I recently received a summer reading list in preparation for the English Literature degree that I'll be starting this September. I'm slowly but surely making my way through the long list of books and I think it will keep me busy for a while! I've always loved reading and, seeing as I'm constantly looking for new book recommendations, below is a list of novels that I've read, loved and think that you should read too!
1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
"Like a compass needle that always points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman."
Prior to reading this book, I read The Kite Runner (by the same author). The Kite Runner moved me like no book ever has before and quickly became my favourite book of all time. That is, until I read A Thousand Splendid Suns. Set in Afghanistan, the novel follows two women - Mariam and Laila - who form an unlikely friendship whilst struggling through unthinkable circumstances. Hosseini's harrowing depictions of life in war-torn Afghanistan make this a somewhat uncomfortable read but, for some, what Hosseini describes is reality. A Thousand Splendid Suns is touching, beautifully written and well worth the read.
2. Animal Farm by George Orwell
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
This book was on my GCSE English Literature syllabus and, as soon as I finished reading it, I knew that I wanted to carry on studying English. Through Animal Farm, Orwell has created the perfect allegory and political satire. Each character represents a political figure (or institution) that played a part in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and, once I knew this, I saw the book in a completely different light. Animal Farm is amusing, thought-provoking, symbolic and educational. I highly recommend it!
3. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
"'Anything is possible,' I said. 'But most things are unlikely.'"
The Heart's Invisible Furies is the latest book to join my list of favourites. I started reading this whilst sunbathing in Australia, not knowing what to expect. To my surprise, I was taken on a rollercoaster of emotions and literally could not put this book down! Set across seven decades of Irish history, The Heart's Invisible Furies manages to be compelling, tragic, witty and insightful all at once. We follow the life of Cyril Avery as he comes to terms with his sexuality, his unusual past and his feelings of resentment towards Ireland and the Catholic Church. I've only just discovered the beauty of John Boyne's writing, but I can't wait to read more of his work.
4. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai
"But where does one turn when the police and the government are the offenders?"
Whenever the topic of reading comes up in conversation, I will always mention this book; it is Shyam Selvadurai's first novel and is criminally underrated! Dubbed 'a novel in six stories,' Funny Boy follows the life of Arjie, a young Sri Lankan boy, as he grows up and begins to realise things about his life and the society he is living in. For the first few chapters, Selvadurai focuses mostly on Arjie's childhood and upbringing but, there is a shift towards the middle of the novel, as we see Arjie experience the Sri Lankan civil war (between the Tamil Tigers and the army). Selvadurai's ability to effortlessly weave the personal and political together into one novel makes this an incredible read. I found Selvadurai's writing style, and the issues he addresses, to be very similar to that of (previously mentioned) Khaled Hosseini, so if you've already read and enjoyed Hosseini's novels, definitely give Funny Boy a go!
5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
I have had the paper copy of this book for so long but I could never get past the first chapter. I don't know why this is because, when I finally got round to reading this book last year, I couldn't get enough of it. Whenever I search for new book recommendations, To Kill a Mockingbird is always on the list! It's a modern American classic which beautifully explores the themes of innocence, justice and human nature. I'm pretty sure that most people have already read (or at least heard of) this novel but, if you haven't, add reading it to your to-do-list!
6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
"When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that."
Out of all of the books on this list, The Handmaid's Tale is the one that I enjoyed the least, but I think this is because it was a set text for my English Literature A-Level, and therefore I had to pick every minor detail of the text apart! That said, there's no denying that this is a very interesting read which remains relevant in today's society. Atwood transports us to the dystopian republic of Gilead, where Handmaids, such as Offred, only serve one purpose: to bear children. Whilst this is a dystopian fiction, Atwood bases events in the book off of historic events that have actually already happened. This gives the novel so many layers; as readers we are constantly imagining what our future could become, whilst also questioning the realities of our past.
If you end up reading any of the books on this list, please let me know. I'm also always after new book recommendations too so feel free to comment some of your favourite books below!