As everyone stocks up their eReaders in preparation for the rare opportunity to lie on a beach (or a sofa) somewhere and read all day, I thought I’d draw up a list of ten books I’ve read recently that I can heartily recommend. I’ve reviewed some of these on the Hub already, so please excuse the repetition:
1. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
The literary snob in me was put off by the fact that this book is by the same author who wrote The Jane Austen Book Club (despite my Jane Austen spin-off addiction) but the Booker longlisting inspired me to give it a go and I’m so glad I did. This book is my top recommendation. I haven’t reviewed it yet and I’m not sure that I can without giving away the startling concept at its heart—it is one of those books that are best read without knowing too much about it. So all I can say is that it’s not a perfect book but it is a powerful book and an important book…read it!
2. The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton
This novel is apparently the fastest-selling debut novel since Fifty Shades of Grey but it’s a lot less embarrassing to read on the train. It is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, with a little magic thrown in. I’m going to Amsterdam next week and looking forward to seeing the inspiration for this novel, Petronella Oortman’s Dolls’ House, in the Rijksmuseum.
3. All The Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld
For those who enjoy beautiful prose, Evie Wyld combines elegantly crafted sentences and images with a tightly plotted, darkly compelling story.
4. Meatspace – Nikesh Shukla
This is a quick read that pokes fun at contemporary living. If you spend too much time on Twitter and not enough time with real people and particularly if you are a writer, this one’s for you.
5. Books – Charlie Hill
A satirical look at the book industry with a great concept at its heart - murder by means of mediocre prose.
6. A Song for Issy Bradley – Carys Bray
An incredibly moving and compelling portrait of a family struggling to deal with the sudden death of Issy Bradley, the youngest member of the family, and to reconcile her death with their Mormon faith.
7. Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer
Not a light-hearted read but a nuanced, sensitively rendered and moving picture of mental illness.
8. The Girl with all the Gifts – MR Carey
So much more than a Zombie book – this is a powerful, moving and memorable story…with zombies.
9. Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
This is a slow-burning, evocative and thoroughly researched piece of historical fiction inspired by the last woman in Iceland to be executed in 1829. This book has also fuelled my desire to have a holiday in Iceland sometime - the Iceland Writers Retreat looks particularly amazing.
10. Alarm Girl – Hannah Vincent
Reviewed on the Hub today, this is a rather dark coming-of-age novel set in South Africa.
In addition, here are ten books that I haven’t read yet but that are at the top of my ‘to-read’ list for the summer (or as soon as they are published):
1. Mrs Hemingway - Naomi Woods
This historical novel about Ernest Hemingway’s wives sounds fascinating.
2. Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey
I don’t know too much about this one other than that it is about a woman with dementia attempting to solve a mystery, ‘How do you solve a mystery when you can’t remember the clues?’ - an intriguing and potentially heartbreaking concept.
3. The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell
Really looking forward to this though must confess I haven’t bothered to read his Twitter story—too much like hard work and seems to defeat the object of Twitter anyway.
4. The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters
You can’t go wrong with Sarah Waters.
5. Us - David Nicholls
I’ve always been a fan and I was very interested to see this more ‘commercial’ writer on the Booker longlist.
6. Sisters of Treason - Elizabeth Fremantle
For fans of historical fiction, if you haven’t discovered Elizabeth Fremantle yet do read her first novel, Queen’s Gambit, about Henry VIII’s last wife Katherine Parr. I’m looking forward to this next installment—about the sisters of Lady Jane Grey.
7. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
I have never particularly enjoyed stream of consciousness writing (with exception of Virginia Woolf’s exemplary To the Lighthouse) but this book comes so highly recommended by so many people I respect, that I will persevere past the bewildering opening paragraphs. (Though the first time I opened the book it drove me straight into the arms of Jilly Cooper.)
8. Orfeo – Richard Powers
This one is also on the Booker longlist. I was introduced to Richard Powers’ book Ploughing the Dark in a 21st Century Fiction class and after battling though the first bit I absolutely loved it. Powers has a reputation for being a bit cold and conceptual but I’m not sure what’s so awful about that - sounds a bit like my Dad. I’ll definitely be looking this one up.
9. Northanger Abbey - Val McDermid
I am incapable of resisting anything Jane Austen related (which has resulted in me reading some truly awful books – Austenland anyone?) and I’m interested to see what Val McDermid has made of this story.
10. Gospel of Loki - Joanne Harris
Thought it’s been a while since I read one of her books I feel like I’ve gotten to know this author a lot better through her wonderful and rather crotchety presence on Twitter. I’m looking forward to this retelling of the myth of Loki—especially now I can picture him as Tom Hiddleston.
Please add your summer reading recommendations in the comments below.