The NWN staff can’t wait to dive into their summer reading lists! Find out which books will be stuffed into our beach-bags on holiday or enjoyed under the sun in our gardens.
Planning my summer reading feels extra exciting this year because I’m going on my first big trip since the pandemic. I’ve recently discovered audiobooks to be the perfect companion for long journeys and have enjoyed train rides listening to An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green, so I’ll spend my flights listening to its sequel, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavour. It’s a clever and thought-provoking contemporary sci-fi following a 23-year-old who is flung into the public eye when she discovers and documents the appearance of an otherworldly robot sculpture. I also plan to bring along New Yorkers: A City and Its People in Our Time by Craig Taylor, as I’ll be spending part of my holiday in NYC. This is a series of interviews and life stories transcribed from a diverse group of over 180 New Yorkers, giving an insight into the real culture and life of the city in the 21st century.
Staring at my bookshelf and all the many, many books I haven’t yet read always fills me simultaneously with both joy and despair. Despite being an English grad, publishing person and all-round literature lover, I am also a woefully slow reader.
BUT here are the titles I am DETERMINED to conquer this glorious summer. First is one of my most recently acquired: Cecily by Annie Garthwaite. A female-fuelled telling of the sparks which set off the War of the Roses. At school I loved learning about the messy end to that period, and am very intrigued by a story set in the lesser-known early years of it all. Plus I can’t remember the last time I dove into some good historical fiction. Continuing the history theme, I’d also like to dig into Dr Alice Roberts’ Ancestors: A Prehistory of Britain in Seven Burials, and I’m determined to reach the end of Thomas Halliday’s dizzying Otherlands: A World in the Making, which is a fascinating and creative descent into deep time. Perhaps I’m avoiding anything to do with the current state of the world, for some reason…?
As ever I will be taking a big stack of books away with me on holiday this year and am struggling to hone my list down to manageable proportions! One book I’ll take will be This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub, this is the story of a 40 year old New Yorker who travels back in time to her sixteenth birthday in 1996. I’m looking forward to wallowing in 90s nostalgia and know I’ll be safe hands with Emma Straub, who also owns the brilliant Books Are Magic bookshop in Brooklyn – their Instagram account is a regular source of bookish inspiration for me. I’ll also be packing Akwaeke Emezi’s new love story: You Made A Fool of Death with your Beauty, which has just been published by Faber and am eagerly anticipating The Whalebone Theatre a debut novel by Joanna Quinn- which has been billed as perfect for fans of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle– which are some of my favourite books of all time.
A favourite past time of mine is to set ‘summer reading plans’ and then completely ignore them; I was about to declare that this is the year I finally finish the Neapolitan Novels before realising that’s exactly what I wrote here last year. However, one book I am determined to read over the next couple of months is You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi. I am a huge Emezi fan and will read anything they write, but this novel about a holiday romance on an island sounds particularly apt for summer. I also recently picked up a gorgeous edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I actually bought it in an airport and then flew it to Majorca and back without reading it as I’d already packed more books than days I’d be away. This modern classic has been on my list for years now and I’m hoping that I can bring a feeling of the Colombian sun to my summer spent at home.
I’m especially looking forward to two books.
Wendy Erskine is an extraordinary writer of short stories and I’m keen to sit down and begin reading her latest collection, Dance Move. She has a talent for creating characters that live with you long after you’ve finished reading and her writing is so unique and distinctive, genuinely unlike anyone else’s.
I’ve recently started reading Blood Sugar, Sex, Magic by the poet Sarah James, published by Verve. So far I’m deeply affected by these skilled and compelling poems that chronicle her life lived with type-1 diabetes. As a carer for someone with this gruelling, complex and intensely serious life-long disability, I welcome how this collection raises both awareness and understanding of a condition that, frustratingly, is often misunderstood.
I am a huge mood reader, so I don’t often make summer reading plans as I usually end up reading something completely different BUT there are two books on my radar that I am desperate to get to. The first is Joseph Han’s debut novel, Nuclear Family. This magical realism novel is set in the months leading up to the 2018 nuclear missile false alarm and follows a Korean American family who own a few plate lunch restaurants, one of which was visited by Guy Fieri. From what I’ve heard it sounds like a wild ride but I don’t want to learn much more before picking it up!
I would also like to read Arkady Martine’s Teixcalaan series, starting with A Memory Called Empire. I’ve wanted to read this since it won a Hugo Award in 2020 and I’m looking forward to escaping into an action-packed, space opera whilst enjoying the sun in my garden.
This summer I am looking forward to reading The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. Inspired by a true story, The Lamplighters is a fictional telling of the mystery of three lighthouse keepers’ disappearance from a remote tower miles from the Cornish coast (in reality, they disappeared from Eilean Mor – outer Scotland!). The story unravels the mystery through the wives they left behind, flitting between land and lighthouse to unravel the mystery!
I’ve just started Daisy Hildyard’s Emergency. I loved Hunters in the Snow and The Second Body by the same author. Emergency shares vivid memories of growing up in the 1990s in Yorkshire – so far the descriptions of wildlife, 90s television and of trying to work out a world that appears increasingly interconnected are so vivid as to be almost luxurious. It reminds me of being a child in the North East in the 90s, escaping into fields and farms, and trying to make sense of ‘The Internet’. I can’t wait to take it on the train with me at the weekend.
As my TBR pile is now taller than the bookcase it leans against, I am reminded that I should probably actually read some books instead of just greedily adding new ones. Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness was already in the pile and now in celebration of this week’s Women’s Prize win I’m moving it straight to the top. I loved her novel A Tale for the Time Being, which was so rich with ideas that I still return to it in my mind. For a quicker read, my kids and I recently enjoyed Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper graphic novels (only to find they binged the whole Netflix series without me). Whether you are young or old, these books will take you to a time of finding first love and working out your sense of identity – a pure joy.