Summer Reads – the good, the bad, the girly, and the grossly
I am, admittedly, a huge summer reader. Since I was little, I can remember passing entire summer days curled up in an armchair, rain hitting the windows, or sprawled in the grass, brushing ants from my legs, or shielding my eyes from the sun with my novel, splayed on a towel in my bikini… either way, summer reads have always played a big part of my vacation months.
This summer, I’ve already clawed my way through a number of books – or not even managed to – and these are the early summer reviews.
I’ve had a bit of a thing for books with an international, non-fiction focus this summer, but I haven’t been exclusive. So here, below, we have the good, the bad, the girly, and the grossly to kick off the summer months.
Although I have two picks for “the good” of the past couple of months, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is at the top of my list. It’s a bit of an older and a bulkier pick, but don’t be intimidated by the size of this one. The chapters are a good length, easily digestable, and the story is too good to miss. Shantaram is the true autobiography of an escaped Australian turned villager turned slum doctor turned second-time prisoner – well, I won’t tell you everything. But suffice to say, this richly-written book reads like a thriller. Although it may look it, it won’t take you the entire season to get through, and it’s well worth the time.
Mother to Mother, by Sindiwe Magona, may be a little harder to come by than international bestseller Shantaram. I found my own copy at my favorite bookstore in the world, located amongst towers and towers of piled-up books at JWD Books (or, at least that’s what the sign on the door says) on Barrington Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This book is a letter from the mother of an accused teenaged murderer from the township of Guguletu in South Africa to the mother of the murdered white girl. It is a brilliantly well-done portrait of life in South Africa from days of apartheid to today. An accurate an interesting portrait of society.
This summer’s “bad” is, unfortunately, Freedom in Exile, the autobiography of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. I tried to get through it, but it was extremely dry and far too factually-based. Although the anecdotes and historical information are interesting, it feels like a school book, and reads like one, too. Thumbs down.
Now, it may be a guilty pleasure, but Olivia Goldsmith’s 1996 copyrighted novel The Bestseller was the perfect “girly” respite after the Dalai Lama’s shameful attempt at biography. Although it runs a solid 705 pages, I got through it faster than I got through the first chapter of Freedom in Exile. It’s light, it’s shallow, it’s silly, and it’s perfect for a rainy afternoon when your brain isn’t down with doing any work. I enjoyed it, guiltily, and hiding its cover at Starbucks, but I did. Maybe you will, too.
And maybe you would also enjoy Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke, but this one is definitely my “grossly.” I was incredibly disappointed. I’ve always been a huge fan of Palahniuk’s books (so much so that I can spell his name without even looking!), but when I started reading Choke, I just couldn’t deal. Something about Palahniuk’s unabashedly blatant and sexy writing style coupled with a plotline revolving around sex adicts just burst my bubble from page one. It literally made me nauseous. I gave it fifty pages to change my mind, and then I called it quits. It’s a sad day when a 1990′s female Dean Koontz can win my heart this summer, but not one of my favorite contemporary fiction authors.