What I’ve been reading recently – a summer holiday reading list of sorts

Summer reading lists are often weighted heavily towards ‘improvement’. Things you think you ought to read.  Books you’ve never finished.  This year you have my permission to take the summer off.  If you’ve going to have more reading time than you normally do, pick out some books you want to read.  Enjoy that feeling of sinking into a book like it’s a cool swimming pool or a hot cup of coffee.

You know the sort of books you like, so fill your kindle or your suitcase or both.  Maybe add in a couple from genres you don’t normally read, or a book on writing to keep your writerly brain active.

This is not a prescriptive list, but it’s books that I’ve read over the last month or so that I would have been delighted to have read on holiday.

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Fiction:

THE PARROTS by Alexandra Shulman – A comfortable settled London family comes unravelled when an unsettling young pair of Italian siblings enter their lives.

A LITTLE LIFE by  Hanya Yanagihara – A searing but compelling prose poem on grief shaping people’s lives, grief for past hurts, grief for lives not lived, grief for the fleeting nature of happiness.  Longlisted for the Booker Prize and sure to be on the short list.  A long read but worth every moment.

ONLY EVER YOURS by Louise O’Neill – About as dark an extrapolation of the current obsession with looks as you can get.This book left me reeling. Should be compulsory reading for all teens.

THE MISTAKE I MADE by Paula O’Daly –   This is now an author whose work I look out for.  Fantastic. Author on top form with sharp re-work of the ‘would you sleep with someone for a million dollars’ question. Scary too – to think how we can all be just a few bad months away from financial desperation, which comes across really well in this excellent novel.

IN A DARK DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware  -I love the conjunction of toxic friendships and a mystery. A ‘read in one sitting’ book

THE GOOD NEIGHBOUR by Beth Miller – Another author whose work I am earmarking to read.  Dark and enjoyable – the ways a middle-class mother can play the system.

THE MISSING ONE by Lucy Atkins – Kali’s search for her mother’s history takes her to what feels like the end of the earth.

THE SILENT HOURS by Cesca Major – The story starts where another story ends, with an Italian woman rescuing a stranger’s child from the death camps during World War Two.  Moving exploration of how the past echoes through relationships.

GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee – particularly useful if you’re a writer working through drafts of your book – compare and contrast with how much better her writing was in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD but also see what you pick out from this first draft.  (review here – I’ve tried not to include spoilers but you may wish to read it after you’ve read the book.)

THE HUMANS by Matt Haig – is the flawed hero of this book a deluded human or an alien struggling to understand humans?  I’m not sure it matters as the lessons he learns are moving and real.

Non-fiction:

BLACKOUT by Sarah Hepola – Excellent articulate description of problem drinking – and how it fits in to our Women Can culture of wine-drinking empowerment.

ASKING FOR IT by Kate Harding –  Confused by ‘rape culture’? This book ensures you won’t be again. Hard hitting, quite depressing but the author refuses to be buried by the mountain of misogynist attitudes she mines, so oddly uplifting eventually.

DO NO HARM by Henry Marsh – An often irritable brain surgeon remembers his cases.  A curious blend of compassion and dispassion runs through his memoirs.

FURIOUSLY HAPPY by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) – sorry this won’t be out in time for the summer holidays but it’s worth waiting for – September.  For anyone who has struggled with mental health or knows anyone who has.

THE ART OF ASKING – Amanda Palmer – The new world of crowd-funding – falling back and trusting in strangers.

IN PLAIN SIGHT by Dan Davies – A much darker read – the definitive biography of Jimmy Saville.  How did he manage to fool so many of the people so much of the time.

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August 3, 2015

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