Books: our top summer reads

Oh, to lie in a shady hammock on a deserted beach reading all day long, while something hot and spicy sizzles on a barbecue. But no, that’s not going to be our summer, not at all. However, we are going to revel in reading over the long summer days and evenings, even if we are staying in the UK, and are having quite a good time already lining up our bookish treats. So here it is so far, our summer reading list part one (part two usually arrives around late July, depending on how quickly we’re reading).

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller:  Francesca has just finished this and was totally, utterly gripped. A brilliant, retelling of  the story of Achilles’ companion, Patroclus, from The Iliad, don’t be put off by the subject matter – we didn’t think Greek war heroes were for us either.  It’s thrilling, moving and a real page-turner.  And we’re not alone in singing it’s praises: it has just won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012.

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: We both raced through this, enthralled, and it may well already be on your list, because it’s been selling like crazy since it was published, three weeks ago. OMG, but it’s good. And though you know what’s going to happen – it tells the story of Anne Boleyn’s downfall – it’s full of suspense and impossible to put down for all kinds of reasons, never mind that the quality of the writing takes your breath away. For our longer rave, click here.  And for a taster of the audio book version from Macmillan (great for long car journeys), click here.

Skios by Michael Frayn: Brill, apparently (we’ve heard from several v. trusted sources), and laugh out loud funny, so what’s not to love? Plus, we recently saw Noises Off and were reminded of Frayn’s mathematical precision when it comes to skewering whatever he’s got his beady eye on with pitch perfect humour. But he’s generous and warm hearted too. Can’t wait.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: We’ve both read this, but its on our list because re-reading it is just too tempting. Oh, to be back at Westish College where the story is set, and be among Henry, Schwartzy, Pella, Owen and Gus. You don’t read this book – you live it. If we had to pick one book you should read over the summer, it would be this (more on it here). Oh, and Bring up the Bodies.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Francesca devoured the entire trilogy over one bed-ridden weekend. Pure, addictive escapism about a teenager who volunteers to take the place of her sister when she is chosen to take part in a terrifying TV reality game. Part One is now a film of course, but the books are so much better, and there’s three of them. The perfect answer to a long haul flight.

The Sister Brothers by Patrick deWitt: We’ve been told this is a must read and Daisy began it last night, and is already loving it. A Western set in 1851 during the California Gold Rush, the book is about a couple of professional killers who are brothers with the surname Sisters, as they hunt down a man called Hermann Kermit Warm (great names, no?). The book was on the Man Booker short list last year and got rave reviews all round. Easy, as soon as you’ve begun it, to see why.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: Another book we’ve read and would and indeed will happily read again. If you haven’t read it, it’s a perfect summer read. Set on the campus of Brown University in the USA in the 80s, the plot is simple: two guys love the same girl, so which one will she pick? It’s a book brimming with insight and intelligence (both of which it wears lightly), so you read it and think it must be about your and the people you know. It’s often funny too and sometimes almost unbearably affecting.

Our top summer reads
Prices range between about £4 - £15
— Daisy
31st May 2012