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Backbench’s summer reads

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As we soak up the heat of summer, what could be a better way to enjoy the sun than lounging about with a good book? If you’re in need of some reading recommendations, the Backbench editorial team is here to help. So, without further ado, here are the team’s recommendations for a blissful summer of books…

Violet Daniels

Living Better – Alastair Campbell – Combining his career in politics and media, Alastair Campbell gives us an honest and unapologetic insight into his life with this autobiographical memoir. He opens up about his depression and how it has impacted him over the years, and just how important it is for men, in particular, to speak out and get the help they deserve. It breaks down many stigmas and highlights how a high-pressure job can impact well-being, family, and wider relationships. You can read Violet’s full review of the book here

Faye Suarez

Dominicana – Angie Cruz – Set in 1960’s America, Dominicana follows the life of Ana, a girl from the Dominican Republic who marries a man twice her age in the hope of securing a better life for her family. Ana, a 15-year-old immigrant, moves to New York with her husband Juan and attempts to adjust to a life confined to a sixth-floor flat in Washington Heights. The book, loosely inspired by Cruz’s mother, presents the harsh reality of what it’s like to move to another country in the hope of seeking a better life. Ana moves to America with the aim of providing her family with a better existence, but those dreams of freedom are proven to be an illusion, and the expectations from her family make her a prisoner. Throughout the book, we read about the abuse Ana suffers at the hands of her husband, her loneliness and her journey of self-growth. It’s certainly not a feel-good summer read in any sense, but it’s unbelievably thought-provoking.

Maheen Behrana

Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid – I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did, but it blew me away. The book tells the story of Emira, a young Black woman in Philadelphia employed by an affluent white woman as babysitter-cum-nanny to her three year old. The incisive commentary on race is complemented by an exploration of the anxieties of womanhood and of what it means to be happy in the modern age. It’s a book that can be many things to many people, but it is certainly one of the most engaging reads I’ve had the good fortune to come across this year. 

Daniel Clark

Hannah Arendt – Rather than recommending a book for you this summer, I’m cheating somewhat and recommending an author: Hannah Arendt. From Love and Saint Augustine to The Origins of Totalitarianism to The Life of the Mind, Arendt shows what it really means to love the world. At a time of social fracturing, Arendt’s work is as important now as it was when it was first published.

Lilian Fawcett

Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones – This is a nuanced, moving and brilliant account of two sisters, one of whom is the product of a secret affair. Set in Atlanta over the mid-twentieth century, this book features complex (female) characters and themes of class, friendship and family.

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