It’s summer! At least, it certainly feels like it. It’s expected to climb to 26C on the south coast of the UK today, which is already about 8C more than my personal comfortable temperature. (I appreciate those of you in any country with more extreme weather will probably laugh at this). Because I spend a lot of my time on neonatal units around heated incubators and cots, I am feeling the heat particularly acutely this year.
However, even though I already want it to be autumn, I have a lot of exciting summer plans this year. Mostly, these involve sitting in my garden with a book. (Please excuse all the garden photos in this post. I’m just so proud of it). I’ve put a fair amount of work into my garden in the past few months, and even though it’s still nothing special at the moment, I am really enjoying the sweet pea blossoms and poppies that have started to bloom. Over the course of the summer and into autumn, I’m expecting fruit and vegetables as well–cherry tomatoes, kalettes, carrots, strawberries, and perpetual spinach. In the past year, I have realised that the only thing that comes close to reading in terms of mental health benefits (for me) is looking after this patch of earth and trying to get it to be productive.
I have a month “off” between the end of my PhD data collection, and starting my new job–because I do have a new job! I’ve accepted a post at a university in the next city over from my alma mater, with a combination of teaching and research responsibilities. I haven’t finished my PhD yet and won’t have done when I start my new role, but I will just have writing and analysis to do. I’m planning to spend most of my month off working on my thesis, but I’m very much hoping that I’ll also finally get a chance to just read for a few days without feeling guilty about neglecting my work!
I’m not planning to participate in any summer reading challenges this year–but here are a few things that I’d like to get to soon. The chances of me reading all 10 of these, including the weighty history tomes and sociological contemplations, are slim. I just can’t resist a list. It’s so satisfying, writing a list.
- Lock In by John Scalzi
The only Scalzi novel I’ve read so far is Redshirts, which I absolutely loved. I follow John Scalzi on Twitter and read his blog, and I’ve really enjoyed much of his non-fiction writing over the past year or so. I’m definitely in the mood for some science fiction (precious little of which I’ve read this year).
- It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
“A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue runs for President of the United States–and wins… [He] promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous again… As the new regime slips into authoritarianism, [a newspaper editor] believes it can’t last–but is he right?” Actual excerpts from the blurb of the Penguin Classics edition. I wonder why I want to read this right now? I mean, I just can’t put my finger on it. (I got this free. The New Statesman is currently giving a copy to everyone who subscribes to their publication).
- One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix by Jane Kirkpatrick
Dorothea Dix was responsible for huge reforms to mental health care in the US in the 19th century, and she was one of the first female nurses to serve in the American Civil War. I’ve wanted to read a biography of her for years, but biographers often seem keen to erase her Christian faith from her story, even though she talked about it extensively herself. (This happens with Florence Nightingale too, and a lot of other historical Christian social reformers. The only time we ever hear about Christian philanthropists or reformers is when they turn out to be awful humans). This particular biography, though, puts her faith back at the centre of her motivation.
- Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
As I’ve written elsewhere, Middlemarch is one of my all-time favourite novels, fighting for space next to Gilead and Lord of the Rings. I bought Daniel Deronda ages ago, but then I came across an unexpected spoiler in The Road to Middlemarch. It was now long enough ago that I can’t really remember the details, so I am very excited about picking up this next book.
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Every time I go to the library, this book looks at me and begs to be picked up, and then I read the melancholy blurb on the back and put it back down. (I am also rarely a fan of magical realism, which seems like a fairly major component of this book). It sounds beautiful and sad, but I think that the time has come to read it.
- The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie
Okay, so when I was about 12, I obsessively read and re-read a Nancy Drew book set in Peru, where the crime had something to do with Inca Empire artifacts. I also watched a really fascinating documentary about the Incas a few years ago, but mostly I remember the stunning scenery. And that is everything I know about them. In light of this general ignorance, I really want to read this, which sounds amazing.
- All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
Even though I was so disappointed by Spinster, I’m still very much in the market for a good book on singleness from a female perspective. Based on the title, I’m going to guess this is somewhat more celebratory and less defensive than Spinster. It does sound very US-centric, but I think it might be what I’m looking for nonetheless.
- Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
I’m a bit apprehensive about this Code Name Verity sequel. I found the plot of the latter incredibly compelling and loved the friendship between the two main characters. The writing wasn’t that fantastic, though, and this book moves to mostly different characters. It’s also set in Ravensbrück, which means that it is likely to be a very difficult book to read. However, it is available at the library, and I think I will be picking it up soon.
- My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
I’ve previously made vague grumbling noises about the depiction of social work, foster care, and child safeguarding in novels. Most authors can’t get it right, or don’t bother to try. I’m therefore fascinated by this book, written by a woman whose mother was a foster carer and who has previously worked with children’s social care. It’s about an eight-year-old boy, Leon, who has to go into foster care in the eighties. As a result of his multiracial background, Leon is separated from his white baby brother Jake. The novel is from his point of view, and it’s on my library hold list. I can’t wait to read it.
- The Girl who is Getting Married by Aoko Matsude
I know nothing about this except that it involves a flight of stairs, is recommended by Foyles in their recent Japanese fiction article, and it’s very short with a beautiful cover. This is enough for me to have bought it and be eagerly anticipating its arrival.
Of course, this doesn’t include bonus book #11: I’m very tempted to reread The Secret Garden, now that I can truly appreciate how much love and work goes into the act of growing things!