Beach Reads Summer 2021

I always love to rediscover an old holiday read on the bookshelf, its pages stained with sun tan lotion, the pages clumped and curling from frequent encounters with my dripping self. I can always remember the holiday where it earned its battered state, the beach or poolside that provided the backdrop to its disfigurement and post- sodden state. Summer reads like destinations should supply just enough entertainment to help the mind unravel. A tome that requires too much concentration as you lie poolside is never a good idea. My friend Orla has asked me to put together a list of books to read when holidaying this Summer, whether in Ventry or Venice Beach. I’ve put together a list of books that I have found engaging and stimulating and ones which will enhance that dreamy bliss of lying on a beach or a deck-chair chilled after an al fresco lunch with cold vino and opening the cover of a book that will weave its magic on you. I still remember getting a dose of the giggles poolside in France reading McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy and At Last by Edward St Aubyn and receiving puzzled glances from the other po -faced poolside sunbathers who were reading the latest Dan Brown. Books have become a bit of a fashion accessory and supermodels like Bella and Gigi Hadid have been snapped clutching copies of Albert Camus’ The Outsider, while Emma Watson and Resse Witherspoon run book clubs and regularly post shots of themselves engrossed in some novel or memoir. Get reading for a Summer of #amreading :

1 This Happy by Niamh Campbell

This Happy sees its narrator reflecting on a youthful affair with a married Londoner named Harry, a “truly rootless, mildly amoral cosmopolitan”, ultimately running away with him to a cottage in Ireland. Now in her early thirties, Alannah is married and settled herself, but an encounter with the cottage’s landlady forces her back into the past – pushing her to reassess that first, all-consuming love. The moral ambiguities (and irreconcilable power struggles) inherent in the relationship are familiar territory for fans of Conversations with Friends, but in many ways, the prose is less reminiscent of Rooney’s clipped, email-honed style than of Eimear McBride’s lyrical Joycean sentences. It’s a perfect read for an Irish Summer with its perfect confection of romantic recollection of a first love affair recollected with all its dysfunction as well as a portrait of a recently married woman, who is reckoning with all that a new life with a husband entails . Campbell writes beautifully and brings wonderful little moments and detail to life.

2 The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith and Lullaby by Leila Slimani.

Thrillers are always a delight on the beach, reading tense , psychological horror while happily enscounced on a sun lounger is the ultimate in summer reading. Both Highsmith and Slimani are queens of the genre.

Ms Highsmith’s writing style is as languid as a day on the beach at Mongibello. Her real strength lies in the ability to make the reader engage with Tom Ripley’s character, even though he is clearly deeply flawed and – based on any objective analysis – largely amoral.

Slimani’s novel is tense and deftly written about a perfect nanny’s transition into a monster, it will take your breath away.

3 The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” – FScott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. One of my favourite re reads are those of F.Scott’s, expecially Gatsby which seems to get better with every read.

A superb fragmentary novel about what it is like to live now’ – The Sunday Times

‘A brilliant exemplar for the autofictional method’ – The Guardian

‘Using her characteristic, epigrammatic prose style that’s both jittery and deadpan at the same time, Offill presents us with a wryly funny state-of-the-nation novel wired to the hilt with a dread that’ll infect your dreams.’ – The Daily Mail

‘A barometer of how it feels to live now a powerful simulation of the current cultural atmosphere’ – The Sunday Times

‘It’s surprising, given the subject matter, how much fun Weather is, both to read and discuss, and also how darkly funny’ – The Guardian

‘In Weather, we construct a whole from the pieces that we hold in our hands a truly remarkable novel, perhaps the most powerful portrait of Trump’s America yet.’ – The Observer

5 Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.

“The body—especially the body in pain—blazes on the pages of Shuggie Bain . . . This is the world of Shuggie Bain, a little boy growing up in Glasgow in the 1980s. And this is the world of Agnes Bain, his glamorous, calamitous mother, drinking herself ever so slowly to death. The wonder is how crazily, improbably alive it all is . . . The book would be just about unbearable were it not for the author’s astonishing capacity for love. He’s lovely, Douglas Stuart, fierce and loving and lovely. He shows us lots of monstrous behavior, but not a single monster—only damage. If he has a sharp eye for brokenness, he is even keener on the inextinguishable flicker of love that remains . . . The book leaves us gutted and marveling: Life may be short, but it takes forever.”—Leah Hager Cohen, New York Times Book Review

“We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love. The book gives a vivid glimpse of a marginalised, impoverished community in a bygone era of British history. It’s a desperately sad, almost-hopeful examination of family and the destructive powers of desire.”—Booker Prize Judges

6 David Sedaris’ Calypso and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.During these strange and uncertain times, who doesn’t need a bit of David Sedaris humour to brighten your day? David Sedaris is an American comedian, essayist, and radio contributor. He is most well-known for his essays and books that are humorous, thoughtful, and poignant, often all at the same time. And just when you think he must be out of stories to tell, he comes out with another book that’s just as good as the last. So which David Sedaris books should you read if you want to add a bit of cheer to your day?

7 Love by Roddy Doyle and White City by Kevin Power

Neither Davy nor Joe know what the night has in store, but as two pints turns to three, then five, and the men set out to revisit the haunts of their youth, the ghosts of Dublin entwine around them. Their first buoyant forays into adulthood, the pubs, the parties, broken hearts and bungled affairs, as well as the memories of what eventually drove them apart.

As the two friends try to reconcile their versions of the past over the course of one night, Love offers up a delightfully comic, yet moving portrait of the many forms love can take throughout our lives.

Kevin Power’s novel opens in a 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. And, for another, Ben is being followed everywhere he goes.

Someone is being taken for a ride. But who?

8 The Disconnect by Roisin Kieberd and Startup by Doree Shafrir.

A thought-provoking and shockingly honest essay collection on identity, culture and love in a world experienced increasingly online 

We all live online now: the line between the internet and IRL has become porous to the point of being meaningless.

Roisin Kiberd knows this better than anyone. She has worked for tech startups and as the online voice of a cheese brand; she’s witnessed the bloated excesses of tech conferences and explored the strangest communities on the web. She has traced the ripples these hidden worlds have sent through our culture and politics, and experienced the disorienting effects on her own life.

Startup is a novel set in the heady world of the start up techy companies. The veteran online journalist and BuzzFeed writer Doree Shafrir comes a hilarious debut novel that proves there are some dilemmas that no app can solve.

9 Kevin Barry’s There are little Kingdoms.

Kevin Barry has produced a collection of vibrant, original, and intelligent short stories, and a number of the tales contained in There Are Little Kingdoms deserve to be read and reread, and to outlast the strange years that made them.

— Philip Ó Ceallaigh, The Irish Times

10 Otessa Osfegh ‘s My Year of Rest and Relaxation-In Moshfegh’s novel,the unnamed narrator—a young, tall, thin, blond, beautiful woman whose physical appearance functions as a near-comic disguise for her laziness, uselessness, and misanthropy—can hardly stand to be conscious. Her solution is to put herself into chemical hibernation for a year. “Neuroproxin, Maxiphenphen, Valdignore, Silencior, Seconol, Nembutal, Valium, Librium, Placydil, Noctec, Miltown,” she recites, running down her arsenal.

I can’t remember the last time I read a book that gave me such nonstop pleasure. The narrator is self-absorbed, arrogant, broken, and determined to medicate herself into a coma. That’s pretty much the whole premise: she evades the affections of her despised best friend and scams various drugs out of her psychiatrist, working towards the combinations she’ll need to achieve her dream of sleeping for a year. That either makes sense to you or it doesn’t. If you read Twitter, or the news in any form, it probably does. Either way, you should read this book.’ Lit Hub

11 Anne Enright’s The Gathering.

Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2007

The Gathering is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and limitless desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn’t the drink that killed him – although that certainly helped – it was what happened to him as a boy in his grandmother’s house, in the winter of 1968

12 Rupert Everett To The End Of The World ( travels with Oscar Wilde )

Fuelled by his obsession with Oscar Wilde, Rupert Everett maps his extraordinary journey around Europe and into the past, whilst painting another fascinating self-portrait with novelistic skill.

Irresistible.’ – Sunday Times

“A supremely gifted writer.” – Lynn Barber, The Times

‘A literary star…anyone who enjoys peeking behind the curtain of celebrity life will love it.’ – Daily Telegraph

13 Animal by Lisa Taddeo

 Animal begins, its narrator, Joan, has driven cross-country to Los Angeles, where she’s rented a ramshackle three-storey house in a compound in Topanga Canyon. Joan is defined by the trauma of her past, which has left her, she tells us, “depraved”. Thus, she’s soon involved with two men who live in the compound; the young and beautiful River and the senile, lascivious Leonard, each of whom will decisively affect her future. But she has really come west to track down Alice, a woman with a mysterious connection to her past. Their meeting will trigger the final catastrophic act of Joan’s depravity and the revelation of the childhood horrors that set her on this path.

A] propulsive, fiercely confident debut novel . . . Joan’s voice is so sharp and magnetic that the reader will follow her anywhere. . . . Taddeo’s prose glitters. She has a gift for aphorism, the observation that astonishes.”
—Jennifer Haigh, The New York Times Book Review

14 A Light That Never Goes Out : A Memoir by Keelin Shanley

This is a stunning memoir of a life lived to the fullest by one of Ireland’s most talented journalist who passed away in February 2020.

A stunning memoir – courageous, searingly honest, moving, funny, an incredible life story beautifully told.’ Miriam O’Callaghan

‘A beautiful love story, a behind-the-scenes career exposition and a candid telling of what it is like to live with, and die from, cancer. Heartbreakingly honest and heartachingly inspirational.’ Caitríona Perry, RTÉ Six One News Co-Presenter and Author

‘I found myself moved again and again by how simply and truthfully Keelin talks about the experience of dying and I am in awe of the immense courage she showed in her final months.  A book which might have been bleak instead breathes with love – for her work, her colleagues, her friends and above all, her family.’ Lenny Abrahamson, Director Normal PeopleRoom

15 How To Cure A Hangover by Andrew Irving

Dr Andrew Irving offers authoritative medical advice on the short- and long-term effects of too many rough nights. Today drinking and its effect on health has become more of an issue than ever before. With drinking laws changing in the UK and binge drinking becoming a high profile issue in the media, this book offers serious information and guidance on the effects of alcohol on health. There are sections on drinking and the liver, drinking and heart disease, drinking and women, alcohol and weight gain and other effects of over-doing it on a long-term basis.The book also deals with the science of a hangover, including the role of coffee and water, plus the history of weird and wonderful hangover cures since antiquity. The book is packaged to entertain as well as to inform. Hand-tinted stills from the golden age of Hollywood show favourite film stars in a range of compromising states and add a tonic of humour to the more serious advice.