By Rachel Lankester, Editor

My pick of ten great summer reads to entertain you. Some great books for you to lose yourself in!

Remarkably Bright Creatures – Shelby Van Pelt

I loved this book so much! I was desperately seeking another novel to grab my attention like Lessons in Chemistry which I recommended last summer, and this one was beautiful. It was such fun and I’m very grateful to the woman in a Facebook group who recommended it to me. Such a lovely story and a real page turner too. If you liked Lessons in Chemistry, I think you’ll like this one too. I need more books like this! Gorgeous. You will feel better for reading it.

The Whalebone Theatre – Joanna Quinn

Another book I wouldn’t have naturally turned to but I saw The Whalebone Theatre again highly recommended. It sat on my Kindle for a while before I got started. Very long, very detailed, lots of characters to get attached to. I’d never read a family saga before so this was very much a new genre for me. I loved it. I didn’t appreciate it enough early on, I don’t think, but eventually I relaxed into the beautiful writing and enjoyed it for its own sake as well as relishing the story itself. Absolutely fantastic and I was sad to get to the end. Hard to believe it was a debut novel. I listened to a lot of it on my walks which was good, but I think it was almost better read than listened to.

Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

I don’t think a book has ever made me laugh as much as this one. I found it funny in its written form but when I moved to the audio version, listening on Spotify, I laughed even more. The narrator is perfect. I’m sure people thought I was a bit strange as I giggled to myself as I walked around the park. This was another book club book that I never would’ve discovered by myself.

That’s one reason I love book club! This was so much fun and so cleverly crafted and written. It’s a book about a bank robbery, a hostage situation, idiots, relationships and some rather anxious people. It kept me hooked from beginning to end and I miss it now it’s finished. Highly entertaining, lots of fun and laugh out loud funny. Written about a town in Sweden but it could really be anywhere.  A fascinating exploration of insecurities, opportunities missed, preconceptions, love, acceptance and taking chances. Highly recommended.

Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow – Gabrielle Zevin

Oh my goodness, how I loved this novel set in the world of computer gaming. It sat on my Kindle for ages after I’d seen it recommended. When I discovered it had been a (my) Book Club book, that raised it up the priority list. It’s not often I spend a day to finish a book, usually I read in the gaps, but I did for this one.

While I have never played a proper video game, it has long been a part of my life, both as a favored pursuit of my son and as the industry of my partner. I’ve never wanted to get too caught up in a game, to be honest. Too much else to do. And reading books is one of those activities that I prefer. But this book is just beautiful and taught me so much about the gaming world and people who make games.

It was gloriously and so cleverly written, compelling, atmospheric, moving, evocative and just the most perfect novel. Just as I wondered where it was going to go now, it would heap on further surprises and keep you enthralled right to the very last minute. It’s a story about love but not typical love. It’s a story about the angst of youth, the confusion of adulthood and making our way the best we can with the talents we have. Reading the author’s background after I finished the book made me realize how much she had drawn on her personal experience to build this incredible world. Go read it. As soon as you can! Highly recommended. 

Yellowface – R. F. Kuang

If you’ve been in my world for a while, you may know I studied Chinese and am fascinated by Chinese culture. Finding this novel by an acclaimed Chinese writer about someone pretending to write a China themed novel as a white woman, was particularly fun for me as a white Chinese speaker. I didn’t think it was quite as good as some of the critics have said and the ending was perhaps slightly disappointing, but as an enlightening dive into the literary world and clashes between cultures, it was fascinating. Quirky.

Bournville – Jonathan Coe

This was a very random book for me but I had to read it, because I grew up 5 miles from Bourneville in Birmingham. And I wanted to check it out before buying it for my mum. It was a lovely novel following a family through major events of the 20th century and was incredibly evocative for me as a Brummie. My own suburb of Hall Green even got a mention towards the end. This is a real delight to read. My Mum enjoyed it too. Highly recommended.

Leaving – Roxana Robinson

This was a compelling and moving book about a couple who meet late in life and revisit the relationship they never properly ended in their youth. I was really caught by the story and ended up reading this very quickly. I struggled to put it down! It was an interesting look at Issues surrounding adultery and the power children can hold to wreck their parents lives. At times I thought surely this can’t be happening now in 2024 but then I realised that it was absolutely possible still. With much of it set in New York it was fun to be taken back to places I knew. It was refreshing to have a love story featuring older characters most certainly in their third act.  Highly recommended.

Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell

Not a book I’d usually pick up as I’m not really into historical fiction. But Hamnet was highly recommended by Kate Codrington so I thought I’d give it a go. I loved it so much I went to see the stage show – which wasn’t as good! It was truly sublime. Beautifully written, moving, other-worldly, draws you and holds you captive. An imagined story of Shakespeare’s son called Hamnet who died in childhood and not long after there was a rather famous play called Hamlet. I grew up on the Stratford Road in Birmingham and Shakespeare’s home was just down the road and an every present fixture of my childhood. So it was especially evocative for me. Highly recommended!

A Smoke And A Song – Sherry Sidoti

A memoir this time written by one of my Magnificent Midlife podcast guests and you can listen to the interview here. Sherry Sidoti is a yogi and writer living on Martha’s Vineyard (which is very much a character in her book). I didn’t know what to expect from the book, but I loved it. It’s about Sherry’s personal healing journey through revisiting and excavating episodes in her life. I found it really powerful and beautifully written. She describes these episodes in the present tense and it’s highly evocative. I’ve been on my own healing journey recently, so I found it very moving. Cathartic.

Ruskin Park: Sylvia, Me And The BBC  – Rory Cellan-Jones

Another memoir that is just brilliant. I found Ruskin Park a beautiful and moving portrayal of a much misunderstood single mother, Sylvia, whose motivations and struggles only came to light years after her death, when her loving son read the letters she’d left for him and decided to tell her story. This is such a compelling and loving book, expertly crafted by former BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, who sat on the letters for many years before finally starting the long journey of excavation that resulted in this wonderful story. My parents also met at the BBC, though my upbringing was very different to Rory’s. It was wonderful to have this inside and very evocative view of what life was like for the pioneers of radio and television. I bought this book for my mum and she loved it too!

Why not explore more…

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Last Updated on July 2, 2024 by Editorial Staff

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