Looking for inspiration? Or eager to add to that TBR pile? From gardens to gangsters, pebbles to poetry, these are our perfect reads this summer.
Lee Brackstone, Creative Director
Crudo by Olivia Laing
Olivia Laing is best known for her non-fiction so it is perhaps little surprise she has set her debut novel, Crudo, in a time and place familiar to us all (2017). This short, provocative and stylish novel features the resurrection of a radical literary hero in the form of Kathy Acker. Perhaps this novel is a cry for help in times of distress and mediocrity: where are the radical heroes to save us today from populism, Brexit and the drift to powerlessness so many people feel?
Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick
Another hero of a very different sort, though certainly not to Chuck D of Public Enemy (‘Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me’), was given the regal biographical treatment by Peter Guralnick some twenty years ago. Reading Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley is an extraordinary experience. It takes you inside the world of the Memphis mafia and is as much a portrait of the original Svengali and starmaker – Colonel Tom Parker – as it is of Elvis. It is absolutely riveting and tremendously sad; a book that will be read in a hundred years’ time as a document about the late twentieth century and the age of celebrity.
Extinction by Thomas Bernhard
I will also be reading Extinction by Thomas Bernhard – one of the few novels by the Austrian master I haven’t tackled – in advance of our relaunch of five classic Bernhard titles in 2019, to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of his death. Nothing says summer like Thomas Bernhard.
Stephen Page, Chief Executive
Sight by Jessie Greengrass
This beautifully crafted novel weaves a woman’s account of her progress towards motherhood and the death of her own mother with extraordinary accounts of major events in medical history. It’s a book bursting with unfolding intelligence and enquiry about the creation, experience and loss of life.
Three Poems by Hannah Sullivan
I love this brilliantly fluent and readable series of long poems. From the first poem’s irresistible title (’You, very young in New York’) I read it from cover to cover twice in one sitting!
Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
A classic from the Faber backlist is making its way into a multi-episode TV drama this summer, and it is a reason to reach out for this epic gangster novel set in India. A carnival of life, crime and the dark connections between violence and the state, it’s entertaining and at times shocking; it’s The Sopranos set in India.
Kate Ward, Text Design Manager / Senior Project Editor
In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
Top of my list is In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne, a tough story of different characters, ethnicities and generations set over two days on a north London estate.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This has won big prizes and was in all the round-ups last year. I need to read it.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
I will be recommending Women Talking by Miriam Toews. It’s like a slow-burning, exquisite piece of music, circling through heart-wrenching motifs, building to the moment of unavoidable decision. I’m a massive fan of Miriam’s writing, and this really is a perfect book.
Kellie Balseiro, Regional Account Manager
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I am going to see the fabulous Laura Linney at the Bridge Theatre and want to read it beforehand.
Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer
The fictionalised account of Len Howard, a concert violinist who gives it all up to study bird behaviour in a cottage in Ditchling. Beautiful jacket.
Pages for Her by Sylvia Brownrigg
Twenty years ago, Flannery met the love of her life at university . . . much has passed since then, but she gets invited to a writers’ conference where her first love will be attending.
Ruth O’Loughlin, Paperbacks Manager
Modern Nature by Derek Jarman
Recently reissued by Vintage with an introduction by Olivia Laing, Modern Nature is a diary of the garden Jarman made on the rather gnarly coast at Dungeness in 1989 and 1990, and a meditation on his life, past and present, made particularly poignant in the face of his diagnosis with AIDS. Vivid, moving and illuminating.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
I’ve just started this, and it’s so eerie, unnerving and compelling. An amazingly assured debut novel, hypnotic and completely absorbing, a dystopian vision of womanhood, violence, fear and desire.
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara’s first novel in six years, Unsheltered should be eagerly anticipated by Kingsolver’s many fans. It’s an ingenious split narrative that moves between present day and the 1870s in the same small town, and brings together themes of family, nature and belonging in a brilliantly timely fashion. Publishing in October, so not strictly for summer reading, but one to look forward to!
Joanna Lee, Communications Administrator
Fondue by A K Blakemore
Reading A K Blakemore’s poetry feels like listening to the cool older sister I never had. Her references are refreshingly wide, ranging from The Magnetic Fields to Shakespeare, and it’s full of searingly acute, gut-punching turns of phrase like ‘the somnolent glow of / our mutual history as a painted silk’. I can’t get enough.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
I can’t believe I only just got round to reading this! It’s a gorgeous meditation on grief and the cathartic power of a shared meal – Yoshimoto’s characters glimmer with tenderness and the soothing wisdom she imparts is like a balm. I read it in one go and found it genuinely very moving.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This feels like Gossip Girl with a particularly savage edge. It follows a young socialite’s narcotic-fuelled attempt to eschew consciousness and companionship for an entire year in early ’00s New York: brutal and witty with moments of real pathos. Plus, bonus points for my favourite cover of the year so far.
Bridget Lane, International Account Manager
The Rocket Men by Robert Kurson
It’s fifty years since man first orbited the moon. NASA had just three months to prepare for this mission as the USA desperately wanted to get men up into orbit before the Russians could. With little written about the Apollo 8 mission and the madness of space exploration in the 1960s, this new insiders’ story is a space geek’s dream holiday read.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
With a new Barbara Kingsolver title publishing this autumn, I thought it was time to return to this Kingsolver classic. Taking you back to the Congo in the 1950s, it’s a superbly written story of one family who thought they had it all and how they are transformed throughout their time in Africa. Some people keep returning to War and Peace for regular life lessons, but for me there is always something to learn from this book, no matter how many times you read it.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Having arrived relatively late to the ‘Patti Smith fan club’, and having recently been blown away by seeing her perform live, I’m really looking forward to reading this. This book about her amazing relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and New York City in the ’60s and ’70s combines poetry, rock and roll, art and sexual politics in a heady mix. What more do you need over the summer!
Kat Storace, Trade & Digital Marketing
I Am Dynamite! by Sue Prideaux
I love biographies, and this is one I’m particularly excited about. Sue Prideaux takes on the giant of philosophy in an attempt to reassess his place in history.
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
I’ve heard only great things about Deborah Levy and haven’t yet got round to reading anything she’s written. Hot Milk, with its evocative title and cover, feels like a great place to start this summer.
The Line Becomes a River by Franciso Cantú
A friend of mine gave me an advance copy of this book, and I’ve been waiting for the right time to pick it up. It’s a fictionalised account of the author’s experience as a US Border Patrol agent in the desert along the Mexican border.
John Grindrod, Senior Consumer Marketing Manager
This summer I’m going to be recommending the beautiful reissue of Clarence Ellis’s classic 1954 book The Pebbles on the Beach, a spotter’s guide for any amateur pebble hunter, and John Boughton’s excellent book on the history of council housing, Municipal Dreams. I’ve also been really looking forward to reading Olivia Laing’s apocalyptic black comedy Crudo.
Benedetta Costantini, Key Accounts & Special Sales Manager
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
One evening I was reading on a bus when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and the guy behind me pointed at the copy of A Little Life in my hands, ’Where are you at?’ When I told him I was fifty-odd pages in he nodded, a look of sincere concern and care on his face, and said, ’Good luck. It’s brilliant. Devastating, but brilliant.’ This brief exchange sums up the whole experience of reading Yanagihara’s novel about the lives of four friends living in New York. It’s a story of friendship, love, pain, one that will get you so invested it will be hard to put it down and go on with your daily life.
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani
The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds. When you stand in a bookshop flicking through titles and end up on a first page like this you have to buy the book and take it home with you. Leïla Slimani builds a creeping, uncomfortable tension that lingers throughout the novel and will leave you squirming uneasily in your seat.
Why I’m No Longer Speaking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Everyone should get their hands on this. One of the most important books of last year, a wake-up call and much-needed slap in the face.
Angus Cargill, Editorial Director
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
When I moved house earlier in the year, this was one of my old books I wanted to re-read. And while it’s tough, in some ways, reading it again now, and you can see that sadness lurking between its lines, it remains defiantly a riotous, life-affirming classic.
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
As the reviews have said, this really is a book for our times: troubling and haunting, but as beautiful as it is important.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
A graphic memoir by the young and super-talented Tillie Walden, it was one of Rachel Cooke’s Graphic Novels of the Month in the Observer last year, and I’m just about to finally get around to reading it. I can’t wait.
James Stone, Marketing Campaigns Assistant
Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
I was browsing the quaint Skoob Books in Bloomsbury when I came across this intriguing book. The blurb introduces a story of a woman who meets a former high-school teacher in a bar and after this initial encounter, they continue to meet to share food and drink sake. It also describes the changing seasons ‘from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms’. As I’m going to Tokyo later in the year, it feels like a great book to prepare me for enjoying Japanese culture.
The Pebbles on the Beach by Clarence Ellis
This book follows in the footsteps of The Secret Life of Cows in offering an in-depth look at often untapped subject matter. This spotter’s guide promises to provide a whole fresh supply of obscure facts to be dropped at social gatherings over the summer . . .
Football Leaks by Rafael Buschmann and Michael Wulzinger
The World Cup is in full swing and the talking points on and off the pitch are already rife – adding to the sacking of the Spain manager, Julen Lopetegui, two days before the tournament even started. Football Leaks looks closely at the shady underworld of the game and reveals the findings of 18.6 million leaked confidential documents. These include details of transfer fees, player bonuses and a whole lot of scandal.