reading list

by Robyn P. Yager

Our Summer Reading Pop-Up Book shop is tomorrow! In light of the event, we wanted to provide you with some of Sons and Lovers favourites that you might want to keep an eye out for or add to your summer reading list. If you have any more you would like to suggest please shoot us an email ( or tweet us (@sons_andlovers). We would love to hear from you.

In no particular order,

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

A story set in America 1920’s, Fitzgerald explores the highs and lows of extravagant wealth and high society. It is a love story and is known as the perfect novel and one of the greatest books ever written. Read it.

2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856)

Known as one of the most complex and interesting female characters in literature, Madame Bovary is about a woman unsatisfied with her life and falls from grace into adultery and spending. The language and description in this novel are wonderful, and although Emma Bovary is at fault for all the wrongs that she commits, there is something about her that makes me sympathize and feel for her. I guess you just have to read it to see what I mean.

3. The Architecture of Happiness by Alain De Botton (2006)

Whenever someone asks me for a book recommendation I give them this gem. I took art history in university and one the best parts about it was learning about the art and history behind architecture. I found it to be extremely fascinating and probably because it is something that we are faced and involved in everyday. I first saw this book in 2009’s (500) Days of Summer. I got it as a gift a few summers ago and spent many of the sunny summer days outside in a park reading through this book. It essentially explains why human beings find things beautiful and how the architecture that they are surrounded with impacts their ideals of beauty and vice versa.  I’ve written a post about this book before, but I just can’t not recommend it. It is really thoughtful and light-hearted but it gets you thinking and it also makes you more aware of the spaces that you inhabit. Alain De Botton’s other books include The Pleasure and Sorrows of Work, The Art of Travel, and How Proust Can Change Your Life. I highly recommend The Architecture of Happiness, and I can assure some of his other books are on MY summer reading list.

4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (1964)

I think there’s a little bit of a debate over here at Sons and Lovers about this one but only because there’s rumours around it that say Hemingway’s fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway, had the manuscript for this book and edited it so that it would read in her favour and exclude Hemingway’s previous wife, Hadley. Whether that’s true or not, I think we can all agree to be adults and read this book for what it is: a great memoir detailing the life and times of Hemingway and his cronies in Paris 1920’s. Some of those he writes about  are Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Sylvia Beach. It brought me to a place I had never been before and will never be able to experience except through the writings of someone like Hemingway.

5. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

I never had to read this book in school (thank goodness, because I know from the responses I got when I asked for thoughts on it a lot of people have a bad relationship with it after being forced to read it). That being said, I read it for the first time this year and fell in love with Atticus Finch. He’s like this dad that you can always go to for reassurance and help. He felt like the man that you can always count on and a real gentleman. The book kept me wanting to read it; I loved the mystery of it, and it made me feel like I was a friend of Scout and Jem’s, but with enough maturity to it to keep it real. It’s like looking at a serious situation through a child’s eyes.

6. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (1930)

Speaking of children, this brings us to a children’s book that embodies ALL things summertime. You’ve got your sailboats, camping, campfires, fishing, brothers, sisters, and rivalries. It is an adventure story about two brothers and two sisters who take their boat, Swallow, to an island on the lake near their home sailing back and forth for the summer and trying to capture their rival sailboat, Amazon, for the title of captain. It is basically childhood innocent packaged in a book and reminds us of how we used to spend our summer days as kids. If you had a sailboat of your own.

7. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952)

I just finished this book this year as well, and it’s been on my book list for at least 2 years, but I’ve heard so many good things about it and it’s been haunting me from the corner of my room so I had to read it. The detail that Steinbeck writes with is so incredible, I felt like I couldn’t read another book for another two weeks after I finished this one because I still felt so connected with the characters in East of Eden. I loved how the stories intertwined and things were described so minutely you could actually see, hear and smell what was going on in the scene. This book is described to parallel the Book of Genesis, specifically the story of Cain and Abel.

It was also a story of human nature where right and wrong seemed to be blurred. It was a glimpse into the life and times of the Hamilton and Trask families. In a way I could sense a very big resemblance to John Irving‘s novels in Steinbeck which is probably where Irving got a lot of his inspiration for his novels like, Until I Find You. I would definitely read this book again and highly recommend it.

8. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)

This one has a little bit of a love/hate relationship as well. I guess that goes with most books, actually. I know a few males who have read this book and loved it. And I’ve also known a few girls who have read it and have hated it (and vice versa) so it could go either way.

Personally, I loved it. I loved how it was narrated – Holden Caulfield, a teenaged boy with an affinity for saying “Goddam”, and drinking whiskey and cokes. The novel follows Holden Caulfield as he leaves his private school, and heads home after being kicked out. The story spans over a two-day period. Holden struggles with his angst and confusion and is in a difficult time of his life. He sees people and things as very superficial and feels it very difficult to understand the things that people do. He is an an “in between” point of his life where he is on the verge of an adult, and yet still wants to maintain the innocence of being a child. Holden Caulfield is easy to relate to. Also seeing the how things are not black and white as we grow up thinking. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s the only way I can describe it. Catcher in the Rye is both funny and dark at the same time, however there is a deep vulnerability to it.

9. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein (1954-1955)

Okay, I usually don’t read fantasy novels, but these are the quintessential fantasy novels that you should read, should you find yourself reading things of that genre and haven’t yet read The Lord of the Rings. These books have adventure written all over them and have even been known to involve religion, specifically Catholicism. Later on in the trilogy there are known to be influences of World War 1. I’m not going to go into too much detail because these books have had so much impact on culture and literature, but if you want to know more, I’ll point you in the right direction… to that of a wiki page.

10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

Last one folks!

I went through this phase of really loving Gothic novels. I used to watch scary movies like a monster, but after one particularly scary one I just couldn’t do it anymore. Too many sleepless nights. So I turned to books instead.

This novel, a young good looking man who is driven to commiting acts of horror by his “mentor” Lord Henry. Some people say that this novel was a way in which Oscar Wilde could express his feelings of being homosexual, I can see that. A young man who is worshipped by another while another encourages him to be wicked. I enjoyed it for the dark imagery that Wilde used. It is eerie and creepy and a great horror story.