Essential summer reading
We've picked out some of our favourite paperbacks for this summer. Whether you're a history buff, an American literature fan or a love story obsessive, there's something for you. We've picked out some of our favourite paperbacks for this summer.
All That Is by James Salter
From the very first page of All That Is, you know you're in the hands of a master. Salter's novel follows one Philip Bowman from war in Okinawa back to New York, where he works as an editor in a publishing house. His life, in many ways, is fulfilling, but love insists on eluding him. It's a stunning story of an entire life; read it for the way he wields the English language.
If you're more of a short story kind of person, check out his Collected Stories. Did we mention he also writes some of the best sex scenes in contemporary literature?
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Emma Straub's new novel The Vacationers takes you on a deliciously fun trip to Mallorca with the Post family, who are, shall we say, slightly dysfunctional. Franny's husband Jim has just been unceremoniously sacked for transgressing with an intern, their son Bobby is in a relationship with a woman twice his age, and their daughter Sylvia is determined to lose her virginity before she goes to college. You'll be very glad they're not your family, but it's mighty fun to be a fly on the wall of their villa as it all unravels.
Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy
'Literary Giant seeks young man to push bathchair. Own room in Hampstead, all found, exciting cultural milieu. Modest wage. Ideal 'gap year' opportunity. Apply Prys Box 4224XXC.' Could there be a better premise for a novel? Struan Robertson, orphan, genius, and just seventeen, promptly sets off from Cuik for London. It is the summer of 1989 and Struan finds himself tangled in a midsummer's dream of mistaken identity, giddying property prices, wild swimming, and overwhelming passions. For everyone, it is to be a life-changing summer.
The Ancient Paths by Graham Robb
The Romans were the beginning of civilisation as we know it, right? Viaducts, aqueducts and the Colosseum appear to show a civilised and innovative progression from the perceived simplicity and superstition of the Celts. Graham Robb argues that prior to the Romans, the Celts were in fact skilled surveyors and astronomers who laid the foundations for many Roman innovations and even provided the roads and bridges upon which Caesar was able to move his troops so quickly. If you’re interested in discovering more about the history of the continent and life pre-Roman times, then this will be right up your street.
Danubia by Simon Winder
Following on from his Sunday Times top ten bestseller, Germania, Winder attempts to detail the dynasty of the peculiar Habsburg family and the diverse collective of people they ruled over from the 1360s to 1918. If you’re planning on holidaying around Central Europe and Germany, you might be interested to find out that this vast mass of land was run by a variety of aristocratic fruitcakes – a mad mixture of warriors, wizards, bores, obsessives and musicians; their one combined characteristic being their sheer defiance when it came to swatting away their rivals. This is a hilariously funny, fact-packed book.
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
Coming of age in early 1960s suburban California, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless best friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers’ narrow expectations. As teenagers they are inseparable. But then, one sweltering evening the summer before their college graduation, a single act of betrayal changes everything. This is a brilliant book about friendship, loyalty and rebellion.
Another Night, Another Day by Sarah Rayner
Another Night, Another Day has the same Brighton setting and emotional power as Sarah Rayner’s bestselling One Moment, One Morning. It’s the story of three people struggling to cope with the strain of their lives until they meet at Moreland’s Clinic, where they open their hearts and console one another. An exploration of friendship, survival and loss, it’s not only incredibly moving but also funny and uplifting.
Compiled by Rosanna Boscawen and Casper Hughes