• Character

summer reading list for 2020

Updated: Jan 1

Photo by Lenin Estrada on Unsplash.

Our first summer reading list has been made with three main aims; comfort, entertainment and education. Now more than ever we're reading for more than some passive laughs, we want to be educated by the voices we are spending time with, as well as being entertained.

The fifteen books on this list vary in genre, tone and background, with the hope that you can find at least one story you relate to, as well as a new voice you will come to love.

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

I first read this book last summer, August 2019. Whilst Young Adult in genre, it's an important choice for readers of all ages. When sixteen-year-old Starr finds herself the only witness to the murder of her good friend Khalil, committed by a police officer, she knows she must step up and speak out in a fight for justice. The book covers 21st-century racial prejudice, inequality and police brutality through the eyes of a young girl, whilst she simultaneously attempts to balance her life living in a poor neighbourhood while attending a posh, upper-class school. As this is a coming-of-age/YA novel, another of the refreshing aspects to this book is the loving, healthy family Starr belongs to. It feels as though every main character in this book, is inspirational in their own right.

2. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (2018)

With this, Dolly Alderton brings us a memoir about her love, life and losses. Dubbed as The Sex and The City for millennials, try not to look at this book as a celeb with a ghostwriter reeling off funny moments we might not understand - Alderton is much more than that. She writes (herself) with ease and wit that finds you feeling like one of her best friends in all of her relatable, funny little anecdotes.

3. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall (2020)

This book should be as big as, if not bigger than, 'Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies' was a couple of years ago. Essential reading for every woman/feminist, this is an education on where we still need to improve. Mikki Kendall gifts us with an insightful, intelligent look at how feminism needs to adapt accordingly.

4. Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)

It's unlikely you haven't heard of this quarantine craze, but I had to put it on here for anyone who missed out or those a little more hesitant to step into something with so much attention. I put it down to an Instagram fad to being with - but I can't tell you how happy I am that I gave in and indulged in this one. It's more than your typical love story, I find the 'geeky girl meets cool boy' quite an insulting description because these characters have so much more depth than that. Even if you've seen the TV adaptation, I still recommend diving in and experiencing Rooney's writing style.

5. The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary (2019)

I'm yet to read this one, but so far I've heard no bad reviews. The concept sounds cute and fluffy but with a bit of an edge - Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. For now, I'm putting this one into the 'hot chocolate and cosy PJ's', section of the list, but I have read a couple of reviews mentioning these characters have a much deeper level to them, so I can't wait to find out more.

6. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (2019)

Queenie took me longer to get into than anticipated. I'd been so excited to pick up the hardcover of this one on release week, but then I let it sit and marinate on the bookshelf for absolutely no reason other than it being too real. Queenie hit me hard. She's an insanely lovable character, and Williams takes her to the depths of despair. It's heartbreaking watching her navigate the world as everything seems to be piling onto her shoulders, but her story will no doubt find a spot in your heart.

7. Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (2020)

Another one I'm yet to read and I'll admit, I've seen a couple of questionable reviews- but I'm excited by the Sally Rooney and Kevin Kwan comparisons this novel has been getting and intrigued by the plot. The book tackles the difficult love triangle lead character Ava has found herself in. Having moved to Hong Kong for a happier life, she begins a complicated relationship with an older, richer English banker who gifts her a far comfortable living situation. However, when Julian moves to England for work for a few months, Ava finds love with a young lawyer named Edith. Said to be rich in wit, social commentary and realistic complications, I'm excited for this one.

8. Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Part of the feminist trilogy, 'The Spinster Club', this novel provides the Young Adult genre with a realistic, non-romanticised take on mental health (which is unfortunately pretty rare). The book focuses on the life of sixteen-year-old Evie, who's just been given the perfect opportunity for a fresh start at a new college, a place where no one knows she suffers from both OCD and anxiety. This book is lovably self-aware. Holly Bourne knows her characters incredibly well and allows us to laugh along with them. I will say there are a few risky jokes, so if self-deprecating humour isn't your thing, you might find some of Evie's humour a little on the nose. This is, however, the perfect book for exploring young feminism.

9. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (2020)

I've loved every one of Elizabeth Acevedo's novels, so I was extremely excited to begin her latest. The book is written using dual narrative, when two young girls both lose their father, his secrets are slowly revealed as they discover each other only in their time of grief. I am not too far into this book as of yet, but already I'm reminded how beautifully Acevedo's writing flows. Due to her verse style of writing, I'm considering finishing this one as an audiobook to wrap myself up in the poetic voices she creates.

10. Women by Chloe Caldwell (2014)

A quick read, Women has created a little controversy for romanticising unhealthily dependent relationships or being a little too self-indulgent. From my perspective, I believe relationships can easily become all-consuming and we are all guilty of being overly invested in our own lives, so for me, these criticisms only make the novella more realistic. It focuses on the difficulties of love, specifically the first same-sex love experienced by the narrator. Overall, the story felt like a late-night conversation I’d have with a friend, and the ability to admit to indulging in toxic relationships feels, though dangerous, freeing to read about.

11. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

Another book on my summer list is Noah’s memoir of his difficulty growing up in South Africa at the end of apartheid. Born to a white father and black mother, Trevor Noah’s birth was classed illegal meaning he was kept mostly hidden as a young child. Not knowing how he fits into a society in which he feels he was never meant to exist, Noah documents his own coming-of-age, with his inspirational, powerful mother at his side.

12. Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (1999)

It is quite difficult to narrow Invisible Monsters down. The plot summary would be something like, a beautiful woman has her life turned upside down when she suffers a terrible accident, leaving her disfigured and mute. Hungry for revenge and having met a new best friend, the narrator embarks on a trip to a new beginning. What I do recommend if you need more convincing is scrolling through some of the online reviews of this book, which all are equally excited, confused and completely crazed by this book.

13. All the Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman (2019)

Another Young Adult addition, this book is another hugely important read for young women in particular. Rahman takes on not one, but three narrators and manages to make them all distinctive voices in their own right. I want to preface this one with a trigger warning, as the book does involve talk on suicide, sexual assault, self-harm and death. However, these topics are covered with sensitivity and realism that benefits the story. When three young girls meet through a harmful website created to help users in the process of ending their life, they begin to form an incredible friendship with a mutual understanding of struggle, however, when the website won’t let them stop – the game takes a more sinister turn.

14. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (2012)

This is another on the list that I’m yet to read, but what excites me about this one is it’s amazing reviews and mystery element. Seventeen-year-old Sky meets and quickly falls for Dean Holder, a boy she knows can be toxic, but whom she can’t seem to stay away from – but Dean has some deep secrets that Sky is yet to learn. A lot of people have completely fallen in love with this book, it’s character’s and Hoover’s writing style, so I hope I feel the same!

15. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (2020)

I’ve been seeing this book everywhere lately as people continue to fall in love with it. Following twin sisters who slowly become estranged, Bennett presents us with two sisters who decide to live completely different lives from their towns to their families, to their racial identities, only brought back together when their own daughters’ lives intertwine. The plot is so unique, and I’ve heard it being mentioned left right and centre, so I can’t wait to get into this one.

Let us know the books you've been enjoying so far this summer in the comments below!