Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers part one

A plagiarist in a kitchen and a horse walking into a bar; Dublin crimes and Washington misdemeanours; relationships, revolutions and relaxations … leading writers reveal their summer recommendations

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A book I absolutely loved was Margo Jeffersons Negroland(Granta), a memoir of her life as part of the African American economically privileged class. It is a sharply honest, biting, reflective look at America, and a useful guide on how race and class do not merely intersect, but race becomes class. Im looking forward to reading Salt Houses (Hutchinson), a novel by Hala Alyan, which feels very promising. The Big Stick (Basic) by Eliot Cohen has been on my to-read pile for a while and I plan to get to it this summer. And House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a new poetry collection, by Ishion Hutchinson.


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Julian Barnes

Svetlana Alexievichs first book, The Unwomanly Face of War (1985), finally arrives in English (Penguin): as with her others, terrifying documentation meets great artfulness of construction. Marie Darrieussecqs Being Here: The Life of Paula Modersohn-Becker (Text) recounts a brief, powerful artistic life that went painfully unrewarded until after the painters death. And an autumn book: I was lucky to see an advance proof ofNathan Englanders Dinner at the Centre of the Earth (Weidenfeld), a subtle, nuanced, fierce novel about Israel/Palestine, which should usefully stir things up.

William Boyd

In the 1960s and 70s my parental home was in Ibadan, western Nigeria. From there I used to visit Lagos regularly even then an unruly, exciting place. The unruly factor and the excitement factor are now off the dial not to mention the stress factor, the population factor and the danger factor. This heady ambience is perfectly caught in Chibundu Onuzos tremendous second novel Welcome to Lagos (Faber). Nigerian novelists appear to be energising the form these days, and on this showing Onuzo is leading the charge. Useful Verses by Richard Osmond (Picador) is a remarkable first collection: great precision of language married to a uniquely informed and focused view of the natural world. Finally, if you want a clear-eyed, subversive take on the strange world that is Donald Trumps American dystopia take out a subscription to the Baffler( a chunky quarterly magazine with superbly wry, dry, intelligent (and funny) writing.

In the summer of Brexit, I find myself drawn to fiction in translation, as a challenge to personal, as well as political, solipsism. Alvaro Enrigues Sudden Death (Vintage) recently beguiled a long transatlantic flight with his fanciful, erudite, hilarious tale of a tennis duel between Caravaggio and Francisco de Quevedo, played out against the backdrop of the Spanish conquest of South America and the Counter-Reformation. Olga Tokarczuks Flights (Fitzcarraldo) is described as a meditation on movement, and involves tales across history, including the journey made by Chopins heart from Paris to Warsaw. As someone who loved Laurent Binets HHhH, and had to read a lot of Roland Barthes as a postgraduate student, I am also greatly looking forward to The 7th Function of Language (Harvill Secker), in which Binet has a 1980s detective investigating the accidental death of Barthes: French postmodern high-jinks will be a welcome respite from political realities. And David Grossmans Man Booker International prize-winning A Horse Walks into a Bar (Vintage) sounds like the perfect antidote to Trump.


William Dalrymple

Summer for me is coming back from the blistering Indian heat to the cool and cloudy skies of Scotland. This year I am packing Adam Nicolsons The Seabirds Cry (HarperCollins) to read at Seacliff, the worlds most beautiful beach, which lies directly opposite one of the places Nicolson writes about: the Bass Rock, the worlds biggest gannetry, with 150,000 resident seabirds. Nicolson writes that they sound like a regiment of Cossacks cheering Ura, Ura, Ura . Maya Jasanoffs masterpiece The Dawn Watch (William Collins) will take us rather further afield up the Congo in Conrads footsteps. Judging by the opening chapters, this is one of the most important books on colonialism to be written in our time, and by one of our most brilliant young historians. Finally, Im looking forward to finishing The Epic City (Bloomsbury), a beautifully observed and even more beautifully written new study of Calcutta. In its author, Kushanava Choudhury, we clearly have an important new talent.

Richard Ford

If youre interested in Dublin, or if youre interested in the novelist John Banville, or if youre just interested in radiantly superb sentences about whatever Im all three then Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir(Hachette Ireland) is a book youll not be able to put down. Banville walks the streets of his adopted hometown both sides of the Liffey giving us history (his, in some instances), wry anecdote, cultural commentary, architecture, famous personages and savages, ultimately providing a privileged glimpse into what makes this rambunctious old hodge-podge a genius disguised as a town. Take it along on your holiday. The City Always Wins (Faber), Omar Robert Hamiltons vivid debut novel, reads at times like gritty frontline reporting of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. But it is a novel through and through felicitous, immensely perceptive and thorough in its insights, and scrupulously humane. Its portrayal of the young, who are committed against insuperable odds to the salvation of the Egyptian ideal, is a bitter history lesson coupled with a riveting human story about political innocence and passions that wont die.


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Garth Greenwell

Omar El Akkads American War (Picador) is the most impressive new novel Ive read this year. Set in a scarily plausible future scarred by civil strife and climate change, its thrilling for the sheer transporting force of its storytelling. Its lasting power, though, lies in its complex account of moral disintegration, both individual and societal. Igiaba Scegos Adua (New Vessel), newly translated from the Italian, is at the top of my pile of books to read this summer. The title character is a woman torn between Italy, her home for 40 years, and her native Somalia. One of the most brilliant writers I know, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (whose House of Stone is published next year by Atlantic), has been raving about it, and she has never steered me wrong. If you like your thrillers sexy, smart and elegant, dont miss Christopher Bollens The Destroyers (Scribner). It manages to be both fast-paced and contemplative, an excellent entertainment and also something more lasting, a haunting meditation on friendship and desperation.

David Hare

Ive resisted Tana French in the past, thinking that she, like James Joyce, throws too many words at too few events. But in The Trespasser (Hodder) the proportions are perfect, and her procedural thoroughness takes her deeper and deeper into a wholly convincing portrayal of Dublin police. First-rate. Joan Didions South and West (4th Estate)is contrastingly slim. Her diary of a trip through the southern states in the 1960s, essay-length, is so potent that you wonder how much can be evoked by so little. The Plagiarist in the Kitchen (Unbound) is hilariously grumpy, muttering at us Dont you bastards know anything? You can read it purely for literary pleasure, but Jonathan Meades makes everything sound so delicious that the non-cook will be moved to cook and the bad cook will cook better.


Kazuo Ishiguro

Universal Harvester(Scribe), John Darnielles novel set amid the cornfields and small communities of Iowa, starts like a spooky thriller, then opens out into a moving, beautifully etched picture of Americas lost and profoundly lonely. Both Evan Davis and Matthew dAncona recently published excellent books on our so-called post-truth era, but Id like to highlight James Balls Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World (Biteback) for its vivid analysis of how the business models and incentives currently prevailing in digital media render decent discourse all but inaudible. Many people tell me the emergence of young Irish novelist Sally Rooney is a moment of real significance, so Im going to read her Conversations with Friends (Faber) to find out if theyre right.

Mark Lawson

At a time when either a vacation or a staycation is likely to find the reader in a country recently subject to an unexpected election result, Im looking forward to the explanation of maverick candidates offered by a fine political commentator, Steve Richards, in The Rise of the Outsiders: How Mainstream Politics Lost Its Way (Atlantic). Among the small squad of good novels about football, A Natural by Ross Raisin (Cape) is said by reliable scouts to be well worth its purchase fee. And, after being impressed by how Susie Steiner managed to find fresh ground in the police procedural with last years Missing, Presumed, Im keen to team up with her intriguing cop, DS Manon Bradshaw, again in Persons Unknown (Borough).


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Robert Macfarlane

In Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship (Thames & Hudson), Andy Friend seems to have opened new vistas on to the lives, loves and connections of this mesmerising and migrant artist right up to his last, fatal flight off Iceland in 1942. Ive been saving Paul Scratons Ghosts on the Shore: Travels Along Germanys Baltic Coast (Influx) until I had time to take its journeys properly, so I look forward to page-walking that unsettled and unsettling coastline with him. I also want to read, properly, Denise Rileys collection Say Something Back (Picador), which includes her heart-piercing elegy to her son Jacob, A Part Song: the most powerful contemporary poem Ive read in years. Not everyones choice of summer reading, I admit … but it is mine!



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Paul Mason

Bitch Doctrine (Bloomsbury) by Laurie Penny, one of the most accomplished and acerbic of the new, young journalists emerging from the protest movements of the 2010s, takes you to the front trench of the gender war and keeps you there longer than anyone should really stay. In No Is Not Enough (Allen Lane), Naomi Klein anatomises the roots of Trump in the already dystopian world of corporate-ruled America and predicts the end run around democracy. A clear and readable guide to action, if it is action you are contemplating. This year will see an avalanche of reactionary bullshit written by the patrician chroniclers of Soviet Russia. Get your retaliation in by flaunting China Mivilles October (Verso) on the beach as the yachting fraternity sashays by.


Eimear McBride

Not many writers can straddle short and long form fiction as well as Sarah Hall. This summer she has her short story hat on and if the rest of the stories are as good as Evie Im betting Madame Zero (Faber) will be superb. The excellent bookseller Katia Wengraf, from the excellent Review Bookshop in Peckham, recently gave me a copy of Sphinx (Deep Vellum)by Anne Garrta by a friend who said Id like it. Best described as Its a genderless love story and written by one of the few female members of the Oulipo writers group, and I think shell probably be right. Modernism might not be making Will Self a millionaire but its certainly helping him prove what a great writer he is. Im still thinking about Umbrella and Shark, so I cant wait to read Phone(Viking), the final instalment of the trilogy. Self is one of the few writers whose language and ideas are at constant war with the easy-access tonelessness churned out by many though not all of todays creative writing industries. He has a brilliant mind, is a master of the compound pun and never writes for idiots; whats not to adore?

Pankaj Mishra

Writers from Russia and Eastern Europe remain the most eloquent witnesses to the insidious appeal of authoritarianism and demagoguery, especially as it goes global. In Miosz: A Biography (Harvard) Andrzej Franaszeks life of Czesaw Miosz, we see a profound sensibility living through, and grasping, the inherent nihilism of three very different promises of power and wealth: nazism, Stalinism and Americanism. Ivan Krastevs After Europe (Pennsylvania), a sober reckoning with the challenges to Europe, defines the dangers that will outlast, and may even be aggravated by, Emmanuel Macrons triumph. I am only half-way through Masha Gessens The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (Riverhead), but it already seems indispensable. I was very struck by The Story of a Brief Marriage (Granta), a novel by Anuk Arudpragasam. With its unflinchingly account of the suffering of war, it reminds you of Andre Malrauxs novel set in Chinas civil war in the 1930s La condition humaine; but with its intense physicality it renders intimate what is often seen as the remote struggles for humanity of those caught up in large-scale violence. I also much admired The Promised Land: Poems from Itinerant Life (Penguin), Andr Naffis-Sahelys sharp meditations on our vast but remarkably homogeneous global landscape.


George Monbiot

Ive started reading Roman Krznarics Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day (Unbound) and its brilliant. One of those rare books that forces you to ask what the hell youre doing with your life. Jane Mayers Dark Money (Scribe) is a terrifying insight into how 21st-century politics works, and a great lesson in how to write non-fiction. But my book of the year so far is Pankaj Mishras Age of Anger (Allen Lane): a fascinating explanation of the roots of terrorism.

Daljit Nagra

Unnerved by the despicable state of the world, I shall be flogging myself with the following books to help me understand and interpret it: Teju Coles essays, Known and Strange Things (Faber), because I love a writer such as Cole who says: When I cannot sleep, I rise from bed and watch Jacques Derrida talk. Hannah Arendts critique The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin) is a highly readable discussion about the advent of racism and its links to power. Arendt is particularly good on the insidious methods by which power is achieved for its own means. Beauty and terror, pain and forgiveness, and the healing of a breadfruit; music has no finer tune, no gravitas more earned than The Poetry of Derek Walcott 19482013 (Faber).


Sarah Perry

It would be a pretty paltry sort of summer without a pile of crime novels, and the one Im most excited about is Dark Water (Bloomsbury) by Parker Bilal. These are wonderfully written, compelling thrillers that give an exhilarating depiction of contemporary Egypt. Private Investigator Makana is everything you could want in a detective hero: brilliant, bruised and melancholy and he lives on a dilapidated houseboat on the Nile. Short stories are perfect summer reading, especially when the heat makes one indolent, and nothing could be more fitting than Attrib. and Other Stories (Influx) by Eley Williams. She is a writer for whom one struggles to find comparison, because she has arrived in a class of her own: witty, melancholy, occasionally sensual, occasionally mordant, elegantly droll without the kind of hipster quirkiness that makes me want to hurl books at the wall. She has in common with George Saunders the ability to be both playful and profound, and we are lucky to have her. Ill be spending a little time in the Peak District, so I plan on doing some themed reading and taking with me Alan Garners The Weirdstone of Brisingamen(HarperCollins). I havent read this since the scene involving an escape down a rabbit-hole gave me a lifetime of mild claustrophobia, and ever since I have been haunted by faint memories of a tear-shaped stone on a bracelet, shape-shifting sorcerers, and ordinary children plunged into peril. Im hoping it will do what the very best childrens fiction has always done: offer promise of hope and heroism in a world which seems to offer none.

Philippe Sands

History and memoir offer insights into other times and lives that make Britains current miserable travails marginally more tolerable. The Greatest Comeback (Biteback) by David Bolchover is astonishing, not least for its unlikely melding of football and mass murder, two of my daily passions; there is no escape from the continuing powerful embrace of Hisham Matars The Return (Penguin), recently awarded a Pulitzer prize even as President Trump would, no doubt, if he possibly could, ban the author from setting foot in the US; and Han Kangs Human Acts (Granta) offers a gripping Korean perspective on the human consequences of abuses of power. Three extraordinary stories.


Nikesh Shukla

Im looking forward to reading Olumide Popoolas When We Speak of Nothing (Cassava Republic), a debut novel about race, London, the riots and being black and queer, which sounds fantastic. Im also really excited about Sympathy (One) by Olivia Sudjic. Having written a novel about the internet/social media myself, I cant wait to see how this one deals with it. Finally, the poetry of Kayo Chingonyi (Kumukanda, Chatto) and Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Cape) demand revisiting, and both their collections currently come with me everywhere.

Ahdaf Soueif

I know William Sutcliffes We See Everything (Bloomsbury) is for young adults but I read a couple of pages, where people were living in the underground stacks of the British Library after London had been turned into The Strip, and I was gripped. Then theres Pankaj Mishras Age of Anger. I love his angles and analyses, his links between past and present. And then I, finally, will get round to Elena Ferrantes My Brilliant Friend (Europa) after everyone else in the world has finished it.


Francis Spufford

I just chanced on Eleanor Cattons first novel The Rehearsal (Granta), the one she wrote before the Man Booker winner The Luminaries, and it looks very promisingly disconcerting: a book about the ironies of adulthoods appetite for youth and vice versa. Thats definitely going on the heap for summer, and so is China Mivilles October, both because friends I trust tell me it may complicate my present sense that the October Revolution was a straightforward catastrophe for 20th-century socialism, and because I really want to see what happens when a brilliant fantasist turns to narrative history. And Ill be working my way on backwards through George Saunders, having been hooked conclusively by Lincoln in the Bardo (Bloomsbury), tonal whimsies and all. Im presently on Tenth of December (Bloomsbury), but I expect to have reached The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by the time we go on holiday.

Colm Tibn

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam is set at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. During the shelling and the mayhem, Dinesh is asked to marry a young woman. The story, written with slow tenderness and real emotional precision, is an intimate portrait of what happens over a day and a half, and the study of a sensibility under pressure. It is the best novel I have read in ages. Miosz: A Biography by Andrzej Franaszek is a fascinating account of the life of the Polish poet Czesaw Miosz. The chapters about surviving as a poet in Warsaw during the second world war are especially interesting, as are the pages about the years in exile. In The Rule of the Land (Faber), Garrett Carr walks along the Irish border. This is great writing about landscape and history, essential also for anyone who needs to know about hard and soft borders after Brexit.


Sarah Waters

There are three books Ive been recommending like mad recently. The first is Margaret Drabbles The Dark Flood Rises(Canongate), an astute, elegant, blackly funny novel about ageing, dying and taking stock. The second isDiary of a Wartime Affair(Viking) by Doreen Bates, a previously unpublished journal from the 1930s and 40s which chronicles, in frank and fascinating detail, the turbulent romance between a female civil servant and her married male colleague. And the third is Neel Mukherjees A State of Freedom (Chatto). Set in contemporary India, technically daring, deeply compassionate, its a powerful, pertinent novel about migration and social injustice.

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