With a long flight to contend with, many days to fill by the beach and a hand to keep busy while the other is holding a cocktail, you may be in need of a few good books this holiday season. Although I haven’t written a book review since I was a teenager, books are a big part of my life and I know they’re a big part of many of yours too. I’ve been asked more and more frequently for book suggestions, so I thought I’d start a little series of some great stories that have left me pondering, feeling reflective or simply turning the pages so fast I wish I’d taken my time to absorb the words slower. First up I have three great reads for taking away on holiday, all of which are easy reading but still have a much deeper message…
1. The 100Yr Old Man Who Jumped Out The Window & Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson)
Although it’s possibly the longest title for a book in history, this unusual story is incredibly hard to put down – I read half of the 700 pages in one afternoon! Told in two different time frames, both bring you into the world of Allan Karlsson after he refuses to attend his 100th birthday party. Fed up of being treated like an invalid and kept in a retirement home with very little freedom, Allan climbs out the window and decides to go on an adventure. After a chance encounter with a local gangster while waiting for a bus, Allan steals his suitcase without realising it contains a huge amount of cash that’s intended for a drug deal. He goes on the run, meeting fabulous accomplices (including an elephant) and accidentally killing a few gangsters in the most hilarious way possible. Simultaneously, the author takes you back in time and illustrates Allan’s life in the most transfixing way; not only did he create the atom bomb and take part in some of the most documented moments of the Twentieth Century, but he made friends with American presidents, Chinese dictators, Russian rebels and many more. It’s a story about a man, about life and about just getting on with it – no matter your current situation or abilities. ‘The 100 Year Old Man’ is hugely entertaining, utterly uplifting and and totally addictive. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in ages, so I’m not suprised it’s being turned into a film this summer.
2. The Fault In Our Stars (John Green)
If you haven’t heard about this book then you must’ve been living under a rock. The #1 best selling novel by John Green is incredibly heart warming, thanks to the story created about love and life – from a dying teenagers perspective. Hazel has terminal cancer and having already cheated death once, she’s bumbled off to ‘cancer kid support group’ by her mother. (Basically to stop her sitting on the sofa watching America’s Next Top Model on repeat.) There she meets Augustus, a kid who’s also survived cancer and has an unusual outlook on life that challenges her own. After they spend a few intense weeks discussing ‘cancer perks’ (the things you get away with because you’re dying,) and Hazel’s favourite novel that finishes mid-sentence without conclusion, inevitably the pair start to fall for each other. Together they try to find out the answer to the unfinished novel, their discovery taking them to Amsterdam to meet the author. Although the storyline itself isn’t revolutionary or ground-breaking, it’s the heart and soul John Green puts into his characters that make this an absolute must-read. He tackles difficult issues, discusses what really happens when you’re dying of cancer and still manages to keep it a teenage love story – albeit a slightly different one. You’ll fall in love with Augustus as much as Hazel does, willing for a miracle to happen for both of them so they can get their ‘happy ever after’; however, Green ensures this is no fairytale by adding a few twists and unexpected turns into the mix. I very rarely cry at books, but this had me shedding a tear or two in many places… Making it great for reading while wearing sunnies!
3. Matched (Ally Condie)
If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games then you’ll love Ally Condie’s trilogy, set in the future where all freedom of choice has been removed from the world. On her 17th birthday, Cassia attends the traditional banquet where she is to meet her ‘match’ – her pre-determined partner with whom she’ll marry and have a maximum of two children before she’s 27. Although she’s ‘matched’ with her best friend, when she later watches the pre-recorded video message produced to celebrate the pairing another boy appears on the screen… Before quickly disappearing. This chance mistake triggers Cassia’s desire to make different choices from those already determined for her, questioning everything upon which her society is built. In a world where you’re told where to work, who to marry, what to eat, how long to exercise, how many children to have and even when to die, Cassia starts to struggle. Matched tackles some really interesting issues, discussing how freedom is the key to humanity and that taking it away for the ‘benefit of the greater good’ will only eventually lead to one road. As Cassia gets to know the boy she was accidentally matched with and was never supposed to know about, he ignites passion and curiosity that was never previously apparent. He teaches her to read, they share prohibited poems and arrange secret meetings – but because society says they can’t be together, their future is never going to be plain sailing. Part of a trilogy, Matched is the first in a series of teen novels that are actually incredibly adult appropriate. You start to feel real pity for these people that can’t make a decision for themselves, even lacking the ability to write their own name or sing a song outside of the 100 chosen for them. It’s a thought provoking novel that leaves you wanting more; great because there’s two more in the series!
Have you read any of these books? Do you have any top tips for summer reading?