Friday, 8 August 2014

Books on the Beach—The Edge Guide to Summer Reading! by Dave Cousins

I write this in haste. We go on holiday tomorrow, and I should be packing. Clothes aren’t a problem, but choosing which books to take requires time and some serious thought. No e-reader for me, so there are space and weight issues to consider.

Summer breaks have always been a great opportunity for reading. Memories of childhood holidays tend to blur into one compilation vacation, but I often remember places we visited because of the book I was reading at the time. I doubt Hound of the Baskervilles would have affected me quite so much had I not read it while staying in a remote cottage on a wind-blasted Cumbrian hillside. Each night I peered from my bedroom window convinced that the lights from the houses across the valley were signalling to me!

Here at the Edge, we like to spread the word about good books, so in honour of the season I asked a few friends for their favourite summer reads, and what they would be taking wrapped up in their beach towel this year.

So much to choose from! I took E. Lockhart's We Were Liars and loved it. It had a fantastic twist that I didn't work out and was, quite simply, an enchanting read. Set in a beautiful location, there are vivid descriptions which whisk you away. My 12 year old is working through the Death Note graphic novels by Tsugumi Ohba, at an alarming rate. Great illustrations and a gripping (very dark) plotline.

Helen Grant’s Silent Saturday and the Demons of Ghent, both atmospheric thrillers set in Flanders. Rae Earl's  My Mad Fat Diary—Funniest teenage diary ever. Better than Adrian Mole. Keris Stainton's Starring Kitty—A sweet romantic first love story, about a girl with a crush on another girl.

I recommend The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes—for people who would like a chill over the high summer. Serial killers, time travel and the monsters that humans can become! Grown up reading for anyone who wants to be drawn into a web of darkness. This One Summer is a graphic novel by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki—a coming of age story set over a summer “about the awkward transition from carefree childhood to jaded, self-conscious young adulthood” beautifully drawn and gripping.

Edge author Miriam Halahmy’s Hayling Cycle of young adult thrillers set on Hayling Island off the south coast of England, make perfect summer reading—sea, sun and lots of action! She would also recommend:
For children: Five Children and It by E. Nesbitt, about a grumpy sand fairy who offers them one wish each day which will turn to stone by sunset. This sets the children near impossible choices.
For teens: This year I loved Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, a thoughtful romance to get lost in on the beach.
For adults: The Lie by Helen Dunmore, set in Cornwall after WW1. Beautiful descriptions and a different take on life after that terrible war.

The books I would recommend with summer themes are That Summer by Sarah DessenJim Carrington's Drive By and Jackdaw Summer by David Almond. I love any books by Sarah Dessen, they are perfect for teen readers to relax with when away from school and this was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Drive By was excellent and the characters stayed with me for ages after I’d finished reading it, especially Summer whom I loved! It was the first book I’ve read by Jim Carrington and have now bought the others. Jackdaw Summer is a great read especially for lads who want something particularly engaging. I loved in particular the first line: "It starts and ends with the knife …" Highly recommended!

The books I have piled up to read this summer are: RIOT by Sarah Mussi (I read that. It was brilliant—Ed.); The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle; Haunt – Dead Scared by Curtis Jobling; Exposure by Kathy Reichs (Virals – 4); Rockaway by Charlie Fletcher; The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My full summer reading list is here

Megan, who writes The Book Addicted Girl blog
My perfect summer read … if you're into contemporary, I think a great one would be We Were Liars: set at a beach, full of mystery. Don't read it on a beach though—unless you enjoy crying in public … Ooh, I'm also reading Simone Elkeles' new book Better Than Perfect—which is a brilliant beach-side read if ever there was one! 
But for me, a paranormal addict, my perfect summer read would be either the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo or Paula Weston's Rephaim series. The Grisha series has a Sun Summoner (suitably summery, right?) along with loads of action, romance and magic. The Rephaim series is set in Australia: insta-sun!! As for what I'll be taking on holiday …well, that'll probably be Jennifer L. Armentrout's Opposition and the second in the Game of Thrones series. What can I say? I'm just a fantasy girl! 

I recommend Lousie Rennison's Georgia Nicolson books - they're perfect summer reading. Teenage Georgia is self-obsessed, but in no way self-aware, which makes her diary especially hilarious. As a forty-two-year-old man, I should probably be embarrassed at reading about fourteen-year-old girl stuff like boys, spots and unexpected leg hair, so I shall have to claim that I'm doing it all in the name of research. This is because I have my own fourteen-year-old daughter, although she reads the same books with a furrowed brow, as though it's all a true-life documentary about the misunderstood plight of modern teenagers!

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson: Light, funny and ridiculous in equal measure! Loved the main character - a young black orphaned girl from the slums in Soweto who's ever changing circumstances, and extremely high IQ, take her on a path that leads to hobnobbing with presidents and royalty. Thoroughly enjoyed it. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid: This comes highly recommended by a friend. It's received great reviews too, so really looking forward to reading this. And looking forward to a re-reading of The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin.

Edge author Sara Grant, whose Half Lives was one of my summer reads of last year, just returned from holiday with our third recommendation for E. Lockhart's We Were Liars.

My wife Jane, is my first reader, harshest editor and best critic! It takes a good book to win her praise so I’ll certainly be stealing this from her pile. 
My holiday reading this year has been Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. Famous for her Moomins series of childrens’ tales, the author also wrote ten novels for adults. The lives of the inhabitants of a small Finnish island are documented through snapshots of odd days and events. It is ideal as a ‘dip-in’ book as each chapter can be read in isolation; but the parts add up to a fascinating portrait of the two main characters: a grandmother and her grandchild, Sophia. The book has a quietness to it that echoes the long summer days, but covers much more than relationships. Philosophy, religion and comments on the environment are touched upon through the conversations and actions of the characters. The wisdom, wit and imagination of the old woman and young girl appeals to all generations, and it reminds us not to dismiss those at either extremes of their lives. I can see why it is regarded as a classic in Scandinavia and look forward to reading the The Winter Book when the weather turns.

Finally my own book of the summer:
Butter by Erin Lange was one of those special stories that grabbed me on page one, and didn’t let go—or let me down. A potentially dark subject handled with subtlety, humour and heart. The voice and characters are particularly well crafted, in fact I can’t praise this highly enough—one of my reads of 2014 without a doubt. Great cover too!

Now all that's left is to choose which of my stack of "books to read" will make it into the suitcase. After much deliberation I've gone for: Tape by Steven Camden (I’ve heard good things about this, but Keri Smith’s cover alone would have made me read it!), The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle (I’m a big fan of Mr Earle, and this one sounds great), plus Dark Satanic Mills, written by Marcus and Julian Sedgwick, illustrated by John Higgins and Marc Olivent (I do like a good graphic novel, and I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this since I bought it back from Hay for my lad.)

So, that's it. If you wouldn't mind just sitting on this case while I try to close it … 

Huge thanks to everyone for taking the time to offer their recommendations. Have a good summer and happy reading.


Waiting for Gonzo by Dave Cousins recently won the Grampian Children’s Book Award. It is out now in paperback and audiobook—read by the author!


  1. Great recommendations, Dave! Now I just need to find a beach...

  2. Great recommendations! My bookshelves are groaning in anticipation.

  3. Great list, Dave! My holiday was lovely in part because I read a load of books and bought three books when I was in Vancouver. (Yeah, my husband understands that I feel compelled to visit a bookstore wherever we roam. Vancouver had a huge chain called Chapters. It had multi-stories and packed with great books.) I always enjoy a book more when I have time to sit and read it properly. I often find that my reading time is before bed and on the Tube. It's not the best way to absorb a great story. One of my goals this year is to carve even more time out for reading. Thanks for adding to my reading list! -- Sara Grant