When I was little summer holidays (or vacation) meant going to visit my grandparents in the Valley of Kashmir. A plethora of cousins to play with, shopping for the years worth of Kashmiri embroidered outfits, trips to tailors and duppatta dye houses, munching of the most amazing pears and fragrant apples from my uncle’s orchards – and reading books. There was never time for a LOT of books, but I would take one summer read. And then forever, that book would remind me of that summer.
These days, I’m on my summer hols again, blessed to be able to have a ‘vacation’ from daily life. But this time it’s my kids turn to visit their grandparents (aka – my parents in England), and summer is full of different joys. Ice lollies, the best fish and chips ever, circuses, fairs and car-boot sales. Even Grocery runs with Nani-Mama are way more exciting than those back home in the USA with Mama. And of course their three Khalas who swoop down to make life magical.
As for me? Well finally, I have time to read. I look through my list of Books To Be Read that have accumulated over the year, and one of my sisters hands me a book that’s not even on it – ‘Have you read this? She says “I just sobbed and sobbed through it’. With that, the list is put aside and I settle into a comfy spot, safe in the knowledge that the kids are being supervised by some other doting adult.
I’ve just finished reading Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance – which left me breathless (and yes sobbing) and wondering how a writer could pen like that? To stir the heart through words on printed paper, to pluck each letter and choose their alignment, and like his tailor protagonists, stitching together a word a sentence a page…
Last year one of my sisters asked me if The Handmaid’s Tale would be a good summer read, I scrunched up my nose at her and told her it might be ‘a bit heavy’. She read it anyway and told me how perfect it was to take with her on her travels! So not all summer reads have to be beachy and breezy I guess. (As it happens this book is enjoying a resurgence of readers this year I think due to the Hulu Tv Adaptation.)
I had a peek at Aiysha’s list and asked her to share too. So here are 9 in total from the houses of Aiysha (AM) and I (ST) that we can’t wait to get our noses into!
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundathi Roy
Because I was forever in the Love Every Single Word of God Of Small Things Camp, and because I’ve heard this long awaited second novel by the activist author promises more than a hint of a Kashmiri story-line (and you all know my love affair with the valley of Indian occupied Kashmir). (ST)
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Because when worlds of medicine and literature collide in such a lucid way, life itself seems to open up its secrets. A book about dying written by a neurosurgeon who died soon after completing it seems like a strange thing to want to read but this New York Times number one bestseller has been calling me ever since it was posthumously published. I love this interview given by the author’s wife, who writes the book’s epilogue. (ST)
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Because I’ve never read this author, and in my personal reading circles have heard such high praise for the novel that I didn’t even need to make a note of the name to remember it. Tackling themes of prejudice, race and justice one book club member iterated ‘all I can say is that this is the type of novel that needed to be written’. Sold. (ST)
Because Women, Work and the Will to Lead? Yes please. I’m not a huge proponent of ‘self-help’ books but I’m going to go for this one, written in response to the author’s 2010 TED talk on the ways women are held back. And because a lovely friend recommended it to me – and sometimes, that’s the best reason of all. (ST)
Because I am captivated by anything she writes and this memoir detailing her relationship with her body looks to be a poignant, beautiful and yet difficult read. She weaves all the things with such deftness and subtlety. (AM)
Content Warning: Hunger deals with sexual assault & rape.
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
Because what is summer without a few good young adult novels to speed through without any guilt or pretence? I am particularly excited to read this one, not only because the author and I grew up in and around the same community but any new YA title with Muslim protagonist makes me very happy. Representation is everything. (AM)
See also Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni-Eddo Lodge
Because the title of this book is the exact thought I have at least once a week. (AM)
Known and Strange Things by Teju Cole
Because a well written essay is a delight to read and revel in – from this collection I want nothing but sharp writing and pointed observations. Make me think. (AM)
Hymns & Qualms: New and Selected Poems and Translations by Peter Cole
Because is there ever a better time or place to read an incredibly soaring volume of poetry than in the middle of summer, on a picnic blanket in the shade of a big oak with the river running by? Cambridge summers were made for poetry like this. I only recently discovered this volume by chancing upon this poem as shared by a friend, but I knew the moment I felt the words that these would be the poems of this season. (AM)
Have you read any of the books we mentioned? Thoughts? Do share any of your own recommendations!
A Fine Balance is breath taking!
I have Breath becomes air if you wanted to read it