Here at The Hysteria Collective, we love literature in all the forms it takes. And with a stretching summer ahead of uncertainty, we wanted to give you a few recommendations of books to add to your reading list from our contributors. Here, Molly Joyce, Georgie Holmes and Ruby Wood give us the rundown of the books they think should feature. Make sure you are buying books second hand or from small businesses!
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
The first book of award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge, this is essential to read if you want to become more informed. There has never been a time more important than now to educate yourselves and connect with others. Divided into neat chapters, this book will stay with you for life, as it outlines forgotten histories, the dangerous system, and white privilege.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
It’s long, but it’s worth the read. Being the author’s most popular work, it details the devastating adventures of Liesel and her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. It is narrated by Death (which is extremely powerful throughout, and also has some satiric moments) and set in WWII. Though it’s not the most fun read, it is incredibly gripping and powerful.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This novel by Irish author Boyne is funny, touching, heartbreaking, difficult, life affirming and educational – and quite often all at the same time.
The story begins in 1945, when 16 year old Catherine Goggin (who represents thousands of Irish women across the past century) is publicly shamed by the local Priest for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. She is thrown out of her community and family and travels from picturesque Cork to Dublin, where she gives birth to the main narrator Cyril – her son she gives up for adoption.
Boyne develops and explores Cyril’s life from 1945 – 2015, looking at his childhood in a middle-class Dublin family, realising his sexuality in adolescence and in his college years at Trinity, through to living abroad in Amsterdam and New York, before his eventual return and elder years in modern day Dublin. By exploring Cyril’s life, Boyne educates the reader in both the systematic oppression of the Irish queer community by individuals and institutions, and the slow but steady changing attitudes to the queer community over the past 70 years in Ireland.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Almost everybody I know has watched the BBC adaption of Rooney’s novel during their lockdown, but if you are yet to read the novel, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Written solely from the perspective of the two main characters, Marianne and Connell, thoughts, Rooney writes arguably without complex sentence structures or difficult to understand metaphors. But this is the beauty of the novel, as it’s reflective of the messy and difficult navigation of love and intimacy in your late teens and 20s. It’s often been called a ‘millenial novel’, but really this just means that Rooney writes about being 18-22, whilst only being a few years older herself, which is so refreshing. Rather than reading about an experience that is mostly like your own but feels slightly off, Rooney is accurately narrating a shared generational experience.
The novel explores themes of class, gender and mental health in a healthy and important way. With beautifully written sentences such as ‘he’s [Connell’s] wholesome like a big, baby tooth’, this novel is perfect if you are looking to become completely emotionally invested in two characters and explore the different difficulties in communicating with the ones you love.
The Bees by Laline Paul
Perhaps, the first thing about Bee’s that pops to your head is the infamous Bee movie (or maybe I just constantly hyperbolise how amazing that film is). However, The Bees by Laline Paul is the piece of thrilling dystopian fiction that you never knew you needed. Flora 717, is our unlikely heroine, born into the lowest class of society, our original expectations are low. Yet, she has talents that are unusual for her kin, and these put her a risk. As she moves up through society, she reassigned to feed new-borns and later collects pollen (a high ranking job), she becomes closer to the Queen and starts to uncover the secrets of the hive. But the question stands on whether she will break the most sacred law in the same of motherly instincts and unconditional love. A book, that is simply about Bee’s but answers deeper questions about gender, love and class hierarchies. Put this on your summer reading list so that you can step away from your own life for a little while, and become a bee for a little while, whilst watching them fly between flowers in your own garden.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
A novel that covers the individual journey of our heroine Nazneen, who slowly is learning about her own sense of self and her new life. Bangladeshi Nazneen arrives in London to begin her new life in an arranged marriage. It tackles issues such as motherhood, making new friends and starting work all in an unfamiliar setting. Her husband Chanu has grand plans, which all turn to dust, as he upholds societal expectations of Nazneen. The novel tackles the fractions within the Bangladeshi community, looking at both right wing groups and those who have been Westernised – however, Nazneen does so with witty humour and a sharp tongue. These qualities of the novel make it unique and a book worthwhile reading on those long summer days.
If you managed to read any of these books and want to write a review of it, get in touch here: firstname.lastname@example.org