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Books

What Your Summer Book Says About You

From 'Normal People' to 'Just Kids': there's a stereotype for you!

by Lauren O'Neill
19 July 2019, 9:54am

All photos courtesy VICE staff. 

You, lying on your back in the park, attempting to spend some time alone – in the sun, having a wholesome read – but just getting itchy and agitated after 34 minutes and going inside.

You, on a beach holiday, the book you have well-meaningly brought along basically buried in the sand because you have instead spent the day intermittently sleeping on a sun lounger, afternoon-pissed and sunburned.

You, digging your book out on your sweltering bus commute, having resolved to Read More. You, falling over on a clammy Northern line train because you were using both hands to hold your copy of This Is Going to Hurt.

Ah yes, summer. In lots of ways, summer and reading go hand in hand – summer is the part of the year when British people 1) go outside and attempt to relax a bit, and 2) traditionally take their allotted one or two weeks off from capitalism known as a “holiday” (sounds fake), both of which make it prime time for cracking open a book, even if you wouldn’t normally.

This is a lovely phenomenon – reading is great, and we should all do it more. Sooo, yeah, obviously I am about to sully it by analysing your summer reading material of choice, and generalising about some of the embarrassing things your selection fundamentally says about you as a person.

NORMAL PEOPLE BY SALLY ROONEY

You vote Labour and you think the railways should be nationalised but you contain multitudes so you also do coke in Wetherspoons bathrooms two weekends a month. You own a pair of Veja trainers, which you wear with Topshop maxi dresses while you do purposefully middling-quality Instagrams of your friends in art galleries.

Normal People VICE Summer Reads

HARRY POTTER, AGAIN

You actually hate summer and you repeat this fact – which you view as an intrinsic quirk of your personality – to every fucker within earshot, despite claiming to be an introvert. So, you spend the months between May and September curled up in your Reading Nook (an alcove you put an armchair in), wearing the official Hogwarts House hoodie that cost you the equivalent of about a hundred quid at Universal Studios (“Hufflepuffs have more fun,” reads your Tinder bio). You refuse to take it off even as the sun streams through the window, and as you sweat profusely in your chair, you long for what you call ‘sweater weather,’ even though you’re from near Leeds, not the east coast of the United States.

SCAR TISSUE BY ANTHONY KIEDIS

You know how when you’re a kid, one of your interests comes to define you to your entire family for the rest of your life? In your case, once when you were about seven, your mum mentioned to an auntie that you’d started having guitar lessons at the weekend. Despite the facts that you are now 28, working in sales, and sold your guitar 12 years ago for Strongbow money, this auntie, and in fact all your aunties, still go hog wild for buying you music-themed Christmas and birthday gifts (a desktop drum set and a wall canvas of the Sex Pistols in front of a Union Jack lie limply and still-packaged in your mum’s loft).

Scar Tissue – the autobiography by Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis – is a HMV books section mainstay, which makes it the quintessential Strapped For Time Auntie Absolutely Phoning It In At the Closing Down Sale gift. You received it confusedly a few Christmases ago and it’s been lying on your shelf ever since, but you were at a party recently where someone inexplicably played “Californication” and you inexplicably remembered how much it bangs, so you gave Scar Tissue a chance. Not sure Auntie Pam realised quite how much heroin there was in it, mind you.

SAPIENS BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI

Anyone who ever picks this book up just gets consigned to a fate of riding back and forth on the Central line, reading it, Sisyphean, forever.

Books VICE Summer Reading

THE DANI DYER BOOK

You follow every single person who has ever set foot on the set of TOWIE on Instagram, and you have asked your boyfriend to take you to Sheesh Chigwell for your next anniversary. If he doesn’t you will quite simply lock yourself in your bedroom and change your Facebook relationship status to “It’s Complicated,” to a Greek chorus of comments reading “inbox me babe”; if he does you will listen to nothing he says for the entire night because you are too distracted looking out for former Love Island contestants to tap for selfies and tips on how to get cast for the next series.

BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT, BRILLIANT BRILLIANT BRILLIANT BY JOEL GOLBY

Either:

a) You are a 25-year-old man who lives in Zone 2 London, you own a collection of vintage football shirts, and you are becoming quite worried about how into coffee you’re getting (like, you’ve started looking up ‘blends’). You have the VICE app on your phone.

OR

b) Your name is Joel Golby and this is your 107th time reading your own book.

Joel Golby VICE Summer Reading

HOT MILK BY DEBORAH LEVY

You describe things that aren’t food as ‘delicious’ and you won’t stop posting pictures of like, oysters and sand on your Instagram even though you live in Camberwell.

JUST KIDS BY PATTI SMITH

“Maybe this one will be different,” you think to yourself as you swipe right on another skateboarder called ‘Jack.’ This could be it: that wild, crazy love you’ve always dreamed of; that special, passionate someone who inspires you and respects you as an artist and takes black and white nudes of you for his final project. You have a beautiful couple of months having mediocre intercourse on his floor mattress and letting him draw you, but inevitably, Jack dumps you with a text you end up using for a found poetry piece.

CHERNOBYL: HISTORY OF A TRAGEDY BY SERHII PLOKHY

Alright, listen, so you watched the Chernobyl TV show because your housemate had it on one night, but you actually got pretty into it, and were really surprised by how much the whole thing interested you – how this could have happened in recent history, the fragility and banal evil of humanity – so you picked up a book to take on holiday and learn a bit more, nothing major.

Now all your mates are just chilling on the beach, but you keep taking yourself off for walks and muttering “but the kids, man” under your breath. People are worried.

Books VICE Summer Reading

SOME ADVANCE COPY YOU PICKED UP OFF THE SHELF AT YOUR MEDIA JOB

You spend a good 20 minutes attempting to get the right picture for your Instagram or Twitter post, while also very self-consciously thinking about the fact that this is a complete waste of time. You need a simple background – a duvet cover or a wooden table will do, or, if you’ve had your nails done recently, you can hold the book in your hand. Either way, you angle it juuust right, so that the words “uncorrected proof” are visible on the spine, and your caption goes something like: “Thanks so much @publisher, what an affecting and special piece of work this is *sparkle emoji*.” Once you’ve posted it you go back to your real life, which is eating crisps in bed while you watch Dinner Date.

@hiyalauren