Magazine article The Spectator

Summer Reading

Magazine article The Spectator

Summer Reading

Article excerpt

What our regular columnists will be taking on holiday

Mary Killen Gone Girl by the American writer Gillian Flynn comes recommended by both highand middle-brow readers (Orion, £7.99).

I want the reported total absorption from the off and the welcome relief from thinking about anything other than what's on the next page.

The Blue Riband, Peter York's anecdotal history of the Piccadilly Line (Penguin, £4.99) is ideal for lounger life as almost every sentence is interesting, stylish and witty, and you can read it aloud at random to pool mates too lazy to hold a book up themselves.

Gerard Manley Hopkins's Poems and Prose (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets, £9.99). Just focus on learning by heart, say, three poems per holiday. They will stand you in good stead, not just as party pieces but for when you're stuck in lifts or traffic.

I'm only a few pages into Snug, by Matthew Tree (AK Digital, £12.62) and I know already I shall sail through it. Tree somehow thinks like me: writer and reader fit.

It's a first novel and I can tell it's going to be ambitious in its resolve to be both serious and funny. And I'm intrigued by an author venturing at last into his own mother tongue: living in Barcelona - where he's widely known and published - Tree has written only in Catalan for the past two decades.

Meanwhile, I'm but a few chapters from the end of Romola, George Eliot's most difficult novel. This, too, was a tremendously ambitious venture - to relive the life of 16th-century Florence - and I don't think it quite works; but I adore Eliot's mind, and when I'm old and useless I shall assemble from all her work a treasury of her finest passages.

Finally I want to re-read at leisure a memoir I raced through in May for a Spectator review: Last Man In (Neville & Harding, £20). John Hare was the last entrant into the British colonial service in Northern Nigeria.

Wonderful stuff, full of adventure, lyricism and humour. I want to savour every page.

Hugo Rifkind For reasons of self-improvement, I'll be reading Jesse Norman's Edmund Burke (Collins, £20), because everybody says I ought to, and Julian Assange's Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet (Or Books, £8.99), because I've started it a few times and always sighed a bit and put it down again. Theoretically it ought to be more readable than most things Assange writes, because he's laid it out as dialogues with other people. Like Plato did, with Socrates. Because he's humble like that.

For fiction, I'm looking forward to Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Headline, £16.99). He's hardly heavy going, but he's the master of fantasy and realism twisted together and, considering it's probably going to be raining, I'd rather be in one of his worlds than my own.

Melissa Kite The Dinner by Herman Koch (Atlantic Books, £7.99). My mother and I will go through about a dozen thrillers as we lounge on our sunbeds in southern Italy.

We compete to see who can bring the most gruesome tale in their suitcase. This was recommended to me by the lady in my local bookstore in Cobham.

The Stand by Stephen King (Hodder, £9.99). I have been rediscovering this author by reading some of the longer books I neglected as a teenager. I have just finished the subtly strange Hearts in Atlantis. I love the fact that he defies definition. When does popular fiction become classic fiction? To me, King is as successful a storyteller as Dickens.

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography, Volume I by Charles Moore (Allen Lane, £30). I read at least one political tome per holiday and my friends at Westminster tell me this one is excellent.

Legacy by Muriel Lennox (Mainstream Publishing, £7.99). I bought a thoroughbred filly on a whim last year. She is a great, great grand-daughter of Northern Dancer. It's an amazing privilege to own a piece of thoroughbred history, even if she is eating me out of house and home. …

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