Time Out looks ahead to 25 of the biggest blockbusting books of the summer
You can’t beat a good book. Whether you’re curled up in air-conditioned bliss or feeling the burn on a beach somewhere you have the perfect companion in a novel.
No video game, film or album can compare to the immersive delights of reading.
But selecting the right literature for lounging is not easy. You need to strike a balance between credibility (nobody wants to be caught reading Barbara Cartland) and enjoyment (nobody wants to read a textbook on the beach).
The essence of the beach read is that it is an easy page turner. So that means fast paced romance, thriller, comedy or biography that you can skim through in just a couple of sessions in the sun.
We’ve picked out 25 new or soon to be released books that you should check out in the next few months.
Swimsuit by James Patterson
What is it all about: When a swimsuit supermodel on assignment in Hawaii disappears there is a race against time as the police, her family and a bestselling author all try to find her before it is too late. But when the kidnapper’s demands turn ugly the model’s life takes an unspeakable twist and beauty and murder collide head on.
Time Out reckons: Bookshelves bend under the weight of the sheer number of James Patterson novels on sale. Not only is he prolific by himself he is an excellent collaborator and has teamed up with almost a dozen other authors to bulk up his bibliography. Quite rightly it is always the Patterson name splashed across the top as his gripping thrillers have become part of the new standard of American literature.
Try if you like: David Baldacci, John Grisham, Patricia Cornwell
Pygmy by Chuck Palahnichuk
What is it all about: A teenage exchange student (who seems to hail from somewhere sounding simultaneously like communist China and Nazi Germany) is brought to America to sample family life in the good ol’ US of A. The fact that he does not want to be indoctrinated into American life becomes abundantly clear when he ditches his stars and stripes gifts and concentrates on using a science project to commit terrorist acts.
Time Out reckons: If, like us, you prefer a novel with an edgier vibe then look no further. The man who brought us Fight Club, Rant and Snuff is back with one of his racier books in a while. Dip your toe gently into the water at your peril; just don’t be surprised if somebody tries to bite it off. Yes it is a comedy, but only if you like your humour as dark as the American underbelly can go.
Try if you like: Irvine Welsh, Bret Easton Ellis, Kurt Vonnegut
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
What is it all about: Benji, his brother Reggie, and an assortment of friends such as NP (short for ‘Nigger, Please!’) make the awkward crossing between tween-age and teenage, going for first kisses, slogging it out at crappy summer jobs and trying to avoid the encroaching realities of their messed-up families.
Time Out reckons: Fans of Whitehead’s deeply funny and imaginative novels The Intuitionist, John Henry Days, and Apex Hides The Hurt – rife as they are with satirical wit and sterling prose – won’t be too disappointed. But here too is the personal touch of a writer looking back and finding the past very much still alive.
Try if you like: Reif Larsen, Colm Tobin, Aravind Adiga
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien
What is it all about: The 12th Tolkien work to be published after his death is homage to the fantasy author’s greatest love: Norse mythology. The book has seen the light of day thanks to the painstaking editing and assistance of his son Christopher and tells the tale, in two separate poems, of dragons, swordplay and heroic princes.
Time Out reckons: Tough going for even the most loyal Tolkien fan. No matter how you look at it this is still a 500 page poem. The love of the Middle Earth world will take you so far but stick with it and it is like flogging a dead Norse. Middle East book shops are currently stocking it in the teenage fiction section. Unless your teenager can quote from the original Beowulf at length look elsewhere.
Try if you like: Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, Tad Williams
My Father’s Tears by John Updike
What is it all about: This collection of short stories is the first new work to be released since Updike’s death in January. Each tale in the anthology is a retrospective on childhood and the often painful process of growing up, moving on and looking back at what has been left behind.
Time Out reckons: Since his death earlier this year we can no longer refer to Updike as one of the greatest living writers. He has, however, taken his rightful place as one of the all time greats and this collection of short stories shows off his lyrical talents. Will be well worth checking out for the peerless way in which Updike uses every word, sentence, expression and narrative.
Try if you like: Philip Roth, Tony Parsons, Joseph Heller
Bourne Deception by Robert Ludlum
What is it all about: After being badly injured during an attempted ambush by his arch-enemy, Arkadin, Jason Bourne fakes his own death and goes into hiding. Bourne uses the freedom to take on a new identity and track down old enemies. As with most things in life Bourne doesn’t find staying hidden away very easy and soon finds he is locked in a battle to stop World War III.
Time Out reckons: The next Bourne film doesn’t come out until 2011 but hardcore fans won’t wait that long. The Bourne books are classics of the spy thriller genre and are sure to be page-turners from start to finish. There will be twists and turns but the appearance of Arkadin in this story will give it continuity with previous tales. If you’re new to the series then wait for the paperback release later in the year. Hardcore fans can pre-order now.
Try if you like: Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, Eric Van Lustbader
Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup
What is it all about: An elaborate murder mystery that puts India’s caste system under the spotlight. India’s best-known investigative reporter is the only person determined to find the real murder. The six suspects, a corrupt bureaucrat, an American tourist, an elderly tribesman, a Bollywood sex-symbol, an ambitious policeman and a street thief all have intricately overlaying tales. But whodunit?
Time Out reckons: Vikas “Slumdog Millionaire” Swarup is hot property right now. The smash success of the movie adaptation of his debut novel Q&A has thrust him into the limelight. Movie rights to Six Suspects have already been snapped up but the proof of his talents will be found, or not, in this novel. His writing is masterful and we don’t think he will need a lifeline.
Try if you like: Aravind Adiga, Kunal Basu, Arundhati Roy
Mystery Man by Colin Batemen
What is it all about: An enterprising bookshop owner turns super-sleuth when the detective agency next door goes out of business. His aim is to impress a pretty jeweler and perhaps sell a few books in the process but when he becomes embroiled in a farcical plot that includes modern dance, Nazis and serial killers he has more than he bargained for.
Time Out reckons: Since his debut novel, Divorcing Jack, was released in the mid 1990s Bateman has been a mildly prolific crime writer. His work has a consistent level of quality and he fits into the mold of farce thriller incredibly well. His sense of humour is as black as a Guinness draught.
Try if you like: Carl Hiassen, Christopher Brookmyre, Christopher Moore
Life and Soul Of The Party by Mike Gayle
What is it all about: Birthday parties, leaving dos, romantic anniversaries – a lot can happen in a year of partying. Three couples find, lose, hunt for and discard love at each celebration they attend.
Time Out reckons: For every chick lit heroine writing about shopping, relationships and nostalgia there is a lad lit writer crafting a novel about shopping, relationships and nostalgia. But from a male perspective. Mike Gayle has made a very successful career out of hitting home truths about modern man. Men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 will finish this book in a single sitting and recognize every one of the characters. Everybody else will be left wondering what all the fuss was about – it was only a party after all.
Try if you like: Nick Hornby, Matt Dunn, Matt Beaumont
Forever In My Heart by Jade Goody
What is it all about: In August 2007 reality TV star Jade Goody discovered she had cancer. After intensive bouts of chemotherapy and a hysterectomy she was informed that the cancer had spread and was untreatable. Throughout it all she remained a forceful personality and a favourite figure of tabloid newspapers and gossip magazines. This book is her ‘final love letter’ to the sons she left behind.
Time Out reckons: It would take a cynical heart not to be moved by the story of a young mother dying of cancer before she even turns 30. That the individual in question first found fame through ignorance and vanity should not be a factor in the final chapter of a truly twenty first century tale.
Try if you like: Katie Price, Barbara Windsor, Kerry Katona
My Name Is Daphne Fairfax by Arthur Smith
What is it all about: The frank and, sometimes cringingly, honest recollections of alternative comedian, radio and television star Arthur Smith. As somebody who has spent time on the fringes of fame, often shunning the brighter lights, Smith has a fascinating take on the trappings of modern celebrity. The fact that he is a legendary party animal makes the whole tale full of juicy tales and hilarious anecdotes.
Time Out reckons: With so many celebrity memoirs putting a rose-tinted glow on their subjects and those around them it is a delight to catch a properly grumpy old man venting his spleen. Arthur Smith is one of those comedians we love to share hates with. His targets are always deserving and his observations strike with an assassin’s clarity.
Try if you like: Tony Hawkes, Stuart Maconie, Frank Skinner
Heart & Soul by Maeve Binchy
What is it all about: Clara Casey has more than enough on her plate. Her daughters Adi and Linda were no problem at all during the usually turbulent teens. Now in their twenties, Adi is always fighting for or against something: the environment or the whale or battery farming; while Linda lurches from one unsatisfactory relationship to the next. As if this wasn't enough, Clara, a senior cardiac specialist, has a new job to cope with.
Time Out reckons: Maeve Binchy fans will be delighted with every new page and returning character. Anybody else will scratch their heads and wonder who exactly reads this sort of romance. Probably best to avoid unless you’ve bean bitten by Binchy’s bug.
Try if you like: Colleen McCullough, Barbara Delinsky, Joanna Trollope
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
What is it all about: Robert Langdon is back in the follow up to the Da Vinci Code. Once again he will be using the power of the mind to uncrack codes and uncover long-lost secrets.
Time Out reckons: This will sell by the lorry load. Details are very sketchy at this time and the publishers are holding onto secrets that Professor Langdon himself could not crack but we can rest assured this will be a thriller infusing Brown’s usual blend of intrigue, history and puzzle solving. Late summer/early autumn release is planned but you are sure to see the queues and posters at all bookshops.
Try if you like: Will Adams, JL Carrell, Sam Bourne
Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson
What is it all about: Businessmen have been getting things all wrong: they shouldn’t be charging for their products. They would make much more money if they just gave everything away for free. Confused? You won’t be.
Time Out reckons: Business books usually take a place next to self-help and diet books on the dustier ends of the Time Out bookcase. But Chris Anderson’s writing is so compelling and the case he makes so strong that we can’t help but flick through everything he writes. We daren’t follow him, but we hope he is right.
Try if you like: Seth Godin, Jeff Jarvis, Malcolm Gladwell
Finger Licking 15 by Janet Evanovich
What is it all about: A decapitated chef, a million dollar reward, a witness with a secret and a rogue grandmother on the loose – Stephanie Plum is back and in a tighter spot than ever. Can the lingerie saleswoman-turned-private investigator solve the crime and keep relationships on track?
Time Out reckons: Don’t pretend you’ve never been attracted by a Janet Evanovich novel. The covers are so pretty and they just jump out of the shelves. But you can’t buy a romance novel and not expect to hand your dignity in with your cash can you? Actually yes. Evanovich is no Barbara Cartland. After JK Rowling and Danielle Steel she was the third highest-paid female author last year and there is some artistic merit to her work. This is the 15th tale in the Stephanie Plum series (every consecutive book takes the number in the title) and if you’re a newbie feel free to dive in at this point.
Try if you like: Carl Hiassen, Danielle Steel, Kate Atkinson
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
What is it all about: The war between half-bloods and Titans rages on and Olympians are struggling to defeat the evil. Percy Jackson discovers that his fight for justice might force him to put his own fate and that of modern civilization at terrifying odds.
Time Out reckons: The minute a certain Edinburgh-based novelist started cashing cheques big enough to buy a magical boarding school the search for ‘the next Harry Potter’ began. In Rick Rordian’s Olympian series we’ve found the likeliest of candidates. The dragons, the half-bloods, the teenage struggle against an all-consuming evil are all familiar themes. The movie versions have even gone as far to take direction from Chris Columbus who sat behind the camera for the first two Potter films.
Try if you like: J.K. Rowling, Erin Hunter, Michael Scott
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
What is it all about: When a thoroughly modern woman is visited by a very dated ghost there can be nothing in the way of a compromise. The ghoul and the girl can’t agree on issues of fashion, love, dancing or relationships but if either one wants to get rid of the other then they’ll have to work together.
Time Out reckons: Sophie Kinsella is the British queen of chick-lit at the moment. The woman can do no wrong with women (almost exclusively women) of a certain age hanging like designer handbags from her every word. The novels are sparky page-turning stuff but will offer up about as much nourishment as the obvious film remakes.
Try if you like: Candace Bushnell, Helen Fielding, Lauren Weisberger
Strangers by Anita Brookner
What is it all about: For a lonely man every encounter with another person is a grasp at belonging. His hairdresser, distant relatives, a woman at the shops: all social interactions that prevent his complete solitude. When two women suddenly enter his life he must decide which direction the crossroads should take him.
Time Out reckons: If you feel you’re too mature for the likes of Sophie Kinsella, too female for the likes of John Updike and too romantic for the likes of Dan Brown then this may be the book for you. Less a quick literary fix than an emotional journey this is the first novel from the former Booker prize winner in almost five years.
Try if you like: Henry James, Jane Austen, Penelope Lively
The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho
What is it all about: Igor is a very successful Russian entrepreneur. His wealth affords him anything he wants, apart from his ex-wife. A grotesque cast of characters unravel the morality tale in the ‘beautiful’ world of actors, models and fashionistas at the Cannes Film Festival.
Time Out reckons: The book reading public of Dubai seem to love Paulo Coelho almost as much as he loves coming here to sign autographs. He has become quite the celebrity, fitting then that his latest meditation is on the consequences of our current obsession with fame at all costs.
Try if you like: Yann Martel, Sue Monk Kidd, Richard Bach
Brooklyn by Colm Tobin
What is it all about: A quiet young Irish women is swept away to the bright lights and big city of Brooklyn, New York. Against her true will she begins to settle as an immigrant in the metropolis. But when she is split between a new love and her old life she is forced to make difficult decisions.
Time Out reckons: No-one writes about loss like Tobin. His greatest strength is his restraint: this is a voice so unobtrusive that sometimes it feels as if there is no writing going on at all.
Try if you like: Colson Whitehead, Henry James, Frank McCourt
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
What is it all about: An English man falls in love with an Asian woman in wartime Hong Kong. Before their love affair can blossom he is sent to an internment camp and separated from his one desire. Only when he meets an attractive piano teacher is he able to confront the long-buried horrors of his past.
Time Out reckons: There has been a big buzz about this debut novel from Hong Kong born author Y.K. Lee. Critics around the world have been overwhelmingly positive and even British TV stars Richard and Judy have highlighted her book as one to watch. Superstardom and an extended media frenzy surely lie in her future.
Try if you like: JG Ballard, Maeve Binchy, Kazuo Ishiguro
Superstar DJs Here We Go by Dom Phillips
What is it all about: Rise and rise of dance music DJs in the mid-1990s changed the face of British clubbing. It gave us the likes of Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong and Sasha. This is their story.
Time Out reckons: The title nearly says it all, but just in case the cover shot of Fatboy Slim larging it wasn’t a powerful enough clue, the subtitle – ‘The incredible rise of Clubland’s finest. Glory, excess and burnt-out dreams’ – confirms that this book chronicles the crazy years of the mid-90s. As many of the characters involved are still turning up at venues in Dubai it is worth checking out.
Try if you like: Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Sasha
Tunneling To The Center of The Earth by Kevin Wilson
What is it all about: A collection of short stories from a debut author. The fact that so many people are talking about him shows that Wilson is a very important new writer. The subjects of the stories range from high school video game addicts to grandmother rental services. Always original, often hilarious, sometimes haunting.
Time Out reckons: For years, the rumour has been that short story collections, which rarely sell well, are on their last legs. Luckily Kevin Wilson didn’t get wind of this. If he had he might never have penned this gorgeous collection. These 11 stories, by turns hilarious and elegiac, unfold like delicious, ripened dreams, and then explode into nightmares.
Try if you like: Toby Litt, Haruki Murakami, Jay McInerny
Year of The Flood by Margaret Atwood
What is it all about: Literary zombie novels don’t come along very often. Atwood’s dystopian tale of the survivors of an apocalyptic natural disaster is going to appeal to her existing fans as well as a whole new sci-fi audience. The only apparent survivors of the flood are a young trapeze dancer and a religious scientist. Barricaded inside a luxurious spa they will have to venture out and look for other life.
Time Out reckons: We haven’t read it yet but we’ve pre-ordered the book and cleared our social calendar. Early indications suggest that this is Atwood at her brilliant best and that is something we find very exciting. If it is just one tenth as good as her highest achievements we’ll forgive her for not coming to Dubai’s literature festival earlier in the year.
Try if you like: Annie Proulx, Joyce Carol Oates, Fay Weldon
60 Years Later by John David California
What is it all about: Holden Caulfield, he of Catcher in the Rye fame, is now an old man. 60 years later and he is as angst-ridden as ever, but what has happened in the intervening years?
Time Out reckons: Catcher in the Rye 2? This is wrong on so many levels but we can’t help but be drawn to this like a moth to the flame. Many a teenage fan of JD Salinger’s novel must have wondered whatever happened to Holden Caulfield. Debut novelist John David California has decided to tell us. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where you can get it. But we don’t feel like telling, this is probably a hoax anyway.
Try if you like: Mark Twain, JD Salinger, Sue Townsend