Tuesday 20 August 2019

I know what you read this summer: Ireland's top personalities give their poolside recommendations


Summer reads - we got poolside recommendations from the best
Summer reads - we got poolside recommendations from the best
Aisling O'Loughlin
Catherine Fulvio
Vicky Kavanagh
Anna Daly
Brendan Courtney
Caroline Foran
Ciara Kelly
Darren Kennedy
Helen Steele
Holly White
Lottie Ryan
Louise McSharry
Sinead Gleeson

Liadan Hynes asks some of Ireland's top presenters, authors and personalities for their poolside reading recommendations.


Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

TV presenter, broadcaster and fashion designer

Brendan Courtney

This summer I will be reading A New Earth: Create a Better Life, by Eckhart Tolle (Penguin), Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty (Penguin), The Vanity Fair Diaries, Tina Brown, (Macmillan), Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris (Little, Brown and Company), Girls will be Girls, Emer O'Toole (Orion), Freakonomics, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, (William Morrow and Company), and Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, A Thirty Minute Summary (Instaread summaries).


Award-winning writer, editor and freelance broadcaster

Sinead Gleeson.jpg
Sinead Gleeson

I usually bring a mix of older books and things I just haven't gotten to, so on the classics front, it's Muriel Spark's A Far Cry From Kensington (Constable & Robinson). She's one of the greatest writers ever - read anything by her, not just The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

I'm never far from an essay collection and so have Jenn Ashworth's Notes Made While Falling, (Goldsmiths Press), The New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror (she's brilliant on politics and feminism) (Penguin Random House) and am in awe re-reading Alexander Chee's extraordinary essays How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, (Bloomsbury). I'll be diving into a trio of debut novels: Damian Barr's much-praised You Will Be Safe Here (Bloomsbury) which is set in South Africa, Lucie McKnight Hardy's atmospheric debut Water Shall Refuse Them (Dead Ink Books) and having fallen hard for Ocean Vuong's poetry, his debut novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Random House). Short story collections are brilliant for holidays so I'm packing Still Worlds Turning, an anthology from Belfast book shop No Alibis which features Jan Carson, Lucy Caldwell and Lauren Foley and others.

Constellations by Sinead Gleeson is out now with Picador.


Journalist and presenter on Newstalk

Ciara Kelly

I am in Ethiopia at the moment, reading The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri (Penguin Random House) and re-reading Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres (Penguin). I read The Hunting Party, Lucy Foley, (Harper Collins) on my last trip.


2FM presenter

Louise McSharry

I haven't been able to read much over the last six months because I've been so tired in pregnancy and in newborn land that every time I read a page I fell asleep!

I'll be taking Sinead Gleeson's Constellations (Picador), which I'm halfway through and am absolutely loving. The writing itself is beautiful, but the subject matter is very relevant to my life too. I'll also be taking Bethany Rutter's No Big Deal, (Pan Macmillan) which is a YA novel about a 'stylish, cute and hilarious seventeen year old' who's also fat. I'd read literally anything Bethany wrote, she is someone who brilliantly cuts through all BS in her writing about body activism.

I'll also be taking a copy of Filter This, Sophie White's first novel (Hachette) which I'm lucky enough to have an early copy of. I read an early draft and absolutely loved it, I can't wait to see how it's all ended up. Finally, I'll be bringing The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark, which I've never read but recently saw people raving about on Twitter.


Presenter on TV3's breakfast show

Anna Daly

In my opinion summer reads should be fun, uplifting, inspiring and most importantly engaging. However, I should preface this by saying I have these great intentions of reading all the books that caught my eye in the lead-up to a holiday and then I'm lucky to get through a page or two before some interruption occurs. It's the nature of being a mum, hopefully other mums (and dads too probably) will relate. By the time you do have the peace and quiet to read you're exhausted.

One theme that I noticed as I listed these titles was that they're all female (not intentional obviously) but they do happen to be a list of sassy, smart females who I know and admire. With the exception of Michelle Obama. I admire her hugely but definitely don't know her. Although she's on my 'dream interviewee' list so you never know what friendship might develop in the future. We could be besties. Rachel's Holiday, Marian Keyes, (Harper Collins) is there because it's just brilliant. I've read it several times but it never gets tired. I will be reading Can I Say No? Stefanie Preissner (Hachette), Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling, Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen (Gill), Becoming, Michelle Obama (Crown), and Bride Squad Runaway, Caroline Grace-Cassidy and Lisa C Carey, (Black & White Publishing).


Television presenter and fashion commentator

Darren Kennedy

I am on holidays at the moment. Right now I'm reading How to Fail: Everything I've Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong by Elizabeth Day (Fourth Estate), and it's actually a great holiday read. It's one that was recommended by Amy Huberman, in fact, we're doing a book club together for Diet Coke. It's funny, it's witty, it's humorous. It's actually really interesting in that people will know Elizabeth Day, the British host of the podcast How to Fail, but she actually grew up in Northern Ireland. Her little anecdotes of life up there are really interesting.

Otherwise, on holiday I kind of like historical, or factual books. There's a book called Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee - A Look Inside North Korea by Jang Jin-sung (Simon and Schuster), which is about a guy who managed to get really high up in the North Korean government, and then defected, which is quite unheard of. He managed to survive. So it is all about the inner workings of Kim Jong-un's government, and the ludicrous behaviour that goes on there.

Another book that I really enjoyed for holidays was Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, by Jung Chang (Penguin Random House).


Presenter with RTE and daughter of the late Gerry Ryan

Lottie Ryan

I will be bringing In My Shoes, Tamara Mellon (Simon & Schuster) and The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena (Penguin). They were recommended to me by a friend as good poolside reads. I love getting lost in a good book on holidays.


Television presenter and online publisher

Aisling O'Loughlin

I'm really into vintage travel writing at the moment. I'm reading a book called The South of France by Douglas Goldring from 1952 that I picked up in a free open library. They're everywhere in France.

Goldring is a wonderful writer (his sentences are so long by today's standards) and he knew the area I've adopted as my new home exceptionally well.

Here he is talking about George Bernard Shaw causing a sensation sunbathing on the beach at Juan-les-Pins: "It was odd to compare the excitement caused by the apparition of the aged playwright, with his long beard and spindle shanks, with the complete lack of interest shown by the male bathers in the long line of beautiful girls, with oiled backs, who lay about acquiring sun-tan."

I just love all those commas.

There's also a strong sense that the devastation of the Great Wars had been packed away and a new era of optimism had begun. Incredibly, so much of the travel advice still stands today.


Vegan food blogger, cookery book author and fashion stylist

Holly White

Skin Deep, Liz Nugent, (Penguin), Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty (Penguin), Wilding, Isabella Tree (Pan Macmillan), The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman, (Northfield Publishing). I always read a cookery book too on holiday, and recently bought Moon Juice, Amanda Chantal Bacon, (Pan Krauss Books).

Absolute favourites in the wellness arena are Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom by Dr Christiane Northrup (Bantam Doubleday Dell); every woman should have this on her bookshelf. It's like an encyclopaedia of health with a holistic angle. The Feminine Mistake, Leslie Bennetts (Harper Collins), and The Art Of Extreme Self-Care, Cheryl Richardson, (Hayhouse).

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (Picador) took me about three efforts to get into - but in terms of voice it taught me so much and I love it.

I also only 'got' Skippy Dies, Paul Murray, (Hamish Hamilton) when I listened to it on Audible - suddenly it came to life. I really recommend people giving audio versions a try as sometimes it can be hard to get into a tougher novel.

Marian Keyes's Rachel's Holiday and Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married (Harper Collins) are page turners with a much deeper message. Lastly, The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Penguin) is a really satisfying book I've dipped in and out of over the years.


Lifestyle journalist and bestselling self-help writer

Caroline Foran

On my next holiday I will be writing my own book and probably not reading much BUT finishing Whisper Network by Chandler Baker (Macmillan) which is so, so good, re-reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown (The Crown Publishing Group) which is one of the most helpful books I've ever read, and excited for David Nicholls's new book Sweet Sorrow (Hodder) too.


Journalist and commentator

Vicky Kavanagh

The Fire Starters, Jan Carson (Doubleday) is the perfect holiday read because you just get so immersed in the story. Plus, it's set over a hot summer in Belfast so it's season appropriate. Second is The Secret History, Donna Tartt (Penguin Books). It's a substantial read with fascinating characters and a good bit of the macabre, which ticks all my boxes.

Love, Zelda, by Vicky Kavanagh will be published next month by Austin Macauley Publishers.


Fashion designer

Helen Steele

I'm reading three books at the moment: Stefanie Preissner's Can I Say No? (Hachette) is incredible. It's a book that every single Irish person should read. And since reading it I've changed a few of my own old habits.

I'm also reading The Milkman, Anna Burns (Faber and Faber), which I love. It's set in Belfast during the Troubles. The writing is fast and has a great northern rhythm in it. I can feel touches of Monaghan in it at points.

I'm also reading Joseph O'Connor's book Shadowplay, (Penguin). His book Star of the Sea is one of my all-time favourites, so I was looking forward to this.

Shadowplay is based in the late 1800s and follows Bram Stoker to London with his new wife where he is managing a theatre. The level of detail that O'Connor has gone to in his research is incredible, I can see through his words every inch of backstage at the Lyceum, even the details in the sets and costumes are beautiful.

O'Connor's Bram Stoker is a sleep-deprived Lyceum manager whose approach to creativity is torturous. Simply brilliant.


TV chef and food writer

Catherine Fulvio

I'm back filming my TV series Tastes Like Home this summer. That coupled with trips to Sicily means I'm seeing a lot of airports. But I use the time to relax and read. I did buy a Kindle - but there's something about the feel of a physical book that gives me comfort.I grabbed The Missing Wife by Sheila O Flanagan (Harper Collins) for a flight. Turns out the story is about a wife who goes to Paris on business and plans to never return to her husband, spending her time hiding in France. Hilariously I was on a plane to Paris for work when I started to read the book.

There's Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman (Penguin Random House) was a book I picked up last year when in the US and I'm sorry I waited until this summer to read it. It's about a couple on honeymoon who find a sealed bag containing diamonds, cash, mobile phone and a revolver floating in the water. Their story escalates from there into a mild thriller. It's very readable.

But the book that made me cry like a baby embarrassingly on a flight back from Portugal was The Summer Visitors by Fiona O'Brien (Hachette). It's a romantic story of a heartbroken female entrepreneur who escapes London and returns to her family hotel in Ireland. Loose ends, love, loss and family drama are all on show here but there's a twist in this book that is so sad and I didn't see it coming. Have the tissues ready.

Easy reading but gripping, and very highly recommended, I'd say.

Sunday Indo Living

Editors Choice

Also in this section