What I Read This Summer
Tori Sharp briefs us on her top summer reads of 2020, from neapolitan novels to the best autobiographies.
I am finding more and more that it is nearly impossible to recommend reading right now. The dystopian fiction that has filled our shelves for the past few years seems to hit too close to home, the light-hearted chick-lit makes us long for more human contact and the reliable old classics feel facile and reductive. But yet we have more time than ever to be reading and learning and devouring, so what should we read?
If it is a commitment read that you’re looking for, I would recommend The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. A quartet of splendour, these four novels are perhaps the best I have ever read, and I would never say that lightly. Starting with My Brilliant Friend, the bildungsroman follows Elena Greco as she grows up in Naples and traverses her extraordinary life through her friendship with Lila Cerullo. The lucid and austere honesty is hugely captivating and makes these books real page-turners.
The reliable old classics feel facile and reductive
Educational fiction comes in the form of Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age, which explores race in a way that I’ve seldom read. Nominated for the 2020 Booker Prize, this novel tells the story of how the protagonist Emira Tucker is wrongly accused of kidnapping the child she is nannying for. The events that follow twist and turn and reveal complex truths in a consumable and accessible way.
Finally, for immersion into a world that feels so far removed from today, the art and music scene of New York in the 60s and 70s – Just Kids by Patti Smith. A memoir from an icon, this autobiography retraces the steps of her career and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and was written to fulfil her promise to Mapplethorpe on his deathbed – that she would immortalise their love. You will be as entranced by Smith’s writing as we are with her music, she manages to be powerful and penetrating without being performative.