Packing your suitcase ready for your summer hols? Don’t forget to slip in the odd paperback or two for your kids. Starting off with our favourite reads so far in 2018, here are the books we can guarantee your kids will love!
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. Children of Blood and Bone is the debut novel of Nigerian-American writer Tomi Adeyemi. Already signed up for movie production, it’s set to be the big YA fantasy novel of 2018 and it’s a fantasy novel with a notable difference. Tired of the prevalence of white faces in genre fiction, Adeyemi created a band of black heroes and allies. One of my absolute favourites this year. Teen/YA.
After the Fire by Will Hill. What happens to the child survivors of a brainwashing cult? How do they begin to process the horrors they have seen? Loosely based on the Waco siege of 1993, After the Fire by Will Hill is a stunning depiction of the lead-up to and aftermath of an armed siege on a Texan cult compound. This highly original novel has scooped the YA Book Prize 2018, and is undoubtedly the best book I’ve reviewed so far this year. Teen/YA.
The Secret of the Night Train by Sylvia Bishop. Max Morel is a true Parisienne, lucky enough to live within sight of the Eiffel Tower, and the best pain au chocolat shop ever. But her life feels small; never has there been a girl more ready for grand adventure. Little does Max realise that she is one fateful phone call away from being swept aboard an intoxicating night train ride across Europe, one that will include international jewel thieves and undercover detectives. Hold onto your hats! 8-11 Years.
Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different by Ben Brooks. Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different, offers an inspiring array of alternative heroes and tales. Dragon slayers and football goal-scorers are so last season. Here we meet dancers and poets, campaigners and philanthropists. Although some of our heroes are defined by their occupation, many aren’t. Instead, their stories are of resilience and determination, often in the face of towering adversity. 8-11 Years.
Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. Volume One of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, a collection of 100 tales of extraordinary women, was one of the publishing sensations of 2017. Showcasing real women of courage and ingenuity, and riding the wave of the zeitgeist, the authors produced a beautiful factual book that has been translated around the world. A wonderful thing then happened, a clamour of readers’ voices calling for more tales, and offering up their own heroines. Here, in Volume Two, we see the results of a very happy collaboration. 8-11 Years.
The Lifters by Dave Eggers. Imagine if the ground beneath your feet was riddled with tunnels, home to a predatory and ‘voracious underground hurricane that thinks and feels’ its way to destruction. Heavy stuff. This scenario is visited upon 12-year-old Gran Flowerpetal in this new book from the brilliant Dave Eggers. His first foray into children’s fiction, The Lifters presents us with a spirited and magical adventure, and the ever-popular theme of kids having to take charge and save the day. 8-11 Years.
Frida Kahlo by Isabel Sánchez Vegara. With a nod to the V & A’s enthralling summer exhibition of Frida Kahlo’s personal artefacts, I’ve chosen to highlight Frida Kahlo by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, one of the most iconic artists in history. My hunch is that of all the artists that kids may engage with, this colourful Mexican, with her flamboyance and drama, is a surefire winner. Aimed at our youngest readers, this charming book works as an accompaniment to an exhibition or a stand-alone introduction to an inspirational character. 5-8 Years.
Here’s a trio of lazy reads, the only rule being that they don’t over-exercise the brain, and deliver excitement or laughs, and sometimes both at once!
The Private Blog of Joe Cowley: Straight Outta Nerdsville by Ben Davis. ‘Too old for Wimpy Kid? Meet Joe Cowley’. A fitting tag line to lead us into the fourth instalment of this series. 16-year-old Joe and his band ‘Sound Experience’, move to London, in pursuit of stardom and cosmopolitan living. A squirm- inducing comedy of embarrassment is to follow. Teen/YA.
Eddy Stone and the Epic Holiday Mash-Up by Simon Cherry. A pirate is sitting in Eddy’s gran’s bath. Eddy has been having the most rubbish holiday in the history of holidays, and excitement is well overdue. Shortlisted for the Laugh-Out-Loud Awards 2017 (the ‘Lollies’), Eddy Stone’s riotous adventure is surely a major contender. 5-8 Years.
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. Imagine some ingenious kid setting up a high school gossip app. Imagine said kid being of unfortunately malevolent character, and taking great pleasure in posting his fellow students darkest secrets online. Containing romance, intrigue, and potential murder, it’s compelling reading, and also remarkably easy on the brain. Teen/YA.
Is there a better time than holiday time to ignite debate round the dinner table? Three controversial reads for teens. Encompassing police brutality, gang warfare, drugs and suicide, your teen reader is sure to proffer some strong opinions.
Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence. Just announced as Waterstone’s Older Fiction category winner 2017, Orangeboy is a maximum impact read. It tells the story of 16-year-old Marlon, who gets sucked into a teen gang vortex of drugs, violence, and ultimately, a dicing with death. Is he strong enough to stand firm against the gangstas who would crush him and those he loves? Teen/YA.
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Hannah Baker is dead. She committed suicide two weeks ago, shocking her local community. But there are thirteen reasons why she died, and she wants Clay Jensen to know what they are. The buzz around 13 Reasons Why has been huge. First published a decade ago, public interest has been reignited by the recent 13-part Netflix series, rocketing it into the bestseller charts. The TV-series has generated a lot of controversy, and we feel that the book has a softer impact and can be useful for kick-starting a difficult conversation with your teenagers. Teen/YA.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Starr’s best friend, Khalil, is murdered by a police officer, in front of her eyes. Khalil, a young black man, is unarmed. The officer, who is white, shoots Khalil in the back. In this electrifying new YA novel, we join Starr, in her fight for justice against the hostile might of the U.S establishment. Teen/YA.
Are you lucky enough to have a dreamy, sensitive and curious child in your life? Here’s a trio of books just for them, sprinkled with magic, empathy, and a dash of melancholia.
When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson. A self-proclaimed outsider, Anna’s days are spent quietly dreaming. Her imagination is rich but her days are lonely. Until that is, the bewitching Marnie appears, and over the course of one long hot summer, opens Anna’s timid heart to friendship. It’s now 50 years since the publication of When Marnie Was There. It’s an achingly beautiful minor classic, and I’ve never understood why it isn’t better known. 8-11 Years.
The White Tower by Cathryn Constable. The White Tower tells the story of Livy, a lonely, bereaved girl, trembling on the edge of adolescence. When her father becomes the librarian at ancient, hallowed Temple College, Livy is granted a scholarship there. A marvellous tale of alchemy, magic, and villainy unfolds. 8-11 Years.
The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. Winner of the Blue Peter Book Awards 2014, this is a fantastic adventure story with a speedy plot, keeping children hooked till the very last page. It’s full of life-affirming messages: ‘Never ignore a possible’ is young Sophie’s war cry as she battles to find her real mother – we have to fight for our dreams, she shows us. 8-11 Years.
Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Visit our Young Readers section for more excellent children’s books.
Don’t you just love this side of summer? At this point it seems endless, hence the towering pile of books on my desk that I intend to read during the holiday. Maybe this will be the year I have time to read them all?!
Rachel Cusk’s Kudos has been recommended to me now repeatedly by various bookseller so I shall give it a try. It is the third book in a trilogy, Outline and Transit being the two first, but it can be read independently. Like the others, Kudos is a novel of conversations between people about politics, family, art, sorrows and joys. Sounds a bit serious so probably best if you’re craving a ‘thinking’ book.
Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny should be a lighter sort of read. A man looks at his wife number two and starts wondering if he should have left number one. Something to share with your husband? (assuming you are number one).
I was gripped by Edouard Louis’ The End of Eddy, so his recently published History of Violence immediately grabbed my attention at the bookstore. It takes a long hard look at racism, immigration and trauma in the context of a one night stand between two gay men. Written by one of France’s most interesting young authors.
I simply love John Steinbeck but unlike many people didn’t read Grapes of Wrath at school. Even if you did read it at school, perhaps this is one worth re-reading? I’ve been ‘saving’ this for my summer holiday. Can’t wait.
Lena Andersson’s Wilful Disregard was one of my favourite reads this year. So adding her next book, Acts of Infidelity, to my summer book pile was easy. Another story of complicated love presented with Andersson’s trademark dark humour and wise insight. I’m looking forward to find out if this is as good as the last one.
Sheila Heti’s Motherhood looks at the monumental decision of having children or not from the perspective of an artist. Heti’s previous book, How Should a Person Be? a semi-autobiographical novel was a huge hit. Her writing is known to be extremely funny. Curious to see what this book is like.
Finally, I’ve long wanted to read Jean Rhys’ modern classic Wide Saragasso Sea. It was written in 1966 by Dominica born Rhys as a anti-colonialist and feminist response to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, with a similar storyline. Nice and short is it too.
The question now is where should I start? What are you reading this summer?
What are the best books for summer 2018? We’re thrilled to present our summer reading list. A list full of great reads for every mood. Funny and sad, light and heavy, it’s all here. Happy summer from all of us at Bookstoker!
Our first two books are topping bestseller lists at the moment. See what we thought about them before joining the herd.
Circe by Madeline Miller. If you cast your mind back to school you may remember Circe as the witch on whose island Odysseus and his crew washed up on their long journey back from the Trojan War, and wasn’t there something about turning men to pigs and, um, did Odysseus have an affair with her? If you have ever wondered why she lived alone on that island, what made her a sorceress, what happened to her after Odysseus left her to go back to his wife – indeed if you have ever wondered about the reality behind the headline story of any woman who plays a bit part in the (hi)story of men – you have an absolute treat in store with this book.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor is a woman who has elevated living alone to an art form. Her days follow the same pattern week in week out – a dull office job, the Telegraph cryptic crossword, the Archers, a regular chat with ‘Mummy’, no friends…and two bottles of Tesco vodka to get through the weekend. She is clearly not fine at all, and the novel is an investigation into why she is not fine, and what happens when she deals with her terrible past and finally allows herself to thaw. This is an enjoyable feel-good book with a page-turning narrative and a good deal of heart, but sometimes it lays on the lessons with a trowel. I can’t help feeling there might have been a more subtle way of doing this.
The Lido by Libby Page. The story centres around famous South London landmark Brockwell Lido which (only in the novel, don’t panic) is under threat. Like many council amenities in London it is expensive to run, so when a property development company makes an offer with a view to redeveloping it into luxury flats, a Brixton journalist joins forces with an old lady and a group of local characters to campaign to save it. There’s nothing new or stand-out special here but somehow this manages to be a happy heart-warming book. Featuring stock characters and an abundance of clichés, it also encompasses some of the big themes that several books of the moment (Eleanor Oliphant I’m looking at you) favour. Loneliness, anxiety, community spirit and kindness all make an appearance with a dash of gentrification issues and activism.
I’m always on the look out for funny books and they are, generally, far and few between. Then suddenly four dumps on my desk! I’ve really enjoyed these darkly comic novels, there’s so much truth and humanity in them.
Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson. Ester Nilsson, respected poet and writer, has spent too much time being an intellectual and too little being a human. Everything changes when she falls head-over-heals in love with successful artist Hugo Rask. But how will Ester reconcile her critical/analytical brain with her biological urges? And what are Hugo’s intentions? Is he looking for love or just someone to stroke his ego? I was engrossed by Andersson’s intelligent and wickedly funny portrayal of the nature of relationships. A book for anyone who has loved without being loved back.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Arthur Less is having a massive mid-life crisis. His last book proposal has been turned down, his boyfriend Freddy of eight years has dumped him only to announce he will marry his new beau instead. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the big five-O is lurking on the horizon. What to do? Escape seems the sensible option. Greer’s book, which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize, gets off to a bit of a slow start but picks up once Arthur hits the shores of Europe. A perfectly pitched comic portrayal of other cultures through the eyes of an American. I grew fond of anti-hero Arthur, his insecurities and fumbling efforts to rebuild his life. A heart-warming, funny and original read.
Shyness and Dignity by Dag Solstad. Meet Elias Rukla, teacher of Norwegian to a bunch of bored teenagers at Fagerborg Secondary School in Oslo. Elias is about to destroy 25 years of hard work and his reputation, publicly and humiliatingly, in front of the whole school. Why is Elias boiling over? Find out in this darkly funny, captivating deep dive into the psyche of a man who comes face to face with his entire existence.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata is a rare book. Imminently readable, absurd, laugh-out-loud funny, yet profound. And it’s the winner of the Akutagawa Prize, Japan’s most prestigious literary award. As a child Keiko, our heroine, is different. Unnervingly so. Particularly in a society where conformity is the ideal. ‘Normal’ is what everyone is striving for and when Keiko starts to work in a convenience store, ‘normal’ seems within reach. But being ‘normal’ eventually involves marrying and having children, which she’s not even remotely interested in. As pressure mounts, Keiko needs to find a solution.
Something a bit more serious
Mr Peacock’s Possessions by Lydia Syson. In the late 1800s – a time of exploration and colonisation – a family of settlers departs from New Zealand for a remote volcanic island they have been told is uninhabited but fertile. Mr and Mrs Peacock and their six children hope to build a new home, grow crops, tend animals, and tame the wild place known as ‘Blackbird Island’. Their idyllic little corner of Eden turns out to be anything but, and when one of the children goes missing dark secrets from the past emerge and threaten to destroy them all. Mr Peacock’s Possessions by Lydia Syson is a wonderfully compelling book. Highly recommended.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018. Two Muslim families collide in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire; one from a wealthy, privileged, political family, the other from Wembley’s poor immigrant community. Eammon, son of British Pakistani Home Secretary, Karamat Lone and his glamorous American designer wife, Terry, falls head over heals in love with Aneeka, orphaned Pakistani girl with Jihadi father and brother. Interesting premise for a story and fertile ground for moral dilemmas and culture clashes. Shamsie keeps the suspense and gripping love story moving at an impressive pace. Shame that the ending feels contrived, but still worth a read.
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck. Richard is a widower and a recently retired professor of Classics. His house is quiet and his days are empty of events but his mind is active, and into this void rushes the plight of a group of refugees and asylum seekers. Having lived through the major events of the second half of the 20th Century in Germany, he is no stranger to the personal ramifications of the political big picture. This is a book that offers an intelligent fictionalised response to the refugee crisis by distilling the unimaginable scale and horror of a worldwide problem to the personal stories of a few people, played out in today’s Berlin. Full of generosity and humanity, it manages to be wide‐ranging and universal and yet astonishingly simple.
Charlotte by David Foenkinos. Charlotte by David Foenkinos is a novel based on the true story of artist Charlotte Salomon, a German Jew growing up in Berlin in the late 1930s. From a family ravaged by mental illness and suicides, Charlotte grows up in the shadow of death and depression but also with a huge creative talent. David Foenkinos’ all consuming passion for his subject matter shines through in this intense little book which, as its first page will tell you, ends in tragedy.
Red Notice by Bill Browder. At one point, Bill Browder ran the most successful investment fund in Russia. Backed by prominent financiers, Browder’s $4.5 billion fund Hermitage Capital Management achieved gobsmacking returns for its investors. Red Notice is the astonishing true story of Browder’s journey from high-flying banker to impassioned human rights activist. A journey that landed him on the very top of Vladimir Putin’s list of enemies. A frightening yet absolutely riveting read.
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong. South Korean fiction is all the rage these days and this thriller has hit the headlines. Not your usual fast paced crime novel but rather a slow-burn psychological thriller. We haven’t read it but reviews are promising (and the cover, pretty powerful).
Lullaby by Leila Slimani. ‘The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.’ The chilling opening line of this hugely hyped thriller about a killer nanny leaves you in no doubt about its horrific ending. And this horrible premise certainly doesn’t make for an easy read. Touted as the next Gone Girl, the first of Leila Slimani’s novels to be translated into English is the winner of the prestigious French literary prize, The Prix Goncourt. If you can cope with the disturbing subject matter, then it’s certainly an incredibly gripping page-turner. I started it last night and finished it in one sitting.
Haven’t found what you were looking for? Here’s what some of the newspapers and magazines think you should read this summer.
Kamila Shamsie won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly The Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction) for her book Home Fire yesterday. It’s a gripping read about a passionate love story between the son of a muslim Home Secretary and the daughter of a Jihadist. Moral dilemmas and culture clashes abound. I was sucked inn by this book but a bit turned off by it’s ending. Still worth a read though. Here’s our review.
The Booker Prize is 50 this year and to celebrate the organisers have launched the Golden Booker, a prize given to the best winner during it’s five decades. Five judges have picked one candidate from each decade and now it’s up to you and me to choose the overall winner.
1970s – VS Naipaul’s In a Free State
1980s – Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger
1990s – Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient
2000s – Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall
2010s – George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo
I have to admit I haven’t read all of these, and In a Free State I hadn’t even heard about. I certainly won’t vote for Wolf Hall, as it’s on my list of books I never finished. I have a sneaking suspicion that this book sits half-read on many people’s bookshelves. I loved The English Patient as a film, but never actually read the book and not sure if I will now that I know the plot, but it’s known to be a wonderful read so perhaps it will win. Lincoln In the Bardo was a good, although incredibly challenging read, and I’m not sure it will make it to the top for that reason. Penelope Lively is an author I’ve wanted to read for a while, so Moon Tiger has now been bumped right to the top of my reading list and perhaps her book is the one I will end up voting for. Will keep you posted!
We can all vote here until midnight on the 25th June, the winner will be announced on the 5th July.
I’ve done it! Sorted my books alphabetically, a plan I’ve had for years. High time, as my books have been piling up on the shelves, helter-skelter, making it impossible to find anything. I’ve been lazily buying new books rather than sifting through my shelves and as a result I have no fewer than four copies of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, for example, it’s a great book but…I decided to separate the books into genres as well, with plays and poetry unfairly being relegated to a lesser shelf. My books look great on the newly painted bookshelf and my anal side is hugely enjoying the sight of them all lined up and the thought of actually finding books that I’ve read. God help the family member who messes this up! How do you organise your books?
But it seems I’m more in love with it than most U.K. bookshops, which strangely seem to almost ignore this most prestigious of American literary Prizes. That’s a shame, because their choice is more often that not, excellent. Some of the best books that we’ve read other the past few years have been Pulitzer Prize winners. So I’ve decided, single-handedly, to change this. Starting today. Below you’ll find the last four winners. All books that we’ve loved and recommend warmly, books that will take you to new places and different people, and that will make you laugh or cry. Enjoy!