Updated: Aug 5
To kick-start our week-long Summer Reading series, Rebecca takes her pick of the best English fiction books to help you unwind after exams and term-time stress.
Congratulations! You’ve made it past the exams and are into your long summer holiday! If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to do anything that reminds you of homework, school, and revision, but you might still want to read over the summer. So here are some suggestions for a whole variety of great books to take on holiday that won’t feel too much like work.
It’s just been released as a hit TV series on Amazon Prime (not Netflix, which confused some people…) A hilarious, twisted, mesmerising story that’s both an account of the Apocalypse and a pastiche of the Just William stories, the TV show has captivated thousands of viewers. So why not read the book that it’s based on?
Telling the story of the forces assembled to avert the end of the world, including an angel, a demon, a witch, the Witchfinder Army, the Antichrist, his three friends and his dog, the book is witty, touching, compelling and exceptionally clever, and adds a whole new layer of appreciation for how masterful the adaptation is.
Another book behind a successful screen adaptation, the film of Ready Player One was directed by Steven Spielberg and released last year. I have yet to see the film, so can’t tell you how it compares, but I can tell you that the book is one of the most un-put-downable I have ever read, and I was so sad when I finished it and had to find something else to read.
It tells the story of a dystopia, not too far in the future, where the world’s fossil fuels have run out and the global economy has collapsed. Everyone spends their days inside a virtual utopia called the Oasis. When the Oasis’s creator dies, revealing a quest to own the whole system, it becomes a race between a handful of independent idealists against an evil corporation who want to privatise and monetise the system, needing courage, intelligence, and a staggering knowledge of 80s trivia. It’s one of the most gripping books I’ve ever read, and gets you thinking about virtual reality, climate change, and dystopian futures, and capitalism, almost as a side effect of the fantastic story.
If you’re into fantasy, this is the summer book for you. It looks enormous, but the story is exceptionally, beautifully written, and the pages whizz by. It tells the story of Kvothe: we are introduced to him at the beginning as an almost legendary man of frightening magical power, and then we rewind to his childhood and start to discover how he became like this. It’s peopled with amazingly written characters, including more interesting female characters than most other fantasy books put together, and pulls you straight into the heart of the story, making you desperate to understand.
A bold claim: I think it’s the best fantasy book I’ve ever read (Tolkien fans, send your angry replies to the TT office…). And full disclosure now: the third one of the trilogy is still unfinished, so if you get hooked you’ll have to wait with the rest of us to find out how it ends.
There are a few books that you can only read for the first time once, if that makes sense – there’s a twist, a surprise, an impact that you can only really feel the first time you read it, when you have no idea what’s going to happen. The ultimate example of this for me is Owen Meany.
Irving tells a detailed story of two boys and their fairly ordinary lives, but clues and hints carefully seeded throughout the whole plot come together spectacularly at the end, in a way that is genuinely breath-taking. It’s a great summer holiday read, as it’s a book that ideally needs to be read in a pretty short space of time, so you don’t forget what’s gone before and lost the significance of certain events.
If you mainly read contemporary fiction, and would like to start getting into some of the older classics, but Elliot and Hardy look a bit too long and complicated, then Rebecca is the perfect place to start. Another book that is best on its first read, Rebecca unravels the mystery of the first Mrs de Winter, and how she still holds a strange, ominous sway over the house. Another great book that joins a gripping story with excellently drawn characters, it’s a short introduction into the classics that doesn’t feel like hard work at all.
If you’re ready for something a bit longer and wordier than du Maurier to get into over the summer, then Bleak House is a brilliant Dickens to start with. It has all his best hallmarks: dozens of exquisitely described characters, amazing detail, social and political opinions, and all tied together in a plot that comes together gloriously at the end. Esther, the main character, is much less soppy than his other ‘nice’ heroines, and Mr Skimpole and Mrs Jellyby are some of his finest examples of characters that make you want to poke your eyes out. It’s long, but split into sensibly sized chapters, and is a good fun read.
Hopefully these have given you some ideas for reading over the summer, but you might have completely different tastes. Whatever you read, it’s a great way of keeping your brain working without actually having to do some work, and will hopefully give you lots of new things to think about for the start of the next academic year!
Blog Post Crafted by Rebecca
Subjects Taught: English, Maths, 7+, 11+
Background: Rebecca is one of our most popular tutors, with a degree in English from the University of Cambridge and hundreds of hours of private tuition experience in 7+, 11+, English and Maths. She is also an assessor for Titanium Tutors, observing the mock lessons taught by potential tutors and deciding whether or not they meet the high standards of the agency.