The best books for summer | Books | The GuardianOf the many books that have engaged me this year, three stand out: James shows in a brutally honest memoir how someone can be saved, and The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota Picador depicts a life that many of us choose to ignore. Sarah Akhtar, Stoke-on-Trent. The writing conveys both his sympathy for the plight of the men who had endured the war and its longer term consequences, and the book marks the period in his life when he moved from being a good artist to a great one. Chris Allen, Buckingham. A chance encounter with Stewart on Radio 4 led me to one of the most unexpected and enjoyable reads of The book fizzes with erudition and is delightfully leavened by the companionship of his aged and doughty father, who infuriates and is deeply loved in equal measure.
CS:GO - GuardiaN twitch Highlights 2015
The best books for summer 2016
At the end of a dreadful year, I drew some small comfort from the fact that a number of books I loved — The Underground Railroad , The Essex Serpent , Grief Is the Thing With Feathers which I know was a title, but the ubiquity of the beautiful paperback this year has been heart-mending — got the recognition and readers they deserved. The book feels more urgent and powerful now than ever, turning a profound intelligence on the rotten state of the US. It also reminds us that books can take time to fix themselves to the public consciousness, and that the instant smash hit is only one possible life for a work. It reminded me of Melissa Harrison , with gorgeously understated prose and a keen eye for nature. It deserves to be read in front of a fire with the wind roaring outside. Leaping from Brexit to the Bechdel test , this is poetry that is at once personal and political, of the moment, yet offering sudden sublime passages of timeless beauty.
This being an Ali Smith novel, it also found solace in the consolations of friendship and art, spinning a typically lightfooted meditation on mortality, mutability and how to keep your head in troubled times around the tale of an uncertain young woman and her elderly childhood friend. But times were good for fiction: this was a rich 12 months, with plenty of big names and big ideas — though not always wrapped up in the same package. The sprawling Here I Am Hamish Hamilton ranges over such weighty subjects as America, Israel, marriage and masculinity, with diversions into obscene uses for a doorknob. And in the third year of eligibility, a US author won the Man Booker prize for the first time. This cerebral rollercoaster ride of a novel was praised to the skies in the US but brought to British attention by a Booker list that was full of surprises, and also gave a welcome push to small publishers. Some bold experimenters returned this year. Though some found the contrast between her fractured main narrative voice and the inclusion of a more conventionally told story of abuse jarring, with only her second novel she has achieved the near-impossible — finding a new way to write about sex and intimacy.
C rime writing turned up in unexpected places this year. Ian McEwan also blurred genre boundaries in Nutshell Jonathan Cape , an ingenious rewrite of Hamlet as a murder story in which a foetus is both detective and possible victim. This Japanese super-seller, translated by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, is a police-procedural conspiracy thriller involving two disappearances that also rivetingly dramatises the mindsets and lifestyles of contemporary Japan. After publishing new adventures for Sherlock Holmes and James Bond, Anthony Horowitz returns to original work with Magpie Murders Orion , a lovely puzzle in which a writer of sleepy English sleuth stuff may have buried nastier scenes from real life in his latest manuscript. A writer popularised by TV, Ann Cleeves, confirms that she is the best living evoker of landscape, with Cold Earth Macmillan , the seventh book in her Shetland series, in which a landslide reveals crime. There were noteworthy crime debuts from Sanjida Kay, whose Bone by Bone Corvus turns unnervingly on how far a mother should go to protect her child, and Susie Steiner.
Summer reading with Mark Lawson and Lisa McInerney – books podcast
Olive is an extraordinary creation — stubborn, rude, insensitive, irascible but also principled, well-meaning, full of thwarted love. Frances McDormand is wonderful in the role in the TV version which, for once, is just as good as the novel. At its heart is a father-and-daughter relationship that feels uncannily real and wonderfully touching.