Twenty-five titles to pack this summer
From John le Carré’s latest to Rachael English’s debut, there’s something for everyone in our selection of books for the beach
Tiny Beautiful Things
By Cheryl Strayed
(Atlantic Books, £8.99)
A collection of advice columns by an online agony aunt may not sound like appealing holiday reading. But Tiny Beautiful Things might be one of the most profound yet enjoyable books you read this summer. Strayed, best known for her critically acclaimed memoir, Wild, offers compassionate, no-nonsense advice to readers of the culture website therumpus.net in a series of often personal essays that are by turns tender, profane, funny and incredibly moving.
Red Sky in Morning
By Paul Lynch
The film writer Paul Lynch’s debut novel is the darkly compelling story of a young man named Coll Coyle, who accidentally kills his landlord’s callous son in a fit of desperation. Coyle is forced to leave his wife and child and flee to the US, pursued by the dogged John Faller. But he discovers that life in the New World can be just as brutal as life in the old. Inspired by a true story and written in lyrical yet accessible prose, this accomplished novel marks Lynch out as a writer to watch.
By Rachael English
In 1988 Elizabeth Kelly heads off to Boston, one of the many young Irish students looking for adventure on a J1 summer visa. Sharing a tiny flat with a gang of fellow students, she finds love with a local, Danny. More than 20 years later, Elizabeth’s daughter Janey also heads to Boston, and Elizabeth is forced to remember her past. Anyone who has wondered what life might have been like if they’d stayed together with a summer love will be charmed by the Morning Ireland presenter’s warm, heartfelt debut novel.
By Stuart Neville
(Harvill Secker, £12.99)
Best known for his excellent crime novels set in modern Belfast, Neville heads into the past for his latest thriller, which mixes shocking historical fact with well-crafted fiction to great effect. It’s 1963, and as Ireland prepares for the visit of John F Kennedy, Minister for Justice Charles J Haughey is trying to cover up the truth behind a series of murders. Three foreign men have been murdered in just a few days, and Haughey is determined to hide the fact that all three were former Nazis who were granted asylum by the Irish government after the the second World War, not least because of his friendship with Otto Skorzeny, a former SS officer who might be the killer’s next target. Intelligence officer Albert Ryan is asked to investigate, but he finds himself forced to choose between the demands of his country and his conscience.
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Fourth Estate, £20)
Ifemelu is a Nigerian writer, blogger and academic who has decided to move back to her home country after 15 years in the US. She contacts her first love, Obinze, who has stayed in Nigeria and become a property developer with a not exactly perfect marriage. This hugely enjoyable new novel moves across several decades and three continents to tell Ifemelu and Obinze’s stories. Ngozi Adichie effortlessly tackles issues of race, class and belonging with compassion and wit, and you’ll be gripped from the first page of this brilliantly evocative book.
By Rutu Modan
(Jonathan Cape, £16.99)
In this stunning graphic novel by the Israeli artist and writer Rutu Modan, an elderly woman returns to her childhood home in Warsaw, accompanied by her granddaughter Mica, to reclaim the property lost by her family during the second World War. As Mica gets close to a Polish tour guide who may have ulterior motives, her grandmother Regina encounters a surprising reminder of her own past. Modan’s wonderfully Hergé-esque art is the perfect medium for this darkly comic, subtle and deeply moving story.
Intimacy With Strangers:
A Life of Brief Encounters
By Ciaran Carty
(Lilliput Press, €16.99)
Carty has always been one of Ireland’s most thoughtful interviewers, and in his new book he looks back over five decades of meetings with everyone from Beyoncé and Doris Lessing to William Trevor and Danny Boyle. Carty traces the links between his interviewees in a fascinating and personal account of dozens of very different brief encounters.
Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
Atkinson takes a break from her successful Jackson Brodie crime novels and returns to the sort of imaginative literary fiction with which she made her name. Life After Life is the story, or rather the stories, of Ursula Todd, who dies as a baby in 1910 only to immediately start her life all over again. Ursula is given not just a second chance but multiple ones, as everything from Spanish flu to the Blitz ends her life and sends her back to the beginning, allowing her to avoid or make the same mistakes over the course of many lifetimes. A dazzling, moving and engrossing novel.
By Jodi Picoult
(Simon and Schuster, £18.99)
Even those who have never been tempted by Picoult’s issue-led weepies will be won over by this compelling novel. It’s the story of Sage, a reclusive young woman working in a bakery who befriends a lovable old German man at a bereavement-support group. Then Josef tells her his secret: in his youth he was a member of the SS. Now, to atone for his crimes, he wants a Jewish person to kill him – and he has chosen Sage. As the gripping story moves between the consequences of Josef’s request and the wartime experiences of Sage’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who may have encountered Josef in Auschwitz, Picoult asks complex questions about morality, forgiveness and redemption.