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Bookends #13 – summer reading

An occasional round up of miscellaneous bookish news you may have missed (and often I missed them too)

As predictable as the ‘Must have Christmas gifts’ and the ‘get in shape for the beach’  feature articles, newspapers have started trotting out that annual stalwart: “must read books for your holiday.”

The Sunday Times “Suitcase Essential” feature listed 100 of what they claimed were the best books for the summer. The basis for their selection wasn’t explained but we had a variety of history, biography, memoirs, and science titles plus of course a fiction list. Out of the 50 fiction titles, they singled out five as  ‘top choices’

  • Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend which it described as “an addictive read”
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright summarised as “a heart-wrenching novel about family secrets. The newspaper is tipping it for the Booker Prize this year.
  • All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, described as “an exquisite nobel that feels wrenched from the author’s heart”
  • Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster – considered a vivid description of small-town life. This is the only one I’ve read. I thought it was a superb study of how a recently widowed woman slowly claws her way back into some form of a life.
  • The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters –  a “superb tale” according to the Sunday Times
  • The Cartel by Don Winslow which is described as a superb thriller on a par with TV’s The Wire

Surprisingly given the amount of attention garnered by The Girl on the Train, this didn’t get a mention in the crime & thrillers category. It did however make the summer selection published recently by the  Financial Times. 

It’s interesting to see how different the two lists are in their selections. The FT selects two of the big stories from this year so far – Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins and Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in 10 years, The Buried Giant— though both are missing from the Sunday Times list.  But the most significant difference is the selection of works in translation or by authors from outside the British/American camp. The Sunday Times manages just two as far as I can tell; The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara and The Mersault Investigation by Kamel Dadud, an author who seems to be creating rather a stir with his retake on Albert Camus’ L’Etranger. The Financial Times however gives us a special list of fiction in translation. The title that most caught my attention was Wolf, Wolf, by Eben Venter who provides a scathing perspective on the new South Africa. it could however be next summer by the time I get around to reading this…..

If you want to read the Financial Times list in full, click here

And this doesn’t help you fill up your bookshelves, you could always take a look at the list of upcoming new publications put together by The Millions.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

14 thoughts on “Bookends #13 – summer reading

  • I completely concur with Ferrente’s novels, her trilogy of friendship is so mesmerizing. But, while I enjoyed The Paying Guests, I ended up feeling disappointed in the end. I hope to read Enright’s latest, as an earlier one she wrote (title?! The Gathering?!) was so wonderful.

    How interesting, and perceptive, that the likes of The Girl on The Train didn’t make their list.

    • I thought it was because they assumed everyone had read it already! I notice you haven’t got The Telegraph’s list in – or are all the old Tories “orf” somewhere else already drinking Pimm’s and playing golf with no time for books, except when they say things like, “I’d have to admit my favourite Alan Clark diary is…” – SORRY, was in Danté’s Inferno there for a second…. Don’t know, but well-spotted. I notice what is there, I didn’t think about what was not!

      • I haven’t come across the Telegraph’s list yet – maybe I missed it though because there were a few days recently when never got around to even opening the paper.

    • Yes indeed it was The Gathering. The FT did include Girl on the Train but not the Sunday Times.

  • Lists are lists. I guess that’s why I tend not to post “lists” on my blog. (I assume there are many out there.) Though it might be good to post links for those who haven’t discovered them… I take them as they are, whether entitled as seasonal or whatever. I had already discovered The Millions listing and found it fascinating, though so long I’ll probably never get through it!

  • Interesting comparison between the too lists and what a shame there aren’t more books in translation on them! I’m not sure what makes a book good for summer, in the US it generally means lighter, fluffier things but I don’t subscribe to that notion!

  • I read one Winslow novel that was fantastic but then after that the next couple seemed to be much more standard crime books, so I won’t be reading The Cartel (in spite of the press it’s getting)

    • I’ve not read anything by him but then I don’t read that much crime fiction

    • Ah but this is the follow-up to his epic Power Of The Dog, a sprawling novel about narcotraficantes and a DEA veteran in Mexico. I got it from NG, and couldn’t believe when I started it, it clocked my reading time would be nearly 15 hours. I’ve got Orient here which I’m dying to read too; also Villa America. And Ghettoside…They’re all chunky books. And A Killing Winter. And Bull Mountain, which I just got too and sounds great.

  • Most of this year’s Prizes have already been longlisted, shortlisted or even awarded, so it cant be that…perhaps a chance to get books that havent got onto the “best sellers” lists but they want them moving along before the Christmas push? (I’ve totally blanked on the name….it’s the day in November (?) that’s the book equivalent of Cyber Monday or Black Friday)

  • I’m starting to find summer reading lists a bit silly – because what is the basis for calling something a summer read? Is it about the summer? Is it a beach or a travel read? Is it a good read for a student who has extra time? Otherwise, they’ve just singled out five great books (though I found Paying Guests a little dull and didn’t finish) but they aren’t “summer reads” because my reading tastes don’t change much during the summer.

  • I’ve read The Paying Guests and intend to start The Cartel, though I’m sure it’s pretty chunky. I also have The Brilliant Friend (my curiosity got the better of me, probably like many others.) And I’m eyeing up All My Puny Sorrows too.

    I’m obsessional when it comes to perusing the summer/Christmas book recommendations – non-fic as well. It’s interesting to see what books are in all of the papers’ lists (Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood…although there are always a few surprises…) Since I’ve taking up blogging, there’ll be less of them, no doubt.

  • I never understand what makes a book a good summer / winter read. I read all these lists with some bemusement. I mean, I would love to read The Buried Giant, but why summer? Why not fall, or winter?

    • My thoughts too Nish, i don’t change my reading habits according to the season. Some people do however so maybe this kind of article is welcome. The other thought is that for some people, their summer holiday is one of the few occasions when they do read so they don’t know what’s out there.


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