Summer is here! (sort of). Life is slowly beginning to resume some sort of normality, and publishing in recent weeks and the weeks to come is the strongest it has been for years. Do yourself and your soul a favour; pick a book from our list of brilliant summer reads, get yourself to the park, back garden, balcony or nearest bench, and soak up some rays and stories.
No matter what you enjoy reading, summer 2021 has some incredible books in store for you. Here’s LitVox’s list of the very best summer reads from a range of genres;
- Fiction -
Boys Don’t Cry by Fiona Scarlett
This one is a real tear-jerker, but not in a cheap, misery-memoir kind of way. It’s a really assured debut set in a North Dublin Tower block complex. It tells the story of Joe and Finn, 12 and 17 year-old brothers, as they navigate life and come to terms with a city which neither one finds they fit into. Finn is sickly, full of heart and pep, while Joe is intellectually gifted and determined to keep his brother away from the worst excesses of their surroundings, particularly their semi-gangster father.
Shuggie Bain was a big hit last year. This basically does for Dublin what Shuggie did for Glasgow, though for our money, this is actually the better book, piling meaning and a depth of character into the narrative that outshine Stuart’s book. Only released a couple of weeks ago, this one has already gotten rave reviews in the Irish Times and the Sunday Independent, and we’re certain it’ll be the bestselling Irish novel of the summer. It really is something special.
Listening Still by Anne Griffin
This one is almost guaranteed to be a bestseller, and with good cause. Anne Griffen is the author of When All is Said, which was the runaway bestseller and critically acclaimed novel that launched her to literary superstardom in 2019. The good news is, this is every bit as good as her debut. Jeanie Masterson has a gift: she can hear the recently dead and give voice to their final wishes and revelations. Inherited from her father, this gift has enabled the family undertakers to flourish in their small Irish town.
Yet she has always been uneasy about censoring some of the dead’s last messages to the living. Unsure, too, about the choice she made when she left school seventeen years ago: to stay or leave for a new life in London with her charismatic teenage sweetheart. So when Jeanie’s parents unexpectedly announce their plan to retire, she is jolted out of her limbo. In this captivating successor to her bestselling debut, Anne Griffin portrays a young woman who is torn between duty, a comfortable marriage and a role she both loves and hates and her last chance to break free, unaware she has not been alone in softening the truth for a long while.
There is often a lot of lazy talk among reviewers of “second novel syndrome”, but all of that silliness can be put to bed right away. This novel has just enough in it, both in style and approach to please fans of When All is Said. That said, this is a fantastic work in its own right, imaginative, well-crafted and with a depth that gets to the readers very core.
The Best Things by Mel Giedroyc
This one is a warm, easy read that is brimming with heart and soul, perfect for fans of Marian Keyes or Cathy Kelly.
Could the worst day of Sally Parker’s life be the best thing that ever happened to her?
Sally Parker had a morbid fear of big social events and it was for this reason that she was crouching down low in the shoe section of her wardrobe…
Sally Parker is struggling to find the hero inside herself.
All she wants to do is lie down.
Her husband Frank has lost his business, their home and their savings, in one fell swoop. Their bank cards are being declined. The children have gone feral. And now the bailiffs are at the door.
What does an ordinary woman do when the bottom falls out?
Sally Parker is about to surprise everybody.
Most of all herself.
As ever, you can grab your copy noew from LitVox’s online bookshop.
White City by Kevin Power – Many readers were amazed by the technical ability on display in Kevin Power’s debut Bad Day In Blackrock. Since then, Power has gone from strength to strength as a writer. This latest novel is arguably his finest yet, a dark, vivid and often hilarious portrait of modern South Dublin. Here is rehab, where Ben – the only son of a rich South Dublin banker – is piecing together the shattered remains of his life. Abruptly cut off, at the age of 27, from a life of heedless privilege, Ben flounders through a world of drugs and dead-end jobs, his self-esteem at rock bottom.
Even his once-adoring girlfriend, Clio, is at the end of her tether. Then Ben runs into an old school friend who wants to cut him in on a scam: a shady property deal in the Balkans. The deal will make Ben rich and, at one fell swoop, will deliver him from all his troubles: his addictions, his father’s very public disgrace, and his own self-loathing and regret. Problems solved.
But something is amiss. For one thing, the Serbian partners don’t exactly look like fools. (In fact they look like gangsters.) And, for another, Ben is being followed everywhere he goes. Someone is being taken for a ride. But who?
Get your copy of White City here.
Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler
Tyler is renowned for her subtle plot development and her graceful storytelling. Redhead by the Side of the Road is arguably her best novel for many years, described as a “Perfect love story for imperfect people”. Micah Mortimer measures out his days running errands for work, maintaining an impeccable cleaning regime and going for runs (7:15, every morning). He is in a long-term relationship with his woman friend Cassia, but they live apart. His carefully calibrated life is regular, steady, balanced.
But then the order of things starts to tilt. Cassia is threatened with eviction, and when a teenager shows up at Micah’s door claiming to be his son, he is confronted with another surprise he seems poorly equipped to handle.
Can Micah, a man to whom those around him always seem just out of reach, find a way back to his perfectly imperfect love story?
You can purchase your copy here.
- Crime -
The Khan by Saima Mir
A highly original thriller. This one straddles the line between legal drama and organised crime thriller, with an element of international intrigue thrown in for good measure. There’s soemthing here to please most crime fiction readers. Rather than drowningunder the weight of its own ambition, this novel balances everything perfectly. The result is a thriller that is vivid, gritty and convincing. Almost guarenteed to be amde into a hit TV series.
Successful London lawyer Jia Khan is a long way from the grubby Northern streets she knew as a child, where her father, Akbar Khan, led the Pakistani community and ran the local organised crime syndicate. Often his Jirga rule – the old way – was violent and bloody, but it was always justice of a kind.
Now, with her father murdered, Jia must return to take his place. The police have always relied on the Khan to maintain the fragile order of the streets. But a bloody power struggle has broken out among warring communities and nobody is safe. Justice needs to be restored, and Jia is about to discover that justice always comes at a cost.
Get your copy here.
The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean
This one is a dark, domestic thriller, creepy and sure to put the chills up ye. Set on a remote farm and filled with lingering dread, it’s a chilling depiction of an obsessively controlling relationship driven to its breaking point. Think Stephen King’s Misery mixed with Tana French’s Dublin Murders series and you’ll have a rough idea of the atmosphere this one gives off.
He is her husband. She is his captive. Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.
She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.
Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished. For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .
Get your copy of this dark and unsettling novel from LitVox online.
The Cut by Chris Brookmyre
The entertaining, moving, and unpredictable new thriller from multi-award-winning bestseller Chris Brookmyre.
Millie Spark can kill anyone.
A special effects make-up artist, her talent is to create realistic scenes of bloody violence.
Then, one day, she wakes to find her lover dead in her bed.
Twenty-five years later, her sentence for murder served, Millicent is ready to give up on her broken life – until she meets troubled film student and reluctant petty thief Jerry.
Together, they begin to discover that all was not what it seemed on that fateful night … and someone doesn’t want them to find out why.
Get your copy from the LitVox online Bookshop.
- Non-Fiction -
House of Glass by Hadley Freeman
This is one of the most beautiful biographies we’ve come across in years. After her grandmother died, Hadley Freeman travelled to her apartment to try and make sense of a woman she’d never really known. Sala Glass was a European expat in America – defiantly clinging to her French influences, famously reserved, fashionable to the end – yet to Hadley much of her life remained a mystery. Sala’s experience of surviving one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history was never spoken about.
When Hadley found a shoebox filled with her grandmother’s treasured belongings, it started a decade-long quest to find out their haunting significance and to dig deep into the extraordinary lives of Sala and her three brothers. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island and to Auschwitz.
This beautiful book pieces together photographs, letters and an unpublished memoir to depict a beautiful, sad and inspiring twentieth century Jewish life.
You can pick up this amazing story from the LitVox bookshop.
The Power of Geography: Ten Maps That Reveal the Future of Our World by Tim Marshall
This is the long-awaited follow up to Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography, the book that popularised geopolitics and took it out of the hands of the academics.
Marshall explores ten regions that are set to shape global politics in a new age of great-power rivalry: Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and Space. Find out why Europe’s next refugee crisis is closer than it thinks as trouble brews in the Sahel; why the Middle East must look beyond oil and sand to secure its future; why the eastern Mediterranean is one of the most volatile flashpoints of the twenty-first century; and why the Earth’s atmosphere is set to become the world’s next battleground.
The wonderful thing about Marshall’s books is that he can break down extremely complex geopolitical concepts and age-old international rivalries into an easy-to-digest format. The cause of many of the conflicts that Marshall describes here are simple, but the unfolding nature they have taken is not. It’s in unravelling these mazes that Marshall really shows his skill as an interpreter of world events.
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
In 1961, Sarah M. Broom’s mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plant – the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah’s father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah’s birth, the house would become Ivory Mae’s thirteenth and most unruly child.
A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America’s most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother’s struggle against a house’s entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the ‘Big Easy’ of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority and power.