Summer reads 2012

Summer holidays mean time to catch up on all those books you've been meaning to read, or a chance to discover new authors.

We've selected some of our best summer reads, from high-end escapism and atmospheric page-turners to haunting history and astounding biographies. Do you agree with our selection or have we missed a Must Read? Share your thoughts on the boards. And if you find yourself pining for Mumsnet book club while you're away, follow us on Twitter to stay in the loop.


Nightwoods by Charles Frazier

The author of Cold Mountain returns with another exquisite, poetic novel set in a remote mountain forest. Pure, high-end escapism.


The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The most talked-about US novel of the year, it took 10 years to write and inspired a bidding war that ended in a $700,000 deal. Does it live up to the hype?

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Whimsical magical realism with cast of fantastical characters, described as "Harry Potter for grown-ups". We're not sure if we're going to love it or hate it, but we have to give it a try.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Emma Donoghue, author of Room (and one of our favourite guest authors on book club), chose this as her book of the year. It sounds like a Poisonwood Bible-type tale, set in Brazil, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize.

Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding

Another Orange Prize-shortlisted title, compared frequently with The English Patient and set in post-war Romania. Gentle, languid and lyrical. 

On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry

We're hoping to read this and The Secret Scripture, Barry's previous Booker-nominated bestseller. Both books deal with loss, love, memory, fate and death. 

At Last by Edward St Aubuyn

Not the cheeriest of tales, but we loved Mother's Milk, and have to read the conclusion to the traumatic childhood saga. Worth reading for his dialogue alone, even if the subject matter is a tad depressing.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

RachelMumsnet's favourite book of last year. A French concierge hides her passionate, artistic nature until a set of events forces her, and the inhabitants of her apartment block, to reveal their true selves.

Wonder by RJ Palacio

It's hard starting a new school. Even harder if you're 10 and this is your first time in mainstream school due to a facial deformity. Powerful and brilliantly uplifting.

You by Joanna Briscoe

The author of Sleep With Me is back with a gripping tale of a schoolgirl/teacher affair and its aftermath. An atmospheric page-turner that's just right for holidays.

Sag Harbour by Colson Whitehead

The Wonder Years meets The Cosby Show in this brilliant coming-of-age story about 15-year-old Benji and his memorable summer in the Hamptons.

The White Lie by Andrea Gillies

First novel by an award-winning author, this is an excellent, intricately plotted family conspiracy, set in the Highlands. Dark secrets, guilt, memories and mysteries.

Pure by Andrew Miller

We read Ingenious Pain ages ago, and have been waiting for another Miller novel ever since. Set in 18th-century Paris, packed with passion, incest and murder, this is sensory, dynamic fiction. If you liked Suskind's Perfume, you should try this.

This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

Robert Fitzroy (bipolar-yet-brilliant captain of the Beagle) and Charles Darwin shared a cabin for five years as they explored the South Atlantic. This explores their relationship and is epic in scale and ambition.

Affinity by Sarah Waters

Another recommendation from the Mumsnet Talk boards. Sarah Waters is a failsafe choice –like a female Dickens. This one is a "sexy, spooky and stylish" story set in a Victorian prison.



What to Look for In Winter by Candia McWilliam

Haunting, beautiful, uplifting, harrowing, hilarious, challenging, breathtaking - comes highly recommended by just about everyone.


The Baroness by Hannah Rothschild

Black sheep of the very wealthy family leaves husband and children to follow jazz star Thelonious Monk and become New York club groupie. Expect eccentricity and cocktails galore.

Quiet by Susan Cain

Bestseller that fights the case for introverts. Particularly good on why education should be rebalanced to accomodate introverts and the qualities they bring to society. Her TED talk is inspiring. 

Bageye at the Wheel by Colin Grant

ShadeMumsnet's recommendation, this has a captivating main character: West Indian poker player Bageye decides to get rich quick by being a minicab driver (despite not having a licence) in 1970s Luton.

Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco

A tip-off from Talk, this is a 'documentary comic' (or graphic novel) that tells the story of the Kosovan conflict. Persepolis brought Iran's politics and history to life, and we're hoping this has the same power.

Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

Slake your thirst for biographies of top writers. This one comes with all the usual acclaim and promise of thorough research, lively writing and new details for which Claire Tomalin is rightly acclaimed.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

The Spectator described Winterson's fiction style as Garcia Marquez crossed with Alan Bennett. The same magic and wit is present in this memoir, with unforgettable scenes and an astonishing portrait of the author's adoptive mother (whose response to her daughter's coming out gave her the title of this book).


Last updated: about 3 years ago