Thursday 17 October 2019

Summer reads not to be left at home

Sun lotion, check. Towel, check. A good book, check. But which to pack? Claire Coughlan asked some people in the know which books they'll bring in the beach bag this summer

Claire Coughlan

Susan Stairs

Time Present and Time Past (Faber and Faber, €14.90) by Deirdre Madden is next on my list. I'll be reading with Deirdre at the Mountains to Sea festival in September and her latest novel – about time, memory and family history – looks intriguing. Also, The Round House (Corsair, €20.60) by Louise Erdrich, which won the US National Book Award in 2012. The story is told by 13-year-old Joe who is on a search for justice after a brutal attack on his mother.

And The View on the Way Down (Picador, €17.20), is a debut from Rebecca Wait, about a family trying to move on after the death of its eldest son – it's described as "heartbreaking but ultimately redemptive".

Susan Stairs' debut novel, 'The Story of Before' (Corvus, €14.90), is out now.

Belinda McKeon

This summer I'm looking forward to reading Michele Forbes' debut Ghost Moth (W&N, €14.90), the story of an actress in late 1960s Belfast, and I'll also be reading another book set in Northern Ireland: Eden Halt (Lilliput, €14.90), the childhood memoir of Dublin-based psychoanalyst Ross Skelton. I loved Sam Lipsyte's most recent novel The Ask (Old Street, €9.20) for its dark and hilarious satire, so I'll be catching up with his new collection of stories, The Fun Parts (Granta, €14.90) as well as with new novels by Philipp Meyer The Son, (Simon & Schuster, €17.20), Bill Cheng Southern Cross the Dog, (Picador, €14.90) and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose Americanah (Fourth Estate, €23) is perhaps the book I'm most excited about reading this summer; I've heard great things. As for old favourites, every summer I reread Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (Penguin Modern Classics, €9.15) and The Last September (Vintage Classics, €9.15) by Elizabeth Bowen.

Belinda McKeon is a novelist and playwright. She won the 'Sunday Independent' Newcomer award in 2011 for her debut novel, 'Solace' (Picador, €9.20).

Colum McCann

I've been in a lot of airplanes this summer and I've been lucky enough to read a stack of good books. One of my favourites was The Flame Throwers (Harvill Secker, €19.50) by Rachel Kushner, one of the most thrilling and high-octane literary experiences I have had in ages – it's a wonderful take on the machinery of love and art and ... motorbikes.

My second book comes from a former student of mine, Bill Cheng, who has written a novel called Southern Cross the Dog (Picador, €14.90), an epic journey that begins around the Mississippi flood of 1927. You can feel the blues leaking out the edges of the pages. And there's been a whole host of recent Irish novels by young writers that I've fallen for over the past year or so – amongst them, The Gamal by Ciaran Collins (Bloomsbury, €14.90), Malarky by Anakana Schofield (Oneworld, €13.75), This is The Way by Gavin Corbett (Fourth Estate, €17.20), Red Sky in Morning by Paul Lynch (Quercus, €17.20), and Shall We Gather at the River by Peter Murphy (Faber and Faber, €14.90). These are good times for new voices.

Colum McCann is a novelist. His sixth novel 'TransAtlantic' (Bloomsbury, €21.80) has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Sean Rocks

One of the books I'll definitely be bringing with me is David Sedaris' new collection of essays, called Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (Abacus, €14.90). The essays are to do with his childhood, his relationship with his father, which could be terribly psychoanalytical and boring, but in fact it's very witty and very sad at the same time. Another very interesting book that I've come across is Kiss Me First, by Lottie Moggach (Picador, €17.20); I'm also lucky enough to have an advance reading copy of is The Thing About December (Doubleday, €14.90) by (Man Booker Prize longlisted) Donal Ryan. I'm looking forward to reading that because The Spinning Heart was such a big hit. He has a clean, unfussy style of writing that I like. The other book I'd recommend – and I think it's more of an autumn book – is John Boyne's This House is Haunted (Doubleday, €17.20) – a good old fashioned ghost story.

Sean Rocks is a broadcaster. He presents the arts programme Arena on RTE Radio.

Liz Nugent

I'M GOING to Westport in September and then later in the month I'm going to Spain – I tend to take holidays in September because then there aren't as many children around. I don't differentiate really between summer reading and winter reading and I don't do the Kindle thing, there's something really nice about a physical book. The ones I have lined up are All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld (Jonathan Cape, €19.50), The Herbalist, by Niamh Boyce (Penguin, €14.90), The Story of Before, by Susan Stairs (Corvus, €14.90) and TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury, €21.80).

Liz Nugent is the story associate for 'Fair City'. Her debut novel, 'Unravelling Oliver', will be published by Penguin next year.

Stephen Boylan

My first holiday read this year will be Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (Abacus, €14.90). A brilliant humourist, this promises to be another hilarious collection of anecdotal essays in the vein of the classic Me Talk Pretty One Day (Abacus, €10.30) Like many others, I was bowled over by Rachel Joyce's debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Black Swan, €9.15). Her follow-up, Perfect (Black Swan, €17.90) looks at the friendship between two schoolboys and their obsession when two extra seconds are added to the clock in 1972. Finally, I'm always delighted when American writer Jonathan Dee publishes new material. His latest novel, A Thousand Pardons (Random House, €10.65), has already received rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and looks set to follow in the footsteps of the Pulitzer-nominated The Privileges (Corsair, €10.30). A must-read for fans of Jonathan Franzen.

Stephen Boylan is book purchasing manager for Easons.

Katie Holly

I'M reading the following – I always tend to have a few on the go: Zelda: A Biography, by Nancy Milford (Harper Perennial, €12.50) is a fascinating and completely engrossing portrait of Zelda Fitzgerald, her life, creative endeavours and mental illness, and of her marriage to F Scott Fitzgerald. We're in production on a documentary series on the history and treatment of mental health in Ireland, so it's also very illuminating from that perspective.

Steve Jobs: Biography by Walter Isaacson (Little, Brown, €28.70) – it's a tome but I'm really enjoying it, he was a testy person, to put it mildly, but his clarity of vision is inspirational, as is, in another sense, his years of failure, which, arguably, were what motivated his ultimate, and monumental, success.

And to keep the feminist in me agitated, Backlash by Susan Faludi (Vintage, €14.90). It's well argued, thought-provoking and written with wit – some of the stats are slightly out of date but for that, unfortunately still all too relevant...

Katie Holly is managing director of Blinder Films.

Declan Meade

I'm going to Berlin for eight days and taking three books with me: Eugen Ruge's debut novel In Times of Fading Light (Faber and Faber, €17.20) won the 2011 German Book Prize and has just been published in English by Faber and Faber, translated by Anthea Bell.

I'm also taking two short-story collections: We're Flying by Peter Stamm (Granta Books, €17.20) and Tea at the Midland and other stories by David Constantine (Comma Press, €11.45), which has won this year's Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. I've just finished reading Stamm's novel, Seven Years (Granta, €9.15). It's a quiet and unsettling tour de force. I'm new to Constantine.

Declan Meade is editor and publisher of 'The Stinging Fly' literary journal and press. The current Translation Issue of the literary journal is out now (€10).

June Caldwell

I am just back from my hols, I wanted at least one book I could dip in and out of that didn't need too much concentration or intellectual investment, so David Sedaris' book of short stories: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (Abacus, €11.45) was recommended by another avid short-story lover. These stories are clever and clipped and certainly made me laugh.

Galway Stories (Doire Press, €13.99) is another short- story book I took away and absolutely loved.

It's a really interesting concept, in that the stories are geographically spliced, with maps of Galway hotspots to place each of the stories, photographs, etc.

Twenty stories in total and a real eclectic mix, from Alan McMonagle's hilarious tale about women drivers on Taylor's Hill to the clammed quiet of Lisa Frank's relationship tale and Nuala Ni Chonchuir's cri de coeur about Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill's time in Ireland.

Published by Doire Press, who are doing stellar work for new writers, the idea for the book could certainly travel to Dublin, Cork and elsewhere. Well worth a read.

June Caldwell is international programme co-ordinator at The Irish Writers' Centre.

Declan Hughes

It looked like Walter Mosley had killed Easy Rawlins off at the end of Blonde Faith; now he's back in Little Green (W&N, €22.35), continuing his investigations through post-war LA. It's the new Easy Rawlins – how good it is to be able to say that again.

Dennis Lehane's Live By Night (Little, Brown, €9.15), a gangster novel set in Prohibition era Boston, and then in Florida and Cuba, is a glittering widescreen entertainment of a book, with great action set pieces and Lehane's superb dialogue.

And I'll be bringing Marilynn Richtarik's Stewart Parker – A Life (Oxford €34.40), a fluent, absorbing biography of the great – and greatly missed – Belfast playwright.

Declan Hughes is an author and playwright.

Emer O'Toole

I've packed away my darling Doris Lessing for the winter months, and this summer I've been discovering the joy of contemporary Scottish writer Ali Smith.

Her disarmingly simple prose can leave you reeling from an unexpected emotional punch to the guts or lost in a maze of metaphor, as you continue to find layers of meaning long after the last page has been turned.

I started with The Accidental (Penguin, €10.30), a novel in which a dysfunctional family spend a strange summer in the English countryside. The Accidental is a wonderfully well-wrought metaphor for what modern life convinces us we want versus the things we really need.

I moved on to Girl Meets Boy (Canongate, €10.30) where Smith recasts the myth of Iphis, one of the happier tales of Ovid's Metamorphoses, as a queer love story in modern day Inverness.

A delicious mixture of dreamlike poetry and everyday earthiness, Girl Meets Boy left me beaming. Oh, and it has one of the most beautiful sex scenes I've ever read.

I'm saving Smith's Other Stories and Other Stories (Penguin, €9.15) for my trip to Barcelona next week.

Emer O'Toole is a contributor to 'The Guardian' and blogger for the feminist website Vagenda. Her first book, 'Girls will be Girls' (non-fiction) will be published by Orion in the spring.

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