I've always had a fascination with twentieth century American culture and more specifically it's beat culture. For many, On the Road is a monumental novel. A book of a lifetime. The inspiration to hit the road of discovery and find their own inner 'Sal Paradise'... but for me it simply wasn't. It took me a long time to read as it never properly grabbed me, in the same way that Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' never did. It made me quite sad that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I expected to because, generally speaking, I am a huge fan of American literature.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
I bought a really lovely copy of this when I went down to an Oxford open day in 2010 but it had stayed on my bookshelf gathering dust ever since. Friends that had read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' berated me for having not picked it up. I finally did this Summer and what an amazing book. I couldn't put it down, and as a result spent two days cooped up in my room! This is one of the best books I've read that deals with the divide between black people and white people in the early twentieth century American South (this and The Colour Purple) but what I really loved about this book was the father-daughter relationship between Scout and Atticus.
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
A friend bought me this for my 18th birthday and though it seems rather ironic, being a History student, I've never really been in to historical fiction. Wolf Hall tells the story of Henry VIII's attempts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, seen mostly through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. It's quite fascinating as the basic story line is of course true but the way Mantel humanises famous historical figures is the best thing about the book. Anne Boleyn, in particular, is portrayed as a nasty, spiteful character which is odd because throughout the many school years I spent studying the Tudors this is how I always imagined her to be. (That is my very sad history 'thing', imagining what historical figures were really like...)
How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran
I've always been a huge fan of Caitlin Moran's Times columns as it is quite refreshing to read writing that is so blunt and honest but very witty. Feminism seems to of had a recent resurgence in interest, with Moran spearheading the movement, with online communities of young women exploring the movement through networks like Tumblr and Twitter. It is wonderful that it seems (slowly) to be shedding it's 1970s, bra-burning, man-hating image. I was really looking forwards to reading this book and had high expectations. She has entwined a personal memoir with an account of modern feminism and it really works. It was slow to start but I did the last three quarters of the book in one bedtime reading session, which meant a 2am bedtime - oops. It has left me rather sad though as I know I'll never be as cool as Caitlin Moran (writing for the Observer at 15 and living alone in London writing for Melody maker at 18, sigh!). Also, f you're a fellow Moran-fan I recommend giving her Teenage Diary reading on Radio 4 a listen before it disappears off iPlayer here.
What have you been reading this Summer and what do you have waiting on your book shelf? Can you recommend me any good books? (Note - not 50 Shades of Grey, a bandwagon that probably isn't for me)