What Are UK Publishers Reading This Summer Vacation? (Part 2)

In English Language by Roger Tagholm

By Roger Tagholm

LONDON: With the summer travel season upon us we spoke to publishing people across the UK about what they are reading on their summer vacation. This is the second installment (you can find the first part here) — perhaps you’ll find something to add to your own beach bag.

Victoria Barnsley, Chief Executive, HarperCollins UK

The Beginner’s Goodbye (Chatto) because I am a lifelong fan of Anne Tyler and she never disappoints. Another Jack Reacher — I read my first one on holiday last year and am now officially hooked. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — it has now been six years since Half of a Yellow Sun and I can’t wait to read the proof of her new novel which will be published (by Fourth Estate) in the Spring. And finally, one to watch for the future is Gavin Corbett’s This is the Way. Also published by Fourth Estate in Spring next year, this is Gavin’s second novel, a tale of feuds and families which everyone who has read it is raving about.

David Miller, Rogers, Coleridge & White

“I’m not really going anywhere that exciting: taking my nine-year old up to Edinburgh for a fortnight to escape the Olympics as son number one is on a French exchange, poor thing. To read, it will be The Letters of Henrik Ibsen (University Press of the Pacific); a biography of William Archer (Methuen); I’m going to give Paul Theroux another go with The Lowest River (Hamish Hamilton) as that sounds as if it has a Conradian twang to it (Miller is the author of Today, his novel about the death of Conrad, published by Atlantic) and I’ll be catching up on books RCW represents that I’ve not yet read — Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth (Cape), NW (Hamish Hamilton) by Zadie Smith, and I may re-read Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn & Child (Granta) as the reviews so far have made me see the book in a different light.

“I’ll be reading everything in print – I only really use my iPad for reading proposals, although I seem to have started reading Gosse’s biography of Ibsen on my iPhone, when I’m on the Tube.”

Carolyn Dawnay, United Agents

“I am going to Scotland and then to France. Even though I don’t read their own work on holiday, I do like books recommended me by my authors. Tim Finch, whose superb first novel, The House of Journalists, will be published by Cape and by Farrar Straus in 2013, makes me want to read Nabokov’s Pnin (Penguin Modern Classics), and also Flaubert’s Bourvard and Pecuchet (Penguin Classics). Both short, leaving time for Scrabble. But Edward Platt makes me want to read The Quest for Corvo (NYRB Classics) too.”

Derek Johns, AP Watt

“I am going where I always go, to my castle in Tuscany. (OK, it’s not exactly my castle: it’s owned by friends and I have an arrangement there.) I’m taking a proof copy of Zadie Smith’s new novel NW (Hamish Hamilton), Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table (Vintage), Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (Vintage Classics) and Diego Marani’s (Italian) novel New Finnish Grammar (Dedalus Europe).”

Gary Pulsifer, Publisher, Arcadia Books

“I’m a little bit crazy about Greece, having visited about 25 times over the years and having travelled all over. I especially like the more remote, out of the way parts of the country. In May, Arcadia hosted the UK pavilion at the Thessaloniki book fair and in August I’ll be heading back to Athens to visit friends and then on to the barren yet beautiful Cycladic island of Serifos. Can’t wait.

“In middle age I’ve become a crime addict, like much of the great British reading public, it seems. The best Greek crime writer, the one published abroad and the one much quoted during the current crisis, is Petros Markaris, first published by Christopher MacLehose at Harvill and then at Arcadia. We brought out his prescient Che Committed Suicide not too long ago.

“My quest for more Greek crime led me to the Scottish writer Paul Johnston. He and his Greek wife and family live in Nafplio, in the Peloponnese, and one of his series features the private eye Alex Mavros, a young alternative type who finds himself in some amazing scrapes while unearthing missing people, his speciality. Gang warfare, home-grown Greek terrorism from the ’70s, neo-Nazis, that sort of thing. Alex Mavros has a high moral code — his father, and his brother who disappeared under the Colonels, were leading Communists — and young Alex has a passion for social justice. As well as a tempestuous Greek girlfriend. And Johnston is very good on recent Greek history.

“I’ll be rereading the four novels to date on my hols — Crying Blue Murder, The Last Red Death, The Golden Silence and The Silver Stain — the first three published by Mira, an imprint of Harlequin and the last by Creme de la Creme. For Mavros fans, there’s a fifth book to look forward to this autumn and another next year. And it will be print versions for all of them.”

Charlotte Bush, Publicity Director, Cornerstone Books, Random House, London

“Well, I haven’t decided yet but I really want to read Transworld’s Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce) and Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal (but that’s Vintage so both RH and maybe disallowed!). And The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj (Weidenfeld) by Anne de Courcy — print.

“Latter a bit random, but I am obsessed with India and the excesses of the Raj fascinate me. I go to India once a year. I do always panic buy about six thrillers at the airport too. Love crime. Will also be taking my Sony Reader which will have lots of work books on it too, but I prefer reading print editions.

“I’m going on a Mediterranean cruise — teenage stepchildren…I will be in the spa.”

Jo Henry, Director, Bowker Market Research, London

“Sadly, I am not planning a holiday until late September, but perhaps I could give you my summer reading list for staying at home instead? It does mean I am not using my Kindle or iPad as much. They are great for reading whilst travelling of course, though even so I always take a few old fashioned books in case the Kindle goes wrong (which it does).

“So, what I am reading this summer? Le Grand Meaulnes (Penguin Classics), in English, and for my book club, in case that sounds too pretentious! Me Before You (Jojo Moyes, Penguin) to redress the balance of the one above! The Last Tycoon (F Scott Fitzgerald, Penguin Classics), which has just been recommended to me as one of the greatest books ever written. Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate), which I just got for my birthday and can’t wait to get into. The Tiger’s Wife (Tea Obreht, Phoenix) which I am half-way through.”

Stephen Page, Chief Executive, Faber, London

“I’m in Italy! Umbria. Read Schroder by Amity Gaige (Faber next year), now Wide Sargassso Sea (Penguin Modern Classics) by Jean Rhys, then a history of Venice by Roger Crowley City of Fortune (Faber), Moon Tiger (Penguin Modern Classics) by Penelope Lively, Snow Water (Cape) by Michael Longley and rereading Death of a Naturalist (Faber) by Seamus Heaney. Others may follow. All in print form. Dog-eared, wet by the pool.”

Carole Tonkinson, Publisher, Harper NonFiction

“I’m going to read The Antidote (Canongate) by Oliver Burkeman and Hope: A Tragedy (Picador) by Sholem Auslander and In Defence of Dogs (John Bradshaw, Penguin). I bought the Burkeman as a hardback from amazon; I bought In Defence of Dogs from Foyles and I bought Hope: A Tragedy on the ibook store. I’ve got all the readers but I love my iPad best.”

Suzanne Baboneau, Publishing Director, Simon & Schuster, London

“My holiday reading is all physical books, stowed in the boot of the car and taken to France (by the sea in Arcachon for a fortnight). So far, on my pile are John Lanchester’s Capital (Faber), Hannah Richell’s Secrets of the Tides (Orion), Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (Phoenix), Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate), We the Animals (Mariner Books) by Justin Torres and Anne Tyler’s Beginner’s Goodbye (Chatto). My e-reader is a Sony one and I only use it for manuscripts.”

Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO, Hachette UK

“I have already been on holiday — to Puglia, right on the heel of Italy — perfect blue skies over a beautiful coast.

“My best reads were A Perfectly Good Man (Fourth Estate) by Patrick Gale, Broken Harbour (Hachette Books Ireland) by Tana French and Gone Girl (Weidenfeld) by Gillian Flynn. They all have great characters and devilishly clever plots. I have so far bought six copies of Patrick’s book to give out to friends.

“Earlier in the year, while travelling around India, I had an early copy of Antony Beevor’s The Second World War (Weidenfeld); it is amazing — if you think you know the story, you don’t until you have read this masterwork. And, as always, I fell upon the new Alexander McCall Smith Botswana novel, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (Little, Brown). No one sets the world to rights better than Mma Ramotswe.

“I am currently enjoying The 500 (Headline) by Matthew Quirk, for all-action entertainment.

“What next? Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath has sold a thousand copies of Tim Gautreaux’s (Sceptre) The Missing. I have to see what the fuss is about and am much looking forward to it. I have been advised to read John Richardson’s three-volume Life of Picasso (Pimlico), but it remains to be seen as to whether I will really read it of just dip in.”

Judith Kendra, Publishing Director, Rider

“I’ll be reading Until Further Notice, I Am Alive (Granta) by Tom Lubbock. I noticed the fantastic reviews when it came out earlier this year and have been saving it up for my next holiday, which will probably be in Italy in October. And because the physical book is a thing of beauty, I’ll be reading the hardback.”

 James Daunt, MD Waterstones

“I am struggling to understand this word ‘holiday.’ I have a dim recollection of its meaning, but from a life long ago.”

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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).