Summer reads for 2017

Brilliant books for the beach

From crime fiction to comedy, via literary fiction and sporting tomes, here’s a reading list, featuring novels and non-fiction, to help you while away a few hours in the sun this summer…

Best for crime

The Force, by Don Winslow
US author Don Winslow’s previous novel, The Cartel, was a sensational and seriously disturbing account of the War on Drugs. His latest hefty effort is a crime thriller set in modern day New York about a corrupt cop who gets in over his head. A high-octane and very bloody page-turner – fans of crime fiction will lap it up.

Also try…  In case you’re getting too comfy by the pool, try The Intrusions, the latest unsettling instalment of the Carrigan and Miller series from crime writer (and Spectator Life columnist) Stav Sherez. This is a terrifying London-set murder mystery that revolves around online stalking and other forms of cybercrime – here’s Sherez on the very real dangers posed by our webcams.

Best for sport

A Natural, by Ross Raisin
Ross Raisin’s debut novel, God’s Own Country, has been made into a film, which will be released in the UK later this year. In the meantime, try his latest book about a lower league footballer struggling to come to terms with his sexuality.

Also try…  CE Morgan’s sprawling, The Sport of Kings, is a grand, Pulitzer-nominated American novel in which horse racing features prominently. For non-fiction, pick up Forever Young, Oliver Kay’s moving biography of Adrian Doherty, a prodigiously talented Manchester United player whose career and life were cut tragically short.

Best for literary fiction

Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
A writer named Mike Chabon pieces together the story of his dying grandfather’s extraordinary life, weaving together tales of World War II, the moon landing, alligator hunting, a burning tree and much, much more. It’s often hilarious and genuinely moving, and it’s up there with Chabon’s acknowledged masterpiece, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson
For those who love a short, sharp novel, it’s seems a timely moment to pick up this masterwork by Denis Johnson, who died in May. Johnson is perhaps best known for his short story collection, Jesus’ Son, which is also well-worth a read. But Train Dreams, which tells the story of an itinerant labourer trying to come to terms with the death of his wife and child while America changes around him, is the one to start with. It is full of flights of fancy, rough comedy and beautifully observed human moments – and succinct enough to read in one sun lounger session.

Also try…  See if the hype surrounding Emma Cline’s debut, The Girls, is deserved or try The Nix, an enjoyable, if baggy, novel from another US debutant Nathan Hill. Adam Haslett’s stunning family drama Imagine Me Gone is another one to catch up with.

Best for historical fiction

Days Without End, by Sebastian Barry
Barry won the prestigious Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for this story of an Irish immigrant’s epic journey through the US fighting in the American Indian Wars and the American Civil War. The judges said it ‘seamlessly interweaved period research; and above all for the unfaltering power and authenticity of the narrative voice, a voice no reader is likely to forget.’ Barry also won the Costa Novel of the Year award for the book.

Also try… Francis Spufford’s Golden Hill was another recipient of a 2016 Costa award. It won the Best Debut Novel prize and was also nominated for the Walter Scott Prize – the book tells the story of the arrival and adventures of a mysterious young Englishman in 18th century New York.

Best for foodies

The Angry Chef, by Anthony Warner 
This furious riposte to annoying nutritionists, dodgy dieticians and Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect for those who have absolutely no interest in ‘detoxing’ or getting themselves ‘beach body’ ready.

Also try… As recommended by Henry Jeffreys in Spectator Life, The Plagarist in the Kitchen, by Jonathan Meades. is witty, forthright and full of excellent recipes. A welcome companion for self-catering holidays, for sure. Jeffreys’ own Empire of Booze, a squiffy history of British drinking, also comes highly recommended.

Best for lounging by the pool

Greatest Hits, by Laura Barnett
Barnett’s follow up to the mega-selling, The Versions of Us, is a double-treat for those that love to read and relax while lounging by the pool or on the beach. Each chapter of this book, about a musician in her 60s looking back on her life and career, begins with lyrics from an album by the protagonist – an album that Barnett has created with singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, meaning Greatest Hits can not only be your holiday read, but also the soundtrack of your summer.

Also try… Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris is a typically hilarious first volume of diaries from the brilliant American humourist, or as The Spectator review describes him, ‘the doyen of deadpan drollery’.


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