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Savings and lifestyle
9 August 2023
Author: Steve Butler

Sunshine or rain, my summer holiday reading list

With the weather either too hot in mainland Europe or like November in the UK, a good book means you can escape into any climate you want. These are my picks for the poolside, under a sunshade or umbrella.

1. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Winner of Women’s Prize for Fiction)

I loved this and am so pleased my wife persuaded me to read it. A really powerful narrative about the clash in modern Britain between society, family and faith for young Muslims. For me, it was a window into a world I have never experienced nor really contemplated. In equal parts shocking, thrilling and touching. I now want to persuade everyone else to read it!

2. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction)

Another spousal recommendation. The main character, Martha, tells us of growing up in a very dysfunctional family and her struggles with mental illness. The heart-breaking anecdotes bring you closer to her, quite a feat, considering what she is going through. This novel offers illuminating insight into something I have experienced from the standpoint of Martha’s family and friends.

3. The Opportunity Index by Gavin Lewis

Full disclosure, Gavin is a personal friend of mine, and I had the privilege of discussing the book as he wrote it. I am thrilled it is now published. Gavin proposes a framework to evaluate the racial wealth gap that exists in the UK. Growing up on an estate in north London, he tells us how he used his sporting prowess to camouflage his academic ambitions to avoid an ever-present toxic gang culture and move beyond its clutches. In doing so, he draws a vivid manifesto for what society can do to bridge the gap he experienced. A must-read.

4. ROAR, into the second half of your life by Michael Clinton

Okay. Not everyone’s idea of a holiday read but, indulge me, as it does deal with one of my commercial and academic preoccupations: what later life holds. Even if a little patronising at times, the author is commendably clear about the purpose and actions required fully to engage and enjoy life after 50. If the thought of opening an American self-help book by the pool fills you with dread, don’t read this but if you can cope with the style it may be a useful manual to help face the future.

5. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

A long-term friend and close colleague gave me this book as a parting gift when our careers went in different directions. Enclosed was an emotional letter about our time working together I’ll always treasure. By way of recommendation, she explained how this book has shaped her life and I am currently 200 of 936 pages in (it’s a blockbuster). The colourful descriptions and convincingly crafted characters bring to life modern India. It is unputdownably addictive and my summer holiday will afford me time to dive into it every day.

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