The Harbinger Online

Fully Booked: Summer Reads

I spent last week at a total loss for ideas for what to write this blog about. But in the middle of a spiel to my mum about how Nick is totally gay for Gatsby (it’s a legitimate academic theory – look it up) I had my lightbulb moment. I could take the inordinate amount of time I spend getting emotional over books and turn it into something I can put onto my college application.

So my plan is, every month I’ll just reminisce about some books I loved, or complain about some I hated, or talk about my current read or my to-read pile. The possibilities are endless. But for my first post I’m going to go with the classic What I Read this Summer.

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

For any of you who didn’t have to read this in class, it’s basically Walls’ memoir: growing up in poverty with dysfunctional and, at times, neglectful parents. I couldn’t stop reading because I was so worried for Walls and her siblings.

There was one scene, near the beginning, that hit me hard. She’s only three, and she catches on fire and goes to the hospital with serious burns. Walls’ dad doesn’t believe in modern medicine, and ends up taking her out of the hospital before she’s cured.

After that scene, I never trusted the parents. It’s interesting, because all the time I was reading, I was torn. I could see the story through my own eyes, telling me Walls’ parents were mistreating their children.

But I could also through the eyes of the narrator, a young girl who genuinely believes her parents and her lifestyle are amazing. She thinks moving from house to house, and living in dilapidated squats is an adventure. And despite the fact that you know her parents are bad, you can still fully understand how Walls feels. Walls writes in such a way that I could honestly relate to this child, and that’s what made “The Glass Castle” so emotional for me.

And, if you need more of an incentive to read it, I heard that the movie will star and be produced by Jennifer Lawrence, and who doesn’t love her?

Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism – Kira Cochrane (editor)

This is a collection of articles on the feminist movement dating back to the ‘70s, that have been published in The Guardian, a newspaper in the UK. Although it is pretty UK-centric, it covers a huge range of topics: domestic violence, intersectionality of sexism and racism, Muslim feminism.

There’s interviews with legendary women from the past few decades: Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey. It’s fascinating being able to read articles talking about events as they occurred; one of my favorites was published just days after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke.

Frankly, it was kind of terrifying to read articles about issues that I know still haven’t been solved 40 years later. Women in the ‘70s were calling for an end to victim-blaming rape survivors, but that’s still a prevalent issue today. There were moments where I was pleased to think about how far society has come, but there were many more moments where I lamented our lack of progress.

It was a fascinating read, and I’m devastated to have lost it in a field somewhere. Every article had topics I wanted to further research, and statistics I wanted to cite. Obviously the history of feminism isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if the women’s movement is interesting to you, then I thoroughly recommend it.

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

“Fahrenheit 451” is a dystopian novel set in a future where television and censorship has completely eradicated intellect and independent thought. The protagonist Montag is a fireman. The twist is that, in this world, a fireman’s job is to burn the most illegal of items – books. After meeting a strange young girl, Montag’s life begins to spin out of control, and he starts to question everything he knows. You don’t have to be an English teacher to recognize Bradbury’s not-so-subtle warning against mass-media and censorship.

I genuinely could not stop reading. It’s strange, because it’s actually really exciting, but you don’t register how exciting it is while you’re reading. You’ll be skimming through and suddenly realize that a major character just died, or a conspiracy was revealed, and have to flick back and reread it. It definitely takes some getting used to.

And let’s be honest, this book is really well known, so you’ll look smart if you tell people you’ve read it. Plus, it’s only around 200 pages.

P.S. Halfway through writing this I realized I actually read way too many books this summer, probably because my bedroom in London doesn’t have wifi, so this ended up being more of a highlight reel. I wish I could tell you about the rest but I don’t have the time or the word count.

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Katharine Swindells

Senior Katharine Swindells is head online copy-editor of the Harbinger Online. She likes British politics, selfies, feminism, cute shoes and books. Read Full »

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