The Twenties Club’s Summer Reading List ’19

20.11.19

A list of all the books you might enjoy reading this summer; a combination of my favourite books from 2019, the books I’ve got lined up next, and a few recommendations from the cutest bookworms I know (my girlfriends).


An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I included An American Marriage in TTC’s Winter Reading Guide when I was yet to read it, and it proved to be one of my favourite books of the entire year. Celestial and Roy’s lives are torn apart when Roy is wrongly convicted of a crime and sentenced to twelve years in prison when they are still newlyweds. As Roy’s time in prison passes, Celestial is unable to hold onto their love and takes comfort in Andre, her ally of the past decade and Roy’s best man at their wedding. It’s a serious, tender and deeply affecting love story, but what struck me the most was how easy Jones made it to see both sides of the argument, to sympathise with both Celestial and Roy – I found myself going back and forth right until the very last page.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi was a 36 year old neurosurgeon when he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about his life and illness, published posthumously in 2016, and attempts to answer the question: What makes a life worth living?

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

Arguably one of the most buzzed about books of 2019, Pulitzer prize-winning reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey were the first to break the Weinstein scandal in 2017; publishing a NYT piece which chronicled decades of sexual aggression by Weinstein against both A-list actors and junior employees. Now they’re sharing the inside story of that defining #MeToo moment, including the various victims they interviewed, the documents they trawled through, the alliances they built, and the countless powerful people who tried to stop them. The Guardian said of the book: “Painstakingly researched, their account is less interested in Weinstein the Monster than the structures that enabled him to flourish.”

The Places I’ve Cried In Public by Holly Bourne

One of my favourite easy-reads of last year was a book by Holly Bourne called How Do You Like Me Now?, so this summer I want to read The Places I’ve Cried In Public (extra points for the *perfect* title), although the subject matter isn’t as light this time around. The young protagonist, Amelie, is in the throws of young love when she realises that, maybe, it wasn’t supposed to hurt this much. So now she’s retracing their story and untangling what happened by revisiting all the places her boyfriend made her cry as a means to figure out where it all went wrong.

Reader discretion: this book deals with the delicate subject of toxic teenage relationships, emotional and sexual abuse. 

One Day by David Nicholls

A classic by any measure. I can’t believe it took me twenty six years to read this. Emma and Dexter! Em and Dex! I could read them for the rest of my life. For anyone else late to the One Day train station, Nicholls book chronicles the intersecting lives of Emma and Dexter once a year, every July 15th, from 1988 through to 2007. The chemistry between the two characters is (without sounding too corny) spell-binding, and you’ll find yourself rooting for them to get together every sentence of every page.

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

Now that I’ve finished One Day, I’ve just started reading Nicholls latest book, Sweet Sorrow. Described as, “A tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.” In other words, the perfect book to take to the beach and reminisce about the fleeting, all-encompassing, think-you-might-fly sensation of being young and hopeful.

Find Me by André Aciman

The critically-acclaimed author of Call Me By Your Name is back, and this time he’s picking up decades after we first met Elio and Oliver. In Find Me, Aciman shows us Elio’s father on a trip from Florence to Rome to visit Elio, who has become a gifted classical pianist. A chance encounter on a train upends his father’s plans and changes his life forever. Elio moves to Paris, where he has a consequential affair, while Oliver, now a New England college professor with a family, suddenly finds himself contemplating a return trip across the Atlantic. I can’t wait to revisit the magic of one of our generation’s greatest contemporary romances.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

I don’t know anyone who isn’t *dying* to read Ronan Farrow’s masterful account of a conspiracy of abusers reaching from Harvey Weinstein to the top of the US media. I think we often forget how much bravery and personal sacrifice is required by journalists in their pursuit of the truth – this book serves as a confronting reminder. Catch and Kill follows the publication of She Said (featured above on this list), but the two books are quite different; both portray a relentless hunger for justice, but as the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, Farrow is both of the world he describes and outside it. Additionally, while Twohey and Kantor were rewarded for their reporting, Farrow’s work resulted in him losing his job at NBC. Again and again, his bosses blocked his reporting on Weinstein and he couldn’t work out why, until finally the fog lifted and he realised: they are all in it together.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

One of the best books I’ve read this year, Tolentino’s debut collection of essays covers a lot of ground. She explores the cultural phenomenon of “self-optimisation”, our generation’s susceptibility to scam artists (including the one currently occupying the White House), the troubling intersection between identity and the Internet, as well as reality television, the paint-by-numbers approach to female literary characters, and how her experiences taking ecstasy remind her of her upbringing in an evangelical Christian mega-church. You can read my full review of Trick Mirror here.

A Book Of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates

This was recommended by a TTC reader who said, “The book offers a great perspective on the perceived traditional all-American family, and the delicate subjection of abortion.” Best-selling author Joyce Carol Oates explores America’s divisive abortion war, including those with extreme ideological positions, through the perspective of two different American families struggling in the wake of a man who shoots a doctor responsible for performing abortions because he believes he is carrying out God’s will.

Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

The one-million-plus readers of Adam Kay’s This Is Going To Hurt will be fizzing to read his latest book, Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas. It chronicles the funny, poignant and entertaining life of a junior doctor at the most challenging time of the year: the holidays. It contains twenty-five real stories of “Christmas incidents” that display the true sacrifices made by the unsung heroes of the NHS. My girlfriend Harriet, who happens to be living in the UK at the moment and therefore has a greater appreciation for the NHS, has this at the top of her holiday reading list.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Recently recommended on The High Low and long-listed for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is laid out as a letter from a son, in his late twenties, to a mother who cannot read. The letter explores his family’s history, which began in Vietnam before he was born, as well as race, class and masculinity, culminating in “an unforgettable revelation”. My girlfriend Millie is reading it at the moment,“Because of Vuong’s history as a poet, the book is written so beautifully and lyrically. I’m less than a hundred pages in but I already know it’s a goodie.” 

This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Philipps

For those wanting a relatively easy and incredibly funny read, this is your pick. Busy Philipps, who has been an actress in Hollywood for over twenty years, released her autobiography last year and it quickly became a New York Times best-seller. My girlfriend Julia described the book – which covers everything from on-set bullying and body shaming to her devastating professional betrayals – as “raw and relatable” – two words not often associated with celebrity memoirs.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

After ranting about my love for David Nicholl’s One Day, my girlfriend Julia said I needed to read The Light We Lost – and as it turns out, almost every review of Santopolo’s book draws similarities between the two.  Julia said, “My sister had downloaded this on her Kindle and I wasn’t expecting much, but soon found myself unable to put it down. I devoured it in two days. It follows the heartbreaking love story between two friends over the course of many years. I still think about it all the time.”

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

So many TTC readers wrote in requesting that I include this book. When Brock was sentenced to a mere six months in county jail for sexually assaulting Chanel Miller on Stanford’s campus, Miller was only known to the public as “Emily Doe”. Her victim impact statement was posted on Buzzfeed, where it instantly went viral – viewed by eleven million people within four days, and went on to be translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; inspiring changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. This memoir allowed Miller to reclaim her identity and her power by sharing her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath of the trial, as well as revealing the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios.


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club