11 books you should be reading this summer

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Summer – or, as we call it, that part of the year when there’s actually time to read novels – is here.

Before you pack your beach bag, check out our guide to the books you’ll want to keep you company on the sand.


The Dry by Jane Harper

If it’s a thriller you’re after, you can’t go past The Dry by Jane Harper (Macmillan, $32.99).

Set in a sun-scorched Victorian township, this insomnia-inducing page-turner sees an exiled cop return home to solve a gruesome murder. As with all good noir, our hero has a few ghosts of his own to lay.

The twists are many and unpredictable (although never far-fetched), while the writing is as literary as it is breathless.

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Image: Supplied

Goodwood by Holly Throsby

Holly Throsby’s debut novel Goodwood (Allen and Unwin, $29.99) takes a gentler approach to small town crime, told through the eyes of teenager Jean Brown.

An 18-year-old girl disappears. A couple of weeks pass and the local butcher does likewise.

The mystery is engaging, the country characters convincing and Holly’s turn of phrase lyrical – unsurprising, given she’s made her name as a singer-songwriter.

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Image: Supplied

The Good People by Hannah Kent

A different kind of mystery lies at the heart of The Good People (Picador, $32.99), Hannah Kent’s follow-up to her best-selling Burial Rites.

After the death of her daughter and husband, Nora finds herself looking after her four-year-old grandson.

The once robust boy has become withdrawn and strange. Nora worries the fairies are to blame. Believing they might have swapped her grandson for a changeling, she goes on a quest to cure him.

Set in 19th century Ireland, this striking and oddly cinematic historical makes powerful work around themes of ignorance and superstition; themes that feel once again all-too-topical.

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Image: Supplied

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Fairies also feature in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series.

Best described as Harry Potter for grown-ups, the books are written from the perspective of London police constable Peter Grant, who has been recruited to the Met’s much-derided magical unit.

A wonderful fusion of police procedural and urban fantasy, these books are the perfect beach read — light, fast and funny.

The most recent, The Hanging Tree (Hachette, $29.99), sees Peter chase a homicide investigation into the world of the super rich (which is just as weird and alien as the aforementioned fairies). On offer are Isaac Newton’s lost alchemy papers.

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Image: Supplied

The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F Harrold

Sticking with the fantastical, The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F Harrold (Bloomsbury, $24.99) is a gorgeous, slightly spooky book for teens drawn to the likes of Neil Gaiman or China Mieville.

When Frank (short for Francesca) is saved from school bullies by the weirdest boy in school, she isn’t entirely grateful.

Against her better judgement, they become friends. Visiting his house, she hears an unearthly music that lures her to the cellar where she finds… well, that would be telling.

This is a story as rich as it is simple, fusing epic world-building to the small (but no less life-or-death) concerns of middle school. Lavish black and white illustrations make this a volume to treasure.

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Image: Supplied

Music & Freedom by Zoe Morrison

Mysterious music also plays a key role in Zoe Morrison’s debut Music & Freedom (Vintage, $32.99).

Hearing a piano playing through her walls, septuagenarian widow Alice finds herself whisked away down memory lane.

A life unfurls, taking her from a troubled childhood to a great musical career cut brutally short.

Throughout, it is music that provides a guiding force and gives meaning to her trials.

Author Zoe knows all about music’s power, having trained as a violinist before moving into a career in social justice.

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Image: Supplied

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer (Penguin, $32.99) offers another fictionalised memoir, pairing the voices of a sailor and a journalist caught up in the sinking of the Titanic.

A night watchman on neighbouring vessel The Californian tells his captain he’s seen a ship in distress, but the captain decides to take no action. As a result, hundreds die in the water.

An inquiry follows but seems more interested in scapegoats than the truth. This is a gripping mystery, driven by an unsentimental search for justice.

The final sequences aboard the foundered ship are as chilling as the rising Arctic seas.

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Image: Supplied

The Liberation by Kate Furnivall

Set in the wake of another historical trauma, Kate Furnivall’s The Liberation (Simon and Schuster, $19.99) is a sun-drenched thriller that offers a much lighter read than its 400 pages suggest.

As World War II draws to a close, Caterina is fighting for survival in the (rather picturesque) ruins of Naples.

She’s also fighting to clear her father’s name after he’s targeted by a plot against her family.

The result? Fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable escapism.

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Image: Supplied

Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski

If you’re after something more cerebral, now is the time to brush up on your physics.

Storm in a Teacup (Bantam Press $34.99) by British physicist and TV presenter Helen Czerski does a fabulous job of making science not only accessible but kind of addictive.

Her knack for storytelling and ability to use small things to tackle big ideas (the title refers to the link between stirring milk into your tea and the swirling nature of global weather systems) make this a fascinating read.

You’ll be impressing/boring your friends for months with your newfound scientific insights into gravity, time and why ducks don’t get cold feet.

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Image: Supplied

The A to Z of Modern Manners by David Meagher

On the other hand, if you’d rather impress your friends with your social skills, check out The A to Z of Modern Manners (Vintage, $24.99) by David Meagher.

Few of us would argue that traditional ideas of courtesy have taken a battering in recent years.

David is here to put that right, offering a chatty (if slightly scolding) guide on everything including the right words to use, the clothes to wear, when to use emojis, how to train your dog, how to conduct yourself on social media and when it’s unacceptable to use your mobile phone.

Sadly, it’s a book unlikely to be read by those who need it most.

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Image: Supplied

Set The Boy Free by Johnny Marr

Lastly, memoirs continue to be a booming market, particularly for rock n’ roll veterans.

Standouts this year include Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and Jimmy Barnes’s Working Class Boy, but children of the 80s should check out Set The Boy Free (Penguin, $35) by The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

Johnny was only 23 when that band broke up, but he went on to make his impact felt across rock and pop for decades.

Morrissey has already covered The Smiths story with his usual blend of overwrought gloom and self-aggrandisement, but Johnny is a far more personable companion.

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Image: Supplied