Dress Down Summer

Summer reading

I liked the way the contributors to these features on summer reading didn’t just choose hugely worthy and important books published in 2015 but also (re)visited old classics and some lighter stuff.

Here are a few similarly miscellaneous recommendations of my own.

If you are remotely interested in science fiction then check out this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award finalists.  I stayed up late – and got up early – to read Clare North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August so I’m really looking forward to reading her latest novel Touch on holiday.

At the moment I’m reading Richard King’s On Offence (hat tip to Jamie) Its focus should strike a chord with all readers here.

In particular, he shows how giving or taking offence – a shift from thinking to feeling, and from doing to being – has been weaponised in our political discourse as never before: “In short, politics is increasingly a matter not of reasoned argument but of identification.”

It’s nuanced, incisive and stylish.

Although it’s not his best known novel, Theodore Dreiser’s American Tragedy (1925) really made an impression on me when I read it on holiday a few years ago. Clyde Griffiths is an engaging and ambitious young man, keen to escape from his strict missionary family.  His wealthy factory owner uncle gives him a chance to better himself, and he finds himself torn between two women, unsophisticated Roberta and the much more glamorous Sondra.  I think part of its impact and power lies in the way it compels us to identify (at least in part) with its flawed protagonist.

Normblog introduced me to several new (to me) writers through its excellent guest posts on readers’ favourite books.  Dorothy Whipple lived up to Adele Geras’s strong recommendation:

I particularly enjoy writers who pay attention to things like dress, jewellery, food, houses and gardens, but do not be alarmed if you think you hate that stuff. Whipple doesn’t go in for long descriptions which tire you out before you’re at the end of a paragraph. Rather, she manages to convey precisely what everything looks like and feels like in the most economical and deft of strokes.

They Knew Mr Knight (1934) and They Were Sisters (1943) are perhaps my favourites.

As Adele Geras points out, Whipple was rejected by Virago – apparently for being too popular, or too straightforward. But her novels are as good as they are readable – and if you are already a fan and want to try something else in the same style then I’d recommend Richmal Crompton’s Family Roundabout (1948).

What do other readers plan to read this summer – and what would you recommend to the rest of us?

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