For intellectual posing by the pool or in the park:
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, the Orange Prize winner Madeline Miller will raise your temperature with this story about the love between Achilles and Patroclus (yes, they’re both men). A tenderly written, beautifully described re-telling of a tale that appeared in Homer’s The Illiad. The story runs in a golden blur across the sand like it’s eponymous hero; and despite knowing what ultimately happens, the book never loses its pace or tension. I became so entwined and invested in Patroclus’ and Achilles’ destiny I couldn’t put this down. I kept reading till the early hours of the morning before snivelling into a pack of tissues. Stunning.
For making you appreciate holidaying with your family isn’t so bad:
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson
First, let me assure you Jeanette Winterson’s autobiographical Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? isn’t the depressing tear-fest you might fear. Then let me tell you that it is, at times, harrowing. You cannot read the life story of a girl who was abandoned at birth, adopted by a borderline poverty-stricken family, abused by her religious zealot adoptive Mother and rejected for being a lesbian, without expecting a few tears. But there is more than misery in this memoir. There is survival and hope. Winterson is a strong woman, a strong writer and this is a book to make you value your life.
For the day after murder on the dance floor:
The Fall by Claire McGowan
This is a murder mystery with a difference. It’s not just the victim who meets a sticky demise; the middle class dream is butchered too. McGowan joyfully destroys every spoil and sparkle of Charlotte, her spoilt protagonist, when a week before her £40K wedding her banker boyfriend is accused of murder. Charlotte must seek help from unlikely sources: Keisha, an angry woman with a potentially deadly secret, and Hegarty, the police officer who arrested her fiancé. I didn’t know crime could be this funny.
For reading on your Kindle, if you’re over the age of 21:
Diary of a Chav: Trainers v Tiaras by Grace Dent
Technically this is a young adult novel, but don’t let that put you off. Dent nails the language, life and dreams of her Chav protagonist Shiraz Bailey Wood, from Goodmayes Estate, Essex with her trademark humour. But far from ending up the joke of the book, Shiraz is a hilarious, intelligent young woman you really root for. This is a stealthily clever read, which made me re-examine my own prejudices as well as laugh so much my organic herbal tea came out my nostrils. But be warned: there are six books in this series, and once I started I had to read them all. Worth a cheeky download, innit.
Have a happy bank holiday weekend x