Summer reads to get the creative juices flowing
From a peace activist whose novel was confiscated by soldiers to an author hungry for the wacky, Jennifer Ryan goes in search of the books being packed with the sun lotion this year
Published 01/08/2010 | 05:00
Before the September publication of her novel Homecoming, Cathy will be making time to relax over the holidays. And it's fiction she turns to when in need of some downtime.
"This summer I'll be reading the latest Henning Mankell, The Man From Beijing. I'm a huge fan of the Swedish crime writer, and this is a stand-alone novel about how a hundred-year-story of revenge ends up in mass murder in a small Swedish hamlet.
"I've also been given a proof copy of US writer Anna Quindlen's new novel, Every Last One, and can't wait to read it. She's huge in the US and should be huge here. Her novels are works of brilliance."
Fiachra O Luain
Fiachra had been reading Sandy Tolan's The Lemon Tree when Israeli commandos stormed the Challenger 1 ship he was travelling on and took all his belongings. "I'm angry about a lot of things following the assault on the flotilla -- but having my book stolen before I could finish it really pisses me off."
Since he got back to Ireland, O Luain has sought to read more of Mankell's work.
"I was on look-out the morning before the flotilla raid and spent a couple of hours speaking with Mankell as the sun came up. It's always a bit embarrassing when you meet a writer who you haven't read, so I must catch up with his work before the next flotilla," he says.
Fiachra is also enthused by the work of Lebanese-Irishman Sami Moukaddem. "I am looking forward to his second book, Tear in the Other."
This holiday weekend, Bob (of The Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar) is determined to finally sit down with the IMPAC winner, The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker. "Customers have been telling me it's a great read and I'm a bit embarrassed that I haven't got to it yet."
He also plans to finish Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, "a superb teen novel that reminds me of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy in terms of its imagination and scope". And, ever the online social networker, Twitterville by Shel Israel will be Bob's business read of the summer.
"Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, it's one of my favourite books ever ... and I really want to read the Narnia chronicles again. I try to read them every three or four years, 'cos they're just so good." Also on her reading list for this summer is "everything by Stephen Fry!".
A jam-packed schedule means Orla, like the majority of us, has to curtail her reading. "I tend to read when I am on holiday or while travelling." Although she did get a chance to enjoy The Time Traveller's Wife recently, "a poignant love story told in a magical way".
When it comes to old favourites Orla is definite about her choice. "I would like to go back and read F Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned again. He's a great writer, descriptive, and his characters always come to life and stay with you long after you've finished reading the book."
American author Greg hopes to read Aleksandar Hemon's Love and Obstacles this bank holiday. He's a fan of Hemon's style and likens it to his own, "wacky, absurd and full of heart".
Two books he read recently and can't recommend enough are from the Penguin Central European Classics collection; "the editor must be my soul mate or something". The first, Life is a Dream, is a short story collection by Hungarian Gyula Krudy, the second is Czech author Karel Capek's The War with the Newts. "Those guys, they're like the Becketts and Joyces of Central Europe."
The author of Skullduggery Pleasant, the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book of the Decade, attempts to convince me that there's no such thing as a quick summer read. "I'm an author, I don't go on holidays!" quips Derek.
He does however admit to "falling under the spell" of Stieg Larsson's ridiculously popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. He's also a fan of Jo Lansdale's Mucho Mojo, a "hysterically funny crime/ mystery type read".
Keen to support our own, Derek sings the praises of author Alex Barclay. "She is really, really funny and I think she's found her character in Ren Bryce," he says having just read an advance proof of her upcoming novel, Time of Death.
Taking its place beside her sunglasses in a Connemara-bound suitcase this weekend is Jonathan Littell's 900-plus page The Kindly Ones. Originally published in French, it was passed on by a French tutor and Fiona is looking forward to getting stuck in.
Having just started Wolf Hall, she plans to restart it over the holidays for "a proper read instead of three or four pages before I fall asleep at night".
Fine Gael TD
On the more serious side, the deputy hails as "a superb book", In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mack. "I loved how he used diaries and snippets of true-life accounts to depict events of the 20th Century."
Two more he intends to read this summer are Leonard Cohen's Book of Longing, ("I'm actually heading to his concert this weekend!") and Hugo Hamilton's Hand in the Fire. That's just as soon as he's finished Guernica by Dave Boling. "It said on the sleeve it was a mix of Captain Correlli's Mandolin and The English Patient so I reckoned there was plenty of scope for a good tale there."
The possible presidential candidate wastes no time in telling me all about New York Times bestseller Reunion in Death by Nora Roberts, writing as JD Robb.
"It's all about this woman who cosies up to middle-aged men and then poisons them with cyanide. There's even an Irish hunk, Mr Rourke, I don't think he'll die though -- he's too good in bed."
On a more serious note he loved Chalkline, by Jane Mitchell, winner of the Bisto Children's Choice Award. He found this crossover book "profound and moving" in its depiction of the sadly commonplace lives of child soldiers. "It dramatically opens with a young boy commandeering his peers with icy control and a rifle."
Crystal Swing singer
Mary Burke made time for Peter Andre's My World in Pictures and Words. "He seems like a lovely fella -- and very attractive." Next up on the shelf is Amanda Brunker's latest, Champagne Secrets. "We sang at her book launch in the Grafton Lounge. She's an absolutely lovely, beautiful girl."
In the lead up to Electric Picnic, Avril (the creative director of the Body & Soul stage at the festival) is grabbing any downtime she can.
To get the creative juices flowing, she's been dipping into Annie Liebovitz's At Work. "She is one of the most poignant female photographers of our time. Each portrait tells a story in a very direct and personal way."
She also keeps The Prophet by Khalil Gibran on hand. "It's always beside my bed, a great book to pick up every now and then -- 26 poetic essays that never cease to amaze." And in prep for a veggie-tastic festival? "Plenty, a new cookbook from Ottolenghi in Islington, one of my favourite London restaurants. Simply amazing veg dishes."
"I don't normally read much, but I'm after finding an amazing book. The Peregrine by JA Baker is a recent re-issue of this classic of natural history writing.
"His description of the landscape, sky and birds that fly in it are poetic, precise and utterly compelling. It's the perfect antidote to life in the city if you can't get away this summer and an ideal companion for those planning their escape."
Read Jennifer Ryan's blog at www.theladylovesbooks.com