Passport. Tickets. Money. Books
Published 19/05/2013 | 05:00
The holiday books our top authors are packing this summer
The mercury is rising slowly and the holiday time has been booked, and you know what that means – the book market is about to enter its bumper summer season. Who better to ask about great summer reads than those truly in the know?
We asked some top Irish authors what titles they'll be packing this summer and what hot new reads they would happily recommend to a friend.
From thrillers to high-brow fiction, they've come up with a reading list that will easily see you from airport to sun-lounger.
I had the great pleasure of being in a Michael Harding play once upon a time, and both man and writing are superb, so I am really looking forward to his memoir 'Staring At Lakes'. He has a poetic outlook on life and writes in a beautifully lyrical way with, of course, a quirky spin on the everyday.
I love detective stories, so I am always delighted with a new Ken Bruen. I like his spare and smart-ass style. 'Headstone' features Jack Taylor and is set in Galway, where I'm from, so that gives it a little extra frisson for me.
I will also be checking out a new author, Claire McGowan, whose novel 'The Lost' has garnered great praise; it features an Irish forensic psychologist on the hunt for a killer. Sarah Webb's follow-up to 'The Shoestring Club' is bound to be a good read, so I'll be tucking into that with glee. It's called 'The Memory Box'.
Finally, Gareth Edwards, a comedy producer at the BBC, has written a great children's book called 'The Disgusting Sandwich', which is also brilliantly illustrated. He is a very funny man and his books appeal to children of all ages – including me.
'Jenny Q, Unravelled!' by Pauline McLynn is published by Puffin on June 6
Rachel Kushner's 'The Flame Throwers', which is published in early June in Ireland, is a thrilling and ambitious American novel. It is about landscape and art, motorbikes and politics and sex. It is written with real energy and precision.
Also, Patrick McGrath remains one of the finest prose writers in English. He can turn a sentence and handle a plot like no one else. His book 'Constance' is another example of his skill at dealing with character and madness.
I recommend 'Great Deeds in Ireland: Richard Stanihurst's De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis', edited by John Barry and Hiram Morgan. First published in 1584, this is Ireland's history from the point of view of a Norman writer and adventurer, which opens with the Anglo-Norman conquest, since Stanihurst regarded everything that happened before that as irrelevant.
A great romp, bombastic, mendacious and fascinating.
Michael Pollan is one of the finest writers on food and the food industry, and in his fascinating book 'The Botany Of Desire' he demonstrates how nature seduces us into supporting and furthering the ongoing evolutionary process. A marvellous read.
William H Gass, one of America's finest prose writers, is now in his mid-80s, but the novel 'Middle C', a theme and variations on an emblematic 20th-century life, shows no faltering in his master's voice.
I'll be reading Justin Cronin's 'The Twelve', a follow-up to an earlier title, 'The Passage' – dystopian vampire fiction in the vein of Stephen King's 'The Stand', which is one of my all-time favourite books. The story basically tears the world apart and sets monsters – many of them human – loose in it.
Another brilliant story concerning monsters of a different kind is Jodi Picoult's 'The Storyteller', a graphic and moving fictional account of the Holocaust, written in the author's trademark evocative style.
And no holiday suitcase would be complete without a brilliant novel from one of my all-time favourite authors and writing hero, Patricia Scanlan. 'With All My Love' is another reliably wonderful tale of family ties and relationship ups and downs.
Melissa Hill's latest book 'Hidden', written under the pseudonym Casey Hill, is out now
Karin Slaughter is one of my favourite authors and I look forward to her new novel every summer. 'Unseen' is the latest instalment in the Will Trent series.
Andrew Kaufman's previous novel, 'The Tiny Wife', is a favourite of mine and I can't wait for his new release, 'Born Weird'.
And Susan Cain's 'Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking' is about the people who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion. It's refreshing to celebrate and see value in people who dislike self-promotion in this day and age. I'm hoping it will make me feel normal.
I've been dying to get my paws on a copy of 'Lean In' by the mighty powerhouse that is Sheryl Sandberg.
When I first saw all the reviews, I thought, 'This is the kind of woman who probably could have given Margaret Thatcher a course in assertiveness'.
But when you find out more about Sandberg's life, you think, fair play to any woman who can climb to the dizzy heights she's scaled in the notoriously male-dominated Silicon Valley.
I always love to support Irish authors if possible and Kate Kerrigan is one of our very best. 'Land Of Dreams' is the third part in a trilogy about Ellie Hogan, whose idyllic and bohemian family lifestyle on Fire Island is shattered when her eldest son, Leo, runs away to Hollywood to seek his fame and fortune.
Ellie chases after him and fashions a new home among the celebrities, artists and movie moguls of the day to appease Leo's star-studded dreams.
But she sees beyond the glitz of 1940s Hollywood, realising that the glamorous and exciting world is also a dangerous place overflowing with vanity and greed.
Not for nothing is Kate Kerrigan a 'New York Times' bestseller, so this one is a must-read for me.
A new book by Melissa Hill is always a treat and she's fast becoming one of those authors I'd happily queue up in the snow for, to get my hands on a copy of her new one.
And 'The Guest List' sounds intriguing; it's about a bride-to-be whose excitement over her wedding quickly fades when it seems that everyone has a fixed idea of the perfect wedding and offers to 'help' with the planning.
Threats are made, family secrets are revealed, and things inevitably turn stormy.
I've just bought 'The Infatuations', the new novel by the Spanish writer Javier Marias. I loved one of his previous books, 'Tomorrow In The Battle Think On Me', which not only has a beautiful title but also a stunning opening scene, with the narrator waking to find his lover dead in his arms.
I will save Kate Atkinson's 'Life After Life', for my holidays, because I can be almost certain that I will enjoy it. I love the idea for the plot, which traces the different courses a life might have taken, and Atkinson has a wonderful ability to combine light and shade.
I'll be reading 'Red Sky In Morning' by the former 'Sunday Tribune' journalist Paul Lynch.
Naturally, I'll also be reading 'Going Back', the debut novel by my former RTÉ colleague Rachael English.
Summer always brings a flurry of new and exciting titles. I am still not an e-reader convert and enjoy visiting my local bookshops for ideas. My failsafe authors all have books on the horizon and, as usual, I can't wait to get my hands on them.
Among others I'm looking forward to reading are 'Wedding Night' by Sophie Kinsella, 'The Guest List' by Melissa Hill, 'The Compromise' by Zoe Miller and 'Things We Never Say' by Sheila O'Flanagan, to name but a few. Fingers crossed that the sun will shine.
I've chosen three as-yet unpublished books, although all three should be on the shelves by the time I get my holidays. I loved Curtis Sittenfeld's previous books, especially her debut 'Prep', so I'm really looking forward to 'Sisterland'. It's a story about identical twin sisters and what happens when one of them has a troubling premonition.
Books rarely make me cry, but I did shed a few sneaky tears during 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' by Rachel Joyce. I also enjoyed her simple yet beautiful use of language. I'll be fascinated to see if she can conjure up a character as empathetic as Harold in her next book, 'Perfect'.
An Irish debut that sounds intriguing is 'The Story of Before' by Susan Stairs. It's described as a portrait of children struggling to understand the adult world, with dangerous and unsettling consequences.
I'm looking forward to reading Barbara Kingsolver's 'Flight Behaviour'. It's had mixed reviews; some say it's a little bit preachy – it's about climate change – but Himself has read it and says it's great.
She's an ambitious, visionary writer and 'The Poisonwood Bible' is one of my favourite books ever, so my hopes are high.
I've already read Kate Atkinson's 'Life After Life' but it's written with such wit and elegance, and the narrative structure is so dazzlingly daring – the heroine parts company with herself many times in the novel and lives parallel lives – that I have to read it again.
Also, it's always an event when a new John le Carré comes out. He's often described as a thriller writer, but his focus on the erosion of human rights since 9/11 makes his books bleaker and more journalistic than your average thriller.
I've read the first chapter of 'A Delicate Truth' online and I'm dying to read the rest.
'The Mystery of Mercy Close' by Marian Keyes is out now
David Sedaris cracks me up every time, so I'm looking forward to reading 'Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls'. He's intelligent, hilarious and so, so bold.
I could create an email alert to tell me when he has a new book coming out, but I won't, because it is that exciting – I need to cry out and fall to my knees in a book store. The gap between knowing a new one exists and having it in my paws must be minimal.
I'll also be reading Lauren Beukes's 'The Shining Girls', about a violent drifter who stalks 'shining girls' through the decades. A time-travelling serial killer: you got me. Sounds like wonderful, dark madness.
In 'Graveland', the brilliant Alan Glynn has brought together the ultimate blend of characters, settings and themes to make a blockbuster thriller.
A Wall Street investment banker shot dead in Central Park; a top hedge-fund manager gunned down outside a fancy Upper West Side restaurant; a possible terrorist attack; an investigative journalist; a national media storm...
I'm a huge fan of Alan's.
I'm looking forward to reading some of the rake of Irish debuts which will appear this year, including 'Ghost Moth' by Michele Forbes, a family story set in 1960s Belfast, and Eimear McBride's 'A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing'.
McBride has been compared to Henry Green, so I'm interested to read her novel.
Also, I'll be catching up with Stephen Grosz's account of his years as a psychoanalyst in 'The Examined Life', and I really want to get my hands on the Costa-winning graphic novel 'Dotter of her Father's Eyes' by Mary and Bryan Talbot, which is a story of daughters, focusing partly on Lucia Joyce.
As for recommendations, my book of the year so far is James Salter's 'All That Is', a devastatingly wise and graceful portrait of a life as it is lived in New York in the second half of the 20th century.