What We’re Reading: Summer 2024 Edition

This summer, whether you’re staying home or are off on big adventures, it’s important to have some exciting books lined up to accompany your (hopefully) sunny days. Need some ideas? Find a new addition to your list from our roundup of the NWN team’s summer holiday reading plans.

Will Mackie

My wildest hopes for this summer are for woodland walks, an ice cream in the sunshine and the odd afternoon reading until I fall asleep on the sofa. Exciting times. To help me in these endeavours, I’ll be recruiting our ever-enthusiastic puppy Lucas and delving into my to-be-read pile. I’m looking forward to reading Long Island, Colm Tóibín’s long-awaited follow-up to Brooklyn; Determination by Tawseef Khan, an exciting and compelling writer; Anna Zoe Quirke’s amazing YA debut Something to be Proud Of; and Only Here, Only Now by the extraordinary Scottish writer Tom Newlands. Lucas also loves getting his teeth into books, as evidenced by my now-decapitated copy of Vanity Fair, which I had been planning to finally getting around to reading one day.

Roxy McKenna

Off the back of launching our Genre Feature Lab, I’ve been on the hunt for Northern sci-fi and came across the Yorkshire-set dystopian novel The Death of Grass by John Christopher. First published in 1956, this short novel explores what happens when a virus from China kills off all grass species including wheat and rice and thrusts the world into famine. A family have to hit the road and escape London to Yorkshire before the government take deadly action to control population numbers in the cities. A bizarrely prescient read that raises some interesting moral questions.

My second choice will hopefully be a little lighter, it is the hols after all. I’ve picked up a copy of the recently published All Fours by Miranda July. I love the uncanny way she balances humour, pathos and surrealism in her novels and films. My first dive into her work was through the collection of short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You, a perfect collection of intimate and funny stories – so if you need a gateway drug into her work this is the one I’d recommend.

Rebecca Wilkie

I began reading Kaliane Bradley’s debut novel, The Ministry of Time, during the first sunny weekend of June and I’m enjoying it immensely. Set in the near future, it’s the story of a disaffected civil servant working in a mysterious new government ministry gathering ‘expats’ from across history to test the limits of recently discovered time travel (disclaimer – the physics behind this are never explained, so if, unlike me, you require scientific explanations, it’s not the book for you!).

The narrator, who is British-Cambodian, just like the writer, works as a ‘bridge’ living with and mentoring Commander Graham Gore, the handsome and charismatic Victorian explorer, who was meant to have died in 1847 during Sir John Franklin’s doomed expedition to the Arctic. This exploration of identity, colonialism, history and love is wryly funny and an absolute page-turner. The publisher’s description of it as a ‘literary romcom with added time-travel’ only goes part way in describing all that it contains. Its unlike anything I’ve read recently and I think it might be my book of the year so far.

I’ve already bought Colm Tóibín’s new book Long Island, to take on holiday with me at the end of June. It’s the much-anticipated sequel to Brooklyn and I can’t wait to revisit the characters 20 years on from where we left them. I adore Tóibín’s writing and a new novel from him always feels like a special event.

Claire Malcolm

This summer I’m going to read as much as I can by Annie Ernaux. I’m so very late to this particular literary party but am very glad to have found Ernaux’s work. In essence, her work is autobiographical and plays with auto-fiction but is also totally her own. I read A Man’s Place, her short pithy book about her father’s life and death, which changed how I thought about writing about class and family. She has a cool detached voice and at times is a cold observer of truths in rather shocking ways. It is writing that shows you the world in deceptively simple prose whilst revealing things that you have never seen before or never thought to look for.

I’ve just started The Years, her most well known work. It brings together cultural artifacts, memories of cultural and societal events, and personal memories, with the author also present – questioning the process and noting how quickly time passes and how selective our experiences and memories are. I’m only 30 pages in and have already been stopped in my tracks and made to cry by the might of some of her ideas about time passing. She’s a genius.

Grace Keane

This summer I’m being blessed with a couple of new titles from some all-time favourite authors. In August, Kate Atkinson is releasing the latest in her Jackson Brodie series, Death at the Sign of the Rook. I’ve been obsessed with Jackson since I first picked up my mum’s copy of Case Studies, and these books never miss for me. However, the fact that this one is upending cosy crime conventions and going full locked-room mystery – even better.

I’ll be in Chicago in June and (very smugly) will be picking up Little Rot by Akwaeke Emezi almost a month early. I adore Emezi’s prose and always find myself completely drawn in by their storytelling. This is an author with range and I’m happy to go along for the ride, but for those who might not be familiar, Little Rot is described as a thrilling new novel set in the elite underbelly of Nigeria. The cover on the American edition also happens to be gorgeous, so a trip to Barnes and Noble is definitely on the itinerary.

Joe Baumber

I thought I’d get in the summer spirit by starting off with something really jolly, so I’ll be reading Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. I recently read Requiem for a Dream and thought it was brilliant, so I’ve got high expectations for this. Rita Bullwinkel’s Headshot is next on my hitlist; it’s about a young women’s boxing tournament and is a novel I’m really looking forward to. I’d also like to reread Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as it’s great and I think I’ll need something that’s actually quite upbeat (for me).

Finally, some new releases I’ve got my eye on include Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar, England is Mine by Nicolas Padamsee and There’s Always This Year: On Basketball and Ascension by Hanif Abdurraqib. I’ve heard great things about all three of these books and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

Hana Sandhu

I have been reading a lot of Palestinian writers recently, tracing their words on cereal box placards, sharing screenshotted passages with friends when words escape us and thinking about writing as an act of resistance against an inheritance of loss. In a similar vein to Adania Shibli’s remarkable Minor Detail, Ibtisam Azem’s The Book of Disappearance (published by And Other Stories and translated from the Arabic by Sinan Antoon) examines intergenerational trauma within the Palestinian experience and follows the story of Alaa, a young woman haunted by the memories of her Grandmother’s displacement from Jaffa in 1948. Looking beyond fiction, I stumbled across this interview with poet and translator, Fady Joudah in New Inquiry, and have been eager to delve into his work ever since. I’ll be starting with the collection he published earlier this year, simply titled […].

Carys Vickers

While flying home from my early summer holiday, I started listening to the audiobook of comedian Fern Brady’s autobiography, Strong Female Character. Narrated in her wonderful Scottish accent, it focuses on her experience as an autistic woman, filled with darkly funny anecdotes from her misunderstood childhood, to trying to act ‘normal’ in the entertainment industry, to finally seeking and accepting a diagnosis. I’m quickly falling in love with Fern’s honest and hilarious storytelling.

Babel by RF Kuang was too weighty a tome to justify taking on holiday, so I reluctantly put it on pause while I was away. I’m excited to dive back in to this intelligently crafted, magical tale of translators in 19th century Oxford, which gripped me from page one. It’s not an obvious pick for summer, but I often like to take this season as an opportunity to read something indulgent and immersive.

Helena Davidson

This summer, I’m really looking forward to reading some of the books on the Women’s Prize shortlist, especially the recently announced winner, Brotherless Night, by V. V. Ganeshananthan! It’s a history I don’t really know anything about so I am looking forward to diving into this novel and learning more while being swept away by the emotion of the narrative. I’m also going to read Enter, Ghost by Isabella Hammad, as I think there is something so touching and hopeful about people engaging with, and finding comfort in, art, despite the most devastating events going on around them.