With August comes a more languid pace and with any luck, a bit of out of office time. To keep your mind ticking over, we’ve collected ten of the most satisfying books to get lost in. They range from the cabinet of curiosities that is W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, to page-turning classics like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Whether you switch off by indulging in a low-octane guilty pleasure or exploring the creative domains of Modernism, we’ve got a bit of light reading for you…
W. G. Sebald’s mind is a marvellous thing. It bounces from the blustery shores of Norfolk to Imperial China in a snap, with countless intriguing insights along the way. To read The Rings of Saturn feels almost like an analog experience of a Wikipedia deep-dive, where you find yourself lost in far-flung topics that capture the imagination and the intellect. With as sharp a guide as Sebald, you’re sure to leave with a new outlook on the rich and deeply interconnected universe we live in.
David Sedaris has an uncanny ability to take you from full-blown belly laughter to unexpectedly deep contemplation in the expanse of a page. His sharply relatable comedic style marries wit to engage in a poignant interrogation of the intricacies of living in relationship with family, partners, and strangers. Sedaris’s social commentary taps into the idiosyncrasies that are part and parcel of our humanity to expose the beautiful and bizarre of our shared experience.
Haruki Murakami’s aptly titled Strange Library is a weird and wonderful trip down the rabbit hole of a deeply creative mind. It’s a compact story that can be read over a cold drink in the lull between an afternoon nap and a dinner with friends. Best enjoyed with feet up and an open mind, it’s a fantastical and entertaining odyssey through a spectacularly foreign world.
Annie Dillard’s prose is contemplative to nearly meditative effect. Her sensitivity to nature shines throughout Teaching a Stone to Talk, with essays relaying her everyday musings as she traverses the natural and the internal domains that she lives between. She zeroes in on the little glimmers of poetry in the everyday, shining a fresh light on the wonder of the world.
Well, it’s a classic. If you’re a fan of the age-old murder mystery trope, this one is certainly among the greatest examples. It’s especially suited to a summer’s evening, with tales from an eerie and isolated holiday home where things go fatally awry. If you’ve not yet explored the world of Agatha Christie, this one will certainly illuminate her credentials as the Queen of Mystery!
Those with an interest in the world of Modern Art with undoubtedly find this account of its foundational footholds both engaging and illuminating. Mary Ann Caws draws together the fractious personalities and far-flung locales where art intermingled with life, animating them with anecdotes and informed insights.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being tells a story of love, intractable betrayal, and the messiness of life against the backdrop of Communist Czech Republic. Kundera relates the tale of two men, two women, and a dog through a deeply philosophical lens that will undoubtedly leave you with a lot to ponder.
The Shell Collector is an entrancing collection of short stories with a soft and slow feel that pairs perfectly with a bit of downtime. Anthony Doerr’s poetic style of writing suffuses his stories with an emotional poignancy and an enduringly engaging quality that will have you devouring these bite-sized tales in one fell swoop.
F. Scott Fitzgerald has got a distinctive style that will take you down a few RPMs straight from the start. His languid portrayal of a couple’s life on the French Riviera conjures that silky air and sumptuous sunshine, drawing you into their bygone universe and keeping you rapt as the tantalisingly tumultuous story unfolds.
Joan Didion is, to many, the voice of a generation of Americans, captured in achingly matter of fact reportage. She tells it like it is in sparse language that exposes the core of the subject, leaving you to draw your own conclusions. Dotted with cutting expositions of the social, political, and cultural currents of the time, it’s a window into the simultaneously expansive and surreptitiously stifling zeitgeist of 1960s California.
Text by Annabel Colterjohn