Books

Your essential summer reads

About to go on holiday? Suitcase looking suspiciously book-free?

Fill it up with these reads, as recommended by staff from some of the UK’s best bookshops from Manchester, Bath, London and - well everywhere really. 

  • Your essential summer reads

    Chapter One Books, Manchester

    Chosen by Chris Kirkham (@chapter1uk)

  • Your essential summer reads 1

    Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

    “If you’re new to Chuck Palahniuk, brace yourself for a rough but enjoyable ride. In this collection of short stories, the Fight Club author delivers another uncompromising, collection of tales that disturb and delight. He writes with
    an easy, ‘cut the crap’ style that makes the indigestible digestible. The standout stories are ‘Zombies’, about a group of teens lobotomising themselves; and ‘Expedition’, about the hunt for a monster in Hamburg. The pace and abhorrent prose will make you laugh out loud, even though you know you shouldn’t.”

  • Your essential summer reads 2

    Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

    “I’ve always been fascinated by science fiction, and had a keen interest in space exploration and the colonisation of other worlds, but to my shame I have only recently become aware of Kim Stanley Robinson’s work. I’m currently reading his latest book Aurora, which eloquently tells the tale of human civilisation’s first voyage beyond our solar system. To me, it’s science fiction that reads like fact. Robinson’s writing is so detailed in its descriptions with vivid characters you care about and is cunning in its use of dialogue – it’s everything you could want from the genre. A sci-fi epic that you can completely immerse yourself in.” 

  • Your essential summer reads 3

    Armada by Ernest Cline

    “If you’ve ever played and enjoyed the classic coin-op Space Invaders, this is for you. Armada is a thriller about a man’s chance encounter with a strangely familiar flying saucer and his battle to save the world using sci-fi knowledge and gaming skills. Expect Cline’s blend of masterful storytelling filled with nerdy references – as seen in his previous novel Ready Player One – with twists that’ll have you turning pages like there’s no tomorrow.”

  • Your essential summer reads 4

    First Blood by David Morrell

    “Sylvester Stallone brought David Morrell’s Rambo to the silver screen, but it’s in this 1972 novel that we truly experience the ‘carnographic’ story of a Vietnam veteran arrested for vagrancy in Madison, Kentucky. While in prison, Rambo has a flashback of his time as a prisoner of war. Exacting his brutal retribution
    on his captors, Rambo makes good his escape thus becoming the target of a manhunt that everybody, including the police, the National Guard and civilians, wants to be a part of. This was Canadian writer Morrell’s debut, and he penned a relentless thriller with daring themes, written at a time when the unpopular Vietnam War was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Also: don’t expect the same Hollywood ending as the film.” 

  • Your essential summer reads 5

    Mr B’s Emporium, Bath

    By Kate Morris-Double, Juliette Bottomley, Nic Bottomley & Tom Harris (mrbsemporium.com)

  • Your essential summer reads 6

    The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland

    “Originally published 60 years ago, The Shiralee is an atmospheric Australian classic about a reluctant father. Mac Macauley is a tough itinerant worker, used to a solitary life traipsing the plains of New South Wales, nights by the campfire and holding his own when a brawl breaks out. Struggling to keep up is his four-year-old daughter Buster. Macauley sees Buster as a ‘shiralee’, a burden on his life, but her buoyant spirit and unwavering trust in him threaten to soften his hard edges for the very first time. An emotional, exciting and funny lost classic.”

  • Your essential summer reads 7

    Orient by Christopher Bollen

    “An epic tale of a community collapsing in on itself. Orient is a small town on the northern tip of Long Island where the ‘year rounders’ are desperate to save their apparent haven of tranquillity from being ruined by ‘weekenders’. Tension bubbles the whole time, but Bollen uses such beautiful prose and heartfelt insights into modern-day suburban inner conflicts that you will be left breathless.”

  • Your essential summer reads 8

    Hunters In The Dark by Lawrence Osborne

    “Robert Grieve is a young English teacher backpacking through Cambodia. After a successful night gambling, Robert’s given the chance to forget his job in East Sussex and extend his adventures, blissfully unaware that his good fortune is quickly becoming the talk of the town. You’ll feel like a real expat journeying through Cambodia, seeing the complex history of temples and jungles that border the towns and their disparate folk through Robert’s eyes. Underlying this fantastic sense of place is the unnerving feeling that, from the corners of their eyes, the locals are watching. Darkly sinister, threatening and compelling, this is one you’ll come back to again and again.”

  • Your essential summer reads 9

    Foyles, Nationwide

    By Simon Heafield & Jonathan Ruppin (foyles.co.uk)

  • Your essential summer reads 10

    Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda

    “Society is changing ever faster in the online era, and this debut by Dutch journalist Peter Buwalda – that’s been compared to Jonathan Franzen and won every major Dutch literary award going – illustrates how a new generation has grown up with many values alien to their parents. A cataclysmic explosion in a fireworks factory, the advent of online pornography, an illicit affair and a harrowing discovery all contribute to the collapse of a family whose patriarch – a brilliant mathematician-turned-university rector – is being courted for political office. Deftly constructed, dark, disturbing and sharply funny, it’s a novel brought alive by its characters and the ingenious structure of its story.”

  • Your essential summer reads 11

    Life Drawing by Robin Black

    “Augusta, an artist, and, Owen a writer, move from the city to a tranquil country cottage to rebuild their marriage following an affair. From the first line of US author Robin Black’s debut novel following her acclaimed  short story collection If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, we know Owen is going to die. But this isn’t about melodrama: it’s about the machinations of fate, slowly and surely drawing its plans against them, as Augusta, skittishly suspicious after her own infidelity, convinces herself that Owen will betray her. Even as both Augusta and Owen discover unexpected new wellsprings of creativity, they slowly come to understand that their future is built on all aspects of their past, not just the ones that they choose.”

  • Your essential summer reads 12

    A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    “This is hands down the novel of the year, and it’s only July. Tracing the lives of four men who meet in college, Hanya Yanagihara takes the reader to some dark places as she unpeels the layers of the characters’ lives and explores the limits of friendship. The effect is devastating but somehow uplifting, and the result is a book to be lived through, not merely read.”

  • Your essential summer reads 13

    City Books, Hove

    By Charlotte Ellis (city-books.co.uk)

  • Your essential summer reads 14

    Things To Make And Do In The Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker

    “Matt Parker, an Australian maths teacher that moved to the UK and became known as ‘the stand-up mathematician’, or ‘number ninja’, is the star of live show ‘The Spoken Nerd’. He is fluent in binary and could write your name in a sequence of 0s and 1s in a matter of seconds. And in Things To Do… he has achieved something many people thought impossible – writing a highly enjoyable book about maths. Entertaining, funny and utterly readable, it’s a first-rate introduction to the amazing world of numbers that surrounds us.” 

  • Your essential summer reads 15

    Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

    “An underrated and unforgettable classic by the author of that other great classic for ‘boys’, Treasure Island. During the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising of 1745, recently orphaned and penniless David Balfour sets out to find his last living relative – who is less than welcoming and, in fact, tries to murder him. Surviving dastardly plots and being incriminated in the ‘Appin’ Murder – a real-life event – this is a fast-moving adventure set in the Scottish Highlands, featuring murder, betrayal, rebellion, shipwrecks and, of course, kidnapping.”

  • Your essential summer reads 16

    My Autobiography by Guy Martin

    “Speed-junkie, TV personality, proud northerner and all-round nice guy – although known to court occasional controversy – Guy Martin takes the reader on an explosive journey into the world of modern road racing. Martin is predominantly known for his TT racing career and, more recently, his forays into television. Expect spectacular dismounts and 170mph fireballs in this revealing autobiography.”

  • Your essential summer reads 17

    The Truth And Other Lies by Sascha Arango

    “A sinister yet witty crime mystery, with an enigmatic antihero. Henry Hayden has it all: a famous novelist, with the perfect wife, a large house in the country, more money than he can spend and a secret upon which his whole life depends. As the plot twists and turns, thriving on misdirection and dark humour, this will captivate you to the very end. Move over Nordic noir, the Germans are coming…”

  • Your essential summer reads 18

    Daunt Books, London

    By Patrick Power (dauntbooks.co.uk)

  • Your essential summer reads 19

    The Book Of Aron by Jim Shepard

    “Jim Shepard’s first book in more than 10 years tells the story of Aron – a boy living in the ghettos of Warsaw during the German invasion. Among those within the ghetto walls with Aron is Dr Korczak, who battles to look after the children in his orphanage against the Nazi onslaught. Shepard makes this one of the most memorable novels written on the Holocaust in recent years and one of the best novels of 2015.”

  • Your essential summer reads 20

    Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

    “Vance’s biography of Elon Musk is the life story of an egomaniac, a ruthless entrepreneur and sometimes a quite unpleasant man, yet a man who has undoubtedly become one of the brightest business minds of his generation. Founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX – the mission to colonise Mars – Musk’s charisma, drive and unending ambition have seen him compared to Steve Jobs. A great insight into a brilliant mind.”

  • Your essential summer reads 21

    Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano

    “Most famous for his account of the Italian underworld, Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano is back with a fascinating look at cocaine. Saviano meets Guatemalan mercenaries and former drug mules, and takes us through Russia, Asia, Europe and Central and South America to expose the massive global trade in the drug. This is a great piece of investigative journalism which is shocking and disturbing.” 

  • Your essential summer reads 22

    Love, Sex & Other Foreign Policy Goals by Jesse Armstrong

    “Armed with a Ford Transit van and numerous sacks of rice for the ‘poor babies’, eight ideologically sound twentysomethings dive into 1994 Bosnia, hoping to perform their ‘peace play’ to inspire the locals to put down their guns and make up. Needless to say, the gang’s ham-acted play does not put a stop to the genocide, but this debut novel from Jesse Armstrong, co-creator of Peep Show and The Thick Of It, is every bit as funny and cringe-inducing as the sitcoms he made his name writing.”

  • Your essential summer reads 23

    Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon

    “Leaving London for adventure in 1973 – in an age when adventure didn’t mean flooding Instagram with your over-filtered holiday pictures – Ted Simon and his trusty Triumph Tiger motorcycle travelled 60,000 miles, meeting people from all walks of life. If you’re looking for that one book to inspire your inner adventurer, this will have you champing at the bit to pack in your job and quit the rat race.”