Paperback Round-Up!

Blog · Posted July 4, 2023

Our booksellers have rounded up their summer holiday reading recommendations for you!

We have done a review round-up of the paperback titles that we think would make great reads this summer. Hopefully there is something for everyone’s suitcase here…

You can buy these books from our online bookshop HERE

The Chosen by Elizabeth Lowry – Reviewed by Vicky

Is there anything more tragic, more heart-wrenching than two short words: too late? In this hauntingly beautiful work, Elizabeth Lowry conjures the newly-bereaved Thomas Hardy mourning the death of his first wife, Emma Gifford. On discovering her diaries, Hardy comes to realise how different his perception of the last 40 years has been compared to Emma’s truth.

What follows is pain, remorse and the terrible knowledge that this realisation has come too late. Lowry’s novel is poignant, gentle and quietly heart-breaking. A worthy contender for the Walter Scott Prize. 

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris – Reviewed by Vicky 

Act Of Oblivion chronicles a manhunt of national significance across continents. Harris matches these epic historical proportions with meticulous research and an urgent narrative. Though you may know which side you back in principle, the depth of Harris’ characters will have you questioning your allegiances.

A suspenseful read, Robert Harris brings the 17th century to life in this historical thriller.

Trust by Hernan Diaz – Reviewed by Vicky 

What is truth? What is history? Hernan Diaz demonstrates they are often nothing but deceitful constructs in this cunning and masterfully-structured novel.

Up to a certain point, the novel purports to be about Andrew Bevel, a wizard financier who is the only mogul to profit from the 1929 stock market crash. Read on and that focus is turned on its head, leaving you literally questioning who and what to trust. There are fictions within fictions in what culminates in a postmodernist study on truth. Get to the end, and you’ll want to start straight from the beginning again.

The Space Between Us by Doug Johnstone – Reviewed by Jack

Doug Johnstone focuses on the characters and locations, giving a lot of consideration to local Scottish life. It’s cosy and domestic, which makes the big sci-fi moments all the more thrilling.

The writing is casual and conversational, each chapter told in alternating perspectives and never more than a handful of pages, giving the novel a steady progressional pace, like hopping across stepping stones. Every chapter you finish peels away another layer of the characters.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – Reviewed by Rosamund

Be kind to yourself and pick up a copy of Lessons in Chemistry, it is a joy.  

Elizabeth Zott is a character to fall in love with – clever, direct and (often unwittingly) very funny.  A born scientist in a world that struggles with the very idea of a woman in the job, she is as surprised as anyone to find herself a single mother starring in a cookery show.  Not everyone is happy with her style – educating and empowering her female audience about the correct measure of sodium chloride to add.  

Top tip, try not to read it too quickly, you will miss Elizabeth.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin – Reviewed by Sarah 

Sam and Sadie meet when they are 10 and 11 years old when both are in the children’s hospital. They connect over their love of gaming and the rest is history as they navigate their way through a life that sees them tackling many ups and downs. 

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a beautifully written novel with tiny, touching details that flow through the whole story. These thoughtful details are what will have you smiling and weeping from the first page to the last. We see the importance and the joy of having a friendship that crosses decades with you, highlighting the intimacy that is often taken for granted and the hole that can be left behind if that friendship were to fade away. 

Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell – Reviewed by Rosamund

The novel opens within a cold and forbidding fortress, where Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara is convinced of one thing – her husband intends to kill her.  Less than two years earlier she left the safety of her family home, the Medici palace in 16th Century Florence, for a dynastic marriage to a man promised to her, now dead, sister.  

Maggie O’Farrell, blends historical circumstance with her own brilliant imagination to create an exquisitely described story, full of texture and colour, set in a world where a noble woman’s role was to exchange one gilded prison for another.  If you discovered Maggie O’Farrell with Hamlet, read on, you will not be disappointed.

Super-Infinite by Katherine Rundell – Reviewed by Rosamund 

Katherine Rundell has the magic touch – erudite, passionate about her subject, but always readable, she brings the life and world of this most radical poet, John Donne, vividly to life.  I only wish I’d had her at my side when studying him at school.

A Waiter in Paris by Edward Chisholm – Reviewed by Rosamund 

Edward Chisholm must have boundless charm to have survived his journey into the underbelly of life as a waiter in Paris.  Without it, he would doubtless have been punched on the nose by his terrifying colleagues for having the temerity even to try his hand at the dark art without a word of French, nor the requisite abs.

Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland – Reviewed by Rosamund 

Rudolf Vrba was one of only four Jews to break out of Auschwitz successfully.  A highly intelligent young man with an uncanny photographic memory, nineteen year old Vrba was able to produce a priceless thirty-two page document detailing all he had witnessed.  Eventually it landed on the desks of Roosevelt, Churchill and the Pope, saving over 200,000 lives.  He remained outspoken and angry about the horrors until his death in 2006, refusing to play the role of heroic survivor.  

This extraordinary book puts Vrba in his rightful place as one of the true heroes of WWII.  It also reads like a heartstopping thriller.

The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs by Tristan Gooley- Reviewed by Rosamund 

Tristan Gooley will change your life – so he told us when speaking about his book on trees earlier this year.  He wasn’t wrong.  By noting the detail of our surroundings, he brilliantly opens our eyes to the detail of the natural world and in so doing, enriches every dog walk.

Colditz by Ben Macintyre 

Colditz was home to the most high security POWs, the majority of whom were dedicated to the art of escape.  As always, Ben MacIntyre gets to the gritty, quirky and often very funny detail with a cast of characters you truly couldn’t better in fiction.  Spoiler Alert – Douglas Bader wasn’t always the hero of legend. Fascinating from start to finish.