Whether it’s on a hot beach, while on vacation, or in the comfort of your own home, the summer becomes synonymous with the opportunity to finally achieve some pleasure reading. This begs the question: What SHOULD you read? Well, look no further than this list, which is my personal summer of 2016 recommended reading list. So check out one of these titles and enjoy some reading time with your summer.
Published a mere two years before her untimely death to cancer, famed Golden Age of Hollywood icon, Ingrid Bergman, published her autobiography for readers to get a glimpse into her film career, her professional decisions, and also to gain a deeper understanding of her personal life. Ingrid Bergman doesn’t shy away from difficult points of her life, such as her infamous affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, which caused her to be ostracized from American film for almost 10 years. Bergman’s recollections are rich in detail and she reveals to readers many film-making secrets from various films throughout her career. While the autobiography provides excellent backstory to many of her films, it is the chapters dedicated to her personal life that are the most compelling, reminding readers of the stunning humanity and strength she possessed. Unfortunately this autobiography is out of print circulation and not available on kindle, but one can easily purchase a used copy off amazon.com for a cheap price. This autobiography is absolutely worth owning.
Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning book is a stunning achievement of literature. The book chronicles instances and events that span 25 years, all of which center around Olive Kitteridge, a complex, socially difficult individual, who may possibly suffer from undiagnosed borderline personality. The book is framed as a set of short stories, which also provides beautiful descriptions of the Maine landscape and environment. Ultimately the book is about an individual trying to cope in a world she no longer comprehends. If this book doesn’t make it onto your short list, consider watching the faithful HBO miniseries adaption of this book starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, and Bill Murray.
Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel is unlike any narrative you will ever read. The novel opens with the horrific murder of Susie Salmon, a fourteen-year-old girl, by the hands of a serial killer. The narrative is from Susie’s vantage as she watches what occurs on Earth after her death from her personalized version of Heaven. Through Susie’s observations, the reader is shown how her family grieves in their own way after her disappearance and also focuses on Mr. Harvey, Susie’s killer, who continues his murderous lifestyle. The novel is heartbreaking, yet poignant in its representation of events, showcasing how humanity continues to function even after a life-changing incident.
102 Minutes is perhaps one the best works of journalism regarding the untold stories of what happened inside both World Trade Centers on 9/11. This work is a minute-by-minute account of what occurred that morning from the vantage of workers, firefighters, and those who barely escaped death. The book unfolds incredible stories of survival, and more importantly, the extraordinary instances of heroism took place on that tragic day. 102 Minutes also reminds readers how quickly time went by on that horrible Tuesday morning with instant decisions affecting whether one survived that day or not. Some portions of this book are difficult to read for the human component of this book can be overwhelming, but this is arguably the best 9/11 book focused on the World Trade Centers.
Rebecca is classic literature at its finest. This novel is a perfect combination of the gothic and romance genres, which captivated readers when it was first published in 1938 and was immortalized with the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock movie. The book follows Mrs. de Winter, the naive and insecure second wife of Maxim de Winter, who fears she cannot escape from the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca. This fear is compounded with the actions she receives from the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who takes sadistic pleasure in psychologically torturing Mrs. de Winter. At the core of this macabre narrative is a love story and what Mrs. de Winter is willing to endure for her husband. Additionally, the first-person narration is stunning writing, placing the reader in the vantage of Mrs. de Winter, to which the reader endures the trials and tribulations with the protagonist. Rebecca is a definitive page-turner, one that can be easily read in a matter of days.
Never mind the over-hyped, Matt Damon miscast, Hollywoodized version of this extraordinary novel. Unlike its film adaption, which tried too hard, this novel is both hilarious while also being genuine towards the science within the story. Andy Weir gives his novel such close attention to detail, to which he never takes his readers for granted. Weir is sure, through his incredible passages of description in the first-person, to educate the readers of how the science works within the book. The hilarity of the novel comes the the trial-and-error sequences with the book’s protagonist reacting in a way that mirrors as true-to-life. Also, in contrast to the inferior film, The Martian’s suspense is captivating with numerous obstacles the protagonist has to face. This novel easily could have been “popcorn literature,” but it actually gives the reader quite a bit to consider. So skip the movie, pretend it was never produced, and read the vastly superior novel.
Perhaps one of the most disturbing novels one could ever read, yet so expertly written by Vladimir Nabokov. The brilliance of the novel is how the reader is given a vantage into the mind of a sociopath without ever being asked to sympathize with him. The content of the novel is repugnant, but the reader becomes captivated with its theme of obsession, which eventually consumes the narrator into insanity. Also worth noting is the reality that a novel of this caliber could never be written in today’s contemporary literary world and truly is a piece of classic literature that only could have been published when it was (1955 in Paris). The novel is unapologetically uncouth, making it a truly unique reading experience.
There is no survival story like this one, and outside of the first-hand account by Nando Parrado (Miracle in the Andes), this account from Piers Paul Read is perhaps one of the most captivating, most incredible stories you will ever encounter. The book focuses on the true-story of a Uruguayan rugby team, whose plane crashed into the Andes Mountains on October of 1972. With small rations of food, the survivors had to endure living in the somewhat intact fuselage, only to have their lives threatened two weeks later when they were hit by an avalanche. With their rations scarce, the survivors had to resort to eating the bodies of the dead to stay alive. Even more harrowing is their eventual survival, which was made possible when Nando Parrado and Robert Canessa hiked a 10-day trek out of their camp until they found help. What makes Alive such a phenomenal work of journalism was Piers Paul Read writing the account with raw, sometime brutal realism. He didn’t try to sensationalize or embellish on facts. As a result, Alive remains a journalistic classic.
Walter Isaacson’s incredible biography of the Apple and Pixar founder is one of the densest books about an individual one could ever read. Steve Jobs personally authorized this biography before his death, knowing he wanted someone to recount his life without embellishing fact and projecting him more than he was. The biography excels in describing the genius of Steve Jobs, who was a master salesman more than the extraordinary programmer most associate him as. The biography details that one of Jobs’ greatest talents was gauging the potential of those around him and pushing the most brilliant minds to achieve whatever his vision was. However, the biography also details, in very vivid detail, the complexity of who Steve Jobs was personally, whose social interactions and temper-tantrums often infuriated those around him. Job’s work and family relations are given just as much attention as his genius, portraying him as a master of his craft without ever diminishing the human component of who he was.
Lisa Genova’s novel perfectly captures the emotional toll Alzheimer’s disease has on an individual and their family. Still Alice is the story of Alice Howland, a brilliant Harvard linguistics professor, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Immediately this changes her social and familial relationships, while slowly taking away her ability to utilize language. The novel is written in third-person through Alice’s point-of-view, to which the writing style shifts as the disease progresses more. While the novel is an extraordinary narrative about family, bravery, and love, the reader is also given an understanding through the text of how the disease slowly strips an individual away from being able to communicate and associate with those around her. Still Alice is unlike any novel one could ever read. Added to that, the movie adaption with Julianne Moore was a beautifully faithful adaption of this novel and a perfect accompaniment after finishing the novel.