Great reads for lazy summer days

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Top publishers share their tips for holiday reading with Nicky Pellegrino.

Book cover of Lola's Secret, one of Margaret Thompson's summer reads. Photo / Supplied
Book cover of Lola's Secret, one of Margaret Thompson's summer reads. Photo / Supplied

We ask the people who give us the books we like to read what they will be reading this summer.

Kevin Chapman, managing director at Hachette NZ:

This summer I'll be reading ... Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. A fascinating subject, a quality writer, and the intriguing concept of a biography that is fully authorised but not controlled. The great thing about this is that Isaacson has been able to get Jobs to talk openly and to include material from those who disagreed with him, giving a really balanced view.

My pick for a relaxing beach read is ... Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor. One of my favourite books of the year, this "otherworldly" novel has wowed everybody who has read it, regardless of their taste. With a feisty heroine and a mysterious storyline, you won't want to stop reading.

My pick for a challenging holiday read is ... Death In Perugia, by John Follain.

The definitive account of the Meredith Kercher case, from her murder to the acquittal of Raffaelle Sollecito and Amanda Knox. I had pretty much made up my mind about this case, so reading an informed and intelligent account could be challenging my preconceptions.

Tony Fisk, managing director at HarperCollins NZ:

This summer I'll be reading ... Sorry by Zoran Drvenkar. Four friends - a dissatisfied bunch of losers going nowhere - come up with a joke of an idea one reckless drunken evening: they will set up an agency that, for a fat fee, does the apologising and makes things right. The agency, which they call Sorry, becomes a runaway success, and soon the four are living like millionaires. But all of this comes to a screeching halt on the day one of them goes to an apartment on the instructions of a new client, sees the door is ajar, walks in, and finds a woman hanging from a wall, with one nail driven through her hands and one through her forehead.

A reviewer for The New York Times sums it up: "It's the kind of thriller that doesn't come along every day ... it thrills immaculately. It's that oft-cited but very rare species of novel we call a page-turner, and it brilliantly achieves this because Drvenkar knows how to use all the tools at his disposal, to excellent effect."

And, out loud to my grandchildren, for a bit of light relief, I'll be reading Beach Bag Boogie, a catchy, jingly story about that New Zealand summer holiday institution, camping at the beach. Written by Lindsay Wood and evocatively illustrated by Rebekah Holguin, a former Weta designer now in the US.

My pick for a relaxing beach read is ... Micro, the new and probably the last thriller from Michael Crichton, the best-selling author of Jurassic Park, among many others. In Micro, Crichton pits nature against technology and melds scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction. It promises to be pure, cutting-edge entertainment. Because Crichton died just before he finished this novel, visionary science writer Richard Preston finished it.

My pick for a challenging holiday read is ... New Zealand In The Twentieth Century, by Paul Moon - challenging because it comes in at well over 600 pages and it won't be easy to hold up. It's the first history to encompass the entire century and, rather than just a chronology of events, it pieces together commerce, politics, social history, racial integration, sport, design, architecture and more. It's a complete overview of how our country evolved during those 100 years.

Margaret Thompson, managing director of Penguin NZ:

This summer I'll be reading ... Lola's Secret, the latest novel from Monica McInerney, which continues the story of the quirky family from The Alphabet Sisters. This one features 84-year-old Lola who runs a motel in the Clare Valley in South Australia. She has sent all her family away for Christmas and invited a number of mystery guests to come and stay ...but who are they and why aren't they spending Christmas with their own loved ones? This promises to be just as warm, funny and sad as all of Monica's previous books.

Also, Love At The End Of The Road, the charming true story of Rae Roadley , a lifelong city dweller, who meets and falls in love with her future husband, Rex, a beef and sheep farmer at Batley on Kaipara Harbour, and learns to cope with the joys and tribulations of living in a remote country area.

My pick for a relaxing beach read is ... Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This is women's fiction absolutely guaranteed to keep you reading into the small hours. It's a love story with a difference and will have you laughing out loud one minute and sobbing uncontrollably the next. Sheer delight and simply unputdownable.

My pick for a challenging holiday read is ... Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman. The author received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in psychology, challenging the rational model of judgement and decision-making. This book takes you on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices ... fast, which is intuitive and emotional; slow, which is deliberative and more logical. This book will transform the way you make decisions and experience the world.

Karen Ferns, managing director of Random House NZ:

This summer I'll be re-reading Julian Barnes' Man Booker winner, The Sense Of An Ending, because I want more time to savour the elegance of the writing and the insights of each paragraph

My pick for a relaxing beach read is ... Any fan of Lee Child's Jack Reacher will have already read his latest, The Affair, so, like me, it might be time to turn to Taylor Stevens' extraordinary, take-no-prisoners heroine Vanessa Munroe, with either The Informationist, a fast-paced thriller set in central Africa, or her follow-up, The Innocent. I would want Vanessa on my side to trace a kidnapped child and rescue her.

My pick for a challenging read is ... Peter Wells is deservedly recognised for The Hungry Heart, tracing his own personal quest as he researches and writes this, his spirited and bold biography of William Colenso. A fascinating man and a must for those of us who are interested in NZ history. If you join me in reading Caroline Moorehead's Train in Winter you will need some time to put yourself back together again. It is an utterly compelling, moving story of the Resistance friendship and survival of Frenchwomen interned in Nazi concentration camps.

Melanie Laville-Moore is the director of Allen & Unwin NZ:

This summer I'll be reading ... The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt. Too many colleagues have said too many a good thing about this Booker-shortlisted title to let the pages go unturned. With a premise straight out of the Coen Brothers' script bag, it pays homage to the quirkiest cowboy westerns. In 1850s' gold-rush California, brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters are ordered by their shadowy boss to hunt down and kill the hapless Hermann Kermit Warm. The ensuing romp promises to deliver on myriad fronts with dark humour, and the human condition analysed in equal measure.

My pick for a relaxing beach read ... is Michael Connelly's The Drop. Connelly and his infamous Harry Bosch are long-time favourites, and I've deliberately saved this one to savour in my sunlounger. After a few dalliances with Harry's half-brother, Micky Haller (he of Lincoln Lawyer fame), Connelly has returned the flawed, yet completely brilliant Bosch to centre stage with double the trouble: a two-murder case to solve. Vintage crime-writing.

My pick for a challenging holiday read is ... the epic in scale and superbly gutsy Ed King, by David Guterson. This is one of those rare novels where the sentences roll off the page, where you can absolutely sense the sheer fun and enjoyment the author had in crafting the story. Forget Snow Falling on Cedars - Guterson takes his readers to completely new territory in this modern-day retelling of Oedipus Rex and in the process delivers a classic American novel for our time.

* What is on your reading list this summer?

- Herald on Sunday

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Herald on Sunday books editor Nicky Pellegrino has worked as a journalist on newspapers and magazines in the UK and New Zealand and is the author of seven internationally successful novels including Recipe For Life and The Food Of Love Cookery School. Her next book is set in Venice and is about happiness. When not working Nicky likes cooking for friends, drinking red wine, riding her horses and lying in bed reading other people’s novels.

Read more by Nicky Pellegrino

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