With summer in full swing, there's nothing we love more than to kick back and relax with a great book in one hand and a glass of something cold in the other.
Bluets winds its way through depression, divinity, alcohol, and desire, visiting along the way with famous blue figures, including Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Yves Klein, Leonard Cohen and Andy Warhol. While its narrator sets out to construct a sort of ‘pillow book’ about her lifelong obsession with the colour blue, she ends up facing down both the painful end of an affair and the grievous injury of a dear friend. The combination produces a raw, cerebral work devoted to the inextricability of pleasure and pain, and to the question of what role, if any, aesthetic beauty can play in times of great heartache or grief.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Now a hit TV show, The Handmaid's Tale is brilliantly conceived and executed, with a powerful vision of the future which gives full rein to Margaret Atwood's irony, wit and astute perception.
The Complete Stories by Anita Desai
Anita Desai is amongst our greatest and most insightful writers. On the occasion of her 80th birthday, The Complete Stories gathers together the short story collections Diamond Dust and Games at Twilight and the novellas of The Artist of Disappearance, with a new preface from the author. From the icy suburbs of Canada to the overcrowded B&Bs of Cornwall, via the hill towns and cities of India, Anita Desai observes human behaviour unflinchingly but not unkindly, recognising our ordinariness and our strangeness, and capturing both with quiet precision.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey turns up at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. She studies linguistics and literature, teaches ESL and spends a lot of time thinking about what language – and languages – can and cannot do. Along the way she befriends Svetlana, a cosmopolitan Serb, and obsesses over Ivan, a mathematician from Hungary. The two conduct a hilarious relationship that culminates with Selin spending the summer teaching English in a Hungarian village and enduring a series of surprising excursions.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
Summer: Vintage Minis by Laurie Lee
How do you remember the summers of your childhood? For Laurie Lee they were flower-crested, heady, endless days. Here is an evocation of summer like no other - a remote valley filled with the scent of hay, jazzing wasps, blackberries plucked and gobbled, and games played until the last drop of dusk. Lee's joyful and stirring writing captures the very essence of England's golden season. Selected from the book Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee.