The holidays are the perfect time to wind down from academic pressure and take some time away from studying; what better way would there be to wind down other than with a book? Here are some of Natalie Howarth’s recommendations from the festive period.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina is a highly acclaimed novel written by one of the greatest writers of all time! A hedonistic and conflicted romance story about the essence of human experiences in Russian, contemporary society through the portrayal of three Russian families: the Oblonskys, the Karenins and the Levins. Many of the characters face an existential journey and moral compasses are always tested, ultimately known for its tale of a scandalous affair between the eponymous Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky, two members of the upper class. Intimidating on first approach due to its length, the novel itself is easy to read (once you get past the farming sub-plot of the novel). If the film doesn’t strike your interest, there are a couple of film adaptations including a popular 2012 version directed by Joe Wright with a very famous cast!
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
This 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist novel follows the first-year university experience of linguistics major, Selin Karada?, a Turkish-American freshman at Harvard University. It is a relatable and poignant novel about the beginning of university and all the opportunities available during this time. There is a cyclical element to this book as it begins at the start of fall and ends at the beginning of fall, following her summer trip to the Hungarian countryside to teach English. A truthful representation of the aches and struggles of trying to assimilate to university life and culture, and a very relatable read.
As a huge fan of Basquiat, this memoir is artistic and poetic
Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement
If you are looking for something autobiographical rather than fictional, I highly recommend this book about New York artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s girlfriend and muse, Suzanne Mallouk. An interesting and often tearful insight into the life of a New York Street artist’s life from the perspective of his girlfriend, their often strange and complicated relationship is the central narrative. With a resemblance to Patti Smith’s Just Kids, the story of two creatives and their relationship developments are delineated. As a huge fan of Basquiat, this memoir is artistic and poetic. Its separation into small chapters makes it the perfect book to delve in and out of if you are unable to read for long periods of time.
M Train by Patti Smith
Going back to Patti Smith, M Train is a peripatetic novel beginning in the bohemian, artistic neighbourhood of Greenwich Village of New York. Her second memoir, published in 2015, focuses on the period following the release of her album Horses in 1975 and explores a 16-year span of her life, from loss and family illness. It is ultimately a reflection of her thoughts and reality, drifting from New York to Mexico to Berlin. The discussion of her poetic and creative inspirations like Rimbaud, Mishima, Plath and more is interesting in understanding the proliferation of her art. A thoroughly delightful read from a beloved writer and musician, I would highly recommend it.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
A homage to the works of Shakespeare with a similar feel to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, this is a story of a close friend group of theatre students at the Dellecher Shakespeare Conservatory. This passionate campus drama and murder mystery novel is narrated by Oliver, a student who has served time for the murder of one of his friends, a murder that he might not have committed. Whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or not, it is an intoxicating and thrilling read.
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