Books

The Big Issue's Big Summer Reads as chosen by our celebrity friends

Our cultural figureheads and celebrity friends name their top picks for summertime reading

David Baddiel – Writer, Comedian, Football fan

I’m thinking about at some point writing a crime novel. So I felt I should read one. However, most crime novels I look at seem to involve a detective in a 27-book sequence. That’s too much of a commitment for me at my time of life. Plus I like a bit of a literary overlay to my wrongdoings. Thus I’m going to be reading A Station On The Path To Somewhere Better, by Benjamin Wood, which – I’ve only just started it so not entirely sure – appears, in its disturbing opening sequence, to portend a crime of some sort at its heart. But also seems to be about family and relationships and sadness and secrets and all the things I like to read about in all novels, basically. In fact if it turns out there isn’t a crime involved, I won’t be that bothered.

David Baddiel’s Head Kid will be published by HarperCollins Children’s on September 6

Ali Smith  – Award-winning writer

It’s not exactly summery but then we’re not exactly living in halcyon days, which is why my summer read recommendation this year is Sarah Churchwell’s history of the two phrases ‘America First’ and ‘The American Dream’ in her excoriating, brilliant new book Behold, America. It lets us know where we are, and where America is right now, and exactly what kind of fascism is being sold to people all over again right now, and it does it with a combination of intelligence, grace, articulacy and clarity that gives off pure relief.

AliSmith-BeholdAmerica

Ali Smith’s Man Booker-nominated Autumn is out now (Penguin, £8.99)

Big Narstie – Grime star and TV presenter

I’m reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Never let your enemy know what you’re thinking. Read that on the beach. One hundred percent.

Ben Myers – Novelist and nature writer

Living in a damp corner of Yorkshire I tend to read any books that are considered to have summery themes in the depths of winter as it is then that I need the literary vitamin boost the most. So the book I recommend for this green season is Grace by Paul Lynch, a dark wintered journey into the heart of a nation by Ireland’s best emerging writer. It’s an epic and highly poetic story set during a particularly pivotal time in Irish history, with an unforgettable female protagonist. This is writing on a par with modern storytelling greats such as Patrick Kavanagh, John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, and future greatness surely beckons for Lynch.

Benjamin Myers’ The Gallows Pole won the Walter Scott Prize 2018. His latest book, Under The Rock is out now (Elliott & Thompson, £14.99)

Nicola Sturgeon – First Minister of Scotland

As anyone who follows me on social media will know, I enjoy a wide range of books so it can be difficult to select just one favourite from my recent reads! One that I’ve particularly enjoyed recently is The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. This is a really good novel about power, ambition and contemporary feminism. My other recommendation would be Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – a historical novel set in Korea and Japan. This is an engrossing and captivating book with a wonderfully told story that’s beautifully written.

Nicola-Sturgeon_The-Female-Persuasion

Henry Blofeld – Test Match Special legend

The the greatest cricket book ever written was Beyond a Boundary by CLR James, a Marxist Trinidadian. At the end of it you understand cricket in a way you never understood it before, and how it affected a really poor race of people in Trinidad. I also go back to Kim by Kipling, which I think is enormously worth reading and re-reading. So much of it relates to India today. I read it every few years. I drove from London to Bombay and we spent a long time driving through India. Kim walked, but it was the same. What he saw was exactly the same, except the internal combustion engine didn’t exist. It is an extraordinarily vivid description, painting the picture, which is very important. It is simply brilliant.

Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey – Writer, Columnist, Polemicist 

Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies is the ultimate deep-dive into identity politics, the alt-right and everyone else caught in the crossfire. The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt, asks us to consider the possibility that the biggest variable in hostile public discourse may be our psycho-social limitations as a species. Humans survived by forming tribes, often regimented by irrational beliefs and motivated reasoning. Haidt argues that today we behave in much the same way, though our impulses find expression in contemporary politics.

Darren-Loki_Kill-All-Normies

Darren McGarvey’s Poverty Safari, winner of the Orwell Prize, is out now (Luath Press, £7.99)

Ann Cleeves – Queen crime writer

My choice of holiday read is Emma Flint’s Little Deaths. Even if the weather changes and you’re camping in the rain, this book will remind you of hot summer days. It takes place in Queen’s, New York, in the 1960s in the middle of a heatwave. Ruth Malone is a single mother, a waitress in a cocktail bar, considered feckless by her neighbours because she drinks and has lovers. When her two young children go missing from their apartment the police think she must be responsible. A wonderful novel that makes us question our own assumptions and prejudices.

Ann Cleeves’ final Shetland novel, Wild Fire, is out in September

Anton Du Beke – Twinkle-toed Strictly star

I’m sure I’m not going to be the only person to say this one, but I loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It was a massive hit. I went to the Nibbies [aka The British Book Awards], an industry awards dinner – and I met Gail the author, and she is an absolute beauty. The thing I like about it is that it is a happy book. It is a great story – that’s all you need.

Julia Bradbury – TV presenter, A-list walker

If you haven’t noticed it yet on a bestseller list pick up Matt Haig’s Notes On A Nervous Planet. He’s a fiendishly on-the-money writer who understands and translates modern life. Reasons to Stay Alive, his last international non-fiction bestseller, was a candid and honest memoir about Haig’s anxiety and depression; this is more about ‘how to survive life’ but it’s not preachy and I wouldn’t describe it as a self-help book, although it certainly will. (How To Stop Time was my favourite novel in years and I’m deeply envious of Matt Haig’s ability to switch between children’s fiction, adult fiction and real life with such deftness). The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicolson has been shortlisted for the Wainwright Beer Book Prize which focuses on nature writing; this outstanding book shows you the world through the eyes and lives of gannets, gulls, puffins and fulmars (and more). This all might sound too niche, but these captivating stories and lives, alongside insightful research, are magnetic and you’ll wail aloud as you learn about the plummeting numbers of birds whose populations are crashing, and the wider implications of this tragedy.

Julia-Bradbury_The-Seabirds-Cry

Alexa Davies – Mamma Mia star

I read How To Stop Time by Matt Haig while I was filming Mamma Mia, and it is just beautiful. He is a fantastic writer, a very interesting man, and the book is just gorgeous – about a guy who is ageing but very, very slowly. He is not immortal but is going to live longer than everyone else. So, for example, how do you fall in love when that is the case? I’m also reading Anthony Hopkins’ autobiography and a lot of stuff about space. Richard Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality, which I read a few months ago is an amazing way of looking at the world and having a new perspective on life. I’ve always loved the idea of space and the universe being absolutely massive. The Magic of Reality is him taking the myths and legends we have and saying, they’re great but actually, real life is even greater. The actual magic behind a rainbow is even more fascinating than a story about a leprechaun!

Alexa-Davies_How-to-Stop-Time

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is in cinemas now

The Secret Barrister

Guilty Until Proven Innocent by Jon Robins is a no-holds-barred insight into the serious and often overlooked miscarriages of justice that stalk our broken criminal justice system. Journalist and campaigner Robins shines a light on the problems within criminal justice, and incisively exposes how easily and cheaply our founding principles of justice are cast aside. On A Scale of 1 to 10, Ceylan Scott, is a debut short novel and a raw and beautifully written examination of youth, mental health and friendship. Set in a psychiatric hospital, it follows a young woman, Tamar, as she struggles with the guilt of the death of her best friend. Gripping and incredibly powerful.

SecretBarrister_On-A-Scale-of-1-to-10

Daniel Mays – Actor

I have got a huge pile of books, mainly autobiographies, next to my bed. All of them waiting to be read. I’ve got Stephen Fry’s and Alex Ferguson’s – I really want to read the Alex Ferguson one. I admire him so much.

He had that haemorrhage and has made a recovery, hasn’t he? I am so fascinated by him. I am a huge football fan anyway, and it also comes from playing a football manager in Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion at the National. But I don’t read that many books any more because I’ve got kids and scripts. That is my life, kids and scripts.

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