Take some time offline this summer and lose yourself in a good book. Here are a list of book recommendations from Sophie Hay.
What are you reading this summer? Share your recommendations in the comments section below.
The Shelf by Helly Acton
Amy is preparing for a holiday to a surprise destination with her boyfriend of two years. She suspects he is about to propose and is horrified when he unceremoniously dumps her on the set of a new reality TV series, ‘The Shelf’.
Along with the five other housemates, they compete in a series of challenges over four weeks to try to win the title of ‘The Keeper’ and a million pounds. Who will win the money, and who will be left on the shelf?
This book is feminist and laugh-out-loud funny, while looking closely at toxic statements, problematic relationships, the incessantly cruel nature of reality TV and the social commentary that comes with it. I was livid at some of the language used by the men in the show, and I wanted to bop that insufferable host on the nose.
But I absolutely loved how self-empowered all the women became in this book and I was cheering for them all the way through. I also have not stopped thinking about the prosecco on tap in the house – that’s the dream.
Read this if: you are looking for a light, funny read that deals with issues such as self-image, self-confidence, misogyny and expectations on gender roles.
The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus
Frankie Rose is desperate to find love again and has had enough of online dating. Taking inspiration (and books!) from her job at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop, Frankie comes up with a plan to put her contact details into her favourite books and plant them on trains to attract the well-read man of her dreams. Not long after, a handsome young man enters the bookshop. Frankie’s interest is piqued, until he reaches for a Young Adult novel. A definite deal breaker for our classics-loving main character… or is it?
You know that feeling when you’re really into a heavy, serious TV series, and then you watch an episode of Friends and it feels like a huge exhale that you didn’t know you needed? That was exactly how I felt reading The Book Ninja.
Life has been quite serious and stressful for all of us lately, and sometimes you just need a book that will make you laugh out loud and give you a breath of fresh air. I promise you’ll read this book with a huge goofy grin on your face, and it’s best if you keep a pen handy – you will end up with a hundred new books to add to your to be read list!
Read this if: you need a serious break from reality and want to expand your literary horizons.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Esme Nicholl grew up under the table of the Scriptorium, collecting words that were lost or discarded by the male compilers, assistants, and editors of the first Oxford English Dictionary. As time goes by and she grows older, Esme comes to realise that many of these words belong to or relate to women. These words are important, and she begins to collect them. Excluded words, vulgar words, words commonly spoken but not documented, women’s words, and words deemed unnecessary by the male lexicographers who decide which words are worthy of the Oxford Dictionary are all added to her collection.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the meticulous and lengthy process of defining and documenting words for the first dictionary. Many of the characters in the novel were real people, which made this even more exciting to read.
This book is a celebration of the depth, meaning and importance of words, and an important reminder that when people are gone, their words are what is left behind.
Read this if: you are looking for a profound, slow-burning story that will appeal to lovers of words and history.
Talking To My Country by Stan Grant
This is one of those books that once you read it, you’ll want to press it into the hands of everyone you know. All Australians should read this compelling book. Stan Grant’s writing is accessible while still being remarkably profound.
He lays bare the horrendous facts of our nation’s history and what it is to be Aboriginal in Australia in this short book which is part memoir, part meandering contemplation.
Stan Grant’s recollection of his childhood, his understanding of intergenerational trauma and his direct manner of writing make for a deeply moving story.
It is an eye-opening read and I would be surprised if anyone who reads it is not changed by it. I wish I had read this book growing up, and I hope it becomes an important source of learning and understanding for young and old alike.
Read this if: you need a book that shares our nation’s sorrowful past whilst being hopeful for our future.
Ghost Species by James Bradley
Ghost Species is set in a not-too-distant future and tells a story of the alarming decline of the world from the effects of climate change. When a geneticist couple are mysteriously invited to a tech billionaire’s reclusive facility in Tasmania, they are startled to see three Thylacines running around the bush. They join a project that intends to rectify the effects of human impact and climate change on the natural order, and with a team of scientists they begin the process of recreating long-extinct animals.
The project progresses to the creation of a Neanderthal baby, named Eve. As we follow Eve’s life, this book explores the ethics of her creation, the hubris of mankind and the consequences of ‘playing God’.
In the beginning the story feels a bit Jurassic Parky, but it evolves to a much deeper story. There were so many layers to this which will have you reflecting on the past and pondering the future. The science wasn’t too “sciencey” to read, and I am genuinely frightened of the depiction of our planet and society in this fictionalised (albeit plausible) future.
Read this if: you are looking to broaden your reading into the climate fiction genre.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Stella and Desiree Vignes are identical twins growing up in a southern Black community that is rife with colourism.
The residents of Mallard, Louisiana marry and start their families with the intention that each generation is lighter than the one before. At age 16, the girls suddenly disappear, running away to start a new life in New Orleans. Before long one of the twins disappears again, leaving her sister wondering what became of her in the years that follow.
As we move through the decades, we learn that one of the sisters has been ‘passing’ as a white woman, living in fear of her true identity being discovered. We are introduced to the respective daughters of Stella and Desiree, and start to get a sense of how their lives are impacted by the choices of their mothers.
Read this if: you’re looking for an intergenerational story that is deep, fascinating and told in an easy to read, compelling and thought-provoking way.
If you’re looking for your next audiobook listen, check out ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid or ‘City of Girls’ by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Sophie is a book lover, teacher and mother. She loves nothing more than settling in with a good book and a large glass of pinot noir, and strongly believes books and wine are best judged by their covers and labels. You can follow Sophie’s book recommendations and live book chats on Instagram.