There really is nothing better than lazing in a deck chair in your garden topping up your tan whilst engrossed in a book. Here at TakingThingsLiterally we have compiled a list of our top 10 summer reads, which might help you decide what to pack along with sun cream and sun glasses this summer.
10. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
This novel follows the life of Piscine Molitor Patel after he becomes shipwrecked at sea for 227 days. After growing up in a richly captivated and vibrant India, Patel’s parents decide to set sail for a new life in Canada. However, a storm savages their boat and leaves the young Pi marooned at sea with no-one else for company except a Bengal tiger. Yann Martel’s masterpiece weaves together wit, fantasy, thought provoking narrative and the tale of loss, without ever losing sight of the young protagonist. The writing style is sharp and the narrative style remains as fresh on the page as it was when this book was published back in 2001. Life of Pi is great way to kick off your summer reading.
9. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
JK Rowling’s first novel after the immensely successful and globally famous Harry Potter Series follows the goings-on in the little English town of Pagford. Emotions are running high as the council elections fast approach, when suddenly local councillor Barry Fairbrother dies. This leads the reader into the murky world of small town politics and brings into sharp focus the forgotten members of the community. The Casual Vacancy further cements Rowling as an established story teller who exposes the class divide within British society in a darkly humorous way. By far the most captivating character is Krystal, a 16 year old girl who must care for her brother due to their mum’s continuing drug use. This is an interesting look at modern Britain that will make a fantastic read this summer!
8. The Hobbit by J.R. R Tolkein
After the mammoth success of The Lord of the Rings it seemed like only a matter of time before its ancestor The Hobbit would be adapted to the big screen. Now in 2013 Peter Jackson’s trilogy has bought this book back into the list of summer reads. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit that lives in the Shire and enjoys his normal, if not somewhat boring, life. Enter Gandalf the Grey. This mischievous wizard tricks Bilbo into hosting a party with dwarves who are intent on reclaiming their lost treasure from the dragon Smaug. When the dwarves ridicule Gandalf for nominating Bilbo to join, the small, incensed hobbit agrees to go on this journey. Tolkein’s masterpiece is filled with some beautifully written, richly descriptive passages which make it hard to believe this isn’t a real world. A brilliantly, magical summer adventure!
7. World War Z by Max Brooks
“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.” World War Z follows author Max Brooks whose textual alter-ego is an agent from the United Nations Postwar Commission. Brooks desperately tries to save any remaining survivor stories from the Zombie apocalypse that very nearly destroyed the human race. Written by the author of the humorous The Zombie Survival Guide, this is a sharply written horror that successfully manages to tackle the hypothesis of a global zombie attack without losing its way. Written from individual accounts, Brooks manages to bring the characters closely to the foreground amongst the chaos that ensues. This is definitely a zombie tale to sink your teeth into this summer, just beware it doesn’t bite back!
6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This novel really is a scorcher (apologies, we couldn’t resist) and is a definite must read. Ray Bradbury sets the scene in a dystopian future where the protagonist is a firemen, but not as you expect. Guy Montag’s job is to burn books. One fateful night after returning home from work, Montag engages in a tense discussion with his liberal, vibrant neighbour Clarisse McCllelan. His relationship with this young girl forces him to question the world he lives in, and more importantly the role he plays. In an America where texts have been out dated by new media and a fast moving society, Fahrenheit 451 offers a dark, troubling hypothesis of the world if books were to become the target of social repression. This short novel really is testament to the saying that good things come in small packages.
5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The second book in Suzanne Collins’ enthralling Hunger Game series, Catching Fire is a brilliant stepping stone in the story of Katniss Evergreen. Both Katniss and Peeta return home to District 12 after winning the 74th Hunger Games, and embark upon the victory tour as champions. Upon preparing to leave behind their homes, Katniss is cornered by President Snow who is angered by her antics at the end of the tournament, which appear to have had a domino effect on the districts. Collin’s weaves together this heart stopping tale with such skill, that Catching Fire matches the debut perfectly. Every chapter appears to test your sheer nerves with each sentence, making this a fantastic summer read.
4. Game of Thrones by George Martin
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, then it would’ve been hard to miss the outburst of Game of Thrones into the mainstream. Adapting into an award-winning, rating-soaring HBO series, George Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice Series is phenomenal. Not since Tolkien has an author managed to craft not just a world, but a universe filled with characters that are so real they make up for the somewhat outlandish magic. The first book in the series follows the Seven Kingdoms after the death of the Hand of the Kind. Ned Stark, head of a noble family in the north, is suddenly thrust into the murky world of politics when Kind Robert requests him as his right hand man. It is not until moving to the capital that Ned sees for himself the extent of the corruption in the Seven Kingdoms and as Queen Cerci informs him “In the game of thrones, you win or you die”. Martin blends together this wonderfully intricate plot through episodic narrative that follows one character at a time. This narrative technique offers a truly global view of this kaleidoscopic world. A fantastic debut to a truly ground breaking series, Game of Thrones should be on everyone’s list this summer!
3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Amy and Nick Dunne are in a strained marriage. It is the morning after their fifth wedding anniversary and Nick wakes up to find his wife missing. A police investigation is launched with Nick himself very much in the hot seat for prime suspect number one, something he vehemently denies. With no other suspects likely, and police searches on his web history showing strange results, Nick begins to question what actually happened to Amy that night. Gillian Flynn has produced perhaps the best psychological thriller in years with Gone Girl. This book is highly addictive with so many plot turns it really is better to expect the unexpected. It is hard to divulge anymore, without inadvertently giving away spoilers. So let us just say this is a fantastic read book that will seriously blow your mind.
2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Upon reading this book it is hard to see why it gets listed as science fiction, but as you delve deeper into Kazuo Ishiguro’s extraordinary novel you begin to see where these elements trickle through. Never Let Me Go follows protagonist Kathy as she looks back over her life so far and reminisces about both her childhood and adolescence. Set in an uncanny idyllic England, this novel traces Kathy’s relationship to Tommy and Ruth, her closest friends, and more importantly her determined future. Ishiguro is a bold writer that doesn’t embellish each sentence unnecessarily with adverbs and adjectives. The result is a beautiful story that tells the tale of loss, friendship and memory in an unforgettable way. Never Let Me Go is a spectacular way to spend your summer holidays and a deserving runner up on our list.
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In at number one is possibly the best work of fiction F. Scott Fitzgerald produced. The Great Gatsby is an extraordinary account of the rip roaring twenties in America and offers a sharp expose on the Jazz Era, the good, the bad and the overindulgent. The protagonist Gatsby is a wealthy man that captures the imagination of the New York social scene, as no-one can quite figure out where he comes from or how he made his millions. Throw into the mix a warped version of a love story and The Great Gatsby becomes the ultimate summer read. Fitzgerald acutely captures the atmosphere of the twenties with elegant prose that resembles fluid gold on the page. Noted as one of the great literary classics this is most certainly THE novel to lose yourself in this summer.
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