Of course, as soon as I pressed ‘load’ on the previous post, a whole host of other books forced their way into my consciousness, so here’s a second set of recommendations if you want something brisk and funny. The real impetus behind this list is a couple of poor choices I have made myself for summer reading over the years – eg Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, a wonderful but shocking tale of post-apocalyptic winter, which gave my brain whiplash whenever I looked up from the page at the sunny garden. Also, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by Le Carre, a cracking thriller which led to me missing a whole afternoon of sunshine by pinning me to the sofa with its twisty narrative. The following will enable you to enjoy the weather, and are what I call ‘dippy’ – they don’t demand a long attention span and you can pick them up between cocktails.
The Between Boyfriends Book, Cindy Chupack
One of the writers on Sex and the City gets to grips with the ups and downs of being single, how to enjoy it on good days, how to survive it on bad days, and generally use it to your advantage.
He’s just not that into you, Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo
Another Sex and the City writer in print, this one (Greg) explaining how it really is quite simple when it comes to dating – if he’s not dating you, calling you, spending time with you, thinking about having sex with you…he’s just not that into you. Liz responds with the female perspective, explaining why it’s sometimes hard to accept that the guy you think is the rat’s pjs just thinks you’re a bit blah. I honestly and truly wish I has read this at the age of sixteen, and urge all young women to memorise it, and mothers (and fathers, of course) of young women to force them to read it before attempting to enter the romance race. It is also deeply funny, and hugely sympathetic to the failings of both men and women in the dating arena.
A Bit of a Blur, Alex James
I know Mr James is not everyone’s cup of tea – I once heard someone remark about him that “being the biggest knob in a band which also contains Damon Albarn is a real achievement” – but he has written a really great book about the journey of Blur from student wasters to global superstars to wherever the hell they you want to call where they are now. He appears to be entirely honest about the people he ignored, neglected, and acted like a twat in front of during those hedonistic years of Britpop mania, and makes no bones about the disappointments and rejections he also felt. Underneath it all though is a true amazement and gratitude that someone can be allowed to have such a good time all the time just because they play the bass guitar.
Things can only get better, John O’Farrell
I came to political maturity on the night Margaret Thatcher was elected – I was eight when I remember my parents staying up to hear the election result. There would not be a change of government for 18 years, giving me plenty of time march, demonstrate, and generally challenge the establishment. Of course, I did none of these things, spending my teens thinking the Labour Party was a bit silly, the Tories were not so bad, and all the others were a joke. In my 20s, my political allegiance changed, but none of that would have dented my enjoyment of JO’F’s book on the frustrations, irritations, and tiny victories which make up politics, whatever your inclination. He writes with such good humour and kindness about people who the rest of us are supposed to revile and demonise, that you find yourself thinking, maybe I will vote in the next minor Euro election!
Anything by Mark Kermode
One for people who really like film, Mark Kermode has been a critic and reviewer for many in years in some achingly hip publications. In addition to all this, he also co-presents the Sony Award-winning film review programme on Five Live with Simon Mayo. If you have not heard a ‘Mark rant’ on something like the Sex and the City film, you really are missing a treat. It actually brought someone out of a coma, it was so compelling. His books are less ranty, but clever and articulate discursives on what is wrong with film, cinemas, the studio system, etc, etc.
Notes from a Small Island/ Big Country, Bill Bryson
Two books written by a man who manages to fit in everywhere, simply by accepting he is a bit of a numpty and will never fully understand the local culture. As a result, he keeps his wonder and enthusiasm for the minutiae of the everyday, whether he is in Yorkshire or New Hampshire.
It’s not inconceivable that there will be more soon…