Summer Reads 2016

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As has been the fashion over the last few years I throw up a bunch of titles I think you might like to bring away to whatever Spanish resort, Galway gaff, Tuscan villa or Tibetan monastery you’re heading to for your holiday 🙂

They vary wildly in tone, genre and even when they were released but they all come with a personal stamp of “well worth your time”. The only criteria I’ve used is that I must have read them this year.


Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave 

Set in World War II the story of Mary North who starts the story skiing down the side of a mountain (almost James Bond-like!) to enrol in the war effort the day hostilities break out. The characters he populates this world with are real, human and, above all, illustrate just how cruel, random and arbitrary war is when it comes to giving and taking away. That takes guts. Hugely worth your time, a gorgeous, real story that both makes you read late into the night and illuminates some of the lesser known (for me anyway) corners of the war with skill, craft and bravery on the part of Cleave himself. Comes highly recommended.

Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent

Did you like Unravelling Oliver? This is better. As much as I adored and pressed the first book into the hands of many in the months after I read it, Lying In Wait is a completely different beast. As I finished the last page I actually stood up and gave a round of applause to my empty sitting room. Simply the best Irish thriller this year by miles. Crafted, elegant, full of evil and human consequences. Buy it.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

Split between pre-Civil War Spain and the UK in the 1960s, the stories of an English artist struggling to work and have her work seen and a writer from the West Indies making her way in Swinging London interconnected by a single painting. Her second novel after the sensation that was The Miniaturist and a worthy successor.

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers 

Adored it. Read it while on holidays in March and flew through what is a fun, smart space opera that would remind you of Firefly in tone. The sequel is out this year, can’t wait.

Vertigo by Joanna Walsh

You know every now and then you get hypnotised by a writer’s style or a series of short stories? For me, Vertigo brings both of those to the table. It’s less a series of disconnected stories and more almost a continuous stream of vignettes from the internal narrative of what could easily be the same woman in different countries, situations, parts of what seem to be the same life. Vertigo is a little thing of hidden beauty, you should seek it out.

Knights Of The Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

One for your kids or you if you still feel like one 🙂 A centuries old war between warriors, monsters, dimensions and worlds with genuinely gorgeous sweeps of words and sentence-stopping language to gape at and re-read. The world of flashy new series-based YA is very, very crowded waters at the moment – Knights Of The Borrowed Dark is a great big vicious shark that leaps out of the water at you.

The Last Days Of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

Top supernatural horror thriller with a lead who is a cross between Piers Morgan, Louis Theroux and Richard Dawkins in a remake of The Exorcist for the social media age with a touch of “directed by Christopher Nolan” thrown in. Should be lying on sun loungers everywhere this summer and flying off shelves when it comes out. But not in the poltergeist way. Don’t be silly. There’s no such thing as the supernatural…

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A beautiful human story set in WWII full of extraordinary sweeps of language (there are many single lines that deserve to be mounted and framed!) and a story of compassion, love, family and how telling you the stories of individuals on both sides of a conflict is far more illuminating than any broad history ever can be. After my wife had finished it she said she thought it may have “ruined other books” for her.

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

Beatlebone is the most fantastic work of whatiffery – John Lennon comes to Ireland in 1978 to try to escape from crushing fame, the expectation of the world and, conversely, the domesticity of New York fatherhood by trying to get to an island he bought and let lapse into abandonment off the west coast in the late 60s. His foil, driver, spirit guide, aide-de-camp and the one tasked with both getting him there and hiding him from the pursuing press is local man Cornelius O’Grady.

Kevin Barry is, pretty much, the most nakedly talented writer Ireland has today. Long may that continue.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Written very much with mainstream audiences and non-scientists in mind he charts the entire course of the human race since, how we ended up with agriculture, capitalism, religion, consumerism and science and where we might be headed in centuries to come. I can’t tell you the number of pages I have turned down in my copy and the number of times I stopped dead in my tracks while reading to appreciate just how a part of my perception of the history, present and future of the human race had changed at that exact moment. All in all Sapiens if probably the best non-fiction book I’ve read in years and years.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Giant Japanese cop thriller anyone? A seven-year-old girl disappears in 1989 never to be seen again, in 2002 a press officer finds an anomaly that leads back into the case and threatens to unravel far more that just one kidnapping. Very precise, gorgeously told, never ever boring, I ate this up on my week away in March. You should too.

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

Our Souls At Night was handed to me by one of the (male btw!) producers in the office with a high recommendation. It’s the late Kent Haruf’s intimate, tender story of an older man and an older woman living in the same small town who, one day, seek out comfort together. It’s exquisite.

Nothing On Earth by Conor O’Callaghan

A total curveball, Conor O’Callaghan’s book is extraordinary. Even a couple of months after finishing it I’m nor exactly sure what happened. Is it a story of post-ghost estate Ireland? An actual ghost story? Are some of the things we witness supernatural or psychological? Can we believe anything we’ve been told? How reliable is our narrator? Very, very impressive stuff – one I think deserves a far, far wider audience that it has had so far.

Don’t forget for constant bookery-pokery you can click here to join up to my FB book club – this month we’re reading these…