Summer Reads 2014
Summer's here and it's time for some much needed escapism so we've compiled a diverse mix of fantastic reads to keep you busy through the summertide.
Immerse yourself in a psychological thriller, retrace memories from past worlds, be romanced by our literary classics or gasp at surprising plot twists.
Share your thoughts on these reads on the discussion boards or reviews and if you think we've missed a must-read off the list do let us know on this thread.
If you find yourself pining for Mumsnet book club while you're away, follow us on Twitter to stay in touch or send us a snap of you in the sun with book in hand #MNSummerReads. Happy Reading!
A change of direction for Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks as she turns her laser-sharp perception and empathy to a forgotten generation of women against the tumultuous and opulent backdrop of post-First World War England.
A richly compelling and emotional story about a group of women as they navigate the aftermath of World War 1, this is Gransnet's chosen title for August Book of the Month and we sure know why.
One of the most popular reads from the Gransnet book club this year was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Set in Iceland in 1829, it's the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. But all is not as it seems...
The book has been described by Gransnetters as "fascinating, informative [and] excruciating." Inspired by a true story, Kent digs deeper to construct a history for Agnes which departs from the already known facts and representations of a woman considered as monstrous and soulless.
She explores the dark and turbid nature of the world Agnes was a part of and simultaneously asks her audience to consider how fiction can give an alternative voice to characters from history.
Sathnam Sanghera is the writer to watch for funny, perfectly-detailed family saga with bite. This novel centres on growing up in Wolverhampton when Enoch Powell is MP, and contains "countless little exquisite observations from the mother's alopecia to the skunk-smoking Ranjit ... SO many bits that will make you guffaw in public and so many bits that make you wince with familiarity".
As one Mumsnetter says: 'I absolutely loved this book - the story, the characters, the setting, the span of time it covered (the 1970s bits particularly) and the way it was written (very funny and very moving)'.
The 'Demon Barber', as this extremely candid celebrity interviewer is nicknamed, kickstarted her career with a stint at Penthouse, where she was dispatched to Paris to interview Salvador Dali. She has built a stellar career in journalism, interrogating everyone from footballers to fetishists, politicians to writers and rockstars.
This memoir is crammed with outrageous anecdotes and insider information on all her scoops, particularly the eye-openingly rude ones.
A gripping, inventive new novel about the internet from this American cult writer.
"Best book I've read in a long time... very addictive. It's a bit 1984, about a girl who starts work at a place called The Circle which is an all-powerful technology company, kind of like Google/Facebook/Twitter/Amazon all rolled into one. It's scarily realistic and very well done".
Winner of the 2013 Booker Prize, Catton's 800 page masterpiece is definitely one for (hopefully) uninterrupted immersion.
Set in the wild coast of New Zealand, during the 19th century goldrush, it is a medley of mystery, thriller, historical epic and pure inventiveness. The twelve characters move in and out of each other's stories, and also tie up with the intricate zodiac structure that oversees the entire novel. It is about greed, money, temptation, fate and human nature.
Give it a shot, while you have the time.
Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You was a phenomena with over 3 million copies sold worldwide. (Remember the summer of 2012 when every beach across Europe was awash with people reading this or 50 Shades?) Jojo fans are in for a treat this summer with her latest novel The One Plus One out in paperback just in time for the hols.
Plus, we're going to be giving away fifty copies of the book in late July and Jojo will be joining us for a webchat at the end of September.
You wouldn't think this was a debut novel, it is so accomplished and confident.
Ruth is an elderly lady living alone in a remote part of New South Wales. When a governement-funded carer, Frida, comes to look after her and slowly begins to infiltrate her life, a suspense story begins where what is real and what is imagined becomes blurred and unreliable.
A witty, menacing psychological thriller that is also a brilliant evocation of old age, forgetfulness and regret.
During a visit to the picturesque Spanish village of Guzman, Michael Paterniti heard an odd and compelling tale about a cheese made from an ancient family recipe that was reputed to be among the finest in the world. Hooked on the story, he relocated his family to the tiny hilltop village to find out more. Before long the village began to spill its long-held secrets and Paterniti was sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery.
The Telling Room is as surprising, evocative and wildly entertaining as the world it portrays.
Elizabeth Gilbert's latest novel will come as a surprise to those who have defined her by the blockbuster Eat Pray Love.
Set in the 1800s, The Signature of All Things weaves an epic story of adventure, love and botany. The incredible authenticity of detail and Gilbert's master story-telling make the journey across the continents, through the centuries, and throughout the 500-odd pages, joyful and swift - making this a perfect summer read and our bookclub choice for September.
Watch out for 50 free copies up for grabs in mid-July.
An electrifying and titillating read where we find seduction, desire and troubled passion in the heat of the sultry summer sun.
Each summer Jenn and her husband return religiously to Mallorca’s West Coast but this year the arrival of Jenn’s stepdaughter and her boyfriend Nathan brings with it a series of unexpected events. Nathan’s beauty and youth cannot escape Jenn who finds herself recklessly gambling away stability to feed this new sprung obsession.
Walsh’s novel is undoubtedly this summer's steamy read; suspense-filled and just dripping with passion.
'I loved the writing and the characterisation, oh, and the plot – yeah, all really pithy. Really great': sound familiar? How many books have you claimed to have read but never actually finished, or even started? Miller decides to rectify his twenty odd years of lies and to silence his nagging guilt to become the literate man he's always claimed himself to be.
This book is Andy’s inspirational and very funny account of his expedition through literature: 'classic, cult and everything in-between.'
A fictionalised and fascinating account of E M Forster's life around the time he was working on A Passage to India.
Using extensive research, Galgut has brought in the characters around Forster (a mad maharajah, the spoilt Bloomsbury set, an adored Egyptian lover) and created a moving novel that explores the interior life of a complex, conflicted yet brilliant man.
Love! Truth! Beauty! A chance encounter, an impulsive kiss and Lucy Honeychurch’s world is forever changed. Torn between settling for a life of acceptable convention or the calling of her true love, Lucy epitomizes the struggle for individuality.
Definitely EM Forster's most romantic novel, with the easy flowing passion of the Italian culture set against the constrictions and repressed sexuality of English Edwardian society.
A classic ideally suited to summer, sunshine and freedom.
"Anyone who writes an autobiography is either a twat or broke. I'm a bit of both" so begins Viv Albertine's remarkably candid memoir.
In it she tells the story of what it was like to be a girl at the height of punk and of what happened post-punk, taking in a career in film, IVF, illness, divorce - and making music again, twenty-five years later.
From music and fashion to family and feminism, this is a truly remarkable memoir and the story of a life lived unscripted, told from the heart.
Amy Tan has been writing high quality blockbusters for decades, ever since The Joy Luck Club became a huge besteller in 1989. Her latest is an intelligent saga about coutesans in China at the turn of the 20th century.
Violet, half American and half Chinese daughter of the owner of the courtsean house, is forced into this world, where (amongst the betrayal and sadness) she also discovers female friendship, loyalty and love.
A classic Tan page-turner for those who loved Memoirs of a Geisha.
Perfectly reviewed onsite by EduardoBarcelona: "If you enjoyed Alys, Always I can heartily recommend HER.
"Written by an early Mumsnetter, this is the kind of book that you HAVE to read in a day. It speaks to all of us who have ever wrangled children - in fact I was late to work after spending an hour in the bath trying to get to the end. (Bad hair day ensued).
"I did chuckle afterwards that you can imagine the whole book as a long AIBU, from two people's viewpoints... just BRILLIANT."
Maxim Leo was born into an East Berlin family whose story, like the GDR’s past, is one of hopes, lies, cruelties and betrayals – but also love.
Compassionate and unflinchingly honest, Red Love is a moving, absorbing and smart memoir of life in a country that no longer exists.
Our July Book of the Month is, as Alice Sebold brilliantly called it, 'a dark cautionary tale hanging out, incognito-style, in what at first seems a traditional family narrative'.
Narrated by the jaunty, sharp and very amusing Rosemary, the novel centres around the disappearance of Rosemary’s siblings, and the impact on her and her scientist parents. It looks like a straightforwardly comic novel but underneath lies an enormous moral dilemma. Fowler sets radical experimentation against personal experience, science against compassion.
Winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award 2014, this book manages to be unusual and funny and sad and disturbing all at once.
Like The Night Guest, this critically acclaimed novel centres on a woman living in a remote area, threatened by fears that are perhaps real or imagined.
Jake is a woman with a secret, having moved from Australia to a tiny island off the British coast. Her past and present dovetail in a beautifully crafted suspense story that is unsettling and mesmerising.
Often compared to early Ian McEwan and Iain Banks, Wyld is an absolutely exquisite writer and a highly talented young voice.
In May 2012 Kirstie Clements was unceremoniously sacked after thirteen years in the editor's chair at Vogue Australia. Here she tells the eye-opening story of life in fashion’s fast lane.
From the glamour of photo shoots in exotic locations, fashion shows and of course outrageous fashion, to the ugly side: the infighting, back-stabbing, desperation of models to stay thin. All this sprinkled with an array of glitzy slebs make this a fascinating summer read.
Having passed away in May this year, Maya Angelou has left behind an inspirational legacy of strength and perseverance which speaks out to many of us. We’ve selected Mom & Me & Mom as it unearths a deeper layer of Angelou’s compelling life story, revealing a more intimate and heartfelt insight into her relationship with mother Vivian Baxter Johnson.
The novel reveals why Maya was raised by her paternal grandmother and discloses the emotional turmoil Maya suffered as she began to perceive of her mother as a presence of absence.
This story considers the bond between mother and daughter as it is at once torn apart and then reconciled.
Bhutto’s debut novel centres on a single day in the life of a single family living in the tribal areas of Pakistan close to the Afghan border.
A fascinating insight into both real lives and the true politics of the region, the three brothers represent different attitudes: ambition, caution, idealism.
Bhutto is a beautifully economical writer, with no waffle, and she has managed to open up the debate about this troubled area without giving any moral judgement.
A thought-provoking piece of fiction from this highly-regarded writer.
We decided to include a trip back to the 80s in our summer round-up, after enjoying reading this recent thread.
What A Carve Up was unflinchingly the book of the decade and cited by many Mumsnetters as their favourite book of all time. Coe's classic captures the political movements of Britain in the 1980s with true humour and reflects on the blurred boundaries between greed and madness through the microscope of Thatcher’s Britain.
Coe's political satire is, as one Mumsnetter describes, 'Ridiculous, but an absolute hoot!'
Frustrated with life in Berlin, author Gideon Lewis-Kraus undertakes three separate ancient pilgrimages. He recounts his travels over hundreds of miles: the thousand-year old Camino de Santiago in Spain with a friend, a solo circuit of eighty-eight Buddhist temples on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and finally, with his father and brother, a migration to the tomb of a famous Hassidic mystic in the Ukraine.
Both succinctly funny and movingly honest, Lewis-Kraus examines with piercing insight our search for purpose in life, and how we travel between past and present in search of hope for our future.
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