Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
No Man's Nightingale by Ruth Rendell.
No Man's Nightingale by Ruth Rendell.
The White Princess by Philippa Gregory.
The White Princess by Philippa Gregory.
The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan.
The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood.
Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.
Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.
The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare.
The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare.
Joyland by Stephen King.
Joyland by Stephen King.
The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver.
The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver.
The First Rule Of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic.
The First Rule Of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic.
Claudia Silver To The Rescue by Kathey Ebel.
Claudia Silver To The Rescue by Kathey Ebel.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl.
Night Film by Marisha Pessl.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.
The Quarry by Iain Banks.
The Quarry by Iain Banks.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.
The Great Tamasha by James Astill.
The Great Tamasha by James Astill.
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams.
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams.

Top summer novels 2013

What you want to read this summer, from Margaret Atwood to the late Iain Banks.

It’s the time of year when filling long lazy days with a book seems both an indulgence and a completely natural state of affairs. Here's a guide to the stories that should fill your summer

The beach reads

There have been plenty of big books published in the past few months to catch up on, including Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, Lauren Weisberger’s sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, unimaginatively called Revenge Wears Prada, and Beatriz Williams’ A Hundred Summers – which even has a beach on its cover.

But to look completely up to date, pack Curtis Sittenfeld’s Sisterland. A study of twin sisters who are able to see future events and the secrets of others, it might sound ridiculous but this is just the backdrop to a much deeper narrative about the trials of family life.

Beach reads are all about escapism, so flee to Tudor Britain with Philippa Gregory’s The White Princess (August). The first book in this best-selling saga, The White Queen, is a current BBC television adaptation, so Gregory is clearly on trend.

Staying in the past, albeit a more recent one, The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic is an intriguing continent-crossing story of a woman who leaves a Croatian island for New York to find her missing younger sister, only to find her quest opens dark secrets about her family history. If light relief is needed, turn to the debut by Kathy Ebel, Claudia Silver to the Rescue. Ebel is a television exec and the hit series Girls is a clear influence.

The literary

Summer doesn’t have to be all about beach reads. Start with the posthumous novel of the late, lamented Iain Banks: The Quarry is a fiery exploration of a man dying of cancer, watched through the eyes of his autistic teenager. Incredibly, Banks apparently didn’t know when he wrote it that he had succumbed to cancer himself and this is an important, indignant novel.

Banks, of course, also wrote science fiction, which is the genre to which Margaret Atwood returns for MaddAddam (August), the third book in her post-apocalyptic series which began with the Booker-shortlisted Oryx and Crake.

Back to more obviously current concerns. The Woman Upstairs by another Booker nominee, Claire Messud, is fascinating stuff, the tale of a woman in her 40s who becomes obsessed with the seemingly perfect life of a Lebanese family.

But the summer buzz in literary circles surrounds Marisha Pessl’s suspenseful Night Film (August), in which a detective is pulled into the cursed family of a reclusive horror movie director. Spooky.

Page-turners

Stephen King’s new crime novel Joyland is certainly one of the publishing events of the summer: a retro pulp thriller published only in print by a small independent. It means this wonderfully enjoyable murder mystery set in an amusement park is hard to get hold of, but any book tagged “who dares enter the funhouse of fear?” clearly deserves attention.

If you’re curious to discover accessible new writing, try, er, The Curiosity, by debut novelist Stephen Kiernan (July). It’s an intriguing premise – a man frozen for 100 years wakes up in contemporary America and becomes an instant celebrity, quickly falling in love but knowing that his time on Earth is slipping away.

For guaranteed entertainment in crime writing, Ruth Rendell offers the 24th instalment in her DCI Wexford series, No Man’s Nightingale in August. It begins when the daughter of an Indian immigrant is found strangled in a vicarage. Finally, for pure storytelling craft, check out Jeffery Deaver’s crime thriller The Kill Room – he told The National recently that if someone takes a week or more to read his books, he’s done something wrong. Page-turner indeed.

The reality

Not everyone wants a summer read to transport them into a fictional world. The Great Tamasha by James Astill (July) is the perfect example of a book which can intrigue and delight as much as the latest thriller: the story of modern India told through one of its most lucrative displays of wealth, cricket’s Indian Premier League.

The National previously spoke to Philip Hoare for his previous award-winning book on whales, and The Sea Inside is a similarly personal journey of discovery about what makes water so magical, taking in everywhere from the south coast of England to Australia and Sri Lanka.

Finally, David Peace’s Red or Dead (August) is a book which straddles the line between fact and fiction. It was a trick he pulled off to great effect with his study of football manager Brian Clough in The Damned United, and Peace returns to the beautiful game with this ruminative exploration of the famous Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly's life.

artslife@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

And follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

                             

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National