Everything I Read This Summer

By Rebecca Lally

During the school year we find ourselves busy, with little time to read. The Summer Holiday presents an opportunity to remedy this; indeed reading will help stave off that week-8 feeling of your brain turning to mush! Here is every book I read this summer, rated.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★★★★
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a magical storyteller and this was brilliant. The book is set in Nigeria, before and during the Biafran war. The author did a really good job conveying a piece of History I knew nothing about. My only gripe is with the characters, who were mostly bland and boring.

Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky ★★★★★
I thought this was a really eye-opening read. It summarizes Chomsky’s views on just about everything, the language is conversational and accessible. It’s a great introduction to tons of topics surrounding politics and power.

On Anarchism by Noam Chomsky ★★★
This was very short; it didn’t take me long to work through, and equally didn’t leave me with much to say! I thought this was really helpful as an intro to anarchist theory. 

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller ★★★
I still don’t know how to feel about this book. It took me a while to get into; it’s a little all over the place. Some parts are very clever, and very, very funny. But there were a lot of things that irritated me: the narrator sounds condescending and clearly thinks himself hilarious; most of the characters were so annoying I was hoping they’d be killed off; it could have been a lot shorter without losing very much. Though a lot of people love it, so don’t let me put you off!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera ★★★★★
I didn’t think I would like this, but it might be the best thing I read this summer! It is beautifully written and a joy to read. The story is not told in a straight line, but kind of jumping all over the place, with the narrator going on long philosophical rambles in between. I thought about it for a long time afterwards and can’t recommend it more.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez ★★★★★
This was a book I hated at the outset and certainly would have cast aside had I not been on an airplane, with nothing else to do. But as I turned the pages it grew on me. The plot is really, really weird and a little confusing; a lot of time was spent trying to figure out what the hell was going on. The writing is brilliant, with ridiculously long sentences and nonsensical descriptions that are perfect all the same.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger ★★★★
The Catcher in the Rye is the classic coming of age novel. The writing is excellent and the reader finds themselves feeling all the emotions of the main character, along with intense discomfort and second-hand embarrassment. The resounding message is one of hope; I think many students will see a little of themselves in it.

Existentialism and Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre ★★★★
The word ‘existentialism’ is thrown around a lot so it’s good to learn a little about what it actually means. I know nothing about philosophy, so don’t have anything profound to say. It was quite short and I enjoyed reading it

White Teeth by Zadie Smith ★★
White teeth is adored by critics, and by my sister, who recommended it to me. The writing is, at times, very good. But the flowery prose sometimes felt pretentious and indulgent. The narrator’s voice, smug and contemptuous, really started to irritate me. The characters, which the author spends the first half of the novel fleshing out, become caricatures in the second. I didn’t hate it, but I expected a lot more.

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut ★★★
Another classic.  I did not hate it, but I did not love it like others seem to. The book is told out of chronological order, by an unreliable narrator, with the Dresden bombing as the focal point. The story is strange and at times disorienting. It is relatively short and, while I enjoyed myself reading it, one feels themselves hurtling towards an ending which is ultimately unsatisfying.