The hardest part of figuring out what to recommend in a “Summer Reads” list is usually not what to actually include (although this list could have been double the size), but what actually is one? Thankfully I’m in no way qualified to try and define that so I’m taking my usual easy way out and simply giving you ten books that I think you might enjoy whether you’re going away or staying at home…
David Graeber – Bullshit Jobs – A Theory
Ever felt as if your job has no meaning, brings no value in to the world and, ultimately, if it disappeared in the morning the human race would be none the poorer for it? Apparently 37% of people in the U.K. do. This book is about them, what they suffer for being in jobs like that, the percentage of all of our jobs that’s increasingly becoming bullshit, and where in the history of work is all came to pass. An eye-opener.
Anthony Horowitz – Forever And A Day
Anthony Horowitz writes Bond in the style of Fleming set immediately before he gets his licence to kill in the early 50s (in fact just before Casino Royale). If that sounds like your sort of thing then this just rattles along the Cote d’Azur in exactly the way you’d think (with a few nods to modern sensibilities, of course). Total brain candy in the best possible fashion.
Michael Chabon – Pops: Fatherhood In Pieces
A gorgeous, short collection of his non-fiction all about fathers and children. Everything from teaching your kid not to be a d**k to girls through having to explain the use of racial language while reading Huckleberry Finn, his conflicted feeling on baseball and appreciating his daughter’s weirdness. Worth your time even if only for the brilliant essay that starts it about bringing his son to Fashion Week in Paris.
Maja Lunde – The History Of Bees
Three fictional stories, three continents, three centuries (past, present and future) ostensibly about man’s relationship with the stewardship of bees, but really all about where we’re going, how important they are and what could happen if colony collapse disorder comes to pass. That might make it sound a bit dry but she writes beautiful characters and keeps all the plates spinning nicely. Loved it.
Kit De Waal – The Trick To Time
The book many people I know have been referring to as their favourite of the year and, in my eyes, better than her first standout My Name Is Leon. At 60, Mona loves running her shop in a British seaside town, but her life from the time she came over to Birmingham from Wexford as a young woman casts a long shadow. Just heartbreaking, genuinely.
Caoilinn Hughes – Orchid And The Wasp
One of the most beautifully written novels of the year with one of the most memorable central characters. She starts in 2008 with rich parents just before the crash and then makes her own way in the world after everything crashed and her family fractures from Dublin to London to the barriers of the Occupy movement in New York. Even then I’m doing it no justice. Read it.
James Smythe – I Still Dream
Like Black Mirror? Then this will be the Summer read for you. At 17 and in the era of dial-up Laura is developing a primitive artificial intelligence. The book takes us forward in jumps all the way to to a near-future when corporations have developed ones that are less scrupulous than hers. All about family, empty holes in life, memory and where we’re all going.
Jade Sharma – Problems
A scathingly honest (and sexually frank, be forewarned!) story of addiction, spiralling descent and the fantastically honest modern life of one woman and where her job, affairs and habit are going.
John Connell – The Cow Book
This has been the surprise hit of the year so far for many, but not for me. John grew up on a rural Irish farm, went to Australia and Canada to make his way in other worlds and finds himself back home for the bones of a year helping out his father on the land. Non-fiction but a gripping story all the same.
Tom Rachman – The Italian Teacher
This is harder to find but worth seeking out – a novel about a globally famous overbearing father and how that affects the life of his son set against the backdrop of mid-20th century modern art. A beautiful little gem.
You’ll find my regular rattling about what I’m reading (along with the book thoughts of 17,000 others!) in The Rick O’Shea Book Club, on my Instagram and as part of Sinead And Rick’s Must Reads for Eason.
I’m writing from Australia. I heard on the ABC radio this morning an interview with you about your book club.
I missed an important bit about a new book concerning a young Jewish girl in Germany during the war and how she becomes a spy. Could you please send me the book title together with the author’s name.
I don’t have or know how to do instagram, facebook, etc. I’m an old coot who’s just managed to use email. So please forgive my ignorance. I’m afraid the new techno era has quickly brushed me aside. Give me the early sixties with the Beatles, Stones, Elvis, etc, any day.
Hey Tom, that’s Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen 😉