How do you know when you’ve read a really good book? I know it when I find myself wondering about it, long after I’ve turned over the last page. Just like the people we love, the best books are the ones that stay in our lives for a long time. Here are some of my favourites that I’ve recently read, and fully recommend for various occasions this summer.
For a good read under the sun — Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
“A cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet.”
Lab Girl is a simple, heartwarming memoir about work and love, written by a female geobiologist whose words will inspire you, and provide you with a fresh glimpse into nature. Filled with metaphors and knowledge about plants and the soil they grow in, it’s perfect to read while sitting under your favourite tree, or on a bench at the park. What I admire most about this book is Jahren’s honesty in describing her passion for science, and furthermore, her challenges in multiple aspects of life, which makes everything outstandingly real.
When curiosity conquers, read Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
“Every day millions of people decide to grant their smartphone a bit more control over their lives or try a new and more effective antidepressant drug. In pursuit of health, happiness and power, humans will gradually change first one of their features and then another, and another, until they will no longer be human.”
Liberated of worrying for constant projects and assessments, there’s no better time than summertime to indulge in wonder about the planet we live on. It’s striking to realize how rapidly our world has changed throughout the last century in contrast to the rest of history. From overcoming war and famine to engineering genes and designing artificial intelligence, what more could humankind ask for? Harari makes an ambitious attempt to explore such tremendous ideas in Homo Deus. While acknowledging the weight of our past and inevitability of change, he emphasizes the importance of making careful choices that will steer us clear of our own destruction.
Perfect for long flights: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
“One can forgive but one should never forget.”
In Persepolis, Satrapi illustrates her own adventures of growing up with her family in Tehran, Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Composed of black-and-white comic strips, it’s an easy read that can be finished in a single sitting, taking no more than a few hours and giving time for other activities (like watching movies) as you’re on the plane. Told from an innocent perspective, this book opens your eyes to the lasting human consequences of war and political turmoil, and the strength needed to accept and overcome the past.
In search of mystery, read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
“What I’m not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.”
Take a break from everything around you and lose yourself in a twisted plot and enchanting prose. Perhaps you can already tell from the title that Never Let Me Go is a story built upon love, hope, and memories of the past, but it is also much more than that. Set in England during the 1990’s, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy attend what appears to be a boarding school where they are immersed in studies of art and literature. In reality, they are darkly isolated from the rest of society, and soon the friends will discover the terrifying reason behind their limited time and freedom.
Before you go to bed, read East of Eden by John Steinbeck
“The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.”
Unwind from a busy day at work with an enduring classic – you’ll definitely gain a new life lesson or two. Taking place in Salinas Valley, California at the turn of the twentieth century, East of Eden follows two generations of brothers in the Trask family. This timeless tale echoes the rivalry between Cain and Abel in the Bible, depicting the eternal conflict between good and evil that not solely exists between individuals, but within oneself. Steinbeck’s characters exhibit diverse human emotions that easily overlap with your own, and they remind us that our lives are ultimately determined by the choices we make.
Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, there is always something to learn from a good book. Discover what you like to read, and you’ll never be bored again.
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