Last year, while on vacation, I was not in the mood for classics or for any books that would bring me heartache or make me wonder about the human condition. I assume this is what most people feel when choosing books to read for the summer — you want something fun, maybe romantic, easy to read, and engaging so that it keeps you entertained during the hot summer days.
Well, unfortunately, this year, I decided to ditch the trend of flirty, catchy summer books and instead focus on some authors that I’ve been wanting to read for years but just lacked the motivation to do so.
You’ve been warned. My reading list for this summer isn’t cute, romantic, or easy to read. Maybe it can be said that it’s not in any way enjoyable — so if you’re looking for that, these recommendations won’t be up your alley. However, if you’re down to do some heavy thinking on the beach or you simply want recommendations for books to read (maybe not in the summer), then let’s get started.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
I know what you’re thinking — “Russian classics? On the beach? I could never.” I know this line of thought because I myself used to follow it. Depressing, dark, and heavy — this is how most people would describe Russian literature, and to be fair, they won’t be far from the truth. From the very first page, this book offers an insightful look into the human psyche from all aspects, even the ones which we don’t want to talk about at all. Dostoevsky explores every square inch of the human soul, manages to show how our inner light and our inner darkness are in constant turmoil, and finally, makes us feel all spectrum of possible emotions — anger, hurt, love, confusion, shame, pride, sadness, despair. A lot can be said about “Crime and Punishment,” and this short paragraph won’t be enough for me to share all my thoughts on this classic. What I can tell you for sure is that it’s worth the read. Even on the beach in 40-degree weather.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towels
I think this book was recommended by Bill Gates a few years ago, and it was super popular at the time. Of course, hipster me didn’t read it back then, as I was too cool to go for popular books. However, a few months ago, I saw it at a local bookstore, read the description, and thought: “Well, isn’t this a fitting read for our current time?”. In “A Gentleman in Moscow,” Towels shows us how much we can endure only if we think of ourselves as the masters of our own faith, how our destiny may be predetermined, but we can always make the best out of any situation. It’s a novel about what it truly means to be a man of purpose.
We the Living by Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand’s “The Fountain Head” is probably one of my favorite books of all time. I read it when I was 17 (I think), and I remember that it left a lasting impression on me and that I kept coming back to particular moments in the book, time after time. With that said, I’ve never read any other Rand book, and even though she’s considered controversial by some, I truly enjoy her writing style and the reckless way in which she shares her ideas. “We the Living” is her first novel — it’s about three people whose lives are forever shaped by the Russian Revolution that occurred in 1917. Many consider it to be a political novel, but to me, it’s a novel about finding ways to keep your integrity and your beliefs, and find happiness, even when the circumstances are stacked against you.
Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is probably the lightest read on this list. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new book is set to come out on August 16th, and I can’t wait to crack it open and dive into another incredible story. This year I read everything that Reid has ever published, and even though most of her books aren’t anything that remarkable, the stories of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones, and Nina Riva made me feel all kinds of emotions and genuinely kept me engaged for hours on end. If I had to pick one book out of this list as a classic summer read, it would be probably “Carrie Soto is Back.” Especially if you, like me, love to read stories about sport.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Yet another Russian classic. I know, I know — this book is about 1000 pages, maybe more, and many readers claim that the war strategies in it are a tough pill to swallow. However, “War and Peace” is a timeless classic, a must-read book that has surely survived the test of time, and so I have to read it at some point, even though it seems like a daunting task at first sight.
Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov
If you’re not Bulgarian, you probably haven’t heard of this book. However, “Time Shelter,” for me, is a new-age classic, a book that should be read by absolutely everyone, especially now, during these times of war, global pandemics, and social divide. It’s an incredible novel about wanting to live in the past, about the future that may await us all, about the longing and the scary feeling of forgetting who you are. Georgi Gospodinov might get nominated for the Nobel Prize this year, and I hope he does because this book deserves to be discussed.
What did you read this summer? What book would you recommend to your friends? Did any author leave a lasting impression on you? Let’s discuss.