Our Summer Reading

by Emma Sewell
by Emma Sewell

There’s nothing better than getting a deck chair out and sitting on the patio with a good book and a cold drink. So that’s what we’ve been doing once we’re home from a hard day in the office, getting our summer reading on!

Here are just a few of the things we’ve taken out of our TBR piles, and a few we’ve added in to read next.

Our Summer Reading!


After You by Jojo Moyes (Penguin Books Ltd 9781405909075)

Lou Clark has lots of questions. Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places. Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home. Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago. And will she ever get over the love of her life.

What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change. Then, one night, it does. But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions? Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe. Open it and she risks everything. But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in…

Our Summer Reading After You“A brilliant sequel to Me Before You, it had big boots to filling and it’s ticking all the boxes so far, the author has a brilliant mind especially when it comes to how to explain a situation to the nth degree and still keep you interested. Fantastically funny yet sad at the same time.”

The Hidden Cottage by Erica James (Orion 9781409135418)

Mia Channing appears to have an enviable life: a beautiful home, a happy marriage, a job she enjoys and three grown-up children to whom she’s devoted. But appearances can be deceptive…When the family gathers for her son’s thirtieth birthday, he brings with him his latest girlfriend, who, to their surprise, has a nine-year-old daughter.

Before the birthday cake has even been cut, Mia’s youngest daughter Daisy has seized the opportunity to drop a bombshell. It’s an evening that marks a turning point in all their lives, when old resentments and regrets surface and the carefully ordered world Mia has created begins to unravel.

“First book I have read by this lady, very captivating, each chapter is about a different member of the family to start with and then connections between them and friends/lovers etc, brilliantly written, a few jaw-dropping chapters that made me shout ‘No!’ out loud.”


More Human by Steve Hilton (W H Allen 9780753556634)

In this manifesto, the author argues that the frustrations people feel with government, politics, their economic circumstances and their daily lives are caused by deep structural problems with the systems that dominate our modern world.

“To try to work out what the bald-headed man on the Brexit election campaign was on about.”

Dead, A Celebration of Mortality by Charles Saatchi (Booth-Clibborn Editions 9781861543592)

Charles Saatchi has a magpie eye for much more than mere art. The collector’s latest book is an assemblage of modern ruminations on the art of dying; whether dying well, badly, significantly or simply in a half-noteworthy fashion.

“To give some humorous perspective to our short, pitiful and pointless lives.”

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (John Murray Publishers Ltd 9780719566950)

In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot – from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and takes the reader with him as far as Hungary.

“First-hand bildungsromanesque account of pre-war Europe encountered by foot. By one of Britain’s most notable travel writers, described (in his pre-expulsion school report) as “a dangerous mix of sophistication and recklessness”. Just like me.”


The Diving Bell & The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby (HarperPerennial 9780007139842)

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor-in-chief of French ‘Elle’ and the father of two young children, suffered a massive stroke and found himself paralysed and speechless, but entirely conscious, trapped by what doctors call ‘locked-in syndrome’. Using his only functioning muscle – his left eyelid – he began dictating this remarkable story, painstakingly spelling it out letter by letter. His book offers a haunting, harrowing look inside the cruel prison of locked-in syndrome, but it is also a triumph of the human spirit.

Our Summer Reading Diving Bell Butterfly“As I turned 40 and started to feel the hands of time creep up on my mortality I thought this book might help me to contextualise and appreciate the past and provide hope and excitement for the future even though the outlook for the protagonist is grim. It is a very emotional tale of full of pride, passion and personal loss but delivered with a fine cutting edge and no small element of wit. I would have enjoyed to meet him in his ‘locked-in’ state.

I also wanted to get back into reading after a short impasse and this slim volume delivered powerful punchy chapters to get the pages turning and the mind whirring.”

History of England by Sir Keith Feiling (currently out of print)

“It might take me a while! All this talk of Brexit and Europe has been very demoralising and I hope this well-respected tome will give me a deeper insight into England and how we have existed within Europe since the times of the Romans – including a lot of immigration and financial ruin along the way.”


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne (Little, Brown 9780751565355)

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Take a look at my review for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Cogheart by Peter Bunzl (Usborne Publishing Ltd 9781474915007)

When 13-year-old Lily’s inventor father vanishes after a Zeppelin crash, Lily’s determined to hunt down the truth behind his disappearance, helped by Robert, the local clockmaker’s son, and her wily mechanical fox Malkin. But shadowy figures are closing in and treachery lurks among the smoky spires of London – along with a life-changing secret.

“I’m currently reading this one, and there will be a full review to follow shortly. Already a great adventure and I’m not very far in, I can’t wait to see where the characters take the story.”

TBR Pile

Our Summer Reading Max Cohen-ScaliMy TBR pile is always growing, here are just a few of the things I’m going to be progressing too shortly.

James Patterson’s BookShots… currently got six of these near the top of the pile, and I’m hoping to whizz through them

Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali (Walker Books 9781406368253) This is a weirdly interesting book, I’m desperate to see where it goes. I have stopped reading it, mainly because I felt like I wasn’t concentrating on it enough. After an hour of reading and taking notes for a review, I found I actually had more notes than pages I’d read (well, it felt like that anyway!). I will start it again… and this time, I will finish it!

Some upcoming books but those ones will have to stay hush-hush for a bit longer as they’re some potentials for October book of the month!


Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton Ltd 9780241146545)

Two women arrive in a Spanish village – a dreamlike place caught between the desert and the ocean – seeking medical advice and salvation. One of the strangers suffers from a mysterious illness: spontaneous paralysis confines her to a wheelchair, her legs unusable.

The other, her daughter Sofia, has spent years playing the reluctant detective in this mystery, struggling to understand her mother’s illness. Surrounded by the oppressive desert heat and the mesmerising figures who move through it, Sofia waits while her mother undergoes the strange programme of treatments invented by Dr Gomez. Searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, ever more entangled in the seductive, mercurial games of those around her, Sofia finally comes to confront and reconcile the disparate fragments of her identity.

Our Summer Reading Hot Milk“Sometimes when reading this book you wonder if you weren’t stung by the medusa jellyfish Levy describes floating around in the Mediterranean Sea. Hot Milk is a hypnotic, displacing novel and despite the unembellished prose and postmodern narrative, everything has a double meaning (and in some cases, many more.)

The title itself is a nod to Sofia’s disappointing post-graduate job as a barista in a West London cafe; unappreciated and underpaid, she is limping along in life, sleeping above the coffee shop where she works and abandoning her Ph.D. to care for her mother’s mysterious immobility.

Their journey to Almería to the freaky Doctor Gómez and his new age clinic in search of a cure allows for much examination of the novel’s main theme: this strained filial bond. Levy’s other main focus (also referred to in the title) is the issue of female psychosis. ‘Milk’ acknowledges the female body but, more importantly, the subsequent problems it causes for Sofia and Rose (her mother). With its female narration delivered by a female writer skilled in wry put-downs and even stranger asides, this book makes for a rare and interesting read.”



A Storm of Swords: Part 2 Blood and Gold by George R R Martin (HarperVoyager 9780007447855)

Robb Stark may be King in the North, but he must bend to the will of the old tyrant Walder Frey if he is to hold his crown. And while his youngest sister, Arya, has escaped the clutches of the depraved Cersei Lannister and her son, the capricious boy-king Joffrey, Sansa Stark remains their captive. Meanwhile, across the ocean, Daenerys Stormborn, the last heir of the Dragon King, delivers death to the slave-trading cities of Astapor and Yunkai as she approaches Westeros with vengeance in her heart.

[Emma: *edits out Ian’s witty humour*] Twists and turns at every page. Also, there’s no need to read it as I just spoiled the whole thing [Nope, cut that out too]. They should make this into a TV show, people would love it!”

Virolution by Frank Ryan (Collins 9780007315123)Our Summer Reading Virolution

The extraordinary role of viruses in evolution and how this is revolutionising biology and medicine. Darwin’s theory of evolution is still the greatest breakthrough in biological science. His explanation of the role of natural selection in driving the evolution of life on earth depended on steady variation of living things over time – but he was unable to explain how this variation occurred.

“I do love a good nerdy science book. Did you know that there’s a flat worm that eats algae then one day out of nowhere it stops!! So it turns out it stops because a virus tells it to (well pretty much) then instead of eating algae it uses the plants it’s already eaten to photosynthesis to get its energy. Blew my mind. This was in the first chapter so naturally I had to keep reading. Spoiler alert viruses are crazy!”

Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

Do we really need to tell you about this series?

“Turns out he’s a wizard!?!? Never saw that coming. Ha, joke. Order of the Phoenix is my actual choice. Best HP. Umbridge and her annoying voice, can’t believe she banned HP from Quidditch for life. Crazy. Also, how does no one punch Malfoy more often??! I reckon this Voldemort character will be back. When Sirius died I wanted to throw my book, but I couldn’t because I was listening to an audiobook on my phone, and I like my phone more than Sirius.”


Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman (Doubleday Children’s Books 9780857531414)

Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety. Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed. Only a few survive.

“Can’t wait to read this, apparently, it is her take on Othello, set in space with a teenage girl in the leading role!”

Blame by Simon Mayo (Corgi Childrens 9780552569071)Our Summer Reading Blame Simon Mayo

What happens when society wants you banged up in prison for a crime your parents committed? That’s the situation in which Ant finds herself – together with her little brother Mattie and their foster-parents, she’s locked up in a new kind of family prison.

“This is Mayo’s first foray into YA fiction and it gripped me from start to finish. It is set in the near future and based on the premise of Heritage crime: a previously undetected crime committed by your parents or grandparents for which you are held responsible.

Ant and her brother, Mattie, are locked up in Spike, a new family prison. Society demands they do time for the unpunished heritage crimes of their parents. Tension is simmering inside the jail. When the tension breaks and a riot begins, Ant realises they’ve got one chance to break out and show the world that they’re not to blame. Ant is a very feisty and often antagonistic character, but I found myself constantly rooting for her.

Simon Mayo has created a genuinely claustrophobic and intimidating atmosphere in the prison, and one of the reasons I didn’t want to put the book down was that I was so desperate for them to escape!”


The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald (Fourth Estate Ltd 9780006543541)

In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result, she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important, but natural and even supernatural forces too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.

“We picked this one for our book group as we were keen to read something written by a female author, with a female lead. The story focuses on the determination of a woman in her late 50s who, against all the odds, decided to open up a bookshop in her hometown. There are some wonderfully quirky characters who co-exist in a very small isolated town, and who all have a lot to say about Florence (the lead character) opening her shop.”

As you can tell, there’s always a weird and wonderful selection of book recommendations to come out of the Education Umbrella offices. Hopefully some of our summer reading might give you some ideas of what to pick up next.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been reading too, let us know below!

Happy reading!

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