What Are UK Publishers Reading This Summer Vacation? (Part 1)

In English Language by Roger Tagholm

So far only one person admits to indulging in the 50 Shades trilogy…

By Roger Tagholm

LONDON: The next six weeks sees the big exodus from publishing. With the papers full of the summer reading of celebs and public figures, we though it would be fun to ask those who actually work in the book business what they are packing for their summer break. The first tranche appears here — perhaps you’ll find something to add to your own beach bag.

Jon Howells, PR Manager

“We are off to France — a week in the Charante in a villa with heated pool, followed by a week in a (hopefully) posh caravan on the coast of the Vendee. I intend to come back 50 Shades of Bronze.

“Although we will be missing the Olympics, I’ll be doing world class levels of reading. Among others, I’m taking advance copies of the new Howard Jacobson (Zoo Time, Bloomsbury), A.M. Homes (May We Be Forgiven, Granta), Michael Chabon (Telegraph Avenue, Fourth Estate) and Ian McEwan (Sweet Tooth, Cape) novels, as well as a very advance manuscript of Snapper by Brian Kimberling, which is a forthcoming Tinder Press (Headline’s new literary imprint) title. Tinder have had a great eye so far — I’m currently really enjoying Amity & Sorrow (Peggy Riley) so I’m looking forward to that one. At the moment the only non-fiction I have is the David Mitchell autobiography (BackStory, HarperCollins).

“I’ll be reading in print. Eleven-and-a-half months of the year I treat books with great respect, but in the summer I crease the covers, smear them with suntan lotion and get sand stuck in the spine, which makes proofs perfect.”

Patrick Janson-Smith, Publisher, Blue Door, HarperCollins

“Mad dog that I am, I’m spending my summer (sic) holiday in England; one week in Northamptonshire and one week on the North Norfolk coast. Although the two houses in which I’m staying are crammed with books, old and new, I am planning to take with me A.N. Wilson’s The Victorians (Arrow), Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School (Slightly Foxed) by Ysenda Maxtone Graham and Gillespie and I (Faber) by Jane Harris. However, I suspect most of my reading time will be spent poring over 50 volumes of Punch (1900 to 1924), which I acquired recently in an antiquarian bookshop in Stamford. I shall most certainly not be reading via an e-reader.”

Rachel Russell, Books Business Unit Director, WHSmith

“I will be busily reading submissions for the 2013 Richard and Judy Spring selection which arrive in August. I may treat myself to the second installment of the Shades trilogy as my guilty pleasure!

I am holidaying a lot in August on the Dorset coast with hubby and kids (assuming the jet stream finally arrives).”

Richard Charkin, Executive Director, Bloomsbury

The Shorter Wisden (Bloomsbury) e-book on a Kindle. Sarah Maas; Throne of Glass (Bloomsbury) as a proof. All in France, in the hammock.”

Jonny Geller, MD, Books Division, Curtis Brown

“Well, I have on my Kindle Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel (Virago). Penguin Classics just issued Javier Marias’ university novel All Souls, which looks great. And I’ll be reading Pat Barker’s new novel (Toby’s Room, Hamish Hamilton) . So one Kindle novel and two paper — and a manuscript, but that’s secret. I’m going to Dorset so I’ll need something to do when cooped-up in doors! By the way, none of these are CB authors, so I can’t be accused of plugging!”

Ed Victor, Literary Agent

“My ‘extracurricular’ — ie. books by people who are not my clients — reading for the summer will be the two Hilary Mantel novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (both Fourth Estate). I’ve started Wolf Hall and am deeply in love with it already. I have also read already a great classic thriller, Rogue Male (Orion) by Geoffrey Household, which I thought was wonderful and way ahead of its time — it was published in 1939, the year I was born!

“I read Rogue Male on my iPad – I do not own a Kindle – and am reading the two Mantel books in hardback form, yet more proof, as if any is needed, that we are now firmly in a mixed e and p economy! I will read these books at our home in the Hamptons on Long Island.”

Siobhan Kenny, Group Communications Director, HarperCollins UK and International

“Sadly, I have just returned from sailing in Greece, in the Northern Sporades. Only me and hubby on boat – reading is an integral part of holiday enjoyment, all on the Kindle for practical purposes.

“Philip Hensher, Scenes from Early Life (Fourth Estate) – such a treat. A fantastic evocation of a time and place I knew little about, a semi-fictional account of Hensher’s husband’s Bengali childhood and the birth of Bangladesh, following a terrible civil war.

“Jeffrey Eugenides – I finally got round to reading Middlesex (Bloomsbury), having really enjoyed The Marriage Plot (Fourth Estate). Equally brilliant and very appropriate for a Greek holiday, given the Hellenic heritage of the Stephanides family whose story unfolds in the pages of the book.

“Because I like location appropriate literature, I also read The Thread (Headline Review) by Victoria Hislop, which meant I had two separate accounts of the 1922 events in Smyrna, so there is no excuse for my not being an expert. And carrying on that theme, I loved Orange Prize winner The Song of Achilles (Bloomsbury) by Madeleine Miller. An unexpected joy and a thrill to actually be on the island of Skyros where Achilles’ mother attempted in vain to conceal her son with the hope of preventing him from being dispatched to the Trojan War. And since we were on Skyros, I also downloaded some of Rupert Brooke’s poetry as the unfortunate poet’s corner of a foreign field that is forever England is on that magical island. He died en route to Gallipoli in 1915 and is honoured by an impressive statue on the island.

“And all the while my husband Pat read Patrick O’Brian.”

Alan Samson, Publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

“I am going to read two misery memoirs, or rather two books about fighting adversity. What better for holiday reading than something against the grain? The first is one I have been looking forward to read, Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?. I am reading it in print form, ie Vintage paperback. She is an outstanding writer and I am interested in how the brilliance of her fiction transposes itself into non-fiction. The other book I am taking is a hardback I recently found in a secondhand Paris bookstore, the only English-language book I found there after I had specifically been searching for this title. It is Tchaikovsky:The Crisis Years 1870-1874 (Norton) by David Brown, the great Tchaikovsky biographer. It sounds rather fun, and like the best holiday reading should prove a nice counterpoint to my destination: Marrakech.”

Lynn Gaspard, Publisher, Saqi Books, London

“I am not sure if I will be going away this summer, but I am taking a week off work in August for my friend’s wedding. I am really looking forward to reading Sayed Kashua’s Second Person Singular (Grove Press). I loved his first two books, Dancing Arabs (Grove Press) and Let It Be Morning (Atlantic Books). I’ll also be reading It’s Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street (Bloomsbury) by Emma Williams, Pure (Sceptre) by Andrew Miller, Dial M for Murdoch (Allen Lane) by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman, and Joy (Heineman) by Jonathan Lee. All physical copies.”

David Roth-Ey, Publisher, Fourth Estate and HarperPress

“Afraid it’s digital all the way for me with my holiday reading: Kindle on the beach, iPad in bed. Whispersync is amazing – let it not be said that all DRM software is bad for consumers! As for what I’ll be reading, I’m looking forward to taming two kinds of demons: first, a brilliant new gothic horror novel from Joyce Carol Oates entitled The Accursed (Fourth Estate), and second, the best guide to toddler management I’ve come across, Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting (by Noel Janis-Norton, Hodder).”

Larry Finlay, MD, Transworld

“Well, I’m just back from a week in a very sunny Southern France and will have a week in (wet?) Devon at the end of August. No idea yet what I’ll be taking to Devon, but in France I read the following: The new Belinda Bauer, Rubbernecker, in manuscript, which we’re publishing next January in hardback. A dazzlingly original and totally fresh thriller. The proof of the new Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, A Wanted Man, which is dynamite. Michael Frayn’s Skios (Faber) – disappointing after all those superlatively-glowing reviews. Wished I’d read his brilliant Headlong (Faber) again instead. And am halfway through Rose Tremain’s deeply-seductive Merivel in proof (Chatto).”

Liz Foley, Publisher, Harvill Secker

“I’m not going away until September (to Milan) so I’ve haven’t yet given this extremely important task of selection its proper thought. I can give my current ‘leisure reading’ list, but it will probably change by the time I actually go away. This list features the new Ian McEwan (Sweet Tooth, Cape), Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway (Granta), Craig Taylor’s Londoners (Granta), Junichiro Tanizaki’s Some Prefer Nettles (Vintage Classics), Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman (Ebury), River of Shadows (MacLehose Press) by Valerio Varesi, Adam Thirlwell’s Kapow! (Visual Editions), Flash and Bones (Arrow) by Kathy Reichs, Hope Against Hope (Harvill) by Nadezhda Mandelstam, Spillover (Bodley Head) by David Quammen and Rose Tremain’s Merivel (Chatto). I have – or will have – all these in physical, but will be taking as many of them as possible on my Kindle, because I’m flying Easyjet.”

Dan Franklin, Publisher, Cape

“I’m going to our cottage in Suffolk and will be reading the MS of the first chunk of Mark Cocker’s monumental Birds and People (Random House/Bird Life International), Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways (Hamish Hamilton), Rose Tremain’s Merivel (Chatto) and Zadie Smith’s NW (Hamish Hamilon). In physical editions.”

Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher, Random House

I’ve been reading a triumvirate of Stephen King classics from the Seventies. Started with The Shining and Salem’s Lot (both NEL) and I’ve got The Stand (Hodder) all 1000-plus pages of it, to get involved in while I’m in the Austrian mountains and the Scottish Highlands communing with nature (!). As part of my de-compression period – and because there is no electricity in the Scottish leg – I will be reading the reissue paperback edition.”

Evan Schnittman, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Hachette Book Group, New York

“Due to my recent job change (from Bloomsbury in the UK), I am not talking a long two week holiday this year…but rather I have a couple of three or four-day adventures planned.

“I am going to Cape Cod to sit on the beach and golf with my son. When on the beach I plan to read Eric Nuzum’s new book, Giving Up The Ghost (Dial Press). I am also taking a long weekend in Burgundy, France with my wife to join in a close friend’s 50th birthday celebration. I will bring my iPad and will most likely read one of the dozens of manuscripts I have waiting for me. I suspect I will dive into David Baldacci’s newest one, and I will also ready one of the three books I have recently purchased but haven’t yet read: David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King (Little, Brown) if I am in a fiction mood, In The Long Run (Hill & Wang) by Jim Axelrod if I want memoir, or if I am in the mood to laugh, Groucho Marx and Other Short Stories and Tall Tales (Faber).”

Tim Coates, MD, Bilbary

I am reading A Small Town in Germany  (Le Carre) because I never read it. I now have a Kindle Fire and am using that, and am about to load up some stuff on it (because you can get other than Kindle books on it – e.g. Bilbary!)

“My total favourite book of the moment is only in print and it is called Dear Miss Landau (Chaplin Books) by James Christie about a guy in Glasgow who falls for a Hollywood film star. It is brilliant.

“We are going to Aldeburgh with all the family – and (boast) I have just heard that my book about the town is to be published next March by Antique Collectors’ Club.”

Jake Lingwood, Publisher, Ebury

“I’m going to Cornwall and will be taking my iPad. I’ll be reading the second half of Laurence Rees’ The Charisma of Hitler, which we’re publishing this Christmas and is without doubt his best book to date. I have Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (Granta) and if that’s all it’s cracked up to be, that’s my treat. I’ve been told it’s like Deadwood (Penguin/Putnam), which I loved. I’m also taking Mark Hodder’s A Red Sun Also Rises, which is our first book on the new Del Ray list in 2013. There’s no way I can read all of that and I will probably get distracted by playing Words with Friends.”

DISCUSS: So What Are You Reading on Your Vacation? 

About the Author

Roger Tagholm


Roger Tagholm is based in London and has been writing about the book industry for more than 20 years. He is the former Deputy Editor of Publishing News and the author of Walking Literary London (New Holland) and Poems NOT on the Underground (Windrush Press).