Our summer reading recommendations
Even though we may be staying close to home this summer, we can still enjoy some time out and escape into a good book. But what to read next? We asked some of our well-known alumni and staff what they are planning to settle down with and which titles they would recommend to others. Read on for some summer inspiration.
“Summer always feels like the perfect time to indulge in time with books. I say that thinking of relaxing on a sun-drenched beach, filling in time at an airport, switching off the world on a train journey or enjoying the intimate glow of an overhead light in the darkness of a long-haul flight. And yet realistically, none of those things might happen this summer as restrictions continue. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy time with books – in fact, all the better reason to escape into the endlessly entertaining world of fiction.
"Personally, I love a good crime drama or mystery. I inherited that from my mum and my gran; clearly crime runs in the family. My current go-to author is Jane Harper, an Australian journalist-turned-author, who has a wonderful way of evoking a powerful sense of place and has created the most incredible feeling of oppressive heat and tension in tightly drawn character-based stories. If the rain continues to pour down outside I’d recommend turning to Jane Harper’s The Dry and lose yourself in a gripping murder mystery.”
Dame Katherine Grainger (MPhil 2001) was recently appointed Chancellor of UofG
“This summer I'm really looking forward to reading the works of Michel Faber. I fell for his writing while still a student at the University in the early 2000s and am now working on a book about his work – which means I have a great excuse to reread everything afresh. I particularly love the short stories, and Under the Skin, still such a powerful novel.”
Rodge Glass (MPhil 2003), writer
“There are two new releases that I’d highly recommend this summer. The first is Widowland by C J Carey – an alternative history with a very subversive feminist twist. The second is a hilarious satire, The End of the World is Flat, by Simon Edge, which features a tech billionaire, Christopher Columbus, and a global delusion, and which neatly captures the current zeitgeist.”
Jane Harris (MA 1983), writer
“Lockdown threw my reading habits out of kilter. I usually read a mix of fiction and non-fiction. The non-fiction tends to be politics, history, travel, mountaineering, all sorts of things. But since lockdown, anything serious has sat in a pile. I have taken refuge in one crime/spy thriller after another. I am working my way through Philip Kerr’s dozen or so novels about Bernie Gunther, a morally-conflicted detective in Germany before and after the Second World War. I have read three and am hooked.
"I’m in two book clubs: next on the list of one is Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, which so many friends seem to be reading, and the other, Box 88, a spy thriller by Charles Cumming, which I have already read and would recommend. When I eventually return to non-fiction, top of the list is Ed Caesar’s The Moth and the Mountain, published late last year, about a seemingly wild scheme to climb Everest solo in the 1930s.”
Ewen MacAskill (MA 1973), journalist
“This summer I am looking forward to two novels that are, coincidentally, published on the same day as the new Ambrose Parry novel. They are 1979 by Val McDermid, the first in a new series about Allie Burns, a female journalist in the very male world of the print newsroom; and The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone, which is the third novel about the Skelf family, three generations of Edinburgh women who run both an undertakers and a private investigation business.”
Chris Brookmyre (MA 1989), writer
A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry (the pseudonym for Chris and his wife and co-author Marisa Haetzman (MBChB 1990)) is out on 19 August.
“I think I will read The Beach by Alex Garland again this summer as I am definitely suffering from itchy feet not being able to travel for work or book any holidays. I read it first time round when I was a student at UofG and was completely mesmerised. Who doesn't want to escape to hedonistic paradise?! Just be careful you don't get more than you bargained for. If that is not enough of a break from reality for me, I might read another Haruki Murakami novel. I loved his surreal parallel worlds in Dance Dance Dance and Kafka on the Shore.”
Emily Howie (MA 1999), Head of Alumni & Supporter Engagement, UofG
“Over the summer I’m hoping to read Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass Sunstein. Nobel laureate Kahneman has helped to revolutionise thinking in behavioural economics through his work at the boundary between psychology and economics. In this new book, he explores the way in which human decision-making is based on variability and ‘noise’, and how one might address the issues this raises in situations where individual human judgement is key (eg the law, medicine, etc). Can we improve how we make decisions as human beings? I look forward to finding out more!
"I’d recommend the book I am currently reading: The Europeans by Orlando Figes. It examines the lives of three individuals working in the arts and theatre, and specifically music and opera. As an economist I found this book a fascinating window into European society in the 19th century, and it also looks at how culture intersects with technological development, showing how important transport technology was in driving the market for music and artistic performance.”
Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli (MA 1984, PhD 1987), Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UofG
“I’ve been devouring Fitzcarraldo’s editions of Annie Ernaux’s richly evocative memoirs. Next up is A Girl’s Story, which describes the author’s experiences as a teenager at summer camp in 1958, so should be perfect reading for a sunny afternoon. I like to escape into the arms of a bit of non-fiction so Sathnam Sanghera’s Empireland and The Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O'Sullivan are on my radar. And if there’s time for a bit of re-reading, Ivan Klíma’s A Summer Affair is horribly compelling.”
Graeme Macrae Burnet (MA 1989), writer
Graeme’s new novel Case Study is published on 7 October.
“This summer I will be returning to Ignazio Silone's Fontamara, one of the most powerful European novels of the ‘30s and ‘40s and THE Italian novel to read in English translation; enduringly profound about human nature and politics. I also need to complete all of Josephine Tey (born Elizabeth MacKintosh in Inverness) by reading A Shilling for Candles. For me, Tey is the greatest of all British crime fiction writers. The book I wish I'd kept for the vacation: Becky Cooper, We Keep the Dead Close. You will not read a more compelling true-life mystery.”
Professor Gerard Carruthers (MPhil 1989, PhD 2001), Francis Hutcheson Chair of Scottish Literature
“I would recommend anything and everything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who is simply an extraordinary storyteller. Half of a Yellow Sun is, however, a wonderful place to start, with Adichie effortlessly recreating the Biafran war in 1960s Nigeria. It is a novel of epic proportions that transverses the big issues of race, class, colonialism and morality but with such easy grace and empathy. On reading for the first time, I felt Lagos seep into my bones. It’s no surprise that this novel won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2007 and this year was named the ‘Best of the Best’ of the winners of the second decade of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Astonishing.
“Over the summer I’ve committed myself to return to the works of firm favourites such as Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami, but I also can’t wait to delve into David Nicholls’ Sweet Sorrow, the new Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You and the non-fiction tome that is Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.”
Rachel Sandison, Vice-Principal for External Relations, UofG
“I have come very late to the party in discovering Kazuo Ishiguro but having just read one of his novels, I can't wait to get stuck into more this summer. Thanks to the pandemic, I've had the chance to read a lot more than I normally would recently and really enjoyed exploring some new authors. One book that stood out for me in the last few months is Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, a funny but thoughtful novel – well worth a read!”
Kate Carlin (MA 2005), UofG Alumni Manager
“I’m a big fan of fantasy novels and am looking forward to reading the first two books in Joe Abercrombie’s new trilogy, The Age of Madness. I particularly enjoy reading fantasy written by female authors, so I’d recommend The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb, or for a standalone novel if you’d rather not commit to a trilogy, Uprooted by Naomi Novik.”
Karina Atkinson (BSc 2007), conservationist
This article was first published June 2021.