Summer Reads: Learning on the Beach


It is a beautiful sunny day outside (except for the day I spent writing this post).  The temperature inside and outside is more like a Finnish sauna than most people think is reasonable (again, except for the day I decided to sit down and write).  All we want to do is go for a swim and sit in the shade of a tree doing absolutely nothing, (EXCEPT for the day I decided to tell you all about the books you should take to the beach).

We know you don’t want to take your laptop to the beach, not to mention the risk of it being stolen or ruined by a stray piece of hard plastic from a random beach activity. And no one wants to read business books when it is gloriously sunny and warm.  However, you can learn from fiction and creative non-fiction.  In case you missed it, we chatted about that exact subject in the book round up on Refugees.

We scoured the internet and our bookshelves for the best summer reads. Some of these are light hearted and others examine the complex nature of humanity through tragedy.  However, all of these are worth the read on a sunny day.

On the Shelves … 

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After – Clemantine Wamariya

Clemantine Wamariya is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.  She is six years old when she starts her story, her parents are speaking in whispers and her neighbours start to disappear.  Wamariya and her older sister spent six years running through seven countries, hoping with each one to find a haven.  Eventually, they sought asylum in the United States.  Wamariya’s story encompasses the horrors of war, the true costs, and the after effects for survivors.  For those working in migration, inclusion, and with refugees this book is an absolute necessity.  For the rest of us, this book is an absolute necessity to better understand the predicament of those who find themselves newly displaced.

Calypso – David Sedaris

David Sedaris’ exercises his characteristic wit and charm in this latest collection of emotionally charged essays.  Sedaris confronts his sister’s suicide, revisits the loss of his mother, his own health and mortality, and attempts to emotionally cope with the new frailty age forced on his father.  The book fundamentally questions what it means to be a family when people live far apart and see each other infrequently, especially as age catches up with us all.  Some essays are the expected Sedaris family antics, others chronicle the reasons why he now has a garbage truck named after him and met the Queen of England (it is the same reason), or Sedaris’ desire to feed his recently excised fatty tumour to a snapping turtle.  This book is just necessary.  I can write lovely sentences about how this is essential for those working in mental health and social inclusion.  Or about how, if you are struggling to laugh or see the bright side you should read this book.  Described as “cheerfully misanthropic” on the back cover the stories are heart-warming and incisive in a way only Sedaris can be.

The Book of M – Peng Shepherd

This is a stunning debut novel by Peng Shepherd.  A global catastrophe hits, people are losing their shadows and with them their memories. The book begins with a shadowless man speaking perfect English walking into a fire because he forgot what it was. The fantasies of the shadowless are becoming reality.  The story follows Max and Ory.  Max loses her shadow and Ory pursues her, not willing to give up the time left with their shared memories.  The book questions the power of connection when your world is turning upside down. Magical and heartbreaking this book is a must read for everyone working in a constantly shifting world or for anyone trying to find their feet in this ever-moving sea.

From the way back machine …

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro is 2017’s Nobel Laureate in Literature.  This is a book is earth shattering.  The novel presents us the reader with halcyon school days and summer afternoons spent in cottages watching rain storms.  The three teenagers around whom the book revolves are caught up in the dramas of adolescence: dating, love triangles, shelving artistic dreams, and other such problems we all confront on the cusp of adulthood.  A deep sense of hopelessness pervades the book.  The children at this beautiful school in a rambling old country manor are human organ farms.  I love this book and keep coming back to it.  Everyone should read this book.  It is an attempt to understand what makes us human and what connects us to each other.

Good things come to those who wait …

Severance – Ling Ma

Ling Ma brings us a world brought down by a swift and sweeping plague.  However, the main character, Candace Chen, is so focused on her daily life and routine she almost doesn’t know what is happening outside the tiny box she has made of her life.  Part apocalyptic novel, with mindless zombies continuously refolding t-shirts instead of devouring grey-matter, and part meditation on the Chinese immigrant experience, the millennial main character is the daughter of immigrants. Ma won a prize for a chapter of this novel in 2015.  This book is essential for anyone looking to break out of the drudgery of every day, meaningless jobs, or change capitalism.  I have only read reviews because the book does not hit shelves until August but it is one of the most eagerly anticipated reads of the summer.

A picture is worth a thousand words …

The Prince and the Dressmaker – Jen Wang

Jen Wang brings us a powerful and beautifully drawn tale of the power of friendship and the danger in being a secret.  This graphic novel tells the tale of two people who are secrets, Prince Sebastian and his friend, Frances.  Prince Sebastian sometimes wears dresses and takes the world by storm as Lady Crystallia. Frances is the dressmaker who makes his fantastic frocks, she is his secret weapon.  His life is secret from everyone but two people, especially his parents who are pressuring him to marry a woman, any woman.  Frances is Prince Sebastian’s secret.  This distinctly modern fairy tale is a heart-warming and romantic story of friendship.

If these books don’t suit your fancy, or if you would actually rather read business books on the beach.  We have tonnes of other recommendations.  You can check out our top recommendations for entrepreneurs, futurisminspiring women, tech for good – analog editionleading ladies, messes, and sticking to it.


Header Photo Credit: Lea Fabienne 

Jennifer Cornick - Impact Hub Vienna
Jennifer Cornick Freelance journalist and blogger for various publications in Vienna. When I am not writing, I can generally be found with a book (or anything with words on it - even […]

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