Summer Reading Picks: A Very Mixed Bowl

Lately I have found editing to be both a gratifying and intolerably tedious activity. I have been editing a short story for two days now – the first edit turning into a rewrite and the second carrying on a story I thought I had ended, and although I love the characters growing within what I think is a reasonably good plot, a short is called a short because it is short. I need to work on this.

While taking a break from editing/rewriting I decided to compile a list of summer and beach reading from books I already own. When asked what your favorite summer read is you might not mention titles filled with mental illness, death, and ritual killings, but I have my reasons!


Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, George Armado

During a trip to Brazil last August I discovered a love for international storytelling through hearing about a literary festival in Paraty and the thousands of south American authors who would be in attendance, I did not get to go but it sparked the bug to read some on my own. Being exposed to their sing song way of speaking and learning to talk to my husband’s grandma by listening to Brazilian music, I found that every song on the radio naturally sounded like poetry – I wanted to hear their stories. Although Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon is considered a romance between Syria born Nacib Saad and his new cook Gabriela, we are immediately thrown into Colonel Mendonça shooting his wife and the man he finds her in bed with, an example of how things are dealt with in this small town in the 1920s. Yes, Nacib and Gabriela fall in love, but they are faced with obstacles almost immediately when the society they reside in refuses to accept them together, changing them and their relationship completely.


The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

A group of friends and lovers travel from Paris to Spain to see the bull fights with alcohol, nightlife and debauchery thrown in for good measure in this portrayal of the post-World War I generation. Jake Barnes falls in love with drinker and divorcee Lady Brett Ashley almost immediately upon introduction, but she refuses to commit to a relationship with him because of the expectation that comes with it – sex. Brett is admired by multiple men and this soon leads to drunken fist fights and dark humor. After parting ways, Jake and Brett meet later in Paris; Jake is accompanied by his friend Robert Cohn (another admirer of Brett) and Brett, now married, is with her husband Mike Campbell. The four agree to go to Spain together and, of course, events go poorly. Although The Sun Also Rises reads like a light beach book, Ernest Hemingway uses character’s action and a great plot to show the aimlessness of life for the lost generation.


The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

I ordered this from Amazon about a month ago and it is next in my classic reading pile, it sounds like the perfect summer read, like The Devil Wears Prada but with a girl who isn’t perfectly cliche. Esther Greenwood starts a summer internship at a New York magazine but despite her move to the big city and starting a position many women strive for- she is is unsatisfied, scared, depressed. Her mother forces her to see a slew of unprofessional psychiatrists that prescribe electric shock therapy, and Esther refuses to go back. The story follows Esther through tales of her internship, the people she meets, half attempts at suicide and then one real attempt, and unravel fears and feelings Sylvia Plath suffered through in her real life as a writer and person with depression.

 Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

The copy I own of this book is nine years old and has “From mummy, happy reading” written on the first page, I think Things Fall Apart was the first piece of real literature I read outside of school and enjoyed. Set in Nigeria, reading this book reminds me of the summers I spent there as a child. Cornrows dirtied with dust, big cheesy grins with cousins. The rich culture and detail Chinua Achebe paints transports you to that world, one of tribes and tradition that begin to creep into western assimilation and the tragic irony that follows. The story focuses is on an Igbo man named Okwonko. Shamed by an absent father, he strives to be respected by everyone in the village by simulating extreme masculinity, working hard, gaining wealth, and an overabundance of wives and children. He and his family take in a young boy named Ikemefuna, who is given to the village as a peace settlement after his father kills an Umuofia woman. Okwonko raises the boy they take to each other like father and son, but when the Oracle of Umuofia claims Ikemefuna must be killed Okwonko’s decision to appear strong and deal the killing blow to Ikemefuna sends him and his family into a downward spiral.

I think I will have to give this story a reread, I am getting the same chills I did when I first read it.

Have you read any of these or are you planning to?

2 thoughts on “Summer Reading Picks: A Very Mixed Bowl

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