Any new season always gets us chatting in the Willoughby office, as, of course, we all have to get excited about what we'll be reading. We can all be guilty of a little bit of stockpiling, and summer is a great chance for us to rifle through our book stashes and curate a holiday's worth of reading.
Here are just some of our selections for holiday reads. What will you be reading?
This summer, I plan on finally finishing Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, with The Story of the Lost Child. These books just get better and better, and I’ll forever be attached to Lila, Elena and Naples. I will be timing the reading of the final book with my trip to the South of Italy, where I plan on eating, swimming and reading- not necessarily in that order, nor one separate to the another.
I also have Nevada by Imogen Binnie on my radar. First published in 2013, this has been republished by Picador in the UK and sounds incredible. It follows a young punk trans woman Maria from New York, road-tripping around and generally creating chaos wherever she goes. There is something quintessentially summery about a road trip, so Messy Girl Summer it is!
Finally I’d like to read Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones. This was one of her earlier novels and is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders in 1979. Probably not such a light read for the summer, but I associate the Deep South with sunshine, which is perfect for creating an oppressive heat for a literary thriller.
I am going away to a log cabin in the forest for a week in the summer… the perfect peaceful, setting for lots of reading. So far, in my holiday pile are…
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah…a historical story of love and family set in 1934. Elsa finally has the life she always wanted, with her family on a farm in Texas, but with it comes poverty and hardship. When Elsa’s husband flees in the night, she has to make the hard decision of what’s best for her children.
I like Kristin Hannah’s powerful way of writing and with it, she brings so much emotion. I like to learn things from books, and read books in new settings and time periods too, and I know nothing of the Great Depression currently so I’m really looking forward to this one.
The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths…book number 14 in the Ruth Galloway series and I can’t wait. I’ve had this book since its release in February, but as I enjoy them so much I like to save them for a special occasion (weird, I know). I have been reading the Ruth Galloway books from the start so I’m fully invested now, these books for me are probably just as much about the characters as they are the story. Plus, I’ve spent a lot of time on holiday in Norfolk when I was growing up so I love reading about places I know.
As this book is set during Covid and the first lockdown, I’m expecting it will bring some memories and emotions back too. You always get a 5 star, easy to read British crime novel with these so I’m expecting this one to be just as good. I definitely recommend them to anyone who will listen to me.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield…I haven’t read any of this author's work before, but this has comparisons to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca which is one of my all time favourite books.
Angelfield House, once belonging to the March family, now stands forgotten and abandoned. When biographer, Margaret Lea, comes to investigate the old house and a link to an elderly author, she starts to uncover the secrets of the past. A mystery about an old house and the family that once lived there…what’s not to love?
I’m also waiting for the next ‘Richard & Judy Bookclub’ bundle too. I always make an event out of buying these so I’m hoping they come out soon. I always enjoys their recommendations, easy-to-read, not too demanding but always enjoyable.
I’m hoping three books will be enough for my week away, I’ll be hunting for a bookshop if not! Although I’m sure I’ll manage to find a bookshop or two anyway 😊
Between spending my time in any sun we get and family get-togethers, there are a few books I’ve got on my summer reading list this year!
First, it’s She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, which I am currently reading. Living under harsh Mongol laws in 1345 China, a Famine-stricken family are visited by a seer and are told the son will lead them to greatness, whereas the daughter is told she is nothing. Soon after, a bandit raid tears the family apart, leaving the daughter on her own. Assuming her dead brother’s identity, can Zhu claim her brother’s greatness for herself?
A reimaging of the peasant rebel Zhu Yuanzhang, who expelled the Mongols, united China under a native rule and was the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
Booklovers by Emily Henry is something I would very much like to read in the sun, with a glass of something cold and the smell of barbeques in the air. This is a classic tale of enemies-to-lovers, with Nora, a literary agent at the top of her game and Charlie, an editor who has a gift for creating bestsellers. They seem to bump into each other continuously despite trying to avoid one another whilst holidaying in a small town in North Carolina. I’m sure we’re all wondering what will happen throughout!
And finally, This One Sky Day by Leone Ross is something I’ve been waiting and wanting to read! A dessert of a novel filled with rich descriptions full of colour and inventiveness. Set on the fictional island of Popisho and following the lives of two star-crossed lovers, it’s the perfect read to escape into and dream of a forever pink coloured sky.
This summer I won’t be going on a ‘big’ holiday, but I’m looking forward to taking some time out to read, whether it’s sprawled on a picnic blanket in my local park or soaking up the sun in the back garden. Time out of the usual routines of daily life always leads to a better reading experience in my opinion. The luxury of undisturbed time with a book wherever you are is to be savoured, ideally with a nice cool drink to hand.
All summer reading lists should include a thriller, and I’m really looking forward to Idol by Louise O'Neill. Louise O’Neill’s writing is so compelling and dark. This novel explores the world of online influencers and celebrity lifestyle, and how differing memories of a teenage event appear when dragged into the glare of publicity. I’m fully expecting to gulp this novel in one big delicious go.
Since reading Strange Flowers recently I've been keen to read all of Donal Ryan's backlist. The next one I'll be reading is From A Low and Quiet Sea. The story of Farouk, an immigrant from Syria to small town Syria, Lampy, who is still recovering from his first broken heart, and John, tormented by his past as he reaches the end of his life.
I relish the quiet compassion of Donal Ryan’s writing, and how he can encapsulate the bleakness of small town life and the regrets and dreams of ordinary lives and weave them into something luminous.
My next book is A Bookshop In Algiers by Kaouther Adimive. This was given to me, and I’m particularly looking forward to it as there’s something special about being given a book, and given my job it doesn’t often happen! I also love books about books and reading, so this is slender book is sure to hit the spot.
This is a fictionalised account of a bookshop established in 1936 in Algiers, set against the backdrop of occupation, war and independence, and ultimately a celebration of literature and bookshops.
I really like mid-century writing, so I've added A Glass of Blessings by Barbara Pym to my summer reading heap. Wilmet Forsyth, well dressed, suitably married to her balding husband but rather bored crosses paths with an old acquaintance in her nearby church.
I always enjoy a Barbara Pym, they are wry, subtle and beautifully observed, and she’s been compared to Jane Austen for her forensic character appraisals.
I am really excited to have my first abroad holiday since the pandemic, and I am going to enjoy every second of it. We are visiting Nice in the South of France and as my sons are at the age where they can be distracted by the pool at the villa I'm hoping to sunbathe and get plenty of reading in.
I am really looking forward to the release of The Retreat by Sarah Pearse. An eco-wellness retreat at an island off the Devonshire coast has just opened but the island has a dark past and some believe it is cursed. So when a body is found by the rocks of the yoga pavilion it seems to be an unfortunate accident. Until the next day when another body is found, could this be more than an accident? I really enjoyed Pearse’s first book The Sanitorium and welcome the return of Detective Elin Warner.
I have also just purchased Seven Days in June by Tia Williams, which is a contemporary romance set in Brooklyn that explores second chance love amongst other modern issues. Eva and Shane experienced a whirlwind week of romance 15 years ago and then became separated. Since then they have both become authors, writing of their heartbreak to each other secretly within their own work. Now, they bump into each other and all those memories and feelings resurface but can they let go of the past and rekindle what they once had? I’m really looking forward to this one!
Lastly, I keep noticing The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, and feel a yearning to be transported to 1950’s Jaipur. Lakshmi is 17 years old and has escaped an abusive marriage, travelled to the vibrant city of Jaipur and become a sought after henna artist. She listens to the wealthy woman she meets and develops not only relationships but also remedies to help people in need. Until one day, her husband reappears with a new woman in tow. I wonder what this will mean for the new life Lakshmi has worked so hard to create and whether she can truly escape him for good? A historical novel based in India sounds perfect for these hot summer months!