One of the great glories of summer is the reading surge that comes with it. We tend to slow down and recline on soft surfaces. What else to do when the shades are drawn and the fan is on? Here's what we've been getting lost in over the past few weeks, iced drink in hand.
by Rachel Cusk
Rachel Cusk is known for her stream of consciousness narratives. What’s different about Second Place, is that its narrator, a writer who has retreated to her home out in the marshes during lockdown, is much more introspective than Faye, from Cusk’s earlier Outline trilogy. Here, M as she’s referred to, is quite self-conscious as she invites a famous artist to her coastal retreat. It’s a book all about quivering relationship dynamics when you’re plonked into an isolated yet crowded space, with no one else but each other to rely on.
“It struck me how the human capacity for receptivity is a kind of birthright, an asset given to us in the moment of our creation by which we are intended to regulate the currency of our souls. Unless we give back to life as much as we take from it, this faculty will fail us sooner or later.”
Crying in H Mart
by Michelle Zauner
Prepare to cry – and become very hungry – while reading Michelle Zauner’s (front woman of Japanese Breakfast) food memoir, as she explores her relationship with her Korean heritage through the lens of grief, whilst losing her mother to cancer.
“Food was how my mother expressed her love. No matter how critical or cruel she could seem—constantly pushing me to meet her intractable expectations—I could always feel her affection radiating from the lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them.”
by Alice Vincent
Another memoir but this time from the green-fingered journalist Alice Vincent, who recounts the visceral, searing moments of heartbreak after her seven year relationship dissolves. It's not all desperate though; she weaves in botanical history and biography and how the act of sowing seeds, potting plants and bringing the outside in can help us heal.
“Because things do continue to grow. Plants exist to live just like we do, in spite of bad days and confines. In spite of the punishing controls that we suffer under and that we put on ourselves.”
by William Vincent
Another memoir! But this one is Pulitzer Prize winning, so forgive us. Journalist William Finnegan has penned a fascinating narrative spanning four decades of his surfing life – from growing up in Hawaii and discovering the beauty of floating on water to searching for monstrous waves in Portugal; discovering untouched breaks in Fiji to finding solace in New York’s muddy rollers. Whether you’ve ridden a board or not, it’s a beautiful ode to mother nature and how it can completely transform you.
“For most surfers, I think—for me, certainly—waves have a spooky duality. When you are absorbed in surfing them, they seem alive. They each have personalities, distinct and intricate, and quickly changing moods, to which you must react in the most intuitive, almost intimate way—too many people have likened riding waves to making love. And yet waves are of course not alive, not sentient, and the lover you reach to embrace may turn murderous without warning. It’s nothing personal.”
by Raven Leilani
This comes from a debut novelist who was taught – and praised by – Zadie Smith, so you know it's going to be a good one. Luster follows Edie, a young Black woman working in publishing who is bored of her dead-end job, avoiding doing the thing she loves (painting), instead opting to do the thing she shouldn’t (sleeping with all the wrong men). Don’t be fooled into thinking this is your typical New York millennial romance novel. It’s a sharp, spiky narrative where Edie gets sucked into a new family, and becomes strangely attached to her lover’s adopted daughter and severe wife.
“I’ve made my own hunger into a practice, made everyone who passes through my life subject to a close and inappropriate reading that occasionally finds its way, often insufficiently, into paint. And when I am alone with myself, this is what I am waiting for someone to do to me, with merciless, deliberate hands, to put me down onto the canvas so that when I’m gone, there will be a record, proof that I was here.”