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Our favourites for the summer - reading list

The collections of Leiden University Libraries (UBL) not only hold academic material, but also many novels, collections of poetry, non-fiction works and even cookbooks. Is there still some space on your summer reading list? Take a look at the list below and borrow your book through the UBL.

Have you ever searched the UBL catalogue for a book to read for fun? It's definitely worth it. UBL has a large collection of English language literature that you can borrow for free. Many other collections also hold lots of interesting and fun fiction, non-fiction, biographies, poetry and even books on photography and cooking. In the list below, you can find our favourites for the summer of 2023, but there is much more to explore! Search the catalogue for your favourite author, title or topic and request your book. Have fun reading this summer!

Raoul de Jong, Jaguarman


Raoul de Jong grew up with his Dutch mother, but without his Surinamese father. "I didn't dream about my father, didn't cry for him, didn't miss him, but I did collect black and white photos of Indians in animal masks and feathers. Of African tribes. Of Polynesian men with flowers in their hair,” he writes in his acclaimed book Jaguarman. In a Volkskrant interview he later said about this: "In retrospect it is so clear, but I didn't connect it at all. I didn't even know there was rainforest in Suriname."

When he is 27 years old, he receives an email with the simple sentence: "I am looking for my son Raoul de Jong." Six months later, Raoul finally meets his father. During that meeting, his father tells him a story that sticks with him: one of his ancestors, a medicine man, was able to transform himself into a jaguar. This fact is the starting point of Raoul's search for his Surinamese roots. Like his contemporaries Karin Amatmoekrim, Tesha Leuwsha and Johan Fretz, Raoul explores Suriname, to encounter remnants of the colonial past and slavery, but also enchanting rituals and beauty. Suriname is a place where the beauty of nature, violent history and cultural diversity (partly as a result of colonialism and slavery) come together.

Alexander Kotov, Think like a Grandmaster


The number of books written about chess is truly astounding: about openings, middle games, and endgames, tactics, strategic thinking, and more. However, in 1970, when Think Like a Grandmaster by the Soviet-grandmaster Alexander Kotov was originally published, there was no book yet in which the methods are described by which great players reached their peak. This is precisely what Kotov does in his book. He describes games by big names such as Mikhail Botvinnik, Michael Tal, Vasily Smyslov, Tigran Petrosian, and many others, and illustrates how they studied chess theory and got to the bottom of the mysteries of chess. 

Naguib Mahfouz, Arabian Nights and Days


Arabian nights and days is a mesmerizing collection of tales that transports readers to a world of enchantment and wonder. Drawing from Arabian folklore and mythology, the stories are filled with magical genies, brave heroes, and captivating adventures. Each tale is beautifully crafted, weaving together elements of fantasy, romance, and morality. The rich cultural tapestry of the Arabian Nights is brought to life through vivid descriptions and evocative characters with its timeless themes of love, destiny, and the power of storytelling. If you have ever been curious about Arabian folklore but never had a chance to read the mutli-volume classics, this book is for you.

Peter Mayle, A year in Provence


This charming memoir offers a delightful glimpse into the joys and challenges of moving to a new country and immersing oneself in a new culture. Mayle's vivid descriptions of the fragrant lavender fields and local cuisine transport readers to the idyllic villages of Provence, making it the perfect summer read for students who have been plowing through academic texts all year. This light and fun book is a welcome escape into a world of warmth and simplicity, ideal for a summer afternoon lounging on the beach or in a park.

Olia Hercules, Summer kitchens : recipes and reminiscences from every corner of Ukraine


In the Ukrainian garden of Olia Hercules' parents, between the vegetable garden and lush fruit trees, stood an inconspicuous building: the summer kitchen. Here, all summer long, her family ate daily and large summer banquets were held for special occasions. This place, according to Hercules, who made her name as a chef at the London restaurant Ottolenghi's, is the central space in Ukrainian food culture. In her cookbook, for each dish - from nettle, sorrel and wild garlic soup and borscht with duck and smoked pear, to poppy seed cake with elderflower and strawberries - she talks about her experiences with these dishes in her youth and the significance of these dishes in Ukrainian culture . Not just a great collection of (vegetarian) recipes, but also an opportunity to learn about the rich food culture of 'the borderland'.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah


This novel was written by renowned Nigerian author Adichie. It follows Ifemelu, who moves from Nigeria to America and back to Nigeria, as she navigates the absurdities of both American and Nigerian life, from figuring out hair salons to deciphering race dynamics. Adichie's eloquent writing style will have you flipping through the pages while simultaneously contemplating the profound societal issues she addresses. With a perfect blend of comedy and social commentary, Americanah is a literary gem that promises to entertain, enlighten, and engage.

R.F. Kuang, The Poppy War


This thrilling fantasy novel is a masterclass in world-building and character development. Set in a universe where humans can harness the power of gods and mythical creatures, the story follows Rin, a young woman who rises to power and navigates a complex web of alliances and enemies. For those who grew up reading Harry Potter, this book will appeal to your sense of nostalgia as it is set in a Hogwarts-like universe for (young) adults. 

Boris Akunin, Koronacija


Boris Akunin (real name: Grigori Chkhartishvili) is a popular Georgian author who writes in Russian. He became known with a cycle of 16 historical detective novels around the fictional character Erast Fandorin, described by The Wall Street Journal as "a Slavic Sherlock Holmes who speaks Japanese and English, is skilled in martial arts, and has lady-killer good looks." Koronacija, means ‘coronation’ and refers to the coronation of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II in 1896. The infamous 'Khodynka Tragedy’, in which some 1200 people were crushed to death during the coronation festivities, plays a part in the book. Fandorin investigates the abduction of a young member of the imperial family, by a certain doctor Lind, who wants a precious stone from the imperial scepter as a ransom for the boy. This sounds as if Akunin leans rather heavily on past masters like Wilky Collins and Conan Doyle, and in a sense he does; the Fandorin books are both detective stories and parodies of detective stories; but that's no default, but part of their charm.

Koronacija is the only book by Akunin in the Leiden collection; it has been translated into English by Andrew Bromfield, and into Dutch by Arie van der Ent.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go


In an alternative England of the 90s, Kathy H. is a 'donor', caring for her donor compatriots. She looks back at her seemingly idyllic childhood at the Hailsham boarding school, but her story is unsettling from the first page as it gradually becomes clear what being a donor means. Bit by bit Ishiguro reveals the dystopian reality of his characters, their predetermined role in society, and the margins within which they are able to influence their own future.

Kader Abdolah, Het pad van de gele slippers


What do you do when a good friend asks you to rewrite his diaries as a biography? Kader Abdolah wrote Het pad van de gele slippers about the fascinating life of his real or fictional friend Sultan. In his characteristic poetic style, which takes the reader back to the Iran of his youth, Abdolah narrates a life marked by tradition, society, revolution and flight in a continuously changing Iran. Sultan spends much of his time in his younger years on the tower of his wealthy family's castle. When he gets hold of a pair of binoculars, he is grabbed by the lens. His career as a photographer and later a filmmaker brings him wealth and fame, but later also problems with the religious revolutionary regime. It is a beautiful history of Iran and a moving character study of an artist caught between tradition and modernity.

Contact us

Is a book missing from this list, do you want the UBL to purchase a book that is not yet in the collections, or do you really want to share that one title on your summer reading list with us? Send us a message via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or contact us via via Ask a librarian.

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