This week the office has been blissfully quiet, as the staff of 4th Estate have begun to migrate for the summer. The destinations are many and varied – from birdwatching on Lesbos to partying on Ibiza. But what books are we packing into our suitcases, rucksacks and bumbags? All is revealed in this list of our Holiday Reads…
PURITY by Jonathan Franzen (4th Estate)
If you can get hold of a copy of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity before your summer hols, READ IT! The Corrections: unputdownable. Freedom: unputdownable. Ditto Purity. At its heart it is about a young woman looking for the father she has never met, but from this spins a plot which involves a cast of characters and a story that will keep you out of the sea and pinned to your beach towel. One of the major authors of our generation at the absolute top of his game.
Nicholas Pearson, Publisher
ALIAS GRACE by Margaret Atwood (Virago)
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood, is the perfect book to bring on holiday. In fact, don’t even wait for the beach, just stop everything and read it right now. It’s that good. It’s the magic combination of seriously intelligent (complex, thought-provoking and layered) and outrageously enjoyable (dramatic, twisty and page-turning). After I read it I developed an unusual obsession with eating radishes, so perhaps read it with a bowl of them at your side, and a twist of salt. You’ll understand when you read it.
Anna Kelly, Commissioning Editor
THE POWER BROKER by Robert A. Caro (Bodley Head)
Summer is the perfect time to tackle the big beasts of the book world. I love using the extra reading time I get on holiday to truly immerse myself in a book and while in the past it would have always been a novel (Underworld, Gravity’s Rainbow, Midnight’s Children, Infinite Jest, The Goldfinch have all accompanied me through the long summer days in the past) the older I get the more I’m swayed towards non-fiction. This summer I want to tackle a recently reissued classic on the man behind one of the world’s most iconic cities. Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker is the story of Robert Moses, a man who accumulated a vast amount of power and then used it to build and shape modern New York, and how those who got in the way of his vision – mayors, governors, the urban poor – paid a heavy price for his dreams.
Matt Clacher, Marketing Director
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)
I am late to the party but Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is just exceptional. Don’t expect heady, sun-soaked Napoli landscapes. The Italy of this book is fierce and violent, but Ferrante never paints the insular childhoods of Lina and Lila with pity or tragedy. Instead, it is a universal picture of growing up and out of the communities that make us. Do expect to underline vigorously. This book does that great thing – opens up a new world and a new perspective whilst illuminating the biggest questions of your own life.
Tara Al-Azzawi, Marketing Manager
BARBARA THE SLUT by Lauren Holmes (4th Estate)
‘When I got into grad school, my boyfriend told me that we were at a crossroads and we needed to take stock of our relationship and decide whether to continue together or separately. While I tried to think of what to say, he explained that his vote was for separately.
I quit my job and moved back to Massachusetts. I moved into my old bedroom at my dad’s house because I didn’t have time to find a summer job or a sublet. My dad felt bad for me and gave me a talk about how this was an opportunity to center myself. He said he would pay my expenses until I left for school in August, which was really nice and kind of depressing.’
A lot of characters in Barbara the Slut are having pretty difficult summers. Thanks to this amazing debut collection, we can all have fantastic ones. I can’t think of a better beach read. Lauren Holmes writes short stories that are like lemon sherbet; her writing is so fresh and sassy it almost fizzes, and each story has a sharp kick and a sharply intelligent, startlingly frank narrative voice.
Lettice Franklin, Assistant Editor
NIGHT OF THE CRABS by Guy N. Smith (New English Library)
The beach read taken to its logical extreme. First published in 1976, this is a crabtivating tale of colossal crustaceans terrorising the Welsh coast from the pen of a real life Garth Marenghi. You might think that horror is the least appealing literary genre for a relaxing day reading in the dunes, but this book features everything you could possibly want while lying on a beach blanket: sun, sea, sand, sex, and slaughter. Scream! – as canoodling couples are pincered by mutant crabs in a weirdly moralistic manner. Gasp! – at breathless yet ham-fisted descriptions of pitched battles between the military and giant decapods. Wonder! – why no one publishes laughable yet monstrously entertaining British horror novels anymore.
Tom Killingbeck, Publishing Executive
SKYLIGHT by José Saramago (Harvill Secker)
My summer read is ‘Skylight’ by José Saramago, a book that was submitted by Saramago to his publisher in 1953. He received no response, and, according to his wife, was plunged “into a painful, indelible silence that lasted decades” as a result. In 1989, he was contacted by a publisher to say that the manuscript had been found, and that it would be an honour to publish. Saramago’s response was to say that “it would not be published in his lifetime”. The book was finally published in Portugal in 2011, a year after Saramago’s death. What better book to read than one written by somebody as melodramatic as I am?
Candice Carty-Williams, Marketing Assistant
THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd (Tinder Press)
Set in nineteenth century Charleston, South Carolina, this novel historically explores the resistance towards American slavery, while simultaneously evoking a compelling coming-of-age tale of two women. Drawn together by an unwillingness to accept their statuses as slave and slave-owner, Handful and Sarah Grimké battle against the constraints of a hostile and entrapping society. This endearing story of hope, courage and strife becomes a captivating journey narrative, perfect for absorbing holiday reading and voyages of your own.
Bethan Littley, Intern
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