Bookworms rejoice! Whether you’re finally free from a busy academic schedule or chained to your work life in need of scenic change, summer is a time for relaxation and fun. ’Tis the season to frequent rooftop happy hours, beaches, and sunny Sunday brunches, and what better way to bring something new to the table than to tell a friend about your favorite recent read? Slip one of these books into your backpack this summer because we’ve compiled a list of reads that will make progressing on your yearly reading goal seem like an ice cold treat.
PATTI SMITH — JUST KIDS
A 1970s love-letter to rock-and-roll New York City, Just Kids is told through the lens of a young woman enamored by the artists around her, guided by her passion for art, and strengthened by her love for the legendary Robert Mapplethorpe. In recounting her flirtations with faith, imagination, and optimism along the road that led her to blend poetry with music, Patti Smith takes readers from the poverty-stricken corners of Brooklyn to the outré galleries of the Chelsea Hotel, where the night truly belonged to lovers.
MILAN KUNDERA — THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING
Appease your inner existentialist with Milan Kundera as he explores questions of love, intellectualism, art, and anguish in 1968 Prague. With a focus on kitsch, or an exaggeration on sentimentality, four human protagonists (and one lovely dog) immerse themselves in the difficulties of Post-Soviet living. Readers are guaranteed to find a character with whom they empathize, as each of Kundera’s described experiences lead the reader to reconsider his or her standing ideas on infidelity, weakness, and fear.
CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD — THE BERLIN STORIES If you’ve seen the musical Cabaret, then you may be aware that it’s based off of Christopher Isherwood’s book. Composed of two short stories in a time when Hitler was newly coming into power, The Berlin Stories describes 1931 Berlin with an array of complex characters all in pursuit of personal pleasure. Isherwood, who makes an appearance in Christopher Bram’s Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, writes meticulously with both humor and irony, depicting without fail the multifaceted nature of both city and individual. Readers follow protagonist William Bradshaw who encounters a wide range of people in different stages of suffering; from the elusive Mr. Norris to the desirable and intriguing Sally Bowles, Isherwood makes sure to leave no personality or emotion untouched.
GEORGE ORWELL — DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON
The Great British 1984 author was once homeless. Down and Out in Paris and London is George Orwell’s memoir about the writer’s struggle for money and finding poverty to be an end in itself. As he describes pawning his clothes in destitution and working as a dishwasher in the filth of a hotel kitchen, Orwell bears a refreshing take on his situation. He writes about poverty, “It is a feeling of relief, almost of pleasure, at knowing yourself at last genuinely down and out. You have talked so often of going to the dogs — and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.”
OLIVER SACKS — THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT & OTHER CLINICAL TALES Imagine seeing a fire hydrant instead of your friend’s head at all times. Consider a life in which you fail to distinguish your shoe from your foot, or your wife from your son. Such instances happen with the syndrome of face blindness, a condition neurologist Oliver Sacks meticulously describes through the experience of Dr. P. In The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Sacks exposes never-before-heard cases as they apply to real people and simultaneously educates the reader about the interrelatedness of brain and body, making this collection of stories a must-read for individuals of all ages.