Sun lounger reads
Holidays are on the horizon, thank the Lord, so time to ponder your reading matter of choice for when you finally hit that beach. Here’s my summer Top 10; some are new and some are catch-up reads, ones you may have missed earlier in the year. Let’s go, bookworms!
Calypso by David Sedaris
Someone I follow on Twitter was recently relaying how she witnessed a girl on her train, stuck into a book, snorting with laughter throughout her entire one hour journey. When she snuck a peak at what the giggler was reading, it was a David Sedaris title. I’m not surprised – the waspish veteran American writer is absolutely hilarious and Calypso is no exception; far funnier than a book dwelling on the deaths of his mother and sister should be. The setting has a summery feel – his North Carolina beachside family holiday home, which he christens Sea Section. The bit about his insane obsession with his Fitbit steps counter had me guffawing like that girl on the train.
Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown
If you’ve watched The Crown on Netflix, you’ll know that Princess Margaret is, without doubt, the best character (and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise). BAFTA agrees – Vanessa Kirby won a gong for the role earlier this year. This acclaimed, witty biography is now out in paperback (cheaper and lighter than the hardback = perfect for hols) and who on earth can resist a book blurb that reads “she made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine and Pablo Picasso lusted after her”? I’m a sucker for getting stuck into a biography on a sun-lounger – holidays are all about escape, after all, and here you can get deliciously lost in the life of someone far more fabulous than yourself.
The Wives by Lauren Weisberger
Weisberger wrote The Devil Wears Prada (and having worked on glossies I can confirm: IT’S ALL TRUE) and this is a follow-up of sorts. The titular wives are the Desperate Housewives-style, designer yoga pant-wearing moms of suburban Connecticut, which include former hotshot lawyer, Miriam. The neighbourhood doesn’t know what’s hit it when Miriam’s best buddy, glamourpuss Emily Charlton, ex-assistant to editor Miranda Priestly, rocks up in town and shakes things up. (Remember Emily Blunt’s character from the movie? Her.) It’s bitchy, silly, frothy and ridiculous – so totally perfect for a beach read after you’ve had a few glasses of rosé, basically.
Whistle In The Dark by Emma Healey
It’s every parent’s nightmare – Jen’s 15-year-old daughter goes missing during a holiday in the Peak District. But – happy ending! – she returns four days later, bruised, uncommunicative but alive. In fact though that’s just the start of Jen’s problems as she tries to get to the bottom of what happened. Healey has form on the intricacies of female relationships – her award-winning 2014 debut, Elizabeth Is Missing, detailed a woman’s search for her missing friend in the face of her worsening dementia. It’s currently being turned into a BBC drama. and speaking of which, Whistle In The Dark has echoes of the chilling life-after-kidnap BBC TV series, Thirteen, starring Jodie Comer. While I know that doesn’t sounds like a barrel of laughs it’s surprisingly funny too. Teenagers, eh?
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
If you missed this when it came out in hardback last year, do grab the new paperback edition. You know you’re onto a winner when it’s been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon (her Instagram book club is brilliant, by the way) for a TV adaptation (see also: Big Little Lies). Set in a 1990s Desperate Housewives-style white picket fence suburb, it starts with a nice middle class family’s house burning down and just gets hotter and hotter from there.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
This is a New York Times bestseller and rave review-magnet – with good reason. It’s one of those rare books that’s as clever as it is compulsive, as beautifully written as it is a good old page-turner. I loved the structure – it opens in 1969 New York City when the four Gold siblings, Klara, Varya, Daniel and little ‘un Simon visit a fortune teller, who tells them all when they will die. Then we track each sibling’s life in turn, in the order in which they die (one shockingly aged just 20). The result is an epic, heart-breaking family drama that elegantly ponders questions of fate versus personal choice. I’ll eat my hat if this doesn’t get snapped up for a Hollywood adaptation.
Bookworm: A Memoir Of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan
For me it was The Twits (cue a lifelong phobia of beards – sorry, hipsters), Malory Towers and St Clare’s (this state school girl was weirdly fascinated by boarding schools) and, um, Ralph in Judy Blume’s Forever (*snigger*). What about you? The books and their characters we adore as children wield such identity-moulding powers that echo down the decades. Journalist Mangan re-examines her own childhood reading list and its emotional impact in this nostalgic memoir that darts from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Sweet Valley High. Joyful and heart-warming.
Departures by Anna Hart
As a travel journalist Hart has had more far-flung adventures than most, although she writes beautifully about the less far flung ones too, such as ditching London for being beside the seaside in newly-gentrified Margate (it’s the new Brighton, doncha know). Part memoir, part travel guide, her journey takes in Poland, the Amalfi coast, Singapore (her childhood home), Bali, New Zealand, LA and beyond, as she works out what she truly wants from life and ponders when travelling veers into “running away”. It’s interspersed with practical tips too about nixing jetlag and unexpected ways to get under the skin of your destination (she suggests ditching the pre-holiday pedicure and taking a treatment at a local beauty salon). Read this and you’ll be itching to jump on a plane.
Anatomy Of A Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Bored of relationship psychological thrillers? Well, you haven’t read this one yet; a fast, furious and elegantly written addition to the genre, with an Oxford setting. As gripping as it is timely, it focuses on wealthy stay-at-home mother Sophie, the wife of a Bullingdon Club-type smoother operator MP, James. When he’s accused of rape by the young aide with whom he’s having an affair, Sophie’s world falls apart. Who is telling the truth? Should she stay or should she go? And why is Kate, the ambitious prosecuting lawyer, so invested in this case? If you lapped up Appletree Yard and Doctor Foster, make veteran news journalist Vaughan’s debut your new literary obsession.
Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom
I’m very much on board with Stephanie Rosenbloom’s approach to travel. In this memoir, the New York Timeswriter extols the virtues of spending time on your lonesome, positing it as something to relish rather than dread. (I don’t think any mother of small children won’t need persuading on that point.) She explores Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York in the process, free to savour every moment and not beholden to anyone else’s itinerary. It’s all a long way from an enforced fortnight at Eurocamp, thankfully.