20 gripping books: Fiction and non-fiction to read this summer

We round up the best books so you will not be stuck for a great read as days get longer

Summer reading: get stuck in to some of the books we have selected for you.

Summer reading: get stuck in to some of the books we have selected for you.


From the work of established masters to impressive sophomore outings and blistering debuts, there’s an embarrassment of reading riches on offer this summer. These 20 brilliant works of fiction and non-fiction are not to be missed.

By Lisa Taddeo
Bloomsbury Circus, £16.99
Taddeo’s first book, Three Women, drew on 10 years of reporting to bring an up-close and personal account of the sex lives of three real women. It was a powerful book that received a powerful response from readers, who warmed to its open and brave subject matter. Now back with her debut novel, Animal, Taddeo covers similarly coal-hot territory. In the opening passage, our narrator, Joan tells us her married lover shot himself in front of her while she was in a restaurant having dinner with another married man. From there, it follows Joan’s journey to Los Angeles to find a woman named Alice, and slowly feeds through Joan’s extraordinary life story.

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?
By Séamas O’Reilly
Fleet, £16.99
Drawing on his experience growing up as one of 11 children in 1990s Northern Ireland after the death of his mother when he was only five, O’Reilly’s memoir manages to be both warm and humorous even as it broaches difficult topics. From the time an IRA bomb blew out their windows when O’Reilly was three, to his teenage years as an amateur satirist, his arrival in Dublin as a student, the time he worked as a guide in the leprechaun museum and the time he inadvertently found himself on ketamine while serving drinks to the president, this debut has both personality and insight.

White City
By Kevin Power
Scribner, £14.99
Readers have been more than a decade waiting for a second novel from the author of Bad Day in Blackrock, and White City has been worth the wait. Covering similar territory to that lauded debut, this story of a disgraced south Dublin banker’s son and his embroilment in a shady property deal in the Balkans practically sweats with swagger.

Acts of Desperation
By Megan Nolan
Jonathan Cape, £14.99
Heard lots about this dazzling debut but have yet to read it? Read it. The elevator pitch might sound underwhelming – a floundering young woman falls for a beautiful man who is bad for her – but if you’re as stylish a writer as Nolan, there’s much to be made of this premise. Set between Dublin and Greece, Acts of Desperation is not a love story but a reflection on compulsion, addiction and what it’s like to exist as a young woman in a world that is hostile to you. Read the first page and you won’t be able to stop.

By Sinéad O’Connor
Sandycove, £20
O’Connor has never been one to hold back, so why would she start with her memoir? This much anticipated book from the woman who burst to fame at 21 with Nothing Compares 2 U promises candid anecdotes and insights. From tearing up a photo of the pope to the turbulent rock ‘n roll lifestyle, to motherhood, and her ongoing spiritual quest, it’s going to take very little convincing to crack this one open.

By Rónán Hession
Bluemoose, £15
Gentle, sweet, wise and loveable are all words you might associate with Hession’s debut, Leonard and Hungry Paul, a book which grabbed readers’ hearts when it was published in 2019. All can be applied to his second book, Panenka, too, though it also has a little more bite. An ex-footballer, nicknamed Panenka after the controversial penalty style, attempts to get his life back on track and atone for past failures, but is caught off-guard by an unexpected diagnosis. No, you don’t need to be interested in football to enjoy it. It’s about people – ordinary people – and no one captures them quite the way Hession does.

The Best Catholics in the World: The Irish, the Church and the End of a Special Relationship
By Derek Scally
Sandycove, £16.99
Irish Times Berlin Correspondent Scally charts his quest to find the truth about the fall of Catholic Ireland, likening it to the fall of another powerful ideology: East German communism. Beginning with the papal visit to Ireland in 2018, and comprising dozens of interviews and myriad research, the book navigates complex questions about the church, its power and this country’s swift key change from doggedly devout to apathetically agnostic.

Klara and the Sun
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber & Faber, £20
Nobel and Booker Prize winner Ishiguro is at his dystopian best in Klara and the Sun, told from the point of view of artificial friend Klara, who is purchased to provide companionship to a young woman, Josie. In keeping with Ishiguro’s typical style, the story is drip-fed until all becomes uncannily clear.

The Killing Kind
By Jane Casey
Harper Collins, £12.99
When a young barrister lends a brightly coloured umbrella to a colleague, and shortly afterwards the colleague is killed, Ingrid becomes convinced she was the intended victim. She instantly suspects a former client, who stalked Ingrid. But this former client claims Ingrid is in danger, and he can protect her. Can he be trusted? An engrossing standalone thriller from the author best-known for the Maeve Kerrigan series.

RO’CK of Ages: From Boom Days to Zoom Days
By Ross O’Carroll-Kelly
Sandycove, £13.99
We could all do with a good laugh and who better to turn to than Ross O’Carroll Kelly, whose misguided wisdom seems to grow ever more salient as the years go by. RO’CK of Ages collects the best of his columns, including his adventures with the Mount Anville Moms’ Whatsapp Group, Honor’s infamous production of South Side Story, Sorcha’s banana bread escapades and more.

Bullet Train
By Kotaro Isaka
Harvill Secker, £12.99
A bestseller in Japan, and soon to be a major film, this fast-paced thriller takes place aboard a bullet train, travelling from Tokyo to Morioka. On board are five killers: two thugs for hire, an innocent-looking schoolboy, the self-proclaimed “unluckiest assassin in the world” and an alcoholic former hitman. All are competing for a suitcase full of money. At once satirical and philosophical, this is a quirky and entertaining read.

What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition
By Emma Dabiri
Penguin, £7.99
If you’re to read anyone’s take on what white people can do next, read Dabiri’s. The author of Don’t Touch My Hair cuts to the bone of a topic that may seem overwhelming to some: racial injustice. The book is about connection, not polemic. Dabiri picks apart the way race is talked about, and offers practical, meaningful insight into how white people can understand and engage with an issue that affects us all.

The Art of Falling
By Danielle McLaughlin
John Murray, £16.99
Nessa McCormack is getting her life back on track. Her marriage is finding its feet again after her husband’s affair. Her career is on the up – she has been asked to take charge of a retrospective art exhibition of the late sculptor Robert Locke. But outside forces threaten to shake everything up. First, the son of a former friend comes to visit, and Nessa’s past comes rushing to the surface. Next, the creator of Locke’s most famous work is called into question. McLaughlin, best known for her impressive short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets, weaves the story beautifully. And the idyllic west Cork setting doesn’t hurt either.

The Startup Wife
By Tahmina Anam
Canongate, £14.99
Computer scientist Asha’s chance meeting with her old high-school crush results in a whirlwind romance, as well as a revolutionary social networking app, which the two create together. When the app explodes into the next big thing, Asha, the brains behind its ingenious algorithm, begins to feel pushed into the background. This leads her to question the structures around her. Why does she feel invisible in her own boardroom? Why are decisions being made without her? Anam’s fourth novel, inspired partly by her own experiences, is witty and on-the-pulse.

The Irish Assassins: Conspiracy, Revenge and the Murders that Stunned an Empire
By Julie Kavanagh
Grove Press, £18.99
The ambushing and stabbing of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Burke (chief secretary and undersecretary for Ireland, respectively) by a militant republican faction in the Phoenix Park, in 1882, had a cataclysmic effect on Anglo-Irish relations. Kavanagh explores the repercussions of these Phoenix Park murders in a story that opens out to a much larger reflection on Irish politics and empire.

By Louise Nealon
Manilla Press, £12.99
Debbie struggles to fit in during her first year at university, having spent her whole life on a family farm with her mother and uncle Billy, who lives in a caravan next to the house. Alcohol is a coping strategy – a bad one, of course. And when an accident happens at home, things start to unravel. Nealon’s playful and humorous style brings life and originality to this hyped debut.

The Disconnect: A Personal Journey Through the Internet
By Róisín Kiberd
Serpent’s Tail, £12.99
Kiberd, who was born in “the same month and year as the internet as we know it” is the ideal author of this wildly impressive, interesting and entertaining essay-collection-cum-memoir on what it has been like to grow up in the age of the internet, and what strange power that cyber world may hold over us. From apocalyptic dating, to working as the online voice of a cheese, the book uses the most nuanced and niche aspects of online life to scratch at the deepest of questions.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
By Patrick Radden Keefe
Picador, £20
The Sacker family are one of the richest families in the world, but the origin of their fortune was largely unknown until it emerged that they were responsible for making and marketing Oxycontin, an addictive painkiller that fuelled the opioid crisis in America. Radden Keefe, author of the award-winning Say Nothing, illuminates the corruption of wealth and power in this astonishing work of narrative non-fiction.

The Other Black Girl
By Zakiya Dalila Harris
Bloomsbury, £14.99
This debut novel about race and authenticity in the workplace tells of 26-year-old Nella, a publishing assistant who is rattled by the arrival of another black colleague. Comparisons to Raven Leilani’s Luster wouldn’t be unfounded, but prepare for this novel to veer in an unexpected direction – it’s part-psychological thriller, part-satire, part social-takedown.

Real Estate
By Deborah Levy
Hamish Hamilton, £10.99
The third in Levy’s brilliant Living Autobiography series sees her line up “along with the ghosts of other dreamers looking for homes we could not afford”. A book centred upon her attempt to find her dream home is, naturally, about far more than a quest for bricks and mortar, but a reflection on womanhood, identity, art and legacy. Levy’s style is mesmerising, and the structure of the book is like a deft piece of architecture. A perfect finale to a perfect series.

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