Summer reads: 25 books to entertain and enlighten

Cyril’s story is his own, but as it bounces through the decades from the 1940s to the present decade, it also reflects the different challenges faced by gay men in Ireland over the last 70 years. In his brilliant new book, Dublin writer Mark O’Connell goes to America to meet dozens of people who do. What led the young Queen Victoria to support the persecution of an innocent young woman? But who was the real Elizabeth Lyon? “This makes no sense,” writes Fitzmaurice about the act of plunging into the icy waters. A terrifying, fascinating and often funny insight into a brave new world. Worsley is an unashamedly partial biographer (“This is, unashamedly, the story of my Jane,” she writes, “every word of it written with love”) and her new book all the more entertaining for it. He finds more happiness abroad, but he can’t ignore his roots forever. The Girl In Between by Sarah Carroll (Simon and Schuster, £6.99)

As far as the rest of Dublin is concerned, no one lives in the abandoned mill near the canal. Sporty, popular and aristocratic, Ben represents everything that Martin isn’t, and Martin is entranced by him. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury, £12.99)

Two days after Abraham Lincoln’s young son Willie dies, the devastated president visits the crypt where his child’s body lies. JUST DIVE.”

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Transworld, £16.99)

Charles Avery, the hero of John Boyne’s 10th novel, is born out of wedlock in 1945. Sarah Carroll’s debut novel is a heartbreaking story that will captivate readers of all ages. (Published July 27th)

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter (Harper Collins, £14.99)

Tara is a documentary maker and single mother whose life is turned upside down when a humiliating video of her becomes an online sensation. So when sympathetic Uncle Parker comes up with a plan to make the rest of the Bagthorpes believe Jack has psychic powers, he can’t resist the opportunity to finally stand out. And who was the young murder victim behind the phrase “sweet F.A.”? “That’s why it makes perfect sense. (Published July 13th)

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott (Sceptre, £16.99)

In 1724, an infamous thief called Jack Sheppard was sent to the gallows at Tyburn. Carey (Orbit, £13.99)

An armoured mobile laboratory called Rosalind Franklin is making its way through what used to be Britain. Funny, poignant and always extremely readable, Sally Rooney’s incredibly assured debut novel, with its distinctive voice, marks the arrival of a major new Irish talent. But between Ryan’s involvement in a new club venture and his encounters with bewitching accountant Nadine, to say nothing of an increasingly unhappy Dan, that may not be possible. The American Girl by Rachael English (Hachette Books Ireland, £13.99)

The Morning Ireland presenter’s third novel begins in Boston in 1968. The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (Walker Books, £7.99)

Sixteen-year-old Starr, who lives in a working-class African-American neighbourhood, is one of the few black students in an overwhelmingly white, privileged suburban high school. But Lincoln’s not alone. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber and Faber, £12.99)

Frances and Bobbi are students when they meet Melissa and Nathan, an older married couple whom they encounter after Melissa attends a poetry night where the younger women are performing. With its huge cast of characters, brought to life in McGregor’s beautifully sparse, controlled prose, Reservoir 13 is a superb portrait of a community and a world. She goes to work in the accounts department of a Glasgow design company, eats the same food for lunch and returns home to the flat where she’s lived since leaving the care system over a decade before. The first novel by one of the masters of the American short story is wildly original, stylistically dazzling and utterly captivating. The four become friends, but the ties between them become increasingly complicated – especially when Frances, the story’s narrator, starts sleeping with Nathan. With its appealing characters and a plot that moves between the present day and the women’s schooldays, Ware’s many fans won’t be disappointed by her gripping new thriller. Full of exuberant characters and genuine heart, The Heart’s Invisible Furies might be the hugely successful author’s best novel yet. When Ben celebrates his 40th birthday with a lavish party at his country house, Martin and his wife Lucy are the first to arrive. In her enormously powerful debut novel, Thomas tackles racial injustice in America with grace, empathy and great skill, never allowing the humanity and humour of the characters to be overshadowed by the serious issues she addresses. Some believe the answer is freezing their heads and storing them in cyronic centres, some are awaiting the “singularity” when humanity and computers will merge, but nearly all are linked by their libertarianism and Silicon Valley’s conviction that all problems have a solution, generally technological, and that mortality is just another problem to be solved rather than part of what makes us human. None of this impresses Karine, Ryan’s childhood sweetheart, who wants him to give it all up and live a normal life. The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney (John Murray, £14.99)

“I’m not a gangster,’ says Ryan Cusack, the young man at the heart of Liza McInterney’s brilliant new novel. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (4th Estate, £12.99)

Jende Jonga has been in New York for three years, working a string of unglamorous jobs and hoping for a green card, when he gets a position as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards in 2007. In her entertaining and thought-provoking first novel for adults, Dawn O’Porter asks what it really means when women fail to follow the herd. In this wonderful book, Kathryn Hughes explores 19th century attitudes to the physical body through several celebrated and maligned body parts, from the swollen stomach of the unmarried Lady Flora Hastings (which allowed Queen Victoria to spread scandalous pregnancy rumours) to George Eliot’s right hand, which was allegedly larger than her left thanks to a youth spent doing manual labour in the family dairy. But is it always a good idea to dig up the past? But neither can escape their pasts. Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey (Harper Collins, £11.99)

When a troubled teenage girl comes home after a visit to her father to find her mother gone and the house covered in blood, Detective Sergeant Maeve Kerrigan finds herself investigating a murder without a body. Over 40 years later, Martha Sheeran decides to track down her birth mother. The local residents joins the search, but even as the investigation continues, life in the area goes on, as it must. Shelter by Sarah Franklin (Zaffre, £12.99)

Connie Granger is a spirited, carefree girl from Coventry – or at least she was, before tragedy struck and she left her native city with its factories, dances and flirtatious GIs for the depths of the countryside, where she works as a “lumberjill”, cutting down trees for the second World War effort. But the mill has become the ramshackle home of a young girl and her mother, and as far as the girl is concerned, the mill is her Castle and she’s not leaving it until she’s old enough that the Authorities will leave her alone. But when crisis hits, everything both families hoped for may be snatched away. But their time at the school ended in tragedy, and the most serious lie of all. Martin knows something about Ben that no one else does, and this knowledge is part of what ties them together. The wartime lives of both Italian POWs and the lumberjills have received surprisingly little cultural attention over the years; in Franklin’s tender, moving debut novel, with its unforgettable heroine, those experiences get the loving attention they deserve. Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press, £12.99)

Shortly before Ellis Judd is born in 1950, his mother Dora wins a copy of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in a raffle. Ordinary Jack by Helen Cresswell (Collins Modern Classics, £6.99)

Jack Bagthorpe is the only ordinary member of a family full of eccentric geniuses, and he’s fed up with being the boring normal Bagthorpe, respected by no one but his beloved dog Zero. Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (4th Estate, £14.99)

Near a small country town in the English midlands, a 13-year-old holidaymaker called Rebecca Shaw goes missing. Set in the same terrifyingly convincing world as The Girl With All The Gifts, M.R. The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. At least, that’s what the Racing Post, who published his obituary, believed. Told in Eleanor’s matter of fact, utterly unsentimental voice, Gail Honeyman’s wonderful debut novel hits the summer read sweet spot: an intelligent, complex, funny, heartbreaking book that you’ll want to read in a single sitting. Moving between Martin’s youth, his interrogation and the fateful night of the party, Day’s twisting narrative never loses its grip on the reader. Erudite, enormously readable and often very funny (Tennyson, we’re told, “gave every impression of enjoying rolling in his own filth”), this is social history at its unromantic best. In this lively biography-cum-social-history, the always likeable Lucy Worsley tells the story not only of Austen’s life but the sort of spaces in which she moved, from the crowded country rectory in which she spent her childhood, to the Hampshire cottage where she spent her final years. Simon is a film maker who has motor neurone disease, and in this beautifully written memoir, Fitzmaurice writes with wry humour and without a hint of sentimentality about the practical and emotional challenges faced by the family. Nearly 20 years earlier, Isa, Kate, Fatima and Thea were all pupils at Staten House boarding school, where they vied with each other to see who could tell the most outrageous stories to their fellow pupils. A warm-hearted, insightful exploration of the American dream. The Party by Elizabeth Day (4th Estate, €13.99)

Martin has always been in his friend Ben’s shadow, ever since they met at school. Camilla is a 36-year old blogger who causes outrage when she writes about not wanting to have children. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Collins, £12.99)

Every day is the same for Eleanor Oliphant. The transhumanism movement aims to develop technology to enable human consciousness to continue indefinitely. His life and times would quickly be immortalized in sensational style by many writers, including Daniel Defoe, as would his condemnation of his lover Elizabeth Lyon, whom he blamed for leading him astray and who was known as Edgeworth Bess. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (Harvill Secker, £12.99)

Isa Wilde is feeding her baby in the small hours of the morning when Kate’s text arrives: I need you. She has no friends and the only person who ever calls her is her vindictive mother, currently in prison for an unspecified crime. What better time, then, to explore the world in which the author lived? And all the while Rebecca remains unfound and unforgotten. As Ellis grows older, Dora uses the painting to remind the boy and his best friend Michael that “men and boys should be capable of beautiful things”. Eleanor is perfectly happy with her life – but after she and her colleague Raymond help a stranger in the street, her world starts to expand in unexpected ways. He’s surrounded by the spirits of the dead, and they have stories to tell and advice to give. Cult crime author Jake Arnott offers his own interpretation in this rollicking beggar’s opera, which tells not only Bess’s Hogarthian story but that of the (wholly fictional) journalist to whom she tells it. Determined to fit in even when she hate herself for doing so, she constantly makes sure she “doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto”. And yet, less than two years later, he was back in the saddle, winning a race at Chepstow before retiring from racing. Its focus may be tighter than McInerney’s prize-winning debut The Glorious Heresies, but her new novel is just as vivid and exhilarating. Clark is a senior partner at Lehman Brothers, and as Jende and his wife Neni’s lives become intertwined with those of Clark and his wife, it looks like their faith in America as a land of opportunity may be justified. Seppe, the gentle woodworker son of a brutal fascist, is an Italian prisoner of war who has been sent to a camp in the same forest. I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice (Chatto & Windus, £14.99)

Ruth Fitzmaurice lives in Greystones with her husband Simon and their five children. With so many demands on her time and energy, Fitzmaurice finds liberation and kinship in swimming in the sea with friends who understand each other. But the consequences for Starr, her family and her whole community may be more than she bargained for. As Rosie heads into Scotland, Stephen makes a discovery that could change the fate of humanity – but at what cost? To Be A Machine by Mark O’Connell (Granta, £12.99)

Do you want to live forever? Jane Austen At Home by Lucy Worsley (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99)

This summer marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, aged just 41. Theft by Finding: Diaries Volume One by David Sedaris (Little Brown, £20)

Few writers have been as consistently entertaining over the last few decades as David Sedaris, who has turned his own life and those of his friends and relatives into deliciously witty essays. On the surface, the trio have little in common – apart from the fact that none of them meet society’s stereotypical expectations of women. And now, it seems, the truth is about to come out. Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes (4th Estate, £20)

Why did Darwin and other great Victorian thinkers sport enormous smelly beards? Which means over the years, relationships form and break down, animals are born and die, hedges are cut back or left to thrive. To give any more details would be to spoil this short but luminous novel, which is ultimately a deeply moving exploration of love: love for friends, for lovers, for families and for the possibilities of life well-lived. He’s adopted by an amusingly upper-middle-class Dublin couple, but holy Catholic Ireland is too small for a man who realises that he’s attracted to men, and Cyril can’t stay there forever. Maeve is a very likeable and convincing detective heroine, and her latest adventure is a gripping, twisty thriller with real emotional depth. Maeve is sure that teenager Chloe isn’t telling the whole truth, and soon she’s determined to uncover what exactly links Chloe and her vanished mum Kate to the Norris family, whose daughter Bethany is Chloe’s protective best friend. But we know from the book’s opening pages, in which Martin is being interviewed by the police about the festivities, that something is going to go terribly wrong. A welcome reissue of the first book in Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpe Saga, still some of the funniest, most sophisticated children’s books ever written. In fact, she’s going to make sure she’s invisible to the outside world. The team includes Dr Samrina Khan, who is hiding a secret of her own, and Stephen Greaves, the brilliant teenage boy who has been Khan’s beloved protege since they met as refugees as society broke down. And every weekend she buys two bottles of vodka and drinks herself into oblivion. Sedaris’s tone is distinctly his own, and these snippets from his life are irresistible. Ryan is, however, a drug dealer, and now his boss Dan needs him to play a crucial role in the importation of a new batch of ecstasy. Centaur by Declan Murphy and Ami Rao (Doubleday, £12.99)

In 1994, Declan Murphy died. As more and more secrets are revealed, it’s clear that no one involved in the investigation can be trusted. But after Dora dies, Ellis is forced to give up his dreams of becoming an artist, and by 1996 he’s a lonely widower, working in car factory and remembering the two most important relationships of his life: his late wife Annie, and Michael. The brilliant jockey’s skull was shattered after an accident at Haydock Park and he was plunged into a coma. Martha and Rose are both deeply sympathetic characters, and English tells their story with compassion, insight and wit. In Theft by Finding, he shares extracts from four decades-worth of diaries, from his youth in 1970s North Carolina to life as a cleaner in 1980s Chicago to his years as a well-known writer in Paris and London. A vivid recreation of Georgian London’s lively underworld, and a moving tale of love lost. The story of how Ireland has been treating pregnant single women over the decades is a sadly familiar one, but there’s nothing stale about this compelling tale. When Starr witnesses the murder of her childhood friend by a police officer, she gradually realises she has to stand up and speak out for what is right. Within hours, Isa is on her way from London to a seaside town called Staten, where she will meet three women who were once her closest friends. But their friendship isn’t straightforward. The most lyrical sports book you’ll read this year, Centaur tells the gripping, astonishing story of Murphy’s recovery, as well as exploring the close bond with horses that has informed his entire life. When her family find out that teenager Rose Moroney is pregnant, she’s quickly bundled off to a mother and baby home in the west of Ireland, where her aunt is one of the nuns, and forced to give up her baby daughter. Carey’s new novel is humane, horrific and unputdownable. Seppe finds fulfilment and kinship working with Connie. As a gay man in the 18th century, William Archer is breaking the law just by having relationships with men. It’s 10 years since a parasitic fungus devastated humanity, turning those it infects into ravenous, mindless “hungries” – and “Rosie” is carrying soldiers and scientists on a research mission in a desperate hope of a cure. And Stella is struggling to cope with the death of her mother and twin sister from breast and ovarian cancer, diseases that she is at high risk of developing herself.