The beach beckons and so for the past couple of weeks I've engaged in one of my favourite annual activities: drawing together my holiday reading list. Most years I can manage about 10 in 14 days, depending on a variety of factors that include weather, word counts and levels of familial peacefulness. This year's dozen (optimism abounds) - split more or less equally by hard copy and Kindle version for ease of travel purpose - cover everything from the origins of man and Finnish famine to Venetian crime-fighting as a cover for gastronomy and twentieth century social satire.
Some Hope by Edward St Aubyn
This one might not make it as far as the beach as I've already started it and as usual I'm gripped. There simply aren't enough of these wonderful novels, with Edward St Aubyn apparently having stopped his Patrick Melrose series at five novels in 2012. I am rationing myself to one a year to draw out the pleasure, but it's a mighty effort of willpower to do so. Patrick Melrose has reached his 30s in this third novel and is in some sort of recovery following the abuse of his childhood and his drug-addled 20s as outlined in Never Mind and Bad News respectively. Here he travels to a country house party with quite the most glorious guest list - it feels like it could have been compiled by a late 20th Century Wodehouse. Biting wit, satire and social commentary. Glorious.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens jumped straight off Bill Gates' Five Books to Read this Summer blog post as something a little different but really exciting to read when there's more time to think. A history of mankind in 400 pages is a tall order but reviews suggest this is unmissable, and I think of all the books on the shelf, this is the one I'm most looking forward to getting stuck into.
A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming
My friend Dan Batchelor introduced to me Cumming through his two Alec Milius novels, A Spy by Nature and The Spanish Game. These were smart and demanding spy novels - far more Smiley than Bond (although both have their place - and Cumming writes with a dry sophistication this is very appealing. This 2012 novel is the first of three books featuring disgraced MI6 agent Thomas Kell.
The Turning Tide by Brooke Magnanti
The author made her name as a pioneering blogger with her Diary of a London Call Girl in the early 2000s and has since become an insightful commentator on a range of scientific and social issues and a strong presence on Twitter. It's her background as a forensic scientist that informs her first foray into crime fiction, a novel that promises a healthy dose of rotting cadaver with a side of Scottish politics. I'm always interested to see how writers make the transition into crime so this was a no-brainer.
I Know Who Did It by Steve Mosby
You need to be on holiday when reading Steve Mosby. To be somewhere where sunshine and joy can help to douse the darkness. Since the first book of his I read back in 2007, the 50/50 Killer, he's consistently been the most challenging crime fiction writer I've read, and also the darkest, and this story of a detective investigating his lost son does not look to be an exception. Not for the faint of heart.
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
I'm woefully under-read in Waugh (Scoop and Brideshead only), and having long intended to work through the catalogue, I was prompted to start here by news that the BBC has commissioned an adaptation which is to star Eva Longoria and Jack Whitehall. This story of a man unfairly expelled from Oxford and launched into a series of unsuccessful careers starting as a teacher in a Welsh prep school feels made for Whitehall particularly, and I want to read it before seeing it defined by another media.