Not a single one of us in the Turnaround marketing gang has booked a week on a beach this summer. Or even by a lake, or in a field. We’ve come close: one of us is going to Brighton for the day. Another lives on the Hackney canal. One of us is going to Georgia in America, which might be swampy. Leo is off to Wales. But the point is we will not be spending this summer on a lounger drinking cocktails with miniature umbrellas, and (sadly) we will not have endless days of reading in the sun.
Instead we’ll be doing our summer reading on sweaty tubes and in parks. We will be trying to avoid the heatwave by staying indoors. Our 2018 Summer Reading List is therefore not very ‘beachy.’ It’s not particularly upbeat or traditionally summery. We still wanted to share it with you though, because if you’re not looking for a conventional beach read this year either, there will definitely be something here that interests you. And even if you are looking for a conventional beach read, who says a book about a plague or an attack on diet culture or a videogame art book do not go well with a beach?
Lucia by Alex Pheby
I can’t wait to get into Galley Beggar Press’s newest: the almost-fluorescent Lucia by Alex Pheby. It tells the story of Lucia Joyce, daughter of James and lover of Samuel Beckett, who was a dancer in her youth before her deteriorating mental health meant she spent her last thirty years in an asylum. Somewhat tragic for a summer book, maybe, but it promises to be a vivid, excoriating read about a woman whose story was intentionally lost, interspersed with Ancient Egyptian mythology and a meditation on the nature of truth.
The Song of Aglaia by Anne Simon and Jenna Allen
This beautiful hardback graphic novel looks to be an interesting female take on classic Greek myths – featuring a sea nymph called Aglaia who gets seduced by a merman, is cast out by her father, and must wander until she finds a new home in a travelling circus.
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
After the titular historian is found floating face-down in his swimming pool in Sydney apartment block, his children, Martin and Evie, must come to terms with his death. It comes to light, however, that their father is a suspect in the case of a sculpture gone missing from a museum in Palermo. The siblings search for answers about their father — Martin in Palermo, and Evie in Noah’s apartment — retracing his steps in this meditation on grief, love, and the mystery of time.
The Waterfront Journals by David Wojnarowicz
Listen, I know that ‘summer reads’ are traditionally the kinds of things you would take to the beach or the park or what have you, but I am probably going to spend the entire summer bouncing from one sticky-floored music venue to the next and then drunkenly tumbling into the stained alleyways of Soho, Shoreditch and Camden, so The Waterfront Journals works best for me. The book is made up of the ficitonalised monologues of characters that David Wojnarowicz encountered on the streets of New York in the late 1980s, forming a fractured portrait of the lives of queers and outsiders in America. These are people who, as Phillip Hoare describes in his introduction ‘are what the ‘straight’ world has dumped over a fence’. The book also comes with an afterword by Olivia Laing, which is reason enough to read anything as far as I’m concerned.
Sweet & Low by Nick White
Speaking of queers and outsiders, my next summer read is Sweet & Low by Nick White. Sweet & Low breaks the traditional narrative of small town LGBT exoduses, focusing on the lives of queer characters who either never leave, or who return to, their rural Mississippi home towns. The short stories in this collection mostly revolve around, as one character neatly puts it, ‘the hard silences left by the people we wanted – the people we craved the most – who had already moved on in their lives without us.’ This is love and loss set under a wide, Mississippi Delta sky.
Long Players by Peter Coviello
Also falling under the banner of ‘love and/or loss’ is Peter Coviello’s Long Players. This one’s a memoir for anyone who, like me, tends to get really really obsessed with songs. Long Players sees Peter navigating the ruins of his life after his wife leaves him, as he tries to both move on and to process and define his relationship with his now ex-stepdaughters. Through it all he holds on to music, finding hope and meaning in his obsession. The book also name drops LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’, which is an absolute grade-A certified banger if you ask me.
Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill
My last pick is Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill. This one is a psychological novel that breaks down the concepts of identity and perspective. It follows Jean Mason, a Toronto bookseller who is constantly being told by friends and acquaintances that they have seen her exact double. Jean has never seen her doppelganger herself, but is haunted by the fact that she is out there, and decides to investigate. Bellevue Square poses the question what happens when the sense you’ve made of things stops making sense? By turns dark, funny, and surprising, Bellevue Square is a good fit for a British summer that keeps gas-lighting us via the medium of weather.
Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn
Scrap the bit in this blog that says our reading list isn’t summery because I fell a bit in love with Sodom Road Exit during this exact summer. It’s a supernatural queer thriller set in a demolished amusement park and I enjoyed it more than I’ve enjoyed anything for a very, very long time. Which is saying a lot, because I do enjoy things. You can read about how much I loved it here.
You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar
This shouty, punchy, and super smart manifesto calls out our diet-obsessed, fatphobic culture in 128 pages of sharp, hilarious writing. Virgie Tovar is one of the most vocal fat activists and speakers out there – she’s done a TED talk on the subject. In You Have the Right to Remain Fat she talks honestly about growing up as a fat girl before rejecting diet culture and unlearning internalised fatphobia. She is a proper badass and this book should be required reading – especially to combat all that beach body bullshit.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
I’m really looking forward to this – there are loads of books about toxic masculinity and its effects out there at the moment, but they are usually written by straight cis women or men and if you are not one of them, they often don’t reflect your experience. In I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya (who you might know of as a filmmaker, a Lambda Award-nominated author, or a musician) adds a trans voice to the discussion. She describes growing up as a feminine boy and being taught to hate her femininity by the various men in her life. As an adult, she’s undone some of this damage but the violence of it still sticks. It’s a super important addition to the discourse surrounding masculinity and one I am very keen to read.
Betty & Veronica: Vixens Volume 1 by Jamie L. Rotante & Eva Cabrera
Honestly I’m not even sure what is going on here other than the fact Betty & Veronica have formed some kind of motorcycle gang and I’m fond of camp, girl-gang fiction.
Dull Margaret by Jim Broadbent & Dix
It’s not every day that an Oscar-winning actor debuts a graphic novel, but Jim Broadbent, whose copious filmography includes everything from Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter to the Earl of Gloucester in the recent BBC adaptation of King Lear, has done just that. Drawing on inspiration from the famous 16th century painting Dulle Griet (aka Mad Meg), as well as the Goya witches, it depicts the wayward ‘Dull Margaret’ navigating a dark, selfish world. Grim and ghoulishly illustrated by Guardian cartoonist Dix, we chose it as our Graphic Novel of the Month for July, and you can check out Leo’s review here.
The Plague by Kevin Chong
What better way to sound in the summer than with a dystopian story about a cataclysmic plague? Arsenal Pulp has garnered a strong reputation for publishing standout fiction and this modern retelling of Albert Camus’ 1940s classic is no exception. Focusing on the outbreak of an infectious disease and the city-wide quarantine that followed, it reposes questions of the human condition when under biological siege – exploring social justice, rising inequity and Walking Dead style horror in equal measure. So chuck out those trashy holiday reads and try a morbid reflection of mortality instead.
Hellboy Omnibus Volume II by Mike Mignola, Richard Corben & Gary Gianni
It’s been said that you haven’t really experienced what comics have to offer until you’ve read Hellboy. So on that advice, and with a new Hellboy movie out January next year, I’ve been getting thigh deep in Mike Mignola’s universe. These omnibuses are hefty, coming in at 300 to 400 pages each. But each is packed with some of the most striking comic book illustrations I’ve yet seen, an inordinate heaping of mythology and folklore, and the most excellent monster-smashing stories you’re likely to come across. This is the second anthology edition chronicling Hellboy’s entire story for the first time, but Dark Horse has released a short story collection too, check out my review here to see why it’s a great entry point into the series.
The Experimentalist by Nick Salaman
A truly remarkable, darkly comic and compulsive novel. Telling the story of Marie, an orphan raised in a remote Scottish manor house by two aloof aunts, all she knows about her parents are overheard whispers. Was her father a Nazi? A disgraced playboy? Both? Or something even worse? As she grows up, outlandishly bad things seem to happen around Marie, and she comes to believe that her blood is tainted with a curse. A gloriously improbable series of events see Marie fall in love, runaway to London, become a casino ‘hostess’, work as watchmaker’s assistant, held captive, and convalesce in California before running away again. The truth about her father haunts her as she coasts from one set of circumstances to another, but it is only in California that she finally is allowed a glimpse of the full picture…
Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang
The best memoirs perfectly encapsulate and balance the ordinary and extraordinary, and Always Another Country does exactly this. Growing up an exile from her native South Africa, Sisonke Msimang’s story of her relationship to both people and place is an incredible interrogation of the meaning of home and how it impacts identity. With her freedom fighter parents and two sisters, she moves from Zambia to Kenya, then to Canada and the US, before finally returning, for a time, to South Africa. The evocation of elation and disenchantment experienced by many returning South Africans really resonates, as do her arresting depictions of life as a perennial outsider. Suffused with politics, philosophy, family, womanhood, race, love, and humour – Msimang’s narrative is vivid, forthright, compelling, heartbreaking and rousing.
Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters With Syrian Refugees by Olivier Krugler
It’s hard to overstate the power and importance of this nonfiction graphic novel, drawn and recorded by award-winning graphic reporter Olivier Krugler whilst working with Médecins Sans Frontières. The extraordinary sketchy style of Krugler’s drawing perfectly encapsulates the chaos of the refugees’ situation, with images left uncoloured or part finished to demonstrate the urgency of getting it all down. The attention to detail – in the detritus of everyday life – is really astonishing, as are the stories Krugler relates.
Identity by Various
Short Story Day Africa (21st June) celebrates the diversity of Africa’s voices and “tell you who we really are; what we love; love to eat, read, write about.” Identity is the anthology of stories from SSDA 2018, focusing on “innovative short fiction that explores identity, especially (but not limited to) the themes of gender identity and sexuality; that looks beyond the boundaries of expectation, into the truest definitions of ourselves.” An incredible anthology!
The Art of Metal Gear Solid I-IV by Yoji Shinkawa
Whilst Summer may not be the best time to try to sneak into Alaskan nuclear disposal facilities inside a cardboard box, it is a perfect opportunity to reflect on one of the greatest video game series of all time. Packed with original concept art by Yoji Shinkawa from the original four games released across 3 generations of Playstation consoles, anyone feeling nostalgic for the series that redefined the stealth video game genre will have a hard time putting this one down.
Spider-Girl: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz & Pat Ollife
Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Pat Ollife’s classic series about an alternate universe where Peter and Mary Jane have a daughter who followed in her father’s footsteps to become a spider-themed vigilante brings the main theme of Spider-Man (responsibility) to the forefront. Not only do we get so see Peter and Mary Jane adjust to being parents, but we also see a new young hero try to juggle her school and home life alongside fighting crime in stories that hearken back to the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko/John Romita Sr. tales of old. This new collection is the perfect chance to revisit or discover one of comics’ true underrated gems.
That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime 6 by Fuse & Taiki Kawakami
Rather than shut yourself in and play fantasy video games for the summer, you can shut yourself in and read about someone reincarnated into a fantasy video game instead. The latest volume of this hilarious series continues Rimuru’s growth from low powered slime to Great Demon Lord. With an awesome looking anime coming out later this year, there is no better time than the present to be reading this series.