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Six Uplifting and Engaging Summer Reads for Those of Us Not on Vacation

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Maeve O'Brien and Roger Gédéon found this witty
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The world is a heavy place at the moment. But there have been glimmers of hope amongst the desperate violence of late. One Love Manchester, in aid of those killed and injured at the May 22nd Ariana Grande concert showed the effervescent fun and lightness of pop music, lifting the hearts of all who watched the show. So too, images of defiant Iraqis going for ice-creams just days after the bombing of an ice-cream shop in Baghdad illustrate the resilience of the human spirit as well as the pleasures that come from the small yet utterly meaningful things in life.

With these brave acts that prioritise fun and enjoyment in mind, here is a selection of uplifting and engaging books to lift our spirits, make us laugh, gasp and remind us of what truly matters in this world: family, friendship and the bonds of humanity that connect us all. While many of these books would certainly fulfil the requirements of a poolside read, it is of course true that millennials more than ever struggle to afford holidays. So, even if you can’t afford a break away, a great idea is to lie out in a park or open up your bedroom windows to let the air in and let these books take you off to another place, if even for an hour.

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

Successful publisher Sofia Khan is unlucky in love. After a disastrous end to a recent relationship, she is asked by her boss to write a tell-all article about the Muslim dating scene. And so, Sofia she goes in search of tales of joy and sadness and maybe might end up creating her own love story along the way. In this book, we readers get a great insight into the lives of Muslim women and this much-needed diversity within contemporary fiction is most welcome. In addition, this book is seriously funny, heartwarming and genuinely touching - full of memorable and warm characters. Readers will come away from this with smile and a renewed determination to cherish their friends and family and to keep on believing in love.

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The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters

Winner of BBC’s ‘Great British Bake-Off’, Nadiya Hussain charmed the UK and beyond with her delicious bakes and friendly personality. Channelling her individuality into her debut fiction novel, Hussain takes us to the English village of Wyvernage and explores the lives of the Amir sisters – four Bangladeshi women with very different outlooks and attitudes in life. We follow them in their search for happiness and witness the conflicts that occur when personal passions clash with outward expectations. In her acknowledgements, Hussain thanks Ayisha Malik for her help writing this novel, and the heartwarming, thoughtful and funny elements of The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters make it a must-read for Malik fans as well as readers looking for a delightful and entertaining read in general.  

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Fingersmith

A tale of double-crossing duplicity, maternal and romantic love as well as real-life grit, Fingersmith is a very special novel with a thrilling storyline that traverses humour with betrayal. Set between bustling Victorian London and the sweltering climes of the English countryside, we follow Sue Trinder and her pickpocketing family as they attempt to pull off a scam that will change their lives entirely – for better or worse. Waters’ narrative is fast paced and light but she has an uncanny ability to rip the carpet out from under readers, rendering them shocked and surprised throughout the book. This novel is thrilling, exciting and at times jaw-dropping. Having recently been adapted into a feature film by South-Korean director Park Chan-Wook, Fingersmith will transport you to different times and is a book to get utterly lost in.

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I Love Dick

Arguably the cult novel read of 2017 - despite being published in 1997 - I Love Dick is a must for all fans of blunt, witty and intense women’s writing. Part fiction, part memoir, the book offers an eviscerating assessment of love, relationships and marriage with savage wit and razor-sharp introspection. Having reached a place of stagnancy in her marriage, Chris forms an infatuation on ‘Dick’, a lecturer and colleague of her intellectual husband Sylvère. Chris and Sylvère write obsessive letters to ‘Dick’, but never send them, but with each letter explore their gripes, passions as well as the ugliest and best sides of themselves. Explicitly feminist, the book explores female sexuality and sensuality as well as the demands of love and joys of infatuation. Having recently been made into an Amazon TV series starring Kevin Bacon, I Love Dick is an engaging and philosophical read that will enthral readers on hot summer days.

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Goodbye, Vitamin

San Francisco-based author Rachel Khong has written a truly moving, reflective and very sweet novel in Goodbye, Vitamin. Dumped by her fiancé, Ruth moves back to her family home and begins to help care for her father who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. In the novel we get a glimpse into the strained relationship Ruth had with her family, but in her role as carer she begins to get to know her parents as human beings and reaches a new place in her relationship with them. Concerned of course with memory and forgetting, Goodbye, Vitamin is a quiet novel but Khong touches the small and important aspects of life that are so often glossed over in this fast-paced digital world. 

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When Breath Becomes Air

Posthumously published, When Breath Becomes Air is written by Dr Paul Kalanithi, a brain surgery resident who was based in California, USA. Written as a memoir, Kalanithi recounts his experiences after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at age 35. This book is a stunning encapsulation of the fragility of human life but also the moments that make us – from the birth of our children to the different stages of marriage to the love we share with family and friends. Kalanithi writes with eloquence, sadness, humour and introspection in his attempts to come to terms with his impending death. His words are full of hope and beauty. This memoir will inspire and move readers, and help us continue to live with joy in a world so filled with darkness.

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Based in Northern Ireland, Maeve holds a PhD in English Literature - her thesis deconstructed silence in the work of Sylvia Plath. Maeve is an avid reader of poetry, fiction and academic ... Show More

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