Books at beachtime

Who's bringing what on holidays this summer? Rosita Boland finds out

Who's bringing what on holidays this summer? Rosita Boland finds out

Miriam O'Callaghan

The entire family is off to Portugal for two weeks at the end of July. We have a new baby coming with us this year so that will be very exciting - though it may curtail my reading! I'm working virtually all through the summer, so when I go to Portugal I want to read books as far removed from what I do in my career as possible.

The Observations by Jane Harris (Faber), a first novel, sounds really intriguing. Set in Scotland in the 1860s, it tells the story of Bessy Buckley, a maid trying to escape her past, only to discover that the new life she takes up holds as many dark secrets as her own. Her new employer insists that she keeps a diary of her day and also makes numerous strange requests of her.


I'll also be bringing Havoc In Its Third Year by Ronan Bennett (Headline), which captures the mood of a period of great repression and reminds us just how corrupting power can be, even for those with the highest ideals. Also in the case will be Arthur and George, Julian Barnes's latest novel (Jonathan Cape), based on a true story about Arthur Conan Doyle and the great efforts he made trying to clear the name of a young Indian solicitor, George Edalfi. It's a portrayal of both men and offers an insight into the level of prejudice and racism that existed back then.

Finally, March, A Love Story in a Time of War (HarperPerennial), Geraldine Brooks's novel. For anyone who loved the story of Little Women by Louisa M Alcott, this book is a must. It tells the story of March, the Little Women's father and Marmee's husband. In Little Women, most of the characters lived lives of saintliness. However this book makes the father March more human and more vulnerable to weakness as he struggles with his faith and his passions.

Miriam O'Callaghan is a presenter on Prime Time on RTÉ1

Olwyn Enright

Top of my list for this summer is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury). It seems to be a love-it-or-loathe-it book, but from a quick flick I'm really looking forward to it. It traces the childhood and early adulthood of a young Afghan boy and his friend and servant through their native country's destructive transition to a state controlled by the Taliban. While it's a work of fiction, I'm told it reflects that period in Afghanistan's recent history, through the eyes of one man.

I also hope to read Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail). It's a story narrated by a mother, in letters to her husband, who fears her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son becomes. It also attempts to analyse modern life in Western society, particularly the US - and where true values lie.

I've heard so much about Colm Tóbín's The Master ( Picador ), which won the the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award last week, that I hope to read it too.

We're going hiking in Slovenia for a week for our holidays, so I'm not sure how many books I'll get to read. I'll probably be too wrecked after the days walking, but I hope to get through a few over the rest of the summer. And if I spot new books by Patricia Cornwell, Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson or Marion Keyes, I won't be able to resist them.

Olwyn Enright is a TD and Fine Gael spokesperson on Education and Science

Sara Burke

I'm on holidays at the moment, en route from Belize to Tikal in north-eastern Guatamala, reading my way through the pile of books beside my bed during the year which I didn't get to. Top of my list is Lionel Shriver's newly republished 1998 book, Double Fault (Serpent's Tail). Last summer my top holiday read was Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin (Serpent's Tail). Next will be New York Stories by Henry James (New York Review of Books). Having loved Colm Tóibín's The Master, I am willing to give James a try. This collection of short stories has an introduction by Tóibín and is about one of my favourite places in the world where I hope to be when reading it - New York.

Dancing in the No-Fly Zone: A Woman's Journey Through Iraq by Hadani Ditmars (Arris Books) will be my foreign read. Ditmars is one of the few foreign journalists who has been in Iraq since the invasion and is still working from there. Her French/Lebanese origins allow her to go to places that few others can or do.

David Mitchell's Black Swan Green (Sceptre) is also a must. I might read David McWilliams's The Pope's Children (Gill & Macmillan) which has been sitting in that pile for a while now, so I have firmer ground to stand on when arguing about it late at night.

Sara Burke is the managing editor of Village magazine

Declan Hughes

Holidays in our house tend to get decided upon at the last minute; I don't know where I'm going yet, but I have two small daughters so there'll be a beach, and it won't be in Ireland. Family researches last summer reminded us that Irish beaches are good for a variety of things, but lazing about reading isn't one of them, unless you bring a tent.

Andrew Taylor is British crime fiction's best kept secret: his Lydmouth Series is a brilliant re-imagining of the classic golden age detective story, lifting the lid on all the class rancour, sex and political corruption the originals kept under wraps. His new novel, A Stain On The Silence (Penguin), is set in the present, a psychological thriller dealing with the mortal consequences of an affair 24 years ago. Into the holiday bag it goes.

So too does the third instalment in crime-writer John Harvey's terrific Frank Elder sequence, Darkness and Light (Heinemann). I'll also be bringing Pegasus Descending (Orion), the new Dave Robicheaux from the old master, James Lee Burke; and The Fallen (HarperCollins) the latest from T Jefferson Parker, whose Edgar-winning California Girl (HarperCollins) was one of the outstanding crime novels of recent years. TJ English's Old Bones and Shallow Graves: The Untold Story of the Irish-American Gangster (Mainstream) is a comprehensive survey of the Irish-American gangster, and Selwyn Raab's mammoth Mafia history Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires (Robson Books) look like the true crime books of the moment. And Methuen's series of Richard Yates reissues has been an unfolding revelation to this reader: Young Hearts Crying (Politico) is next on my list.

Declan Hughes's first Ed Loy thriller, The Wrong Kind of Blood, was published this year by John Murray

John Banville

I loathe holidays, agreeing with Noël Coward that work is more fun than fun. No doubt, however, I shall be dragged away to somewhere hot and made to wear shorts - shorts! - and a silly hat, and where books will be my solace and my escape. I shall be reading Rainer Maria Rilke & Lou Andreas-Salomé: The Correspondence (Norton), because I have been asked to review it - work, therefore, with only a light sprinkling of fun.

These letters between the great German-language poet and one of the most interesting women of modern times are at once magnificent and ineffably silly. Auden described Rilke as the greatest lesbian poet since Sappho, and many would say that Lou was twice the man that he was. But who writes such letters any more?

John Banville won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for The Sea (Picador)

Diarmaid Ferriter

A baby daughter, Ríona, arrived at the end of April, a sister for Enya who is 21 months old. With two under two, poolside lounging is but a dream: the odd weekend in Kilmuckridge in Wexford in a mobile home and hopefully a few days in Louisburgh, Co Mayo, will have to suffice.

Broken sleep and constant nappy changing will make it difficult to get properly immersed in books, but I am determined to start with fiction I had intended to read earlier this year - Sebastian Barry's A Long, Long Way (Faber), and Eugene McCabe's collection of short stories, Heaven Lies About Us (Vintage). Wearing my historian's hat, I'll be looking at the controversial Michael Collins's Intelligence War: The Struggle Between the British and the IRA, 1919-21 by Michael Foy (Sutton ).

I also hope to dip into a collection of essays about a poet who,until recently, has been unjustly neglected: Remembering Michael Hartnett, edited by John McDonagh and Stephen Newman (Four Courts Press).

Diarmaid Ferriter's latest book is What if? Alternative Views of Twentieth Century Ireland (Gill & Macmillan)

John Boyne

Trips to literary festivals including Edinburgh, and a holiday in West Cork - including a cookery course at Ballymaloe - constitute something of a working summer for me, but my bag contains a few choice books to enjoy along the way.

I've been looking forward to Anne Tyler's Digging To America (Chatto and Windus) for months but I daresay I'll finish it in a couple of days; her novels are unputdownable. Monica Ali follows Brick Lane (Black Swan) with Alentejo Blue (Doubleday); second novels are always touch-and-go but I suspect this will be one of the good ones. Later in the summer, Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn (Doubleday) picks up the character of private investigator Jackson Brodie, introduced to such great effect in Case Histories (Black Swan). For some non-fiction, I'm intrigued by the idea of The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer (Norton), David Leavitt's account of the life of Turing.

And finally I'll be travelling back in time for Robert Harris's Imperium (Hutchinson), his second novel to be set in Roman times, following his recent Pompeii (Arrow).

John Boyne's latest book is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (David Fickling Books), which is being made into a film by Disney

Áine Lawlor

Last year, we holidayed in Ireland. Awful weather, easy to read a lot. This year it's the ferry to France, trying to cram a family of six with all our bags and baggage into the car and roofbox. I'll have the dilemma of trying to pick only a few books that will somehow last the two weeks. Not easy when you read very quickly, so I need books that are slow reading, something informative, to make me stop and think, instead of galloping over the page.

I always have a gardening book on the go and for the holiday it will be Alpine Plants of Europe - A Gardener's Guide, by Jim Jermyn (Timber Press). The plan is to lie in the sun on a beach in the Vendee dreaming of the trip to the Alps I'll make when the kids don't come with us any more.

A couple of good thrillers are essential, and the best are often translations now. I'm bringing The Silence of the Grave; A Reyjavik Murder Mystery (Harvill), by Icelandic writer Arnaldur Indridason. I'm hoping it will be as good as the books of the downbeat Swedish author Henning Mankell, and a crime novel set in Reykjavik sounds promising. Another book I'm saving for August is Gilead (Virago) by Marilynne Robinson. It's had great reviews, a novel about the Reverend John Ames writing to his son at the end of his life. A book about life, love and family - perfect for a family holiday.

Áine Lawlor is a presenter on RTÉ R1's Morning Ireland

Derval O'Rourke

As an athlete I spend most of my summer travelling from one competition to the next. As I end up in airports for hours waiting for connecting flights, I rarely travel without a good book. This summer I start to race in Prague and will be all over Europe until the European championships in Gothenburg in August.

Books I've read recently included The Insider: the Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade by Piers Morgan (Ebury). I read it while I was in Portugal training in January. Morgan's story of his time as a tabloid editor was very entertaining and addictive. The fact that he is a tabloid editor would make me question how authentic all of the stories are but, regardless, it's a very interesting read.

I also loved The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (Jonathan Cape), recommended to me by one of the girls I train with.

Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory, by PH Mullen (St Mary's Press), is a book that anyone who is interested in sport will like. It's about a group of elite swimmers trying to make the US Olympic team. It gives an amazing insight into everything that goes into trying to make it to the Olympics. There is so much that the general public don't see and this book explores all that brilliantly.

Derval O'Rourke won a gold medal at the World Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles in March

John Breen

We've rented a house on the island of Krk in northern Croatia for two weeks this month. We have two children, Oscar, who's one, and Clara, two and a half, and this will be our first real family holiday.

I took up scuba diving this year and hope to explore some of the wrecks on the Adriatic if I can sneak away for a morning or two. Anyone with young children will know that giving Dad quiet time to read is very low on a toddler's list of priorities, but I packed reading material because I'm an optimist.

I've always been a fan of North American novels, and this summer there are two significant new ones: Terrorist, by John Updike (Hamish Hamilton, published on this side of the Atlantic in August), and Everyman by Philip Roth (Jonathan Cape). I also have The Woman Who Waited, by Andrei Makine (Sceptre), which has just been published in English. I was introduced to his work by the staff in Keohane's bookshop in Ballina. Two books I received as Christmas presents, A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry (Faber), and The Master by Colm Tóibín (Picador) complete the manifest; I only hope I get a chance to read them all.

John Breen's play, Alone It Stands, is currently on a countrywide tour

Barbara Dawson

This summer we plan to visit Sarajevo, where my son will be spending his summer holidays with his friend Ammar, whose family live between there and Dublin. Sarajevo despite its tumultuous history is a beautiful city; a walking city. The multi-ethnic community is emphasised by the transition from the Turkish quarters to what looks like the centre of Vienna, with young people hanging out on the steps of the Catholic cathedral, a traditional meeting place.

The new Hugh Lane gallery bookshop has provided me with my reading material. The Judgement of Paris - The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King (Chatto and Windus), which came out in April, explores the art climate at the end of the 19th century. This period saw French painter Ernest Meissonier enjoying worldwide fame while Manet, now celebrated as the father of Modern Art, was struggling in obscurity.

Olu Oguibe is an artist and cultural provocateur. I'll also be reading his The Culture Game (University of Minnesota Press), which champions cultural differences. If these are not acknowledged, he believes it will mean - in terms of aesthetic consciousness - that art will only reflect a westernised hierarchy of values.

Barbara Dawson is the director of the Hugh Lane Gallery, which reopened in April

Matt Cooper

There was a time when holidays meant a dozen novels in a suitcase, all of which would be read during a fortnight on some sunny beach. Then the kids started arriving and reading for leisure has now become very difficult on holidays as we have four under the age of seven who demand to be entertained.

I have to read a lot for work, at speed, to prepare for interviews with authors, but rarely get to read fiction these days. I've been reading On Beauty (Penguin), by Zadie Smith, and enjoying it, so I might bring White Teeth (Penguin). I have loved EL Doctorow's writing since I first came upon his work 20 years ago in college, so I'm looking forward to getting to his latest novel, The March (Little,Brown). Philip Roth's recent novels have been wonderful so Everyman (Jonathan Cape) is going into the bag and, as it's short, I'm certain that I'll be able to get to read that no matter what the distractions during our annual fortnight in Dingle.

Matt Cooper presents The Last Word on Today FM