25 great books to see you through the summer

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TRYING TO DECIDE WHAT TO READ OVER THE HOLIDAY MONTHS? OUR SELECTION RANGES FROM MEMOIR TO HISTORY TO BRAND-NEW FICTION, AND FROM Funny TO gothic TO heartbreaking

Ann Devine: Ready for Her Close Up
By Colm O’Regan
Transworld, £12.99
When home help worker Ann Devine is persuaded to join the Kilsudgeon tidy towns committee, she doesn’t expect drama. But then a production company arrives in Kilsudgeon to make a big budget American fantasy television series, trampling all over what’s best for the locals in the process. Soon, Ann finds herself taking action – and getting into trouble. This very funny debut novel from the creator of the popular Irish Mammies series is a treat, as O’Regan satirises Irish rural life with affection and wit.

Candice Carty-Williams
Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie
By Candice Carty-Williams
Trapeze, £12.99
When we meet 25-year-old journalist Queenie Jenkins, she and her boyfriend Tom are “on a break” that everyone but Queenie can see is clearly a permanent break-up. As she struggles to keep both her emotional and professional life on track, Queenie must also deal with the unthinking racism of her colleagues as well as the lingering effects of her mother’s troubled past. Equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious, Candice Carty-Williams’s debut novel is a single-girl-in-the-city story with depth and a very sympathetic heroine. A must-read.

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
By Rajeev Balasubramanyam
Chatto and Windus, £12.99
Cambridge economist Prof Chandra is still smarting from being overlooked (again) by the Nobel Prize committee when a minor accident lands him in hospital. Told by his doctor to take a sabbatical and “follow [his] bliss”, the grumpy 69-year-old ends up in California, where, after punching his ex-wife’s sanctimonious therapist husband, he begins an unlikely journey to enlightenment. A witty, tender book about the meaning of life and family that’s as uplifting as it is amusing.

The Garden of Lost and Found
By Harriet Evans
Headline Review, £16.99
No one writes gripping family sagas quite like Harriet Evans, and her new novel is no exception. At the heart of the book is Nightingale House, the country house where, in 1918, the artist Ned Horner inexplicably destroyed his most famous painting, an image of his children called The Garden of Lost and Found. A century later, a strange twist of fate leads to Horner’s great-granddaughter Juliet arriving at the house with her own family. Will she uncover the house’s secrets? The perfect book for an afternoon in a sunny deckchair.

Other Words for Smoke
By Sarah Maria Griffin
Titan Books, £8.99
When teenage twins Mae and Rossa go to spend a summer in their great-aunt Rita’s house, they don’t realise someone else is living there besides Rita, her teenage ward Bevan and their strangely oversized cat Bobby. A dark presence is lurking in the walls of this ordinary house on the outer edges of the Dublin suburbs, a sinister owl called Sweet James, who exerts a dangerous power over the glamorous Bevan. Both a moving coming of age story and a brilliantly unnerving horror tale, this darkly magical book will thrill both teenage and adult readers.

Evvie Drake Starts Over
By Linda Holmes
Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99
It’s a year since Evvie Drake’s husband was killed in a car crash, and no one in her friendly Maine seaside town, not even her best friend Andy, knows that she was planning to leave him on the day she died. Evvie is struggling with the fact she doesn’t miss Tim at all – and then Andy persuades her to rent part of her house to his friend Dean, a star baseball player who has inexplicably lost the inability to play. With its quaint small town setting, snappy dialogue and big heart, this is a smart and poignant romance.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
By Sara Collins
Penguin Viking, £12.99
“Why couldn’t a Jamaican former slave be the star of her own gothic romance?” That’s the question author Sara Collins asked herself when she began writing her stunning debut novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Born into slavery in Jamaica, where she is forced to help her master with his experiments on her fellow slaves, Frannie Langton goes to London where, as we know from the book’s opening pages, she ends up in the dock, accused of murdering her new master and mistress. But what really happened on that fatal night? A powerful page-turner with an unforgettable narrator.

Taylor Jenkins Reid
Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones and the Six
By Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hutchinson, €16.99
When the beautiful singer-songwriter Daisy Jones gets together with an up and coming rock band called the Six in 1970s California, musical history is made. But while Daisy and the band’s frontman Billy Dunne manage to create incredible music together, tensions start to mount. Inspired by the story of Fleetwood Mac, Daisy Jones and the Sixis an oral history of a band that never existed, told through the voices of members, producers and friends. Incredibly evocative (you’ll find yourself yearning to hear the band’s legendary album Aurora) and a little bit heartbreaking, it’s the perfect book to read on a summer night.

Just One More Question: Stories from a Life in Neurology
By Niall Tubridy
Penguin Ireland, £14.99
Over the course of his career as a neurologist working everywhere from Melbourne to his current role at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, Niall Tubridy has encountered many intriguing cases. In Just One More Question, he tells some of those stories, from the woman who refused to tell her fiancé about her MS diagnosis to the man who found himself unable to keep his eyes open, and warns against the dangers of self-diagnosis. Hypochondriacs may approach this book with caution, but Tubridy’s compassionate, no-nonsense approach makes him a comforting guide through the landscape of neurological medicine.

The Fire Starters
By Jan Carson
Doubleday Ireland, £12.99
Set over the course of a hot, strange Belfast summer, The Fire Starters is the story of two fathers who are both, in very different ways, afraid of their children. There’s former loyalist paramilitary Sammy, whose son Mark plots chaos from his attic bedroom, and isolated doctor Jonathan, who fears that his baby daughter has inherited her strange mother’s uncanny powers. Meanwhile Belfast is going up in flames, inspired by a mysterious YouTuber. A perfect mix of dark humour, magic and social commentary.

You Will Be Safe Here
By Damian Barr
Bloomsbury, £16.99
Set in 1901 and 2010, Damian Barr’s deeply powerful new novel exposes the horrors of two chilling events in South African history. It tells the story of Sarah, a young Boer woman who is taken to a British concentration camp at Bloemfontein during the Boer War before jumping across the decades to follow the life of Willem, a lonely sensitive teenager whose father sends him to a white supremacist training camp that promises to “turn boys into men”.

Hallie Rubenhold. Photograph: Sarah Blackie
Hallie Rubenhold. Photograph: Sarah Blackie

The Five
By Hallie Rubenhold
Doubleday, £16.99
The murders committed by Jack the Ripper still capture the public imagination 130 years later – but little attention is generally paid to the women whose lives he cut brutally short. In this fascinating and moving non-fiction book, Hallie Rubenhold tells the stories of Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Kate Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, painting a grim picture of what can happen to troubled women in a society without a safety net. In focusing on the women’s lives and debunking the myths that grew up around them, Rubenfeld gives the five victims back their humanity.

Things in Jars
By Jess Kidd
Canongate, £14.99
It’s 1863 in London and Bridie Devine, “Irish street-rat” turned dashing lady detective, is on a mission. She must find a kidnapped child called Christabel Berwick, a strange, pale child with black eyes and disturbing powers. Bridie is accompanied in her quest into a Victorian underworld of sinister doctors and peculiar showmen by the ghost of a handsome boxer and a dapper (living) detective. Jess Kidd’s third novel is an irresistible gothic adventure, full of darkness, humour and bravery.

Leonard and Hungry Paul
By Rónán Hession
Bluemoose Books, £8.99
Leonard and Hungry Paul don’t quite fit in – and they’re okay with that. Dublin writer Rónán Hession’s debut novel is the story of two friends in their thirties who are happy to swim against the tide, preferring to play board games in Hungry Paul’s family home than go down the pub. But although their lives may seem quiet, that doesn’t mean they’re not full of meaning. Charming without being twee, this funny, warm book will bring you sunshine even if the summer is a washout.

Cruel Acts
By Jane Casey
Harper Collins, £12.99
Leo Stone is a serial killer – at least, that’s what Det Sgt Maeve Kerrigan is trying to prove. Stone has recently been released from prison on a technicality, and the police want to make sure that after the retrial, he’ll be heading straight back there. But is he guilty? If you haven’t met the smart, vulnerable and brave DS Kerrigan before, you’ll immediately want to spend your summer binge-reading her earlier adventures after devouring this twisting novel from one of Ireland’s finest crime writers.

Reasons to Be Cheerful
By Nina Stibbe
Penguin Viking, £12.99
When teenager Lizzy Vogel gets a job as a dental assistant in 1979 despite a total lack of experience, she moves into the flat above the surgery. But it’s hard to be independent when your dreadful boss insists on using your loo, and your sort-of boyfriend has moved in with your mother. Lizzie is a heroine with broad appeal – my 73-year-old father loved this book as much as I did. It’s the funniest book I’ve read this year (at one stage I was laughing so much I literally had to lie down) but there are always real, complicated emotions beneath Lizzie’s deadpan observations.

Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson

Big Sky
By Kate Atkinson
Doubleday, £20
Jackson Brodie is back! After nine years – during which she wrote three brilliant genre-defying novels and won two Costa awards – Kate Atkinson has returned to crime fiction with Big Sky, the fifth in her much-loved series about the policeman turned private investigator. Fans won’t be disappointed as Jackson, now living on the Yorkshire coast, finds himself looking into a horrible world of exploitation and abuse that goes back decades. As ever, Atkinson’s self-aware hero transcends all “troubled detective” clichés despite his, well, troubled backstory, and all the other characters are wonderfully drawn. Whatever genre she’s writing in, Atkinson’s plots are always as satisfying and perfectly paced as her beautifully crafted sentences. (Published June 18th)

Being Various: New Irish Short Stories
Edited by Lucy Caldwell
Faber & Faber, £12.99
Irish writing is in very good health at the moment, and the sixth in Faber’s series of Irish short story collections is proof of the myriad exciting voices that have emerged in recent years. With previously unpublished stories from Kevin Barry, Melatu Uche Okorie, Sally Rooney and Lisa McInerney among many others, it’s a fantastic sampler of contemporary Irish fiction.

Cape May
By Chip Cheek
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99
Henry and Effie are barely out of high school when they get married and leave rural Georgia for a honeymoon in the New Jersey resort town of Cape May. It’s September 1957, and the town is almost empty after the summer season, leaving the newlyweds feeling a little awkward. But when they meet the glamorous Clara, who is staying with her lover Max and his half-sister Alma, they decide to stay a little longer. This turns out to be a bad idea. The naïve outsiders drawn into a world of decadence is an old trope, but Chip Cheek makes it feel fresh in this unsettling, atmospheric novel.

Rules of the Road
By Ciara Geraghty
Harper Collins, £12.99
Terry didn’t plan to go on a road trip from Dublin to Switzerland with her father Eugene and her terminally ill best friend Iris. But then, just after collecting Eugene from the dementia-friendly care home where he lives, she discovers that Iris plans to take her own life at a Zurich clinic. Terry insists on tagging along in order to persuade her friend to change her mind, and what follows is a very funny, very moving and utterly unsentimental adventure, as Terry discovers what makes life worth living.

Rewilding: Real Life Stories of Returning British and Irish Wildlife to Balance
Edited by David Woodfall
William Collins, £17.99
From the wetlands of Tipperary to the Scottish Highlands, farmers, conservationists and wildlife experts all over Ireland and Britain are stepping back and letting natural ecosystems restore themselves. In some cases, they’re lending a helping hand and reintroducing original animal and plant species that were previously driven out. Packed full of beautiful photographs, this gorgeous book tells the stories of various projects on both sides of the Irish sea, and should inspire readers to get out and enjoy the natural world.

Elizabeth Day
Elizabeth Day

How to Fail
By Elizabeth Day
4th Estate, £12.99
If you’re the sort of person who has a nervous collapse as soon as you take time off work and actually start thinking about your life, this is the book you need to take on holiday. And even if you’re not, Elizabeth Day’s wise, moving and genuinely inspiring book will give you plenty to think about. Based on her hugely popular podcast, How To Fail sees the novelist and journalist share what she’s learned from a lifetime of perceived failures big and small, from not fitting in at her Belfast secondary school to struggling to have a baby in her thirties.

The Kindness of Strangers
By Salka Viertel
NYRB, £11.99
Salka Viertel led a truly extraordinary life. Born into a privileged Polish Jewish family in Galicia, she became a successful actor before she and her director husband went to Hollywood in 1928, where she became a screenwriter. Greta Garbo was her best friend and muse, and her Hollywood home became a salon for celebrated Mitteleuropean emigrés. With a cast that includes everyone from Franz Kafka (he came to dinner when she lived in Prague) to director Ernst Lubitsch, this recently reissued 1969 memoir is a witty, warm picture of a glittering vanished world.

In at the Deep End
By Kate Davies
Borough Press, £12.99
Civil servant Julia always thought sex wasn’t all it was cracked up to be – until she slept with a woman for the first time. Now she’s realised she’s a lesbian, she just has “to find somebody to be a lesbian with”. But is Sam, the glamorously butch artist who introduces Julia to a brave new world of sexual adventure, the right woman? As Julia’s unconvinced new friend Ella says, Julia really has gone “in at the lesbian deep end”. Incredibly likeable, gloriously filthy and very, very funny, this is a wonderful book with real heart.

The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World: The Sinking of the Titanic and the End of the Edwardian Era
By Gareth Russell
William Collins, £25
If you think that there’s nothing new to say about the Titanic, The Darksome Bounds of a Failing World will prove you wrong. Just don’t read it on a cruise. In this fascinating and highly readable book, Belfast author Gareth Russell tells the story of the fatal ship’s sole journey through the eyes of six very different first-class passengers, from the Irish engineer Thomas Andrews to early film star Dorothy Gibson. He examines the rapidly changing world of the Edwardian upper classes, and shows how their privilege “left many of them unaware or indifferent to the coming danger until it was too late”.