Vacation Books For Every Situation

Whether you’re about to head off for your last summer getaway before September arrives, or you’re planning out what to do during your summer staycation, books are one of the nicest ways to spend a holiday.

If you’re planning time outdoors and want something that will fit easily in a small bag, check these three books that are perfect for a summer hike:

If you have many hours at one stretch to read, may I suggest the magic that is Mohsin Hamid’s latest book and the genius of Maggie O’Farrell? Below are descriptions as to why you can’t go wrong with either of these readings selections.

What are you reading this summer? Please do share in the comments below.

Mohsin Hamid – I Didn’t Know You Could Write Like This

I‘ve never been a huge fan of Mohsin Hamid. I loved “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” initially but was disappointed and irritated by the end, I enjoyed his essay collection “Civilization and Its Discontents” and I couldn’t get through the beginning of “How to Get Filthy Rich in Asia.” His latest book though, “Exit West” is magical. I’m almost done and hoping that the ending doesn’t let me down. Read below for one of my favourite passages from the book.

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On Reading The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik

Almost a year ago, I started making Youtube videos (or booktube videos) about what I was reading. One of the first books I reviewed was a romantic comedy called “Sofia Khan is Not Obliged”, which featured a Muslim protagonist in her early thirties trying to find Mr.Right and balancing her career, her family and her friends at the same time.

The sequel to that book, titled “The Other Half of Happiness is now out.

My full video review below!


On Reading Sophie Kinsella’s “My Not So Perfect Life”

Love stories can be stressful. Tea helps.

“And I know the job market is competitive, and I know everyone finds it hard, but I can’t help thinking: What did I do wrong? Was I crap at the interview? Am I crap, full stop? And if so..what am I going to do? A big black chasm is opening up in my mind. A scary dark hole. What if I can’t find any paying job, ever?” (Sophia Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life, p.183)

I had so many dreams. I used to lie on my bed and study the tube map and imagine becoming one of those fast, confident people I’ve seen on day tripst to the capital. People in a hurry, with goals, aims, broad horizons. I’d imagined getting on a career ladder that could take me anywhere if I worked hard enough. Working on global brands; meeting fascinating people; living life to the max.” (Sophia Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life, p.172)

When I am sick in bed, there are two things that make me feel better – television and books. Last week I was home from work, and because there wasn’t anything in particular I wanted to watch, I read Sophie Kinsella’s new book “My Not So Perfect Life” from start to finish. The book follows the story of Katie, or Cat as she’s known in the London ad agency where she works, as she tries to figure out how to advance in her job and get noticed so she can get to do the kind of work she wants to do. The story is relatable and I thoroughly enjoyed Kinsella’s depiction of surviving a difficult commute, stay with a tight budget, battle dreadful roommates and try to make friends, figure out who you are, and decipher your love life at the same time.

Instead of Kinsella’s normally fun but completely unfamiliar books, this book resonated and I found Katie to be her most likeable character that she has written to date. Where this book frustrated me though, was in its depiction of male characters.

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Thirteen Reflections On Marriage

The foundation of love is prayer (April 2015)

The foundation of love is prayer (April 2015)

Married in Johannesburg. Three years ago if you told me that that sentence would relate to me, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I met my husband two years ago, and though it’s hard to believe sometimes, by the Grace of God, we’ve been married for almost a year and a half now.

Most tellings of love stories stop with the words “and then they lived happily ever after” but in real life (vs reel life) it takes time to figure out what being married looks like and to learn how to share a life. This knowledge requires time, patience and the help of others. Today I found a draft post I wrote about marriage around the time of our one year anniversary, and thought as a means of self-reminding it would be helpful to post some of the things I’ve learned and continue to re-learn every day about marriage. 

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The Perfect Mother-Daughter Read – Thoughts on “Before We Visit The Goddess” by Chitra Bannerjeee Divakaruni

A magnificent read.

A magnificent read.

I am battling the flu, and a couple of days ago I sat in bed and read Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni’s AMAZING new book “Before We Visit the Goddess at one sitting. It’s an incredible book about the love that exists between mothers and daughters, the challenges of love, the vulnerability, fierceness and resilience of women, the challenges and solitude of immigration and the legacies we inherit from our mothers, grandmothers and greatgrandparents. It’s a magnificent book and one I highly highly recommend reading. Below are my #booktube reflections on the read.

The Story Rumble at Home (Gems from Rising Strong by Brene Brown)

WangThai (Sandton, Johannesburg, May 2016)

WangThai (Sandton, Johannesburg, May 2016)

I’ve been reading Brene’s Brown’s stunning new book “Rising Strong” over the last few weeks (blog post/audio story/video/interpretative dance/all of the above about my thoughts coming soon) but in the meantime, I wanted to share some of her thoughts about talking through our emotions at home, with those closest to us. Reading this book has been transformative for me because it’s helped me find language and ways to sort through my feelings when I’m upset and about to either shut down or have a fight with my husband, and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of our learnings soon. Before that though, I wanted to share some of her concluding thoughts about rumbling with emotions and stories at home. We’ve been reading this book this book from the library (we’ve already signed the book out twice) but we’ve taken a lot of notes along the way to help keep our learnings alive. Have you read this book? What are your key takeaways? We’d love to hear from you.

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A Funny Eurocentric Read ( On Reading “Love Illuminated” by Daniel Jones)

Beautiful beginnings (Krugersdorp, South Africa, April 2016)

Beautiful beginnings (Krugersdorp, South Africa, April 2016)

A year ago, I was in a bookshop in the Vancouver International Airport trying to pick a good read for my journey to South Africa to get married to my best friend. As I browsed the shelves, I came across a book called “Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject with the help of 50,00 strangers” by Daniel Jones, who has been the editor of the New York Times Modern Love column for the last ten years. As I stood in front of the shelf debating whether I wanted to spend $20 on the book and whether the book would help me in my new married life, an announcement came on the PA system making a last call for the flight I was waiting to board, and so I dropped the book and ran. Since then, I’ve wondered about the book. Reading “Modern Love” is a weekly personal ritual and since I always benefit from reading the column’s stories, I was interested to know what reading thousands of essays from strangers worldwide over the course of a decade had taught Jones about love.

To pursue this question, a few days ago I borrowed the book from the public library and have been reading it steadily over the past few nights. Last night I finished it, and although I enjoyed the read, I’m glad this is not a book that I own. Despite the subtitle of the book (which uses the word exploration rather than lessons) I thought the book would be about love lessons and practical advice one could apply to their own relationship. Instead, the book is organized into ten chapters with each chapter title/subject being one of ten topics related to love. Because the book’s chapters are not structured very clearly though, at times it was not clear where the book was going and the lack of clear direction interfered with my enjoyment of the book.

The ten principles/topics are pursuit/finding the person for you, destiny, vulnerability, connection, trust, practicality, monotony, infidelity, loyalty and wisdom. Each chapter talks about the principle in question but the majority of each chapter is about the flip side of the principle; the things that take place in relationships when things go wrong. The chapter about pursuit for instance, talks about the rise of online dating and the people we miss meeting because we exclude entire categories of people in our preferences and matching algorithms.

The chapter following pursuit discusses vulnerability and explores how many modern relationships (at least those that make it across his desk) strive to avoid vulnerability and are about acting aloof, both behaviours Jones says are aided by technological tools of today. If being aloof is something you are interested in learning how to do, “Love Illuminated” takes a “tongue in cheek” approach and delves into strategies to avoid openness and vulnerability and to maintain your distance from romantic partners. If you’re interested in real connection, the book and specifically the chapter has advice on how to be vulnerable too (Hint: real, grand gestures are good, gestures that are filmed, aimed at viral YouTube popularity or will likely embarrass the recipient are the kind of gestures to stay clear away from).

Building on this discussion, the chapter on connection looks extensively on online relationships and the rise of relationships in which communication through WhatsApp and Gchat and various social media platforms is commonplace, but real, in person communication is rare or nonexistent. For some people who have written their stories for Modern Love, the act of meeting killed their feelings and their love story. Chapter 5, the chapter on Trust, gives advice on how to avoid being conned (avoid someone too normal, or not normal at all) to say that it is impossible to protect yourself against betrayals of trust. As you continue to read, it feels like the book is telling you, there is no way to armour yourself against love,  but regardless of the risks, fall in love anyway.

These reminders are important, but the book feels less than a book about love and improving love than a description of the very strange things people do in relationships.  Having said that, there are some gems to be had.
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On Reading “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit

The blessing of public transit (October 2014, NYC High Line)

The blessing of public transit (October 2014, NYC High Line

“Yes people of both genders pop up at events to hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard at times for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and being heard when they dare; that crushes young women in to silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence (Men Explain Things to Me, Chapter 1).

My lunchtime read this week has been Rebecca Solnit’s book “Men Explain Things To Me”, and I really want you to read this book. Quite simply, it is a brilliant collection of essays written in different years that all touch on different aspects of violence, and regardless of your gender, it is an important read. Rebecca Solnit defines violence as “the refusal to treat someone as a human being, and the denial of the most basic of human rights, the right to bodily integrity and self-determination”, and notes that violence comes from the premise “I have the right to control you”. From this refusal to treat women as human beings, violence manifests itself in the way women are silenced, the way women are sexually harassed and violated, the ways in which women are not heard, the ways women are abused by intimate partners, the ways in which women and their histories and genealogies are silenced and erased, the ways in which non-quantifiable epistemologies are violently rejected, the ways in which the earth is violently abused, and so much more. The list goes on and on of how violence shows up in everyday life.

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On Starting Again and Reading “After You” by Jojo Moyes

“Only one person can give you a purpose” ~ (After You, Jojo Moyes, p.300)


Witpoortjie waterfall , Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens (Joburg, Sept 2015)

Witpoortjie Waterfall, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens (Joburg, Sept 2015)

On a long distance flight a few years ago, I started and finished “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes, a story about Louisa Clark, age 26, who takes a job as a carer for Will Traynor, age 35, who is a quadriplegic. Louisa has lived in the same town her whole life, has few friends, and she has done and experienced very little. Before his accident, Will lived a full life with work and friends and adventure and passion, and when Louisa meets him, he is an angry and difficult patient. They come from different worlds, but they help each other discover life. In particular, Will helps expand Louisa’s horizons. He introduces her to new experiences, widens her ambitions, and helps her to heal after traumatic events in her past. He teaches her to expect more of herself and of her life.

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