As most of you know, I’ve been a huge fan of self-improvement books over the past few years. The Untethered Soul and When Things Fall Apart guided me through a difficult breakup and a budding romance with meditation and spirituality.
I love these books so much; they’ve become a part of who I am. I can’t help but drop their titles into conversations with friends or recommend them to loved ones who are going through an especially significant transition or challenging time. I even went on to buy copies of The Four Agreements for those close to me so they could learn the lessons that book blessed me with. I can’t recommend them enough.
But let’s be honest: it’s also nice to read for the sake of pleasure. To escape the world and its challenges. Life is hard enough. At the end of the day, reading a book that tells you how to improve or educates you on a new topic can make us feel like we’re not doing enough. Or that we need to be fixed. It can be exhausting to always be working on ourselves. One of reading’s greatest pleasures is being transported to another time, dimension, or world, so that for a while, we can forget about our own lives.
Below is a list of five fiction books that let me do just that: escape to another world. Bonus points if you get them from a library!
Sally Rooney, an author who is popping up a lot this summer for her two novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People, writes about two college students and a strange but intriguing friendship that forms between them and a married couple. It’s set in summertime in Dublin and follows two female college students, Frances and Bobbi, who used to date and are now poets and performers together. Now best friends, they meet and begin working with an older married couple, Nick and Melissa. As they work together, infidelity and passion sparks among them. It speaks to choices made when young, the importance of healthy relationships, and small moments of humanity and vulnerability.
Set in 1969 in the Lower East Side of New York, The Immortalists follows four siblings who sneak out of their house to visit a travelling psychic who claims she can tell anyone the day that they will die. Separate sections of this book tells how each of the Gold siblings, Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya, live their lives knowing this date, and whether or not they believe it to be true. The Immortalists brings up questions of destiny, choice, and reality. It makes you question if you, too, believe the psychic.
Written by the author of Eat, Pray, Love, City of Girls is a coming of age story about sexuality, shame, human emotion, loss, and growth all captured through the lens of human relationships. The book is set in the New York City theater world in the 1940’s. The narrator is an older woman, Vivian, who looks back on her time as a 19-year-old Vassar drop-out who moves in with her aunt and galavants around the big city. Vivian finds herself smack in the middle of NYC show business, enthralled by the thrill of being young, beautiful, and naive in the city that never sleeps. The way Vivian looks back on her life is humorous and self-deprecating, and with authentic self reflection that I very much related to. You can’t help but fall in love with Vivian, despite her flaws and mistakes. City of Girls reflects on the gender norms, rules, and hardships women faced in the mid-20th century.
The Power focuses on four different characters, on all different sides of the world, and follows as their stories converge because of a new physical power that teenage girls possess. In this science fiction novel, girls are able to cause agonizing pain with a touch of their fingers. The books switches between characters, anticipating the moment their stories cross paths. On the back cover there is a quote from Alderman that reads, “People say to me, ‘Ah, your novel is a dystopia.’ And I say… ‘It’s only a dystopia for the men.’ And in my world, nothing happens to a man that is not happening to a woman in the world we live in today. So if we find my world to be a dystopia, then we are already living in a dystopia.” While this book is largely about gender, it is also a commentary on power and constantly made me question our daily reality.
Following Conversations with Friends, I decided to pick up Rooney’s other book, Normal People. Normal People follows two characters, Connell and Marianne, with opposite lives in school and at home. Connell is a popular athlete, while Marianne is lonely, private, and disliked. The two characters fall in and out of relationships, both with each other and apart. Normal People gave a heartbreaking look into Marianne’s life in an abusive family and relationship. While at times the abuse in Marianne’s life was hard to read, it brought up questions of how much Connell would do to help her while trying to find love elsewhere. Similar to Conversations with Friends, it took a psychological look at the characters while being so easy to read.
Did you read any of the above novels? If so, what did you think?
Lastly, what else did you read this summer? Share your thoughts below! Please read our Comment Policy.