Novel Ideas: Summer Reading Guide

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TEXT: Chantelle Lee and Snigdha Koirala

To celebrate summer, we at Novella Magazine have compiled a list of fun reads you can all enjoy this season!

1. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Five days after Marina Keegan graduated from Yale University, she died in a car accident. To honour her memory, Keegan’s family and friends gathered the short stories and essays she had written over the years and compiled them into this collection. The Opposite of Loneliness, perhaps her most well-known essay, and for which this collection is named after, reminisces about the feeling of belonging in a community — like university — and encourages readers to hold onto that inspirational feeling throughout their lives. If you recently graduated from high school or university, this book is a must-read for you this summer.

2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Whether you’re a poetry expert or novice, Milk and Honey is the book for you. Rupi Kaur’s seemingly simple poems are short enough to ease readers into poetry, but also complex enough to touch on a multitude of topics, like femininity, abuse, and love. Kaur is a local Torontonian, and in her first published collection of poetry, she tells her story of hurting, loving, breaking, and healing. If you want an “addictive” collection of poetry to read this summer, then Milk and Honey is the book for you.

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Now that season six of the popular television show Game of Thrones has finished this year, why not catch up on the books to keep yourself occupied? Immerse yourself in the Westeros universe by reading all five novels so that when the show starts again next spring, you’ll be all caught up on your Game of Thrones trivia.

4. Just Kids by Patti Smith
Summer is a great time to read memoirs! Follow musician, artist, and poet Patti Smith as she reflects on her life in New York, and her intense relationship with renowned photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Just Kids is one of those powerful memoirs that will keep you hooked on every word. Smith writes her memoir with the same lyrical beauty that she gifts her songs, and you will find yourself humming to the tune of the book.

5. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
In A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid compares a tourist’s perception of Antigua to the everyday reality for the island locals. Although it was published in 1988, the book is still timely and eye-opening today. Kincaid takes the words “creative non-fiction” to a whole new level — she turns the state of post-colonial Antigua into an expressive story of hardship, culture, mistreatment, and love.

6. The Accidental by Ali Smith
Ali Smith’s 2005 novel follows a family of four in England who decide to spend their summer in a small Norfolk village. Things fail to go as planned, however, when a stranger decides to join them. Presenting readers with everything from a 12-year-old girl’s innermost thoughts to the philosophical concept of a beginning, The Accidental is all that you could want in a read: it’s funny, it’s poignant, a bit strange, and brutally honest.

7. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This Pulitzer Prize winning book doesn’t quite stick to the traditional definitions of a novel, nor does it to the traditional definitions of a short story collection. But whatever you may call it and however you may define it, once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it back down! Following an array of characters, who range from a music producer to an ex-teen star, A Visit from the Goon Squad will get you to (unknowingly) think of a whole host of things — the biggest being the concept of time: how time moves, where it moves to, and what it does to those who don’t move with it.

8. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
How much can you say about a single day? According to Virginia Woolf, a whole lot. Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa Dalloway as she makes her way around 1920s London, preparing for a party she will host that evening. Delving into one character’s mind, then into another’s, then into another’s, Woolf pulls the reader into post-WWI England and makes her stay there, exposing her to everything from PTSD to existential crises to feminism. If you’re someone who’s keen to pull out a classic at the beach, then look no further — this book is for you.

9. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
Calling all poetry aficionados (and poetry-phobes too)! Maya Angelou’s easy-to-read, but poignant poems resonate, in some shape or form, with all those who encounter them. Never afraid to veer into the uncomfortable, Angelou explores womanhood and race in this collection — the difficulties they present and, most importantly, the strength with which she overcomes those difficulties.

10. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Betty Smith’s 1943 novel is the kind that you purposely stretch out over weeks. The very thought of the story ending — of having to say goodbye to endearing characters — will force you to put the book on hold for a bit. Smith’s protagonist, Francie Nolan, will show you around 20th century Brooklyn: from the school that she attends to the streets that she plays in. If you’re in the market for characters who grow as you do, then this is the book for you!