Summer reading list 3: A world of English novels set outside Europe

By now you’ve met Angela and Carolyn through their literary voyages to Ireland and Sweden, so today I’m going to offer you my summer reading list. I’m Brooke, Blair’s publicity assistant, and usually the voice behind The Blair Essentials. And although I won’t be taking you to Europe today, we will be traveling beyond the world of American fiction.

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I’ve started off my summer reading with David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was just released in the States a few weeks ago. Mitchell is an English author who spent much of his time in Japan, so most of his novels are a mix of eastern and western worlds. You’ll find more of that in Thousand Autumns, a love story from 18th century Dejima, a manmade Japanese island requisitioned by the Dutch as a trading post. The book starts off with a page of author’s notes to explain how to read it, including that dates in the book are based on the lunar calendar, and the Japanese characters’ names begin with surnames. Let me tell you, I nearly put the book down right there! Mitchell needed to offer instructions on how to read his book?! Thankfully I turned the page, and was instantly captivated. Mitchell has a way of turning prose into poetry, and in some places his plot turns into a thriller. And although the reviews say it’s no Cloud Atlas, which is widely regarded as his best book, I can’t wait to get back to this one.

But I’m also a fan of the classics, which it seems are forgotten by most people after they leave school. And after a trip to Florence earlier this year reunited me with E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, I’ve decided to check out his A Passage to India next. It was selected as one of the 100 great works of English literature by the Modern Library, and Time Magazine included the novel in its “TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”. A Passage to India is another East-meets-West book that plays out during the Indian independence movement during the 1920s. The plot focuses on the trial of an Indian man in colonial India and brings out all the racial tensions and prejudices between the locals and the colonists. 

And my next summer reading pick remains a mystery, even to me! I’m waiting for the longlist of this year’s Booker prize finalists to be released next Tuesday, July 27. The Booker Prize is the award for contemporary British fiction, so when they release the list of contenders, it’s like a book nerd’s Christmas. They’ll release the shortlist in September and the winner in October, so sign up for email updates if you want to stay on top of who’s in the running.

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