Monday 23 April 2018

What the experts are reading on their summer holidays

Struggling with which books to pack for the holidays? Our reporter asked a range of authors to list their picks from towering to-read piles

Our experts have identified the must-read books
Our experts have identified the must-read books
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Tana French
Louise McSharry
Louise McSharry
Donal Ryan
Liz Nugent
The Girls by Emma Cline
Emma Cline
The Thing About December by Donal Ryan
Summer reading

Claire Coughlan

Whether you're vacationing, stay-cationing or simply staying put, a book (or two, or three) is a must-pack item. The Girls, by Emma Cline, seems to be a popular choice among our writers. The literary page-turner, which is one of the most talked-about debuts in years, is set among the Manson cult in California in the early 1970s. Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent is another oft-mentioned title - it's the second novel from the Irish author who burst onto the psychological thriller scene with her debut, Unravelling Oliver, a couple of years back. And whether it's literary fiction, thrillers, short stories, essays, memoir or children's and young adult fiction you're into, we have something to suit all tastes.

Conor O'Callaghan

I'm in Venice for a month. I'm taking Emma Cline's The Girls (Chatto & Windus, €16.99), a literary thriller set around the Manson family in California in the early 1970s. Story, setting and what one reviewer calls Cline's "weightless prose" puts it top of the pile. Jane Rogers's Conrad & Eleanor (Atlantic, €16.99), her first since Booker long-listed The Testament of Jessie Lamb (Canongate, €11.75): this new one is an anatomy of long-term marriage that feels as delicate as it is unforgiving. What else? The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray, €19.50), a modern Gothic set on Lancashire's eerie coast. Beatlebone by Kevin Barry (Canongate, €11.99): read once already, but so smart and funny I want to read it twice. Dirt Road by James Kelman (Canongate, €22.50): arguably the greatest living novelist, casting his Scots vernacular into the Deep South. And finally, since it's Venice, I'll reread Henry James's The Aspern Papers (Penguin Classics, €9.25): a fable of scholarly misadventure in a crumbling palazzo in the last years of the 19th Century, and deliciously horrifying.

Conor O'Callaghan is the author of Nothing on Earth (Doubleday Ireland, €17.99)

Tana French

I'm definitely bringing Girl Unknown by Karen Perry (Penguin, €16.99). A professor's life changes when a student walks into his office and claims she's his daughter; whether this is true or not, she's a lot more dangerous than she seems, and soon his family is under threat. Karen Perry is a team of two Dublin-based authors , Karen Gillece and Paul Perry, who write intense psychological thrillers that explore emotional danger with relentless, surgical accuracy. I can't wait to get stuck into this one.

And I'm bringing Sophie Hannah's new Hercule Poirot novel, Closed Casket (HarperCollins, €25.99). Poirot doesn't understand why he's been invited to Lady Athelinda Playford's mansion, nor why she seems to be deliberately trying to provoke a murder, and when the murder happens, he doesn't understand the choice of victim. Sophie Hannah revels in skilfully elaborate plots packed with clues and twists and red herrings, just like Agatha Christie did, and she does a deeply satisfying job of bringing Poirot back to life.

I'm also bringing Donal Ryan's The Thing about December (Doubleday Ireland, €19.50). I loved his The Spinning Heart - a beautifully written, deeply poignant and very funny novel about post-Celtic-Tiger life in small-town Ireland. The Thing about December is set in the same small town, during the insanity of the Celtic Tiger, when shy innocent Johnsey Cunliffe is left orphaned to navigate a rapacious world, and it sounds wonderful.

Tana French is the New York Times best-selling author of a series of crime novels featuring the 'Dublin Murder Squad'. Her new book, The Trespasser (Hachette Books Ireland, €20.45), is out on September 22.

Thomas Morris

I'm excited to read Oisin Fagan's debut story collection, Hostages (New Island, €12.95). Oisin is a daring writer, dedicated to melding and melting borders - particularly those of genre - and this book promises to bring the Irish literary short story into the realm of sci-fi and speculative fiction. He most recently won the Penny Dreadful novella prize, so his star is certainly in the ascendant.

Sex and Death (Faber, €22.60) is an anthology of new short stories edited by Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs. It boasts a really stellar line-up including Ali Smith, Kevin Barry, Ben Marcus, Yiun Li and Jon McGregor, and I've been told that the stories are uniformly brilliant. I've read plenty of stories about death, but not so many about sex, so I'm curious (and not in a pervy way, I promise) about the results.

William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow (Vintage, €11.75) has been on my reading list for a long time. As editor at The New Yorker, Maxwell worked with the likes of Frank O'Connor, Maeve Brennan and JD Salinger. And as a writer, his output was no less impressive. They Came Like Swallows (Vintage Classics, €11.75), published when he was only 29, is one of my all-time-favourite novels, and I can't wait to re-enter the world of Maxwell's perfectly measured prose.

Thomas Morris won the Somerset Maugham Award this year for his debut collection of short stories We Don't Know What We're Doing (Faber, €16.99). He is editor of The Stinging Fly magazine. Simon Booker

Simon Booker

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Viking, €16.99) chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship. If this is half as memorable as her Pulitzer-winning Olive Kitteridge: A Novel in Stories (Simon & Schuster, €10.50), I'll be a happy man.

The Constant Soldier by William Ryan (Mantle, €22.50) is set in 1944 and is the story of a wounded German soldier returning home to find his village existing in uneasy proximity with a luxurious SS retreat. It's already winning critical acclaim and has the hallmark of a prize-winning good read. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (Sceptre, €18.99) was inspired by the author's grandparents' wartime experiences. This elegantly crafted novel had me from the opening line. "War was declared at 11:15 and Mary North signed up at noon."

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown, €18.99) is about a disparate group of addicts who meet once a week for a therapy group. One is murdered, but whodunnit? Crème de la crime from a writer at the top of his game.

Simon Booker is a screenwriter. His debut thriller Without Trace (Twenty7, €11.70) is out now.

Sam Blake

Crime is my first love, but holidays are a chance to sample other genres - as I write this I'm in Cornwall, and this is exactly what's in my holiday reading pile.

The Girl from the Savoy (Harper, €16.99) in which Hazel Gaynor has brilliantly created Dolly Lane's world below stairs at The Savoy in 1920s London. I cried on the first page and am desperate to find out how Dolly's story progresses. Dripping with historical detail, it's a fine book.

The House at the Edge of Night (Hutchinson, €16.99) - Catherine Banner is a true story teller, captivating the reader in the mesmeric world of the tiny Sicilian island of Castellamare and its new doctor, the foundling, Amedeo Esposito. Esposito arrives in 1914 and the house and bar he restores bear witness to four generations of family, friendship, betrayal, feuds, love affairs, and confessions overheard by the church polishers..

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus, €17.99) is a tense thriller set on board a cruise ship. It had me hooked from the first page to the utterly twisty last. Catherine delivers a pacey perfect holiday read that is not at all what you expect!

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (Penguin, €17.99) is brilliantly told from several points of view, all focusing on a central mystery, the murder of Annie Doyle, except it's not a mystery because the reader knows from the first line what happened. The tension comes from complex characters who have no idea how the impact of one fateful night will play out, just as the reader has no idea of the secrets that will be revealed as the story unwinds to the shocking ending.

I also have Karen Perry's Girl Unknown (Penguin, €16.99) with me but my mother has stolen it and won't let me have it back: "It's too good, absolutely gripping!"

Sam Blake is the pseudonym of Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin, a literary scout. Her debut thriller, Little Bones (Twenty7, €14.99), came out earlier this year and has hit the best-seller lists.

Stuart Neville

Megan Abbott is one of the finest crime writers on the planet right now, and there's been a lot of buzz around her latest, You Will Know Me (Picador, €19.50).

I've been following Chris Holm's career for some years now. He moved into the straight-ahead thriller genre with his last title, The Killing Kind (Mulholland Books, €19.50) and his latest, Red Right Hand (Mulholland Books, €18.25) promises to be just as good.

Another is Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (Penguin, €17.99). Liz has emerged as a real star in Irish crime fiction and rightly received awards and rave reviews for her debut, Unravelling Oliver (Penguin, €11.70).

I know Michael Hughes from back in his indie filmmaking days, and the advance buzz makes me more than a little curious to read his debut, The Countenance Divine (John Murray, €22.50).

Stuart Neville is a crime novelist. His latest book, So Say the Fallen (Harvill Secker, €16.99) is out now.

Louise McSharry

Louise McSharry

My ideal book for reading on holiday is something which totally sucks you in, and Liz Nugent's Lying in Wait (Penguin, €17.99) absolutely does that. I read it in two sittings.

Lindy West writes sharply and intelligently online and for various publications, so it's no surprise that her memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (Quercus, €22.50), follows suit. She tackles body image and feminism with humour and contemporary language, making this right up my street.

I have a weird fascination with American cults and indeed 1960s California, so when I heard about The Girls by Emma Cline (Chatto & Windus, €16.99), which is set in exactly that world, I couldn't have been more excited. Throw in a lonely teenage girl trying to find her way and you've got me hooked.

Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favourites, so I'm always excited when she releases something new. Eligible (The Borough Press, €17.99) is a modern take on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - both funny and tender.

Louise McSharry is a broadcaster. Her memoir, Fat Chance (Penguin, €16.99) is out now.

Claire Hennessy

First on my holiday reading list, predictably, is a young adult novel. Holly Bourne's What's A Girl Gotta Do? (Usborne, €11.70) is the third in her funny, feminist, incredibly readable Spinster Club series and I've been eagerly anticipating this instalment. Next up is Alvy Carragher's debut poetry collection, Falling in Love with Broken Things (Salmon, €12) - I love her voice and imagery and talent, and every time I've heard her read I get chills. For chills of a different kind I'll be diving into Catherine Ryan Howard's Distress Signals (Corvus, €17.99), a murder mystery set on a cruise ship - what a premise! And for imbuing me with some rage against the patriarchy, not that I need it, I have Lindy West's essay collection Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (Quercus, €22.50).

Claire Hennessy is a writer, editor and creative writing facilitator. Her latest novel for young adults is Nothing Tastes as Good (Hot Key Books, €10.99).

Dave Rudden

The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf (CB Editions, €11.75) is sparse and upsetting. This tale of two brothers experimenting on their own lives and the lives of those around them in a war-torn town is strangely hypnotic. I can't quite say I'm enjoying it, but I can't put it down either.

The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum/John Byrne (Marvel, €28.50) is another of my picks. The vast continuity of Marvel comics can be pretty daunting, but if you're looking for a classic story, this is it. Friendship, heartbreak, terror and consequence - quite simply the best X-Men story ever told.

I'm cheating a little here because it's not out until October but you're going to need the summer to prepare your emotions for Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin (Greenwillow Books, €16.40). It orbits Frankenstein - forbidden innovation, loneliness, questions of life and death - but is essentially Irish in its ticking clockwork heart. The next must-read for young adults.

One by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury Children's, €10.99) is a beautiful book that deserves every single bit of recognition it's gotten. Full disclosure - it did make me cry all over some poor woman on a flight to London. If you're reading it by the pool, I recommend big sunglasses.

Dave Rudden's debut novel, Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Puffin, €9.99) is out now.

Ann O'Loughlin

Naming the Stars by Jennifer Johnston, (Tinder Press, €14.99) is first. I had to hide this away so I would not read it before the holidays. Johnston is my favourite author and this novella is a real treat. Johnston herself said "it is about two old ladies who have a row over dinner one night", but knowing Johnston, it will be about an awful lot more.

Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home by Malachy Tallack (Polygon, €16.99) is next. Tallack is the new voice in travel writing; travelling, meeting people meditating on home and belonging.

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (Scribner, €13.15) which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 is set in Germany and France before and during the German occupation. It is the story of a blind French girl and a young German soldier passionate about science and how their lives become entangled in a time of war.

The Button Box: Lifting the Lid on Women's Lives by Lynn Knight (Chatto & Windus, €22.50) - I find this book intriguing, tracing the history of women through their clothes and particularly buttons. This is my 'dip in and out' book for the holidays.

Ann O'Loughlin is a journalist and author. Her debut novel, The Ballroom Café (€11.70), was a best-seller. Her second novel, The Judge's Wife (€10.99) is out now (Black and White).

Fill your suitcase with the best reads of  the year so far

Summer reading


All that Man Is

David Szalay, Vintage, €19.50 Szalay's audacious new novel tells nine stories about nine men of six different ages in 13 countries. A superb meditation on ageing.

The Cauliflower

Nicola Barker, William Heinemann, €19.50 In this fictional biography of the 19th-century Indian mystic Sri Ramakrishna, Barker again shows her talent for invention.

What Belongs to You

Garth Greenwell, Picador, €19 An astonishing portrait of compromised lust, set in ex-Soviet Sofia, this debut novel holds its own against classics like Lolita.

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Elizabeth Strout, Viking, €16.99 A mother and daughter rebuild their relationship over five days in a New York hospital room - deft, tender and true.

Thus Bad Begins

Javier Marias, Hamish Hamilton, €16.99 Plots and eavesdroppers abound in this dark tale of marital strife and secret crimes in Spain.

The Gustav Sonata

Rose Tremain, Chatto & Windus, €19 Switzerland is on the eve of the Second World War. Faced with growing anti-semitism, a policeman makes a choice.

The Lost Time Accidents

John Wray, Canongate, €21.90 "This morning, at 08.47 EST, I woke up to find myself excused from time" - a Kafkaesque mix of sci-fi and historical fiction.

Paradise Lodge

Nina Stibbe, Penguin, €19

This laugh-out-loud funny follow-up to Man at the Helm sees Stibbe's 15-year-old heroine, Lizzie, battling her mother, while working at a nursing home.

The Sport of Kings

CE Morgan, Fourth Estate, €19 A high literary epic of America that tells the story of a self-obsessed southern dynasty, devoted to racism and racehorses.

The Essex Serpent

Sarah Perry, Serpent's Tail, €19.50 An irresistible gothic novel about a village in 19th-century Essex haunted by a prehistoric flying serpent. Exquisite Victoriana.

Mothering Sunday

Graham Swift, Scribner, €16.99 In 1924, a housemaid spends the morning in bed with her aristocratic lover from the big house - and her life changes forever. Hauntingly told.

At the Edge of the Orchard

Tracy Chevalier, Borough, €22.50 A young man heads west from his family's Ohio farm in the 1830s. Is he drawn by the lure of gold in California or by something altogether more sinister?

The Noise of Time

Julian Barnes, Jonathan Cape, €19.50 Shostakovich is the subject of Julian Barnes's first novel since winning the 2011 Booker Prize. A fascinating tale of art and political compromise.

Golden Hill

Francis Spufford, Faber, €22.50 New York, 1746: a mysterious man arrives with a $1,000 bill. Spufford's novel is a riot of action in the vein of Sterne and Fielding.

The Allegations

Mark Lawson, Picador, €22.50 A professor is accused of bullying; his friend is arrested for "historic" sexual abuse. A howl of outrage.

The Mandibles

Lionel Shriver, Borough, €17.99

Gripping family saga set in a future bankrupt America where middle-class comforts are replaced by struggle for survival.

The Girls

Emma Cline, Chatto & Windus, €16.99 An intense evocation of adolescence, this debut novel about a girl sucked into a Manson-esque cult is the breakout book of the summer.


The Gene

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Vintage, €23.70 An accessible and beautifully written overview of the complex field of genetics by the Indian-born doctor. It's personal and provocative, too.

The Outrun

Amy Liptrot, Canongate, €19.50 The damage done by alcohol is unforgettably evoked in this memoir. It is a brave book, which goes to the heart of addiction.

15 Million Degrees

Lucie Green, Viking, €18.25 Green, a physicist and TV presenter, tells the story of the solar system from birth to projected demise in eight billion years. Her touch is light; her sense of wonder infectious.

The Genius of Birds

Jennifer Ackerman, Corsair, €19.50

Birdbrain, featherhead, loony, turkey, dodo: our vocabulary betrays the dim view we take of birds' intelligence. But this is quite unfair, argues Ackerman. Her study is enthralling.

The Way We Die Now

Seamus O'Mahony, Head of Zeus, €19.99 Dr O'Mahony believes we need to take a good, hard look at where we are going wrong in the way we treat terminal illness and death. A provocative essay.

White Sands

Geoff Dyer, Canongate, €22.50 Dyer is up to his old tricks in this collection of travel writing - covering everything from Gauguin's syphilis to land art - in which the distinction between fiction and fact is "irrelevant".


Steven Poole, Random House, €19.50 Rickshaws are in, vinyl is cool and doctors use leeches again. In this entertaining and important book, Poole offers a modern take on that ancient wisdom: "There is no new thing under the sun."


The Romanovs

Simon Sebag Montefiore, W&N, €25.99 "It was hard to be a tsar," Montefiore writes in this joyful romp through 300 years of the dynasty's epic follies.

West of Eden

Jean Stein, Jonathan Cape, €26.50 A selective, sly history of studio-era Hollywood by a film mogul's daughter. One of the best books ever written about the movies.

Second-Hand Time

Svetlana Alexievich, Fitzcarraldo, €19.50 In this strange, polyphonic book, the Nobel laureate asks Soviets how the USSR's collapse made them feel.

Final Solution

David Cesarani, Macmillan, €39.50

The late historian's definitive account of the Nazis' slaughter of the Jews begins in 1933, and emphasises the hurried disorganisation of it all.

Incarnations: India in 50 Lives

Sunil Khilnani, Allen Lane, €39.50

The story of India told in potted biographies, from the Buddha to 21st-century billionaires. It's hard to imagine this feat being done any better.

At the Existentialist Cafe

Sarah Bakewell, Chatto & Windus, €22.50 A journey to Paris in the 40s and 50s, when philosophy was sexy, and Sartre and de Beauvoir held court in Montparnasse.

The Cultural Revolution

Frank Dikotter, Bloomsbury, €32.50

In this evocative final volume of his People's Trilogy on revolutionary China, Dikotter asks what it was like to live through Mao's last gamble: the systematic destruction of China's past.

Into the Breach

Hugh Sebag Montefiore, Viking, £25

Published to coincide with the Battle of the Somme's centenary, this magisterial history is the fruit of eight years' work. Draws on fresh sources to reconstruct the battle in forensic detail.


Trump and Me

Mark Singer, Allen Lane, €12.99

Consists of the superb profile Singer wrote of Donald Trump for The New Yorker 20 years ago, topped and tailed with new material on the tycoon's presidential campaign.

Burning Country

Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami, Pluto, €19.50 The most succinct and convincing insider's narrative of the Syrian uprising yet written.

The End of Alchemy

Mervyn King, Little Brown, €19.50 Belying the former Governor of the Bank of England's mild manners, this is a fearlessly honest analysis of the 2007-08 collapse. It will enrage some, and will be read for decades to come.

Broken and Betrayed

Jayne Senior, Pan, €10.50

From 1999, Senior worked with girls at risk of sexual abuse. This is her furious account of how the justice system let down - she estimates - 1,700 girls.

© Telegraph

Sunday Indo Living

Entertainment Newsletter

Going out? Staying in? From great gigs to film reviews and listings, entertainment has you covered.

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment