Monday 20 May 2019

Have book, will travel, with the best summer beach reads

For book-lovers, holidays mean one thing: optimum reading time. Claire Coughlan asked our panel of literary experts for their top recommendations

Summer means optimum reading time
Summer means optimum reading time

Beach reads mean different things to different people. For some, it immediately calls to mind the latest twisty thriller, yet for others, it can be a prize-winning classic-in-the-making. Whatever your preference, we have something for you, be it a new title or an old favourite. Happy reading!

David McRedmond

If abroad, for escapism I don't read books set in Ireland. Last summer in Sicily, my big read was The Leopard (Vintage, €11.20) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the great novel about Garibaldi's march through Sicily, which immortalised the line about regime change: "For things to stay the same, everything must change." This year I have just read A Small Town in Germany (Penguin Modern Classics, €10.10), a typical John le Carre story about a British defector, set (and written) in 1968, with the backdrop of the British government's "obsession" to get admitted to the Common Market (now EU). My wife has had me reading the brilliant Japanese writer Murakami's new book Men Without Women (Vintage, €10.10), about the loneliness of men (was it a hint?). Finally, breaking my rule of only fiction on holidays, as I was in America, I read Patti Smith's gorgeous recent memoir Just Kids (Bloomsbury, €11.20), which captures New York Village life and will make you cry.

David McRedmond is CEO of An Post, the new sponsor of the Irish Book Awards.

Breda Brown

Crime is my 'go to' genre and some of my recent favourites include The Confession (Quercus, €8.95) by Jo Spain, The Missing Ones (Sphere, €8.95) by Patricia Gibney and The Killing House (Headline, €16.80) by Claire McGowan. They feature brilliantly structured plots that keep you guessing right to the end. All three authors have written other novels, which I would also highly recommend reading. And, yes, they are all Irish authors. We have a wonderful crime-writing scene in Ireland at the moment and I can honestly say that the quality is streets ahead of other crime work I have read from right across the world. While you're at it, look out for Catherine Ryan Howard, Sinead Crowley, Sam Blake and Liz Nugent. Looking further afield, I loved The Woman in the Window (HarperCollins, €14.60), a slick and intelligent debut by American author AJ Finn. It's a psychological thriller that unfolds like a classic suspense movie, not surprising when you realise the author studied mystery and suspense fiction at Oxford University and has a particular appreciation of Hitchcockian cinema.

Breda Brown is co-founder of Unique Media and presents the Inside Books podcast.

Sinead Moriarty

Claudia Carroll's wonderful new book, The Secrets of Primrose Square (Bonnier Zaffre, €12.60) is full of well-drawn, loveable characters. It made me laugh and made me cry. It is layered, tender, warm, funny and heart-breaking. A great summer read. The Blamed (Hachette Books Ireland, €15.70) by Emily Hourican is a very skilful, evocative and moving portrayal of a carefree, selfish young summer. This is one of those books that stays with you after you've read it. In Violet Hill (Hachette Books Ireland, €15.70) by Henrietta McKervey, a page-turning detective novel, two worlds and timelines co-exist and eventually collide. Set in London, it features two very unique female detectives. The skill and attention to detail in this book allows you to escape into the post-World War I era and then back to current day with ease. Sit back and enjoy.

Sinead Moriarty is an author. Her latest book is Our Secrets and Lies (Penguin, €14.60). She is co-curator with Rick O'Shea of the new Eason Must Reads list.

Bob Johnston

Stacks of great books to recommend again this summer - our holiday picks' tables are overflowing! The Mountain (MacLehose Press, €8.95) by Luca D'Andrea is my pick for thriller lovers - a huge hit across Europe. Set in the Italian Dolomites, a New Yorker investigates the murder of three students in a close-knit community. The Immortalists (Tinder Press, €10.10), by Chloe Benjamin, is a brilliant novel about four siblings who are each told the day on which they will die - but how much can we control our own fate? Spoonbenders (riverrun, €10.10) by Daryl Gregory, is a great one for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins, €8.99) - funny and clever, it's the story of a 1970s' mind-reading act after the magic fades. I'm reading all of Dorothy L Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey (Hodder, €10.10) crime novels this summer - witty and brilliantly written, I've read seven with eight to go!

Bob Johnston is the owner of the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar and Dalkey.

Dawn Behan

The book I've been most looking forward to reading this summer is Calypso (Little, Brown, €19.05), David Sedaris's latest book. Packed with his usual outrageously funny anecdotes, it is tinged with sadness following the death of his sister, Tiffany. Although out a while, A Gentleman in Moscow (Windmill Books, €10.10) by Amor Towles, is worth investigating. It is a captivating story of a Russian aristocrat forced to live under house arrest in a hotel for 30 years. For a gentler read, The Lido (Orion, €14.50), by Libby Page, is a heart-warming story of the friendship struck up by a young journalist and older lady when they try to save their local swimming pool. Young adult books are always worth a read, no matter what your age, and one of our current favourites is White Rabbit, Red Wolf (Walker Books, €8.95) by Tom Pollock, an intricate thriller in which a maths prodigy must navigate a world of espionage, secret codes and murder.

Dawn Behan is the co-owner of Woodbine Books, Kilcullen, Co Kildare.

Bert Wright

For my first long-anticipated trip to Berlin, I'll be taking Killers of the Flower Moon (Simon & Schuster, €10.10) by David Grann, the story of how the discovery of oil on their land brought untold wealth but also death and destruction to the Osage Indians of Oklahoma. John Boyne's brilliant satire on the writing life, Ladder to the Sky (Doubleday, €14.80, out August 9), is so good I plan to re-read it to catch any nuances I may have missed first time around. Sure to be among the most talked-about books of 2018, incidentally. 

Olivia Laing's Crudo (Picador, €14.60) has been receiving rave notices but I have an ulterior motive in hoping it just might cure my chronic aversion to tricksy experimental fiction. Finally, after a recent visit to Seamus Heaney's HomePlace in Bellaghy, I'm taking the new anthology, 100 Poems (Faber, €12.35). 

We may have lost the great man but the great poems will be forever there to enrich us.

Bert Wright curates several Irish literary festivals, including Murder One, Ireland's new crime-writing festival, which will take place at Dublin's Smock Alley, November 2-4.

Jo Spain

As a crime writer, I tend to eat, breathe and sleep the genre - so for my holidays, I like to mix it up and books with humour are my favourite. This year, there are two I'm really looking forward to. This is Going to Hurt (Picador, €10.10) by Adam Kay and Grace After Henry (Corvus, €14.60) by Eithne Shortall, both of which I'm advised will make me laugh, cry and switch off nicely. If I were to recommend books that I've already read, I'd say get your hands on Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins, €8.99). A feel-good, hilarious, delight of a novel - I haven't felt so warm inside since The Help (Penguin, €10.10). And, because I can't leave the genre alone, the best crime book of the summer for me is JP Delaney's Believe Me (Quercus, €14.60). An original writing style and a roller coaster of a page-turner, what more could you ask for on the beach?

Jo Spain is a crime author, whose latest novel is The Confession (Quercus, €8.95). She has also written Taken Down, a new crime drama, which will air on RTE television in the autumn.

Daniel Bolger

Follow Me To Ground (New Island, €11.95), by Sue Rainsford, is one of the best books I've ever published. Haunting and stunningly written, it's about Ava, an odd girl who heals the locals in some backwoods town. She begins a taboo relationship with a local man, which changes everything, and not for the better. I promise it will blow you away. Shift (New Island, €10.95) by Mia Gallagher, one of Ireland's greatest living authors, is about as good as you're likely to find when it comes to short stories. It is beguiling, enveloping, and the prose will get you addicted. And I'm way late to the party, but I'm currently reading Grief is the Thing with Feathers (Faber, €8.95), by Max John Porter, which everyone is rightly raving about - it's phenomenal. I just finished The Largesse of the Sea Maiden (Jonathan Cape, €16.80) by Denis Johnson (RIP), which was wonderful - funny and human and dark in the right places (or check out Jesus' Son (Granta, €10.10), which changed the way I approach literature).

Daniel Bolger is editorial director at New Island Books.

Susan Tomaselli

My girlfriend June Caldwell and I are off on a 10-day cruise to the Norwegian Fjords, so I'll be bringing Tomas Espedal's Bergeners (Seagull Books, translated by James Anderson, €19.05) with me. An underrated Norwegian writer, Espedal's work straddles genres and is somewhere between autobiography and fiction, and Bergeners is pitched as his Dubliners, so I'm keen to see how his mirror holds up. Talking of James Joyce, I'm reading Dedalus (Henningham Family Press, €14.60) Chris McCabe's sequel to Ulysses, beautifully produced by Henningham Family Press, and Lucia (Galley Beggar Press, €11.20), Alex Pheby's fictional autobiography of Lucia Joyce, which has caused some upset amongst Joyceans.

Susan Tomaselli is editor of gorse literary journal.

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