Summer Reads: Authors Choose Their Favourites

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From a thriller writer’s personal memoir to classic post-war drama, from a mystery set in Stalinist Russia to an hilarious farce set in Greece, these writers choose their best reads of the summer.

C.C. Humphreys, whose new novel Shakespeare’s Rebel brings Elizabethan England to vivid life:

Three Men in New Suits by J.B Priestley
‘I was acting (my other job!) in a period TV movie this month, on location cruising on a luxury motor yacht. There were prop books around. I picked up J. B. Priestley’s ‘Three Men in New Suits’ and was hooked. Published in 1945 it beautifully captures three returning soldiers from different classes, the world they found, the world they wanted to make after six years at war. Marvellous evocation of a period and a mindset that shaped my parents, and so me.

Skios by Michael Frayn
‘The novel I devoured in one bite on a flight from London to Vancouver was Michael Frayn’s ‘Skios’. A superbly constructed farce, set on a Greek island and involving multiplying layers of confusion about sex and academia, I was worried that I would keep my fellow passengers awake with my guffaws.’

Imogen Robertson, the author of The Paris Winter, which explores a darker side of the Belle Epoque:

Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
I read this when I was 18 and I don’t think I’ve ever got over it. It’s a witty and poignant coming of age story and brilliantly written. We spend the summer with Art as he struggles to find his way through his tangled relationships with his two lovers and his gangster father.

The Twelfth Department by William Ryan
Summer in Moscow. Ryan’s series about a detective in Stalinist Russia is superb, and this is my favourite so far. It’s a fast-paced, exciting read and the sense of time and place is brilliantly evoked. Suffocating and unsettling.

Quintin Jardine, whose latest mystery, Pray for the Dying finds his detective, Chief Constable Bob Skinner, investigating a bold professional hit.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
I wish I hadn’t read [this book] but only because I’d like the joy of discovering it again. Published in Swedish in 2009, but only last year in English, it tells the story of the eponymous centenarian’s voyage of discovery, screamingly funny in parts, with a twentieth century history lesson thrown it. And there’s even a happy ending.

Last Resort by Linwood Barclay
I’ve been proud to call Linwood Barclay a friend, since we shared a couple of stages and a dinner table in Vancouver. I’m also a big fan of his contemporary thrillers, are as millions more. Often I like to go back to a favourite author’s early work, and that’s how I discovered Last Resort, Linwood’s personal memoir of his teenage years, when his family moved to the Ontario Lakeland to run a cottage resort and trailer park. All the stuff a teenage kid dreams of but with lessons in life thrown in. Nice one, chum.

Elin Hilderbrand, the author of Beautiful Day, a summery escape to Nantucket where a wedding weekend sparks trouble for both families.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
This is my number one recommendation for summer 2013, and the book is out in paperback, perfect for toting along in the beach bag. This novel is utterly original, about a teenage girl, Bee, and her parents living in the world of “Microsoft Seattle, “ and dealing with a rather strenuous private school environment. Much of the narrative is told through traded emails, most of which will make you laugh out loud. The novel really gets going when Bee’s mother, Bernadette Fox, disappears to parts unknown after her secret past is revealed, and Bee goes in search of her. This novel is both heartwrenching and incredibly funny, a real page turner, 100 per cent money back guarantee, you will love and overlove it!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This is NOT in paperback and will be very heavy to lug around…but worth it! This novel, set in the early 1900s, is about a woman named Ursula Todd who is born on a snowy night in 1911… she dies shortly after being born…and is reborn over and over again…until she gets it right. The fascinating premise is only secondary to the exquisite writing of this novel. It also contains glorious descriptions of English pastoral life, riveting historical details, and some of the most memorable supporting cast I can recall in years.