Books

Stylist’s ten best reads for the bank holiday weekend

Published

This week, Stylist is on a print break - you may have noticed the magazine wasn't available at stations yesterday. But, never wanting our readers to miss out, we have created a special digital-only edition, based around one of our favourite topics: books.

The heart of this edition is a mammoth list of 100 hottest books to read this summer, with something for everyone, from thrillers to travel fiction to historical fiction. To give you a little teaser, we've pulled out a favourite from each of these categories to start you off.

To read the whole list, download the issue now at app.stylist.co.uk

(Words: Caroline Corcoran)

  • New releases

    A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015, £16.99, Picador)

    Already long-listed for this year’s Booker Prize, Yanagihara’s epic 720-page read could well turn out to be the classic of 2015. And this isn’t hyperbole. While a book that is described as ‘heart-breaking’, ‘disturbing’ and ‘dark’ may seem more of a chore than a pleasure, please let go of any preconceptions and lose yourself in this story of four male college friends living in New York. From the sweet and kind Willem to the tragic central character of Jude, A Little Life draws characters whose inner life is as real and fascinating as your own. The small throwaway details engulf the reader while the bigger – shocking – themes are set to propel A Little Life into an orbit of its own.

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Thrillers

    Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2012, £5.99, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

    When something is sold as “A Visit From The Goon Squad written by Tina Fey”, we’re in, we’re in, we’re in. But while Jennifer Egan’s prose has often left us in awe rather than in love, Semple does the latter, writing fallibility, mysteries and secrets while weaving a genuinely gripping tale. Written mostly in emails, official documents and other evidence that 15-year-old Bee has collected to help track down her missing mother, the book shouldn’t flow like it does and yet we challenge you not to devour it in a sitting. Most of all it poses the tricky question: who are we to all the different people in our lives?

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Autobiographies

    Grace, A Memoir by Grace Coddington (2012, £30, Chatto & Windus)

    Given that Grace Coddington has “rarely read two books in my life that aren’t picture books” and that her job title atUS Vogue is Creative Director, it won’t surprise you to hear that this memoir focuses as much on the visual as it does on the words. Vintage photos and exclusive line drawings, but the anecdotes are pleasing too, with everything from Grace’s kissing Mick Jagger to her childhood in Anglesey to the time she poured blue dye into the sea in Normandy to make it look better for David LaChapelle in a moment that could very easily be turned into a The Devil Wears Prada bonus chapter. 

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Classics

    The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer (1962, £8.99, Penguin)

    Every now and again, the realisation that there is a whole wealth of books we don’t know about because they don’t pop up on our online recommendations or greet us in a 2 for 1 offer as we walk into a bookshop, makes itself excitingly clear when a gem is dusted off from the archives and given a new lease of life. The publication of Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eater – a semi-autobiographical novel about a woman’s breakdown in Harrods in the Sixties which asks questions about marriage and motherhood and their role in a woman’s life – as a Penguin Classic this summer is one of those particularly special gems which still has a resonance now, despite being as old, truly, as some of The Famous Five.

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • The discerning reader's chick lit

    The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh (2014, 99p, Tinder Press)

    If Emily Brontë were alive in 2015 (and thanks to budget airlines, spending more time in Majorca than on the Yorkshire Moors) this could be what she was writing: charged, oozing at the spine with passion and with the landscape very much at the heart of the action. But we’re a more enlightened generation, so Walsh’s novel is considerably more graphic than Wuthering Heights, subverting traditional summer love stories by firstly including no semblance of love – this is pure lust – and secondly portraying a dynamic which is wonderfully leftfield: middle-aged Jenn, on holiday with her family, finds it impossible to resist Nathan. Her daughter’s boyfriend. 

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Feminist reads

    A Book For Her by Bridget Christie (2015, £7.49, Century)

    Bringing out a feminist memoir in summer 2015 may seem like the equivalent of providing somewhere else on the internet for people to get loud and angry, leading people to beg for no more, we need no more. Except don’t we always need more feminist memoirs, when they’re funny and insightful and clever and honest? Bridget Christie’s A Book For Her is all of those things and if you need convincing, may we refer you to the anecdote about how she discovered feminism when stood near a stranger who’d just broken wind in the women’s studies section of a bookshop? “This is what people think of the fight for equality,” she says. “It’s irrelevant, redundant and pointless. Something to be farted at.”

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Non-fiction

    Dreamstreets: A Journey Through Britain’s Village Utopias by Jacqueline Yallop (2015, £18.99, Random House)

    Port Sunlight on the Wirral. Saltaire in Bradford. Bournville in Birmingham. Nenthead in Cumbria. You’ve heard of these places. You may have visited them on a school trip. You might even have lived in one of them. They’re all model villages, designed by grand old British industrialists to house their workers, and Jacqueline Yallop’s book takes us on a fascinating tour of several of them. We don’t often give much consideration to familiar places. (Growing up near Bournville, thoughts didn’t extend much beyond the promising sugar high of a visit to Cadbury World.) But Yallop digs in, looking at how and why the villages were formed and discovering that, often, charity is dished out with a large side order of control.

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Short stories

    Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy (2009, £8.99, Canongate)

    When Stylist favourite Curtis Sittenfeld reviews your books – and reviews them kindly – you can consider yourself having made it. Throw in a ‘Brilliant’ on the cover from none other than Helen Fielding and you know why this – by one of Granta’s best young American novelists – makes the list. The umbrella across these stories is the characters having reached a crossroads; a moment when they need to make a decision. Unfortunately there is the small matter of the fact they want it both ways to contend with. There are no weak stories in this but our favourite would have to be the deeply unsettling but gripping The Girlfriend.

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Travel tomes

    Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012, £4.99, Atlantic Books)

    Strayed isn’t Cheryl’s real name, it’s the name she gave herself when she felt like she had veered off course in life. She’d lost her mother and subsequently saw her family and her marriage fall apart, and it’s only a 1,100 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail that can realign things. If the travel-as-redemption trope is a familiar one, then her version of it is anything but. It’s not romanticised – it’s brutal, and searingly honest. Strayed ends the book having lost toenails but gained clarity, and it is magical; the kind of awe-inspiring ending of a novel which you know in some way has had its effect on you and will pop into your head at moments in the future, and might well help you out.

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

  • Historical fiction

    The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (2012, £5.99, Virago)

    One of the most popular subjects for historical fiction writers is Ernest Hemingway and his colourful love life, and even if you – like us – have guzzled Villa America (see later), Mrs Hemingway and this, you’ll likely still lust for more. It’s captivating, largely due to the glamour of his decadent lifestyle but also because of the complex humanity of it all. That might be the reason why for us The Paris Wife (the name gives a nod to Curtis Sittenfeld’s brilliant book based on Laura Bush’s life, American Wife, written a few years earlier) is the one that captured us the most. Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson’s heartbreak is so real and so raw that it’s less easily forgotten than fancy parties and (extremely) glamorous swimwear.

    Buy it now on our Stylist iBooks store; download the whole issue at app.stylist.co.uk

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