We asked some of our reviewers what books they’ll be packing for their holidays. As Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories made the most telling impression in last summer’s recommendations (and Christmas come to that) it was unceremoniously barred – even though three people selected it. Rupert Brooke might as well have written: “Stands the clock at ten to three? And is there still honey for tea? And are social workers still reading Alan bloody Bennett?” So, this Bennett-free summer sees Marina Lewycka making hay with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and Iceland’s Arnaldur Indridason warming the on-board luggage with two titles.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (Penguin) is the story of two estranged sisters who are carers for their elderly father. They overcome their differences to try to stop their father marrying a voluptuous Ukrainian immigrant half his age. It’s a funny and moving account of the family as they heal wounds and discover family secrets.
I felt the need to get in touch with my undiscovered practical side so I’ve packed A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka in the hope that it will equip me with skills to sort out my mountain bike!
Service team leader, Camhs, Nottingham
I am returning to the classics because I didn’t really appreciate them when I read them at school. I have recently read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and didn’t want it to end; so Tolstoy’s War and Peace will be in my case, along with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. That will be it for me, or my case could be overweight! But I won’t be in fear of finishing the books before the end of my holiday.
Deputy director, Catholic Children’s Society
I’ll be reading Istanbul: Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk. Turkey’s greatest living novelist guides us through Istanbul past and present. He interweaves stories from the city’s history with autobiographical details and captures the life of this wonderful city critically but at the same time with great love.
Learning and development manager, Norfolk
The Booker shortlisted Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber & Faber) is set in the parallel world of clones created to service normal people and is presented as if theirs is the normal world and the rest of us the aberration. He can create atmosphere and engagement which is engrossing and make powerful points in a gentle manner coherent with his story.
Chief executive, Cafcass
Everyman (Jonathan Cape) has Philip Roth at the height of his powers, looking back over life from the vantage point of the brink of death. Beautifully expressed contemporary angst, with a roll call of downbeat cameo characters. A hardback no heavier than a paperback to carry round.
Community worker, Southwark, south London
I’ll be re-reading Beyond Reason: Art and Psychosis: Work from the Prinzhorn Collection (Cornerhouse Publications) as I launch my exhibition and prepare a seminar on “Understanding mental health issues through the arts” as part of the World Mental Health Day (10 October) celebrations at the Institute of Psychiatry in Camberwell, south London.
Senior lecturer, University of Northampton
A book I have been meaning to read for some time is Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew by Brian Hare (Sceptre), which is described as “a shocking story of hell-bound children and one unlikely saviour”. Having had a diet of academic texts that largely sanitised the social work task, I am hoping for a dose of realism that will make me think.
Specialist health visitor, Leeds
I intend to read Attention All Shipping. A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast by Charlie Connelly (Little, Brown) over the warm summer days this year in my garden, as in reality I am going nowhere. These place names I have known for ever, but now I want to find out where they really are!
Professional development co-ordinator, Halton Council
As much David Gemmell as possible. Loads of swords and sorcery; most probably the Drenai trilogy (Saga Adventure) yet again: possibly an allegory of contemporary social work – blood and guts on the front line, with a lot of activity behind the scenes.
Self-employment changes the relationship between work and the rest of one’s life; as an employee I would avoid reading anything work-related on holiday. However, I have been trying to find uninterrupted time for several weeks to do justice to Clough, Bullock and Ward’s What Works in Residential Child Care (NCB), so when my outdoor activities in the Scottish Highlands are threatened by rain and midges I shall enjoy the opportunity read it. Besides, I am not really one for stories.
As a tennis fan, it has to be Sharapova’s 1000 Best Grunts; and then there’s always 101 Uses for a Dead Office of the Deputy Prime Minister by JP Rescott
Accommodation social worker, Bournemouth
My summer read is Eric Sykes’s autobiography If I Don’t Write it, Nobody Else Will (Fourth Estate). It is beautifully written by a lovely and gentle man who, despite a desperate start in life (his mother died in childbirth), carried on with an irrepressible spirit. What is so good about the book is that there are parts of his life that he does not remember and, rather than embellish the bits he does, he just admits his failings and moves on in an honest and human way.
Planning and development manager, Bristol
Ian Rankin apparently advises that, before visiting a new city, you should read some of its crime fiction. So I’m packing Iceland’s award-winning thriller Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason (Harvill Press) for in-flight entertainment on my city break to Reykjavik.
Health and social care consultant
I plan to read Alexander McCall’s Friends, Lovers, Chocolate (Little, Brown) because the title is appealing: well, I am very partial to chocolates and imagine that this will be a light and pleasant holiday read. I have read all the First Ladies’ Detective Agency books with much enjoyment, so I am hoping that this will equally delight.
Senior Lecturer in Gerontology, University of Sheffield
As well as A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka, I will be reading Tainted Blood by Arnaldur Indridason, an Icelandic whodunnit concerning domestic violence. Pure escapism, but with a dark side reminding me of real life issues.
Specialist social worker for looked-after children, Derbyshire
This summer I will mostly be reading short stories – Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales (Virago) and Mango Shake edited by Debjani Chatterjee (Tindal Street Press). Both promise “charm and sparkle” and will help me to celebrate and relax after qualifying as a systemic psychotherapist!
Professor of social work, London South Bank University
Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang (Vintage) claims to provide a fresh look at one of the most significant and influential political leaders of the 20th century. It has received a mixed welcome. I want to see what the fuss is about.
Research and information manager, Include charity
Piers Anthony’s Isle of Woman (Tor Books), is part one of his Geodyssey series. He describes each book as a slice of cake and they are many layered, usually thought-provoking, sometimes a bit daft, but always entertaining. The reader is taken from neolithic times through human history and into a rather bleak future.
Head of external communications, South Essex NHS Trust
The Cloud Spotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinnery (Sceptre) is a reminder that we all have a spiritual dimension and can find it right above us; where physics meets good feelings!
Consultant and trainer
I have started Donna Tartt’s thick and heavy second book The Little Friend by (Bloomsbury). I read her first – Secret History (Penguin) – about a year ago and it lived up to expectations, with its fascinating tale of a group of friends with a shared secret going back some years.