There’s nothing so tempting as the thought of a shady sun lounger and a pile of books to plough through. But don’t waste your valuable two weeks in the sun. As convenient as it is to pick up the latest John Grisham or Jack Reacher in the airport bookshop, it’s not often you get so much quality time to dedicate to reading.
So you can get ahead and pick some quality sun lounger reads before you jet off, we’ve rounded up the books the experts are raving about this summer. From the just-announced winner of this year’s Man Booker International prize, to the titles headlining the shortlists of the UK’s best literary awards, here’s what to pack so you won’t be left wanting during your time away.
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, winner of the Man Booker International Prize
This year’s winner of the Man Booker International prize is game changing not just for the fact that it’s the first Arabic book to scoop the award, but because its author, Jokha Alharthi, is the first female Omani novelist ever to be translated into English. Celestial Bodies is set in a small town in Oman, and follows the fates of three sisters in a complex plot that also explores the social structures and culture of this little-known country as it confronts both its slave-owning past and the oncoming modern world. Judges praised the ‘subtle artistry’ of Alharthi’s prose, which was translated into English by American academic Marilyn Booth, who shares the £50,000 prize with Alharthi.
The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú, longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing
This non-fiction memoir from Francisco Cantú won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize last year, and is longlisted for the Orwell Prize, which focuses on political writing. It follows Cantú’s four-year stint as a US Border Patrol agent, in which he tracked and arrested illegal migrants by day and night as they attempted to cross the arid borderlands. But for Cantú this is no ordinary job. Underlining the violence, death and desperation he sees every day runs the fact that Cantú himself is a third-generation Mexican-American – and the compromises he has to make to justify his occupation start to wear thin.
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani, winner of ‘Debut Novel of the Year’ at the Birtish Book Awards
A story that starts with the horrific murder of two children isn’t the obvious choice for sun lounger reading. But French author Leïla Slimani’s debut novel, which took home the title prize not only at the British Book Awards, but also at the Prix Goncourt, (the most prestigious French literary competition), is well worth a place in your suitcase. It’s both a thriller and a complex psychological tale of family, motherhood and race, and is the book that everyone’s talking about this summer.
The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize
We all know the legend of Christopher Columbus – and the somewhat dubious legacy he left behind. But more interesting still is the story of the man behind the legend: his illegitimate son, Hernando. Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books explores Hernando’s fascinatingly rich and adventurous life, which saw him sail the world with his father, build the world’s first super-library, and write the biography that cemented Columbus in European history forever. It’s an amazing tale of shipwreck, adventure and innovation, brought to life by Cambridge academic Edward Wilson-Lee.
Murmur by Will Eaves, winner of the Wellcome Prize
Alan Turing’s life was marked by great achievement, but also great horror. In this Wellcome Prize-winning book by Will Eaves, the author delves into the mind of Turing as he underwent his punishment for homosexuality between 1952 and 19533: weekly doses of synthetic oestrogen as chemical castration, which led to Turing experiencing disturbing mental and physical changes. Eaves doesn’t refer to Turing directly in the book, instead using a fictional character called Alec Pryor to explore ideas of consciousness, identity and sexuality. According to the judges, it will ‘restore your faith in human beings, and their endless capacity for resilience.’
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction
Described as ‘profoundly insightful’ by the Women’s Prize for Fiction, An American Marriage is a tale of the American Dream, and what happens when it goes wrong. It’s about a pair of newlyweds, Celestial and Roy, who are on the brink of having it all – before Roy is jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. Exploring issues of race, prejudice and social justice in America, it’s also an in-depth examination of marriage, love and intimacy.