purchase immediately (if not sooner). A beautiful, haunting read. Literally cannot say enough good things about it. For real. So good. AMAZING.
Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
This book I found when I was on my lunchtime walk down King Street in Newtown and wound up at Vinnies. I always keep an eye on the new releases and when this one appeared on my radar, it stayed there. The books you find at Vinnies are normally from years and years past but there, on the bookshelf sat a next-to-new copy of Whistle in the Dark for four dollars. FOUR DOLLARS for a new release?! How could I not buy it?
“Jen’s fifteen-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days.
When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: making secretive phone calls, hiding books under her bed, sleeping with the light on.As Lana stays stubbornly silent, Jen sets out to solve the mystery behind her daughter’s disappearance herself…”
The Witches by Roald Dahl
This may seem like a bit of a weird addition to a pregnant twenty-seven year old’s summer reading list, I assure you it is anything but. I was talking to my friend about that old 80s movie Return to Oz.. which, if you haven’t seen it you should, but for some reason it also made me think of the film adaptation of The Witches. And then I realised that I haven’t read it in almost two decades and then I thought about how magical and amazing and creative and wondrous Dahl’s mind was and I think everyone’s summer could do with a bit of whimsy (albeit creepy whimsy).
A Little Change of Face by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
So – I read this when I was about fifteen on one of our family trips to Perth when we went to visit one of my godmothers. It was the first ‘older’ book that I bought myself and when I read the (rather juvenile) blurb, I thought that the protagonist sounded fabulous and the storyline sounded sexy and intriguing. I don’t remember anything about this book at all, having read it almost thirteen years ago now. But every time I have moved house and had to pack everything up, I have held this book in my hands and never wanted to part with it, promising myself that I would read it again one day soon.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
I will admit that I hadn’t heard of this book before I was sick at home one day and the movie adaptation as on Foxtel during the day. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and the whole idea behind the book club and, in fact, this film/book was one of the main inspirations when it came to me creating the Cliterature Club. I loved that they wanted to celebrate Jane Austen, who is of course an absolute pioneer of women and literature, but also that each of them were able to draw comparisons with the novels and their own life. I mean, that is one of the absolute beauties of reading, right? We are able to feel less alone, we find different parts of ourselves in the stories of others. I vowed that after watching the film I would read the book, because if I felt that strongly towards each of the characters on a screen, imagine how I will feel when I read them on the page..