At the start of this year, I set myself a task. I was going to read 50 books in 2015. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like a lot to you but, for me, that’s considerably more than normal. Despite the fact that I read pretty constantly, I’m not a fast reader and my course often demands a lot of time reading and commenting on other students’ work.
Right now, I’m about mid-way through my goal, according to Goodreads. Thus far, my little task really has inspired me to read more and, most importantly, to finish books, not just stack them up and balance mugs of tea on them! Here are three of my favorites I read this summer. If you know me, the chances are I’ve probably recommended one (or all) of these three books to you already. It’s because they’re beautiful. And I love them.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Look, it even has the word ‘beautiful’ in the title! This is magical realism, so fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez rejoice. I absolutely adored this family saga about a girl in Seattle, Washington who is born with wings.
It’s full of evocative descriptions of the rain-soaked Seattle landscape, a trio of strong and complicated heroines and, my personal favorite, lots of descriptions of food! One of the characters owns a bakery and I pretty much wanted bread every time I read this. For fans of magical realism, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a haunting story about how love shapes, breaks and ultimately saves our lives.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
If you’ve been into a UK bookstore in the last year, chances are you’ve seen The Miniaturist. I thought I’d see what the hype was about and I must say I wasn’t disappointed. This is historical fiction, set in 17th century Amsterdam about a new bride who starts to receive strange gifts from a mysterious miniaturist (miniaturist = person who builds tiny things), gifts that seem to oddly mirror her reality…
It’s an interesting premise and this one was one hell of a page-turner! Like a Victorian sensation novel, it’s packed with secrets behind every nook and cranny. Obviously I won’t tell you what any of them are but I will tell you that I was moved to tears on multiple occasions when reading this book. The era is vividly evoked (once again, lots of great descriptions of food!) and it’s a compelling feminist tale. I think it’s rare for a book to be this well written AND this page turn-y (yes, that’s a phrase now). Highly recommended.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I have no words for how much I adore this book. Usually when I try to describe it to people, just strange, garbled syllables of joy come out.
This is a historical epic, the likes of which I’ve not encountered since I read Les Misérables (one of my favorite books ever – even if Victor Hugo does spend an absurd amount of time telling you about the Parisian sewer system).
It’s set during WWII and centers on two children: Marie-Laure, the blind daughter of a renowned Parisian locksmith, and Werner, a German orphan, whose remarkable intelligence brings him to the attention of the Hitler Youth.
Told in gorgeous vignettes, what I loved about this book wasn’t just its vivid, visual writing style but its celebration of learning and education. I also adored the noble, flawed, brave and clever characters at its center: Marie-Laure and Werner. It’s often compared to The Book Thief, another of my favorite books, but while the WWII setting and plots have a few similarities, tonally they’re very distinct.
This book really is something special. If I had to pick a favorite that I’ve read this whole year, it’s gotta be this one. Oh yeah, it also won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction so one or two other people seem to agree with me.
What were your favorite books this summer? You’ve seen how I love magical realism and historical fiction, so any recommendations within those genres would be extra appreciated!