20 books for all tastes to add to your reading list this summer

From memoirs to trumpeted debuts, Richard Fitzpatrick rounds up 20 riveting reads to carry you through the summer
20 books for all tastes to add to your reading list this summer

There's plenty of summer reading here to keep you turning the page

Non-fiction 

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis 

Michael Lewis is one of the great non-fiction writers. He has a knack of turning complex, dry subject matter (like the workings of bond markets) into page-turning thrillers, usually through the lens of life’s foot soldiers. In his latest book, he turns his gaze on the US government’s cack-handed handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Rag and Bone Shop by Veronica O'Keane 

The Irish psychiatrist Veronica O’Keane’s investigation into psychosis draws on case studies of her patients. It’s sprinkled with literary references (the book’s title, of course, is borrowed from a line from a W.B. Yeats poem) and is full of insight into the mysteries of the brain and in particular about how memories are formed.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell 

Always provocative, always readable, Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book is based on a chilling question: what’s the best way to kill hundreds of thousands of people? Using the theatre of aerial warfare during the Second World War, he comes up with interesting answers as well as insight into the psychopaths (and those following orders) who got dragged into a grisly business.

Rememberings by Sinéad O'Connor 

Sinéad O’Connor’s memoir is already a contender for Irish book of the year. It delves into her difficult childhood (her mother seems to have been an extraordinary specimen), bizarre encounters with Prince and other celebrities as well as her brilliance at being a rock ’n’ roll rebel.

The Hitmen: The Shocking True Story of a Family of Killers for Hire by Stephen Breen and Owen Conlon 

The Hitmen is an extraordinary story. The Wilson family business was assassination, as two brothers, a cousin and a nephew carried out murders for Ireland’s gangs, including those in Dublin and Cork. They never asked any questions about their targets, only about the fee involved.

Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton 

Hailed on Ryan Tubridy’s morning radio show, Julian Sancton’s story about a Belgian-led expedition to the Antarctic in 1897 is a cracking yarn, full of hucksters and adventurers, mutinies, deaths that keep piling up, as well as some natural beauty.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey 

Midway through a century of living, the actor Matthew McConaughey casts his eye back over his life, using his journals from the last 35 years as source material. The picture that emerges is of a fascinating man who grew up in a strange, violent house (his parents married each other three times) and one who has always marched to the beat of his own drum.

Rory Gallagher: The Man Behind the Guitar by Julian Vignoles 

Gill Books have reprinted in paperback the former RTÉ producer Julian Vignoles’ biography of Rory Gallagher, one of the world’s greatest blues guitarists and by all accounts one of the greatest live performers. Based on extensive interviews, it unravels some telling details about an unassuming and at times eccentric man.

Mind Full: Unwreck Your Head, De-stress Your Life by Dermot Whelan 

The comedian Dermot Whelan – who is possibly best known as one half of the Dermot & Dave radio act on Today FM – has written a comic memoir and self-help book about his experiences of meditation. An enjoyable way to better understand the pursuit of mindfulness.

Thirty-Two Words for Field: Lost Words of the Irish Landscape by Manchán Magan 

Manchán Magan is one of Ireland’s great intellectuals as well as being a travel writer and broadcaster. In his latest book, he dwells on the origins and meanings of words from our strange and wonderful Irish language, words which have been around for 3,000 years and are in danger of disappearing.

Fiction 

Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan 

As Carol Ann Duffy says: “Mayflies is one of those novels to press into the hands of friends.” Set in two periods, 1986 and 2017, it’s the story about the friendship of two Scottish guys on the cusp of adulthood, drunk on music and dreams, and later brought down by life’s heart-breaking realities. A masterpiece and especially poignant because it’s autobiographical fiction.

Life Sentences by Billy O'Callaghan 

Billy O’Callaghan is one of the most exciting literary talents to emerge in the last decade. His second novel is a family saga set over three generations. It follows a 16-year-old survivor of the Great Famine from Cape Clear island, as she carves out a life in Cork City, right up to her granddaughter’s life on a council house estate in the 1980s.

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami 

A new publication from the master storyteller Haruki Murakami is always noteworthy. His 22nd book is a short story collection: eight stories narrated by an elderly writer about familiar Murakami themes: music, nostalgia, baseball and youthful love.

We Are Not in the World by Conor O'Callaghan 

Conor O’Callaghan writes in short sentences, the words carefully chipped off the block like the poet he is. His second novel – a dark, wry story about a middle-aged man’s road trip from England to France and reflections about his madcap personal and family lives – is another acclaimed work.

Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon 

Set largely in a Catalan summer resort, Kathleen MacMahon’s third novel is based on a fascinating premise: how much do you really know about your partner? After the death of his wife, David discovers some secrets that draws into question a seemingly perfect 20-year marriage.

Snowflake by Louise Nealon 

Louise Nealon’s debut novel has been trumpeted by Roddy Doyle and Marian Keyes. It tells the story of how an 18-year-old girl, Debbie – who grew up on a dairy farm with her eccentric mother and troubled alcoholic uncle, Billy – navigates between her offbeat home life and university.

The Rules of Revelation by Lisa McInerney 

The Rules of Revelation is the final instalment of Lisa McInerney’s firecracker trilogy of Cork novels about the misadventures of the Irish-Italian Ryan Cusack, as he floats through a decrepit world of gangsters and sex workers and the redemptive power of rock ’n’ roll.

White City by Kevin Power 

Kevin Power’s debut novel Bad Day in Blackrock – which was made into a movie by Lenny Abrahamson – is one of the great Irish novels of modern times. Power’s follow-up about the feckless son of a disgraced Dublin banker on a dodgy business caper in the Balkans is a satirical meditation about empty souls and the decadence of wealth.

Holding Her Breath by Eimear Ryan 

Eimear Ryan’s debut novel is a heady mix: a young protagonist embarking on university life, labouring under the shadow of a thwarted competitive swimming career; the ghost of her eminent grandfather, a poet who committed suicide; and her own torrid affair with a married man.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 

Matt Haig’s latest, intriguing global bestseller is about life’s “sliding door” moments, as he drops a magical library onto the pages of his novel, one stacked with shelves of books offering the reader the chance to live a different life and undo regrets.

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