Cultural Wednesday’s Best Summer Books 2020

Summer holidays are all about reading for me. As the school holidays begin here is Cultural Wednesday’s Best Summer Books 2020. Time was, before the Kindle, more than half my luggage would be taken up by books and I would still buy more at the airport book store. No temptation at the airport this year as we won’t be flying anywhere! Let me offer some suggestions for staycation Summer reading.

DISCLOSURE: Contains Affiliate Links if you buy a book from Waterstones I will get a tiny bit of money.  Some books were given to me by publishers, others via NetGalley and others I paid good money for.  Books which I don't enjoy, don't get reviewed.
Best Summer Books what to read on holiday

Best Fiction Books Summer 2020

Good fiction, in my book, transports you to another place. Time travel, proper geographical travel or just stepping into somebody else’s shoes. It doesn’t matter, sometimes all three together.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

Isabelle Allende has written some of my all time favourite books. Opening a new book by a favourite author is always a mixture of excitement and trepidation as you fear that this will be the one that tips you out of love. No worries this time Isabelle Allende is on top form with A Long Petal of the Sea. We start in the Spanish Civil War and follow our hero to Chile, the USA and back to Chile. As with all good tales I just couldn’t stop turning the pages whilst learning lots about Spanish and Chilean politics between 1939 to the 1980s.

All This Could be Yours by Jami Attenberg

Victor Tuchman cheating husband, dodgy dealing real developer and all round bad man is dying.  Finally his daughter feels she can ask the questions that were unutterable during his life.  We meet three women, his wife, daughter and daughter in law whose lives were lived in his shadow. Logically I knew that New Orleans was hot and sticky in the summer but now I know what it feels like to wilt in New Orleans heat.

The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd

To give it its full title The Year Without Summer: 1816 – one event, six lives, a world changed, gives you a hint about the subject matter. The event is real the explosion of Mount Tambora in Indonesia later in 1815. It is still THE most explosive volcanic eruption in human history. So much ash was pumped into the atmosphere that 1816 became known as the year without a summer. Famine ensued, as did social unrest and revolution across the world. Some of the people lives are of real people but fictionalised, you skip from narrator to narrator learning of the unfolding story. The perfect book to read as we live through incredible pandemic times that will undoubtedly change the way that we all live.

Another Us by Kirsten Hesketh

Proud friend time. Kirsten Hesketh is known as Teen Two’s Godmother in the Cultural Wednesday household. Another Us is about a family who get an Asperger’s diagnosis for their younger son and the ways that all of them come to terms with the new normal. Funny, smart and emotionally intelligent, the perfect summer read.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Book of Longings starts with the narrator introducing herself as the wife of Jesus.  At this point you will either throw the book aside in outrage or dive in intrigued.  Dive in the ride is incredible.  Think about Christ’s life from an entirely new perspective and learn about the life of a woman in the Near East two thousand years ago.  

  • The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • Published by Headline
  • Hardback £20

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing this has been sitting at the top of the paperback best seller lists for weeks with good reason.  It is one of only four books that my book group has unanimously given 5* to in the sixteen years that we have been together.  You will think about solitude and wildlife of the South Carolina swamp lands.  When foreign travel is once more on the agenda I really want to visit the Carolina coast.

Execution by S J Parris

I love a Tudor whodunnit. My favourite Tudor sleuth is S J Parris’s Giordano Bruno. Happy is my summer that has a new Bruno book. This time in London embroiled in the plotters who surround Mary Queen of Scots. To spice things up a young girl has been found murdered that may or may not have connections to plotters.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House is a grand beautiful house on the outskirts of Philadelphia. We learn all about the house and how it dominated the lives of Meave and Danny two siblings who grew up in the Dutch House. At times I was reduced to tears, shouting at the characters not to do things. Beautiful and sad.

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

A Theatre for Dreamers takes real people, in a real place and puts a fictional character in their midst to tell the story. We are in 1960 on Hydra with an international community of writers and poets including Leonard Cohen. I loved every last page of A Theatre for Dreamers. When I visited Hydra it was beautiful but very expensive, now I just want to time travel to see it as it was in 1960.

Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas

Did you know that during World War 2 women were recruited to work on the railways in place of the men who had gone to war? I didn’t. The Railway Girls is the first in a trilogy telling the story of a group of women who worked on the railway in Manchester. Maisie Thomas is excellent a providing a sense of place, Manchester is not somewhere I know well in real life but can now envisage thanks, to Maisie. I can’t wait for the second installment to come out in September

Best Summer Non-fiction Books Summer 2020

Facts I love a good fact. Even better is a set of new facts related to a subject that I already know that add extra depth and excitement. These two titles fitted the bill exactly.

The Fall of the House of Byron by Emily Brand

Everybody has heard of the mad, bad and dangerous to know poet Lord Byron, but did you know about his forbears? Turns out that they were a fascinating bunch who tramped the mad, bad pathways well ahead of the poet. Shipwrecked sailors, ladies with young lovers, elopement, selling off the family fortune the stuff of a Gothic novel and all true.

The Fens: Discovering England’s Ancient Depths by Francis Pryor

The Fens are a place that I have criss crossed all my life. We traversed them in order to visit my grandparents when I was a child. Hours were spent looking out of train windows at them on the way between home and university. Later my parents in law lived on the edge of them. At one point I even worked in the middle of them for a short time. They are places of huge skies and great beauty but I confess that I thought that they were new lands created maybe in Tudor times. Now I learn that in fact they teemed with human life in the neolithic period, some of the greatest archeological finds from that era are I the Fens. There are woodhenges to rival Stonehenge. If you are interested in pre-history I commend both this book and a holiday based around Ely to discover the landscape for yourself.

Which books will you read this summer?

If you seeking geographically themed reading inspiration check out my guides to books to read in The Netherlands, Germany and California.

Books to Read Summer 2020 #SummerBooks #BookReview
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4 Comments

  1. kirstenhesketh1
    July 21, 2020 / 9:43 am

    So excited to be on this fabulous list! Thank you so much, Catherine. An honour! xxx

  2. Jane ayres
    July 21, 2020 / 10:53 am

    Thanks for the tips. Last night I finished my latest read and didn’t know where to go next. Can’t wait to try some of these

  3. Alison Brooker
    July 21, 2020 / 1:00 pm

    Great timing, winding down for holiday, like the look of The year without summer and The Railway Girls

    • Catherine
      Author
      July 28, 2020 / 2:20 pm

      Good choices!

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