Reading list

7 classic summer reads

From the suspenseful to the exuberant, here's a selection of some of our favourite classic novels to read these warmer months

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On the Road

Jack Kerouac

‘Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road'

On the Road swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, Kerouac's On the Road races towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion. This is the book that launched the Beat Generation and remains the bible of that literary movement.

 

In the Castle of My Skin

George Lamming

'They won't know you, the you that's hidden somewhere in the castle of your skin'

In a sleepy fishing village, nine-year-old G. leads a life of quiet mischief. While the village lies tranquil in the shadow of its English landlord, Mr Creighton, G. makes his own fun, crab catching, teasing preachers, and playing among the pumpkin vines.

A powerful autobiographical novel of race and class by one of the leading Caribbean writers of the 20th century, this classic coming-of-age novel is a story of tragic innocence, as the precocious G. comes to consciousness amid the collapse of colonial rule in 1930s Barbados.

 

The Beguiled

Thomas Cullinan

'I wouldn't dream of harming your young ladies...'

The inspiration behind Sofia Coppola’s latest film, The Beguiled is a wildly entertaining Southern Gothic of sexual tension, jealousy and vengeance.

When an injured Union soldier is found in the Virginia woods as the Civil War rages, he is brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies to recover. For the sheltered girls and their teachers, the arrival of the attractive John McBurney is thrilling. But before long, the presence of their new guest turns them against each other and leads to potentially devastating consequences.

 

The Go-Between 

L. P. Hartley

‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’

When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. Drawn deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, Leo’s role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. The haunting story of a young boy’s awakening into the secrets of the adult world, The Go-Between is also an unforgettable evocation of the boundaries of Edwardian society.

Around the World in 80 Days

Jules Verne

‘Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real’

One night in the reform club, Phileas Fogg bets his companions that he can travel across the globe in just eighty days. Breaking the well-established routine of his daily life, he immediately sets off for Dover with his astonished valet Passepartout. Passing through exotic lands and dangerous locations, they seize whatever transportation is at hand - whether train or elephant - overcoming set-backs and always racing against the clock.

Crossing to Safety

Wallace Stegner

'There it was, there it is, the place where during the best time of our lives friendship had its home and happiness its headquarters'

When two young couples meet for the first time during the Great Depression, they quickly find they have much in common: Charity Lang and Sally Morgan are both pregnant, while their husbands Sid and Larry both have jobs in the English department at the University of Wisconsin. Immediately a lifelong friendship is born, which becomes increasingly complex as they share decades of love, loyalty, vulnerability and conflict.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy

'I cannot allow any man to - to criticise my private conduct!' she exclaimed. 'Nor will I for a minute'

Hardy's powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men - respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel - making her the object of scandal and betrayal. Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, Far from the Madding Crowd shows the precarious position of a woman in a man's world.

 

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