Growing up, I would always get excited to read in the summer. School would be finished, and I would have so much time to spend with my books. Now, as a twenty-something trying to find the perfect work-life balance, reading in the summer just isn’t as exciting; I no longer have more time to spend reading. Instead, I have the same amount of time, but less desire to do so, because I’d rather sit on a patio with a pitcher of sangria and talk to my pals. Finding good books to grab my attention in the summer is now a challenge, but so far I’ve been lucky enough to find two.
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
If you only have time to read one book this summer, make it this one. I cannot stress enough how amazing Station Eleven is. The story takes place in the Great Lakes region around Southwestern Ontario and Northern Michigan, and focuses on five main characters. At first, the book seems to jump between people and places without making much sense, but keep reading, because it gets better.
Station Eleven shows us the interconnectedness of the world, and the importance of human relationships. It’s scary and dark, but also full of love and companionship.
The story jumps back and forth between the past and present, and tells the unique stories of the five main characters. It explains who they were, and who they became after the Georgian Flu spreads across the world and destroys civilization as we know it. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?
That’s right: Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic adventure, featuring Hollywood actors, a travelling symphony, Shakespeare’s King Lear, and a museum in an airport that displays cellphones and laptops (long lost technology that children never knew existed).
This book is unlike any post-apocalyptic story I’ve read before. It focuses so much on human emotion and experience, and is beautifully written. I read the entire book on a beach in two sittings, so I’d say it’s the perfect summer read.
A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline
I got this book in my April box from Novel Editions (which you can still purchase, FYI). At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book. It just looked boring. I know, I know, you shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but I totally do. And in this case you can say “I told you so!”
A Piece of the World is actually pretty great. It jumps back and forth from past to present, and focuses on the main character, Christina, who is not based on the author, despite them sharing the same name.
Christina’s character is actually based on the girl in Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World. In the story, both Christina and Andrew are brought to life. Their story lines are entirely fictitious, but the fact that the author created an entire novel based off of this painting fascinated me. As someone who used to work in a museum, and has also visited many museums throughout my life, I often find myself questioning who the people depicted in works of art are/were. Were they real, or did the artist create their image? If they were real, who were they? And why were they important enough to be immortalized in a work of art? So for me, reading A Piece of the World was like playing my own personal game with the author for 320 pages.
While nothing overly exciting happens in this story, I still loved it. It reads as a narrative of Christina’s life on her family’s farmhouse, and brings her character to life through her head-strong, stubborn personality.
A Piece of the World is a simple story, but I believe it packs a powerful punch. There’s more to this book than you might realize at first, and it is a perfect summer read.