Insights 2020 Summer Reading Guide
Christmas and New Year is a time to slow down, enjoy a hard-earned break and enjoy a great read.
Whether that’s a physical book, an audiobook on a road trip, or a Kindle or device, there’s something great about immersing yourself in a gripping, heartwarming or just plain absorbing story. Each year we try to compile a diverse range of books for a variety of tastes. So here are some great suggestions and special mentions.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton &
Catch and Kill by Ronan Fallon
Trent Dalton has written harrowing stories as a journalist for The Weekend Australian Magazine. He’s a two-time Walkley Award winner; three-time Kennedy Award winner for excellence in NSW Journalism and a four-time winner of the national News Awards Features Journalist of the Year. In 2011, he was named Queensland Journalist of the Year at the Clarion Awards for excellence in Queensland journalism.
He’s covered some pretty harrowing stories over the years, so I guess the most surprising thing about his first novel is that the harrowing, graphic upbringing of his protagonist Eli is actually based on his life.
Boy Swallows Universe is part biography, part fantasy set in the decade I grew up in — the formative 80s — and is by turns graphic, violent and poignant, but with every page turn is a revelatory yarn that charts the misadventures of a 12-year-old growing up with an absent father, a drug-addicted mum and a good friend who just happens to be a convicted killer who maintains his innocence.
Dalton has a knack for colloquial prose and you can bet filmmakers are hot in his tail to turn this book into a film.
When talking about writing his first book Dalton says: “Love, above all else, is threaded through this novel. I wanted to write about how it is possible to love someone who has killed. How it is possible to love someone who has hurt you deeply. How love is the closest thing we have to the truly profound. The kid in the book is feeling love like he’s feeling the edge of the universe, and it’s so big and beyond him, he can only see it in colours and explosions in the cosmos. He can explain those things he sees in his mind – even the things he might hear in his head – with about as much clarity as anyone can truly give the mysteries of true love.”
This is a page-turner and ultimately a transformative love story — love of the author for his family as dysfunctional as they are, love for Australian suburbia as brutal as it can be. But beware this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. So, if you give it as a gift perhaps choose someone who has a penchant for dysfunctional family dynamics with a dose of true crime.
Runner up: As a special mention, another of my favourite books this year was journalist Ronan Fallon’s blistering investigation into the Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer sexual harassment claims with his book Catch and Kill. The book charts the subsequent cover-up and the companies that have been rocked by these allegations. It charts the beginnings of the MeToo Movement and women’s agency being recognised in Hollywood.
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
For more than forty years, Stephen King has dominated horror as its most prolific writer. While this type of book is not for everyone, King’s work defies pigeonholing, and he has transcended the genre. While his children’s work is less known, both Joe Hill and Owen King have established their own respective niches in comics, television, and novels.
First released in 2017, Sleeping Beauties is a rare father-son collaboration. It centres on events that see most of the women in the world fall into mysterious comas. As is so often the case with King’s novels, the book defies this simple depiction and is something better experienced rather than described on the outset.
As is so often the case with King’s work, this book manages to explore a number of significant social issues, including gender-related violence, the links between poverty and the US prison system, and the breakdown of rural communities. The story is one with characters and scenarios that the reader will find difficult to put down, spurred on by shorter chapters.
With the recent news that the book will be adapted into a TV series by AMC (The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad), this summer may be the ideal time to read this novel before the hype begins.
Let Her Fly by Ziauddin Yousafzai
After reading I am Malala a while ago, finding this book made me wonder who was behind Malala Yousafzai. Although in her book she reassures her family is the main reason why she kept moving forward and fighting for her rights, I can’t wait to read what her father has to say about raising children, particularly an educated girl, in a country where education was forbidden to empower terrorism.
The book has excellent reviews from The Times, The Guardian and Express Tribune among others. It is catalogued as a moving and inspiring life story of a Pakistani family that stood together and was lead by a teacher raised in the Swat Valley, who became an educational and human rights international campaigner after being exposed to terrorism, fear and death.
I’m hoping Let her fly is as inspiring as everything that surrounds the Yousafzai family and their worldwide known activism for equality and education for all.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This #1 New York Times Best Seller and 2018 Oprah’s Book Club selection is the memoir of former first lady Michelle Obama, who made history along with her husband, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, becoming the first African-American family in the White House.
This Harvard lawyer and university administrator let the reader immerse into her world since she was a little girl growing in the South Side of Chicago, and how she grew up believing in herself while strengthening her voice, and how this voice led her into unimaginable paths of success as a proactive professional, first lady, mother, daughter, sister, and activist.
It’s a very friendly and entertaining autobiography of a woman that has been among the Forbes 100 most powerful women on the planet and of the single woman that, according to many, could defeat Donald Trump if she were to go into politics.
My Amalfi Coast – By Amanda Tabberer
This story is not a typical lifestyle book. It follows the journey of designer Maggie Tabberer’s daughter, who lived on the Amalfi Coast for around 20 years prior to publishing and is a local expert. Amanda shares some of the coast’s best kept secrets from town to town, including a stack of restaurant and activity recommendations, as well as unique recipes using local produce. Amanda also delves into her personal story about arriving and falling in love with and on the Coast – and the beauty of the Coast which is clear throughout the graphic novel, makes it obvious why she stayed.
My Amalfi Coast also talks about “la dolce vita” of everyday life in Italy, and the rich local culture and history. A perfect beachside read that will have you booking tickets to the Mediterranean next summer. If you love My Amalfi Coast, follow up with a read of Amalfi Coast Recipes also by Amanda.
To learn more, visit Amanda’s official website.