Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers- part two

What to pack along with the aftersun and flipflops? From novels about lesbian footballers and updated Greek classics to biographies and verse, our guest critics offer their holiday must-reads

John Banville

Colm Tibn s exhilarating House of Names ( Viking 14.99) is a retelling of Aeschyluss drama on the sacrificing by Agamemnon of his daughter Cassandra and its tragic outcomes, including the murder of Agamemnon by his wife, Clytemnestra. The book has a controlled, hushed quality, like that of a Morandi still life, which only serves to heighten the terror and pity of the tale. Michael Longley s latest collection, Angel Hill ( Jonathan Cape 10) what a genius he has for titles is at once lush and elegiac, delicate and muscular, melancholy and thrilling. I shall not be going anywhere hate vacations but will stay blithely at home, rereading Evelyn Waugh s second world war Sword of Honour trilogy( Penguin 14.99 ). Pure bliss.

Clover Stroud

With five children to entertain, Im not sure how much read Ill actually do on holiday in Santander this summer, but fortunately I have already romped through my best summer books.

Haunted by the shadow of a parent killed in a motorbike collision, William Giraldi s The Heros Body ( No Exit Press 9.99) is a terse, gripping memoir set in working-class New Jersey. Giraldis hyper-masculine childhood is a foil for his revelations on the true fragility of male identity. I loved Elizabeth Day s glamorous thriller The Party ( 4th Estate 12.99 ), about a sinister secret between two friends that unravels in midlife. Days writing is both elegant and claustrophobic, and profoundly revealing of how entrenched questions of class remain today. I could not put it down. And I galloped through Mr Darleys Arabian ( John Murray 25 ), Christopher McGrath s brilliantly colorful cavort through the extraordinary ponies and scandalous characters who make up the history of British horse racing.


AM Homes

Neel Mukherjee s A State of Freedom ( Chatto& Windus 16.99) is a brilliant novel, deep compassionate and painterly, reminding me of Howard Hodgkins paintings. Mukherjee brings to life the colours and sounds of a place where modern life is constantly crashing against tradition. And in my suitcase: Howard Jacobson s Pussy ( Vintage 12.99 ), because as much as I need to laugh, I also need to confirm that my sense of horror “wasnt just” in my imagination but indeed shared ; David Goodhart s The Road to Somewhere ( C Hurst& Co 20 ), because I am still go looking for clues as to how we got where we are, and where we might be headed next; Don DeLillo s entire backlist, and a bit of Norman Mailer because in retrospect, despite what one might call his personality problems with women, he was an amazing writer with a political eye.

Curiously, Im coming to the UK, spending a month in Oxford, keen to look at a scenery other than my own.

Curtis Sittenfeld

I loved the novel The Idiot ( Jonathan Cape 16.99) by Elif Batuman . Its about a girl in her first year at Harvard in the mid-9 0s, and her email correspondence( when email is still new) with an older male student. The whole fiction is full of hilarious, brilliant observations about writing, life and crushes. I was also blown away by Jane Mayer s nonfiction book Dark Money ( Scribe Publications 9.99 ), which meticulously, fascinatingly and horrifyingly explains how eccentric American billionaires hijacked our democracy. Im travelling to ensure my sister in Providence, Rhode Island, the summer months, and Ill take the narrative collection Strangers to Temptation ( Hub City 13.33) by Scott Gould ( about a boy in the American south of the 1970 s) and the novel Silver Sparrow ( Algonquin) by Tayari J ones ( about two girls in the American south of the 1980 s ). Im hearing buzz about Joness 2018 novel ( An American Marriage ) so I believed Id read this one first.

Melvyn Bragg

In the 11 skilfully detailed chapters of The Matter of the Heart ( Bodley Head 20 ), Thomas Morris dedicates us the spectacular history of heart surgery. He spares us nothing and in gripping narratives delivers everything you would want to know about his superbly selected subject. Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons R oberts ( Jonathan Cape 14.99) is a witty and erudite journey into the characters of doomed poets employing locating as a steer. Chatterton kicks off and along the way there are arguments for and against the notion of whether poets are especially doomed artists. Amazingly entertaining. For my own travellings, I shall be taking House of Names by Colm Tibn ( Viking 14.99 ). Tibns recent masterworks, Brooklyn and Nora Webster , gave little intimation that he would home in on the bloodiest violence in Greek misfortune for this novel. I cant wait to see what he does with it.


Jackie Kay

Id recommend readers take poetry with them on holiday poetry is so portable, travelings sun, but excavations deep. Id take Hollie McNish s Nobody Told Me ( Blackfriars 13.99 ), winner of this years Ted Hughes award, and a funny, very moving collecting, taken originally from the poets diaries, about motherhood. Another wonderful debut is Kayombo Chingonyi s Kumukanda ( Chatto& Windus 10) a subtle and affecting, lyrical and powerful collection that explores boyhood, rites of passage, the ancient and the modern world. Id pack the small poetry pamphlet Toots by Alyson Hallett ( Mariscat Press 6) poems so fresh and enlivening, you want to knock back the whole volume with a cold beer. Im hoping to go to the Greek island of Halki. I ran last year and loved it. And Im going to pack George Mackay Brown s short tales Andrina ( Polygon 7.99 ), having just come back from St Magnus festival in Orkney. I love the mystery and militancy he weaves into tales like The Box of Fish. And Im also going to take Maxine Beneba Clarke s The Hate Race ( Corsair 18.99) a powerful memoir about growing up black in Australia.

Harriet Lane

Based on a True Story ( Bloomsbury 12.99) by Delphine de Vigan ( elegantly translated by George Miller) is a wonderful literary trompe loeil , a novel about identity and writing, reality and imagination. Its darknes, smart, compelling and highly French. I also enjoyed James Lasdun s The Fall Guy ( Jonathan Cape 12.99 ), a creepy little irony in which several New Yorkers , none of them terribly appealing, escape the city heat for a summertime in the Catskills, and Denise Mina s bleak and atmospheric The Long Drop ( Harvill Secker 12.99 ).

For my own vacation( rural East Sussex, near Eastbourne the sunshine coast !), I will pack Amanda Craig s The Lie of the Land ( Little, Brown 16.99) and Susie Steiner s Persons Unknown ( Harper Collins 12.99 ).

Patrick Ness

Definitely take two titles from the Baileys prize longlist this year( both of which, I think, are better than the winner ): CE Morgan s The Sport of Kings ( 4th Estate 16.99 ), contender for the Great American Novel, and Heather ONeill s The Lonely Hearts Hotel ( Quercus 16.99 ). For your teen, After the Fire ( Usborne 8.99) by Will Hill a tough, enthralling YA novel about the Waco cult. I just got back from vacation, where I finally read Wilkie Collins s The Woman in White ( Alma Books 4.99 ), which is, if were honest, ridiculous but ridiculously enjoyable, and Adam Johnson s fascinating Pulitzer prize-winning fiction about North Korea, The Orphan Masters Son ( Black Swan 8.99 ). Go big; youve got the time.


Lionel Shriver

I strongly recommend Lawrence Osbornes forthcoming novel Beautiful Animals ( Hogarth 14.99 ), about two young women who try to help a refugee washed up on the Greek island where their families are holidaying. The altruism doesnt aim well Im also intrigued by Dirk Kurbjuweits novel Fear ( Text Publishing ), about a stalker living downstairs. Im not finished, but so far so good. While in both NY and on a quick first journey to Mexico, I also hope to get through Preparation for the Next Life ( Oneworld 8.99) by Atticus Lish, a strenuous recommendation by my friend Tracy Chevalier, and perhaps to eventually have a go at CE Morgans The Sport of Kings ( 4th Estate 16.99 ).

Kirsty Wark

Sebastian Barry s Days Without End ( Faber 8.99) is a novel so rich with character, so visceral in its action, that you literally hold your breath reading it. The character and voice of Thomas McNulty who escapes the Irish famine and becomes embroiled in both the American indian wars and the American civil war will last in your intellect much longer than your summer vacation. For a fast-paced, brilliantly constructed thriller with a difference, reaching for Robert Harris s Conclave ( Cornerstone 20 ). All you wanted to know about the Vatican but were too scared to ask. Ill be taking Richard Ford s memoir Between Them: Remembering My Mothers ( Bloomsbury 12.99) in my own volume suitcase in preparation for interviewing the author at the Edinburgh book festival( and also rereading Canada , which I loved first time around) as well as Judy Murray s Knowing the Rating: My Family and Our Tennis Story ( Chatto& Windus 18.99) because, quite simply, she is inspirational, passionate and great fun. I admire her staggeringly and theres always the chance that my serve might improve.

Cornelia Parker

Dadland ( Vintage 8.99) by Keggie Carew is a brilliant, bittersweet biography of her maverick, charismatic father Tom Carew. He was an undercover agent in Vichy France, a guerrilla fighter, Lawrence of Burma, and very possibly the inspiration for his friend Patricia Highsmiths infamous character Ripley. We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World ( Profile 12.99) by Mark Stevenson is an inspiring book that makes “youre feeling” optimistic about the future; much needed at this moment in time. I have just finished reading Zeitoun ( Penguin 9.99) by Dave Eggers a chilling factual account of a family caught up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and an indictment of Bushs America. I wonder how the inevitable climate-related calamities will fare under Trump?


Rohan Silva

You cant go wrong with Harriet Harman s wonderful autobiography A Womans Work ( Allen Lane 20) its just so human and inspiring, and my favourite book of the year in so far. The Nature Fix ( WW Norton& Co 20) by Florence Williams is an ideal vacation pick too, chock-full of insights about the health benefits of spending time in nature.( It turns out that lying on the beach is good for you .) And if youre worried about the state of the world, Matthew Bolton s brilliant How to Resist ( Bloomsbury 9.99) shows how each of us can do our bit to fight populism.

As for me, Ill be packing Arundhati Roy s new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness ( Hamish Hamilton 18.99 ), which Ive been saving for my travels. Im sure itll be worth the wait.

Carol Morley

When I go on holiday I love to read short narratives. Whatever Happened to Interracial Love ?( Granta 12.99) by the film-maker Kathleen Collins is a beautiful collection, written in the 60 s and 70 s, but unpublished in her lifetime. I also love the language and astounds in Irenosen Okojies collection Speak Gigantular ( Jacaranda Books Art Music Ltd 8.99 ). For August, I have pre-ordered We That Are Young ( Galley Beggar Press 9.99) by Preti Taneja. It sounds wonderful an epic family tale involving corrupt practices and betrayal that looks to hold a mirror to our times.

Mark Haddon

I need you to read four volumes, so Ill be brief. The Man Booker-shortlisted Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin ( Oneworld 12.99) is a single afternoons disturbing read that will haunt you for weeks. Joe Moshenska s A Stain in the Blood: The Remarkable Voyage of Sir Kenelm Digby ( Cornerstone 20) reads like a thrilling historical novel but amazingly happens to be nonfiction. The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich ( Macmillan 20) is the best true-crime reportage and simultaneously the best memoir Ive read for several years. And The Unaccompanied by Simon Armitage ( Faber 14.99) won me over entirely after a period of several years in which I suffered a profound allergy to poetry of all kinds.

My own summertime read( during a week in Portugal and a week in Switzerland in an attempt to satisfy all family members) will be the new translation of The Arabian Nights by Malcolm C Lyons ( Penguin Classics ). Its three volumes of a thousand pages each so it may be my reading for the following summer as well.


Louise Doughty

Ive been reading a lot of nonfiction lately and three most varied volumes that Ive admired are: The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich ( Macmillan 20 ), true crime in the same category as Truman Capote or Janet Malcolm; A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney ( Aurum Press 20 ), about friendship between famous female writers; and Hannah Lowe s engaging cross-cultural memoir, Long Time No See ( Periscope 9.99 ). Its hour for some fictions on holiday I think its going to be Croatia this year and were living in a golden age for genre-busting fiction, narrative-driven volumes that are still beautifully written. Among the many Im looking forward to catching up with are The Party by Elizabeth Day ( 4th Estate 12.99 ), The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig ( Little, Brown 16.99) and two debuts, You Dont Know Me by Imran Mahmood ( Michael Joseph 12.99) and Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney ( Faber 14.99) good prose and a secret waiting to be unlocked are always a winning combination for me.

Laura Barnett

No suitcase should be without a transcript of The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss ( Granta 12.99) one of the sharpest, most startlingly original novels Ive read in years. And while A Manual for Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink ( Picador 8.99) might not sound like vacation read, its the perfect selection for anyone keen to use the time off to make sense of any recent emotional upheaval.

Many people I respect have raved about Amy Liptrot s The Outrun ( Canongate 8.99 ), so Ill be taking that to a yoga retreat in Sweden. And Fran Cooper s debut novel These Dividing Walls ( Hodder& Stoughton 14.99) will be coming with me on a weekend journey to Paris: its set in the city, and I cant defy a location-appropriate holiday read.

Illustration by Giacomo Bagnara.

Marina Warner

I recommend: The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories , edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin ( Solaris 10.99 ), entertaining, sexy, and mischievous; The Power ( Penguin 12.99) an enthrallingly told Cassandra-like prophecy from the ever-inventive Naomi Alderman ; and Lesley Nneka Arimah s narratives, What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky ( Headline 14.99 ), ranging from the memorably weird to the delicate and psychological. Ill be going to Sicily, and am packing Jerry Brotton , This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World ( Allen Lane 20 ), which continues his brilliant recovery of the intertwined Mediterranean, and Jack Zipes s Catarina the Wise ( University of Chicago Press 15 ), a fabulous dish of frutti di mare .


Nick Hornby

Two books have stood out for me so far this year: Keggie Carew s Dadland ( Chatto& Windus 16.99) and Francesca Segal s The Awkward Age ( Chatto& Windus 14.99 ). Carews memoir about her father follows a meandering, extraordinary track through the thickets of dementia and the jungles of Burma a thrilling, bloody, educative history of Churchills Special Operations Executive( AKA the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare) in the second world war combined ingeniously with a tender, moving, funny portrait of the authors father. Segals The Awkward Age is a very smart, soulful, compelling, elegantly written domestic novel about a wedged-together family, and what can go wrong when teenage children choose they have minds( and hormones) of their own. I will be sitting on a sun-lounger reading Glenn Frankel s High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic ( Bloomsbury 30 ), Naomi Alderman s The Power ( Penguin 12.99 ), and one of the many classics that I have hitherto ignored, Willa Cather s Death Comes for the Archbishop ( Virago 8.99 ).

Lucy Hughes-Hallett

I recommend A Bold and Dangerous Family ( Chatto& Windus 20 ), Caroline Moorehead s humane and engrossing book about two brothers, both courageous anti-fascists, murdered by Mussolinis hit humen. Also Standard Deviation ( 4th Estate 12.99) Katherine Heiny s novel is a comic masterpiece and her Audra is the funniest heroine ever. A faltering matrimony, a vulnerable child, an origami class full of severely weird loners dark material transformed into pure gold by Heinys spot-on comic timing. Ill be in Suffolk rereading another comic masterpiece The Diary of a Nobody ( Penguin 6.99) because Rough Haired Pointers hilarious stage version( directed against my daughter Mary Franklin) returns to the Kings Head Islington from 31 October.

Julie Myerson

Ive been writing a fiction of my own, which means I can only allow in certain voices and so am woefully behind on reading, but Delphine de Vigan s Based on a True Story ( Bloomsbury 12.99) hit the exact right note: frighteningly honest, precise and thrilling. I hope to spend most of August by the bluest of blue seas in East Sussex where I will sit under a huge purple umbrella reading Elizabeth Strout s Anything Is Possible ( Viking 12.99 ), Monique Roffey s The Tryst ( Dodo Ink 8.99) and Richard Lloyd Parry s Ghosts of the Tsunami ( Jonathan Cape 16.99) all of them enticing-sounding books by proper grown-up writers who arent afraid to go to uneasy places and whose run I had already been determined so inspiring.


Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Andrew OHagan s The Secret Life ( Faber 14.99) brings together three brilliant pieces hes written about the impact of the digital world on our fleshly egoes. They are written like thrillers freighted with challenging and urgent issue. In these dark days it is our duty to imagine what good times would look like. Rutger Bregman s Utopia for Realists ( Bloomsbury 16.99) is a cheery rough guide to an archipelago of ideal societies. In my suitcase, as we head to the west of Ireland, is Walter Miller s sci-fi classic about a future monastic society, A Canticle for Leibovitz ( Orbit 9.99 ), and this years Carnegie win , Ruta Sepetys s Salt to the Sea ( Puffin 7.99) the story of the greatest maritime disaster of all time. On audible Ive get Stay With Me ( Canongate 14.99) by Aybmi Adby .

Alex Preston

Im going to be speaking about a neglected classic Charles Sprawson s extraordinary literary history of swimming, Haunts of the Black Masseur ( Vintage 9.99) on the brilliant Backlisted podcast in a few weeks period. Its the perfect poolside companion. If youre holidaying in more rugged terrain, how about Adam Nicolson s light-filled hymn to the birds of our coasts and oceans, The Seabirds Cry ( HarperCollins 16.99 )? I adored it. Finally, Ive been delighted to see Amanda Craig s The Lie of the Land ( Little, Brown 16.99) being garlanded with such praise. Its a hell of a novel dark, gripping and beautifully written. For my own holidays in France, Ill be taking two advance proofs that have got me moist-palmed with anticipation. Ive read bits of Anthony McGowan s The Art of Failing ( Oneworld 12.99, out in September) and cant wait to immerse myself in this excruciating memoir of defeat snatched from the jaw of victory. Kamila Shamsie s new one, Home Fire ( Bloomsbury 16.99, also September ), reimagines Antigone in two modern Muslim families.

Linda Grant

The most memorable nonfiction work of the year so far has been Allan Jenkins s Plot 29 ( 4th Estate 14.99 ), his account of a search for family and the consolation of gardening which for me, as a new gardener, was an instructive pleasure. Gwendolyn Riley s First Love ( Granta 12.99) is a tremendous novel with an unreliable narrator and one of the most enjoyable monsters in contemporary fiction, the mother, holding forth in a Liverpool cafe. Loved it. Ive went absurdly late to Henry James having developed an allergy read The Ambassadors as a define university text. I expect to finish The Portrait of a Lady ( Vintage, 6.99) in Fowey, Cornwall. So much more fun than Middlemarch .


Geoff Dyer

For long summer days I warmly recommend Gerard Reves s hilariously gloomy The Evenings ( originally published in Dutch in 1947 but most recently appearing in English courtesy of the Pushkin Press, 12.99 ). I see it as a Dutch version of Kafkas Metamorphosis in which the narrator who lives at home with his mothers instead of turning into a giant bug undergoes a clairvoyant disintegration which is all but unnoticeable on the outside. In the intriguingly titled Novel 11, Book 18 ( Vintage 8.99) Norwegian novelist Dag Solstad serves up another helping of his wan and wise almost-comedy.( Lydia Davis taught herself Norwegian entirely from his volumes .) My wife and I are heading that way-ish, to Iceland, where Ill be reading Raja Shehade hs Where the Line Is Drawn: Intersecting Bounds in Occupied Palestine ( Profile 14.99 ).

Charlotte Mendelson

Reading has always been everything: until now. My concentration is shot; life is complicated, the news is so bad. Dozens of just-begun books pile up by my bed; the only two that gripped me to the end are Susie Steiner s novel Persons Unknown ( HarperCollins 12.99) and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich s The Fact of a Body ( Macmillan 20 ). Holiday reading makes me panic at the best use of days, which this is not. The classics I mean to bringing Laxness, Chekhov will stay on the shelf. I can manage Elizabeth Strout , and Alys Fowler s Hidden Nature ( Hodder& Stoughton 20 ); Im impatient for Maggie OFarrell s memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am ( Headline 16.99 ), out in August, and Alan Hollinghurst s sixth novel The Sparsholt Affair ( Picador, October ). Please hurry; meanwhile its back to my crime stockpile, and trying to ignore the news enough to write.

Alastair Campbell

At the risk of coming over all Remainiac, I am recommending a French book as the best I have read this year. Lettres Anne by Franois Mitterrand ( Gallimard 35 ), is a 1,200 -page collection of the letters the former French president wrote to his mistress, Anne Pingeot, over the decades of their love affair. It is breathtakingly romantic at times. I would also recommend The End of Europe by James Kirchick ( Yale University Press 18.99 ), a young Americans brilliant analysis of the dire country of world politics. The subtitle, Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age , gives you a flavor. Putin, Trump and Brexit figure large, and Kirchick shares my exasperation that we are turning away from liberal values and the benefits of the EU. Top of my read listing for the summer is The Jacobite Trilogy by DK Broster . I have read the first of the three, Flight of the Heron . I have also got the new volume about Emmanuel Macron , Un jeune homme si parfait , by Anne Fulda( Plon 15,90 ). And, yes, I am going to France.


Julian Baggini

Travel will for once broaden your mind this year if you pack Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber s The Enigma of Reason ( Allen Lane 25 ). It takes the new common sense that human beings are governed by irrational emotions and shows why these are not design flaws in the brain but design features. Erica Benner s Be Like the Fox ( Allen Lane 20) turns more conventional wisdom upside down by showing that Machiavelli was not as Machiavellian as you thought. Im hoping to be in post-deadline mode at home reading David Foster Wallace s essays on tennis, String Theory ( Turnaround 16.99 ), ready to start watching the real thing if it disappoints.

Suzanne OSullivan

I will be alternating scuba diving with lots of reading on a Maldivian island the summer months. I plan to take The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot ( Pan 8.99 ). Henriettas story is extraordinary she changed the world without ever knowing it. I will also be reading Undermajordomo Minor by P atrick deWitt ( Granta 12.99 ). Im a big admirer of deWitts originality. And I recommend In

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