I’m a big vacation reader – I’ve been known to get through 8 books in a two-week period, and there is nothing that I enjoy more than laying in the warm sunshine, immersed in a fictional world. And I always really enjoy the process of choosing which books I’m going to load up on my Kindle ahead of said vacation time. I choose a mixture of classics, thrillers, and romances, just to keep things interesting, and then work my way through them, until I can read no longer. This year I’ve made the choices below, and I can’t wait to jump straight in when we get on the plane and make our way over to Greece. Yes, there are 9 here, and I probably won’t get through them all, but I hope it’ll encourage me to keep going when I get home, as I have a tendency to trail off with reading once touching down in this country. Also, a couple of these have been on previous lists I’ve made, but as I haven’t gotten around to reading them, I’m super excited to give many of them a try. Anyway, here are my picks.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In 1922, F Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple, intricately patterned”. That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned and, above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace be comes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties and waits for her to appear. When s he does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbour Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.
Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.
Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job.
The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas
‘I miss him with every breath and heartbeat. He should have been my happy ending. Instead, he is the sad beginning to my story.’ Olivia and Luca Felicone had known each other nearly all their lives, but when they fell in love as teenagers and eloped to London, they broke the hearts of those closest to them. Luca’s parents run Marinella’s restaurant, the colourful hub of life in the otherwise bleak north-eastern seaside town of Watersford, and his mother, Angela, has never forgiven Olivia for causing such a rift in her beloved family. On a freezing January night Olivia’s life is shattered when she learns that Luca has been killed in a car accident on the M1. She is left with nothing, and after suffering from weeks of overwhelming grief, she abandons her job and returns North to where Luca has been buried in Watersford, just to be close to him – even though she knows she will not be welcome at Marinella’s. Olivia’s chance meeting with Luca’s married twin brother, Marc, leads to the realization that he is experiencing a loss almost as painful as her own. Their desolation draws them into an affair which both know has no future, but fills the space where Luca should be. It is a course of action that can only spiral out of control, and when it does, the consequences are both explosive and cruel. THE LOVE OF MY LIFE is a beautiful novel that portrays both the innocence of childhood, and the dynamics of love and loss with deftness and sensitivity. It is, above all, a stunning debut from an author with a unique and natural narrative voice.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Abdullah, Pari – as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named – is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their heads touching, their limbs tangled.
One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand.
Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways in which we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
The Detective’s Daughter by Lesley Thomson
Kate Rokesmith’s decision to go to the river changed the lives of many.
Her murder shocked the nation. Her husband, never charged, moved abroad under a cloud of suspicion. Her son, just four years old, grew up in a loveless boarding school. And Detective Inspector Darnell, vowing to leave no stone unturned in the search for her killer, began to lose his only daughter. The young Stella Darnell grew to resent the dead Kate Rokesmith. Her dad had never vowed to leave no stone unturned for her.
Now, thirty years later, Stella is dutifully sorting through her father’s attic after his sudden death. The Rokesmith case papers are in a corner, gathering dust: the case was never solved. Stella knows she should destroy them. Instead, she opens the box, and starts to read.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can’t collide without Lennie’s world exploding…
Looking for Alaska by John Green
BEFORE. Miles Halter’s whole life has been one big non-event until he starts at anything-but-boring Culver Creek Boarding School and meets Alaska Young. Gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, screwed up and utterly fascinating she pulls Miles into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart. But when tragedy strikes, and Miles comes face-to-face with death he discovers the value of living and loving unconditionally.
AFTER: Nothing will ever be the same.
Poignant, funny, heartbreaking and compelling, this novel will stay with you forever.
The Back Road by Rachel Abbott
A girl lies close to death in a dark, deserted lane.
A driver drags her body to the side of the road.
A shadowy figure hides in the trees, watching and waiting.
The small community of Little Melham is in shock.
For Ellie Saunders, last night’s hit and run on the back road could destroy everything she has. She was out that night, but if she reveals where she was and why, her family will be torn apart. She is living on a knife-edge, knowing that her every move is being observed.
Ellie’s new neighbour, former Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas has moved to the village for some well-deserved peace and quiet, but as he is drawn into the web of deceit his every instinct tells him that what happened that night was more than a tragic accident.
As past and present collide, best-kept secrets are revealed and lives are devastated. Only one person knows the whole story. And that person will protect the truth no matter what the cost.
The Back Road is an electrifying thriller that will keep you guessing to the very end.