Image: Louise Long

Summer Holiday Reads

Wondering what to read this summer? Our team share their top picks:

Alex Peake-Tomkinson gets to grip with legal matters with the memoir, Under the Wig by William Clegg QC

Ideal holiday reading is obviously dependent on what kind of holiday you like to have. Whatever the answer is to that question (mine: quiet days somewhere hot with delicious dinners and good bars) most of us probably want to take the time to read outside of our comfort zone. This might mean reading a book at all if you don’t usually have the time but in my case, it means reading outside of my usual areas of interest. For that reason, I would recommend Under the Wig by William Clegg QC. If you don’t read much non fiction, memoirs are a brilliant way in. The very best are as well-crafted as novels: Sathnam Sanghera’s memoir of growing up with a schizophrenic father and sister, The Boy with the Topknot, is the perfect case in point. William Clegg QC is not a writer (and the elegance of his pithy prose can be attributed to a ghostwriter) but he is possibly Britain’s foremost QC and has the most fascinating tales to tell. From the client who answered to the name Mr F***wit in court, to defending war criminals and a woman and daughter accused of murdering their husband/father even though there was no actual evidence he wasn’t alive, it is all here. He has also worked on some notorious murder trials, including Jill Dando’s and Rachel Nickell’s and writes clear-eyed accounts of the legal processes rather than crimes (a boon if you are as squeamish as I am) and is passionate about Legal Aid. The book is a reminder of how thrilling and murky the law is but it’s also a cracking read. You will tear through it on holiday. £8.99 at Amazon

Annie Reid recommends Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley

I’ve been reading a lot lately, but above all I’d recommend Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day. This is the story of tangled relationships revealed after the death of one of the central characters. Hadley uses her words sparingly, never overplaying a scene or idea. Love, loss, grief, art, beauty – all in equal measure in this tiny precise novel. £8.99 at Amazon

Louise Long returns to her summer favourite, Helena Attlee’s The Land Where Lemons Grow

Although it’s not a new book, summer calls for a return to The Land Where Lemons Grow. Join Helena Attlee on her enchanting quest for the Italian citrus – from the lemon groves of Lombardy to the fragrant gardens of the Medici, the marmalade makers of San Giuliano to the prized bergamots of Calabria. Part curious horticultural-travelogue, part ravishing cultural history, perhaps what makes Atlee’s tale summer’s most refreshing read are the sprinkling of tempting, citrus-filled recipes: zesty ricotta cake and insalata di cedro to name a few. A timeless ode to the lemon. £9.99 at Amazon

Alix Gibson reads Piers Torday’s The Last Wild with her family

The Last Wild is the first in Torday’s award-winning trilogy and it’s a book for the whole family. My son, 8, devoured it, as did my husband and I. Torday’s books are brilliantly layered and accessible for all ages – as well as a galloping storyline, the book has some very modern, relevant themes: animals are on the point of extinction and their habitat and nature are threatened. There are some funny moments too, which punctuate the pathos; the over-eager wolf-cub, the militaristic cockroach, the half-witted pigeon. It’s a magical read.

This is what Arthur Gibson (8) had to say: ‘The Last Wild is a brilliant book of fantasy and adventure. It’s all about a brave, trustworthy and reliable boy named Kester Jaynes and his friends – thousands of animals and a determined girl called Polly. A disease is destroying nature and the countryside, which drives thousands of people into the city of big buildings and houses. The book starts off with Kester living in a horrible building called Spectrum Hall, full of troubled children. These children bully Kester because he is not able to talk. Is this the reason Kester is here, or not? With every turn of the page, I felt excited. I think anyone who reads The Last Wild will want to read the other two books in the series immediately. I can’t wait to read them this summer!’ £6.99 at Amazon

Torday’s most recent title is a contribution to Return to Wonderland, a re-imagining of Carroll’s wonderland through the eyes of the original characters. Amongst a host of other authors, Torday takes on the Cheshire Cat and how he got his smile. The hardback is available to buy now, ahead of Alice day on July 4th. £10.99 at Amazon

Daisy Allsup devoured Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Read

Daisy Jones and the Six had so much hype – including being snapped up by Reese Witherspoon for an Amazon mini-series – that there was fear it might not live up to expectations. However, a few pages in I was completely hooked on Daisy. The story charts the climb to success and subsequent splintering of a fictional 1970’s rock band (it could easily be Fleetwood Mac) whose hit albums keep coming despite ever more tangly love triangles and frantic drug-taking. The Hollywood setting nearly steals the show with wild pool parties at Daisy’s Chateau Marmont ‘cottage’, gigs on the Sunset Strip and record cover shoots in the desert. Then there’s the music that keeps the whole narrative thumping; you’ll find yourself searching for the songs on spotify only to remember they’re made up. Written as an oral history the book reads like a script which takes a bit of getting used to, but I rather liked that given that I read it by a pool and was dipping in and out frequently. Daisy Jones and The Six definitely verges on the cheesy, but go with it. My book of the summer so far. £9.47 at Amazon

Kate Hassard is escaping dismal headlines in favour of Postive News magazine

Can’t stand one more Brexit-related front page? Turn to Positive News, the magazine that focusses on progress and positive solutions. There’s a feature on the photographer who, instead of shooting models and celebrities turns her lens on people aged 100 and over, and the story of the Swedish community who have done their bit for climate change by swapping planes for train travel. Informative and inspiring, the beautiful print issue comes out four times a year (Jan, April, July, Oct) or you can subscribe online – download the digital version to an iPad before a flight. Subscriptions £30 per year

Francesca Martin has these titles on her to-read list

I’m in the midst of reading Period Power by Maisie Hill about harnessing our female hormones.  It’s a riveting, brilliant book but not quite what I had in mind for a holiday read so instead on a recent visit to Daunt’s I picked up the following: Transcription by Kate Atkinson about a young woman working for MI5 during the second world war.  I have also subsequently ordered Case Historiesthe first of her Jackson Brodie private investigator novels which have got rave reviews and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the series. The Heavens by Sandra Newman, a story of love and time travel which moves between NY in 2000 and London in 1893, looks like the perfect book to get lost in and finally, The Parisian by debut author Isabella Hammad is about the life of a young Palestinian man living under the British Mandate over 100 years ago.  To be honest, I was sold by the quote from Zadie Smith which reads: ‘A sublime reading experience: delicate, restrained, surpassingly intelligent, uncommonly poised and truly beautiful’.  I can’t wait.

— Daisy Allsup
3rd July 2019