Summer reads, make me feel fine

Carolyn Taylor-Score, manager, adoption and permanence team, Wigan Council

I am using The Cold War (Heinemann) written in 1974 by Hugh Higgins as research for a film screenplay and novel I am working on. It’s an exposé of how the Cold War was perceived to have started and gives the differing interpretations of those involved. There’s lots of intrigue and subterfuge and it unravels the many smokescreens that politicians created to confuse and at times betray its people.

Leo Roberts, youth and children’s work training and development officer

The fourth in a series of comic crime novels, First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde (Hodder and Stoughton) cleverly mixes crime with classical literature. Think Agatha Christie meets Terry Pratchett. Probably no good if you haven’t read the first three!

Wendy Dare, social worker, leaving care team, NCH

Sorry folks but, due to the hard job us social workers do, I don’t want anything that will make my brain work overtime. So it’s anything by Catherine Cookson and definitely not A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer (Orion).

Trevor Carter, assessor and trainer, Little Islands Communities

Some deride it as irrelevant and boring, but history provides a context and meaning for our lives. It helps us to understand where we have come from and, by doing so, provokes aspirations of where we want to be. Therefore, I recommend the sparkling insights of Simon Schama’s three-volume A History of Britain (BBC books) and, for a world view, Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World – History’s Age of Hatred (Penguin).

Duncan Fairweather, emergency duty team manager, Kirklees

The Damned United by David Peace (Faber & Faber). It’s 1974 and for 44 days Brian Clough was manager of the team he hated, Leeds United. A thriller, an insight, a good read even for those of us who loathe football! Also try The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks (Little, Brown), which centres on a board game, a family in conflict with secrets and lies, and a takeover by an American corporation. Narrated by Tango, a forester and drinker from Perthshire, it has enough psychodynamics to interest social care workers.

Elspeth Loades, planning manager in the South West

I discovered Kate Atkinson a few years ago when I read her second novel Emotionally Weird (Black Swan), a title which accurately describes the book’s content and style. So I was delighted to find a new one, One Good Turn (Black Swan). I snuck a look at the first page and read: “The closest he had previously got to the Edinburgh Festival was accidentally turning on Late Night Review and seeing a bunch of middle-class wankers discussing some pretentious piece of fringe theatre.” A good start, I thought.

Chris Durkin, senior social work lecturer, Northampton University

I want something that will take me to far-off lands and provide me with light relief. So I have chosen Bill Bryson’s autobiography, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Black Swan), about his childhood in 1950s middle America. I hope it will have the light touch of a good story combined with periodic insights into a difficult time when McCarthyism was producing a climate of fear. Sadly, it sounds familiar.

Ian Crosby, independent social worker

I should be taking my usual two months in France but, due to circumstances beyond my control (namely work), I’m not. So, I’m reading Joanne Harris’s The Lollipop Shoes (Doubleday), which transports me around the streets of Paris in the company of witches instead.

Anthony Douglas, chief executive, Cafcass

As one staying in the London and Suffolk monsoons for the summer, I recommend flicking through Trailfinders’ autumn brochure for dreams of sensational beaches, sights, food and wall-to-wall sun. Sad, eh?

Giles Bashford, senior practitioner, Solihull Council

Set in Barcelona, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron and Lucia Graves (Phoenix) is a beautifully crafted tale involving a mystery, love and murder set over five decades. The author weaves a magical narrative incorporating some brilliant characters I won’t easily forget.

James Churchill, chief executive, ARC

There is no contest. It has to be the final Harry Potter (Bloomsbury). Having got this far, I need closure and (I hope) some feelgood factor when good triumphs over evil. Voldemort must lose! Oh yes, and I could use one of those magic spells to work on the weather to make sure my holiday is not a washout.

Helen Burrows, staff development officer, Leicestershire Council

This year I’ll be packing Natural Druidry by Kris Hughes (Thoth Publications). I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but he writes in such a personal and accessible style about his spiritual path that I think others will enjoy it, whatever their understanding of the subject matter.

Steve Rogowski, social worker in the North West

I am not on holiday until a round-the-world trip early next year. However, this summer I will continue to read The Vertigo of Late Modernity by Jock Young (Sage). The author may be an “old” Marxist criminologist from the 1970s, but his latest tome should be read by all who are interested in the uncertainties and complexities of the modern world, not least social workers. Issues such as inequality, terrorism, immigration and social exclusion are considered, together with a transformative politics aimed at tackling problems of economic injustice and division. A real gem.

Jonathan White, assistant policy officer, Denbeighshire

I would recommend Fall Out – A Memoir of Friends Made and Friends Unmade by Janet Street Porter (Headline Review). I bought it to read on a train journey from London back to Wales and thoroughly enjoyed every page. The book offers a perfect blend of intelligence and humour and provides an insight into the world of journalism. I’m now waiting for her book Baggage: My Childhood (Headline Review) to be delivered.

Lynne Fordyce, specialist health visitor, Leeds

For 20p at a fete, I picked up The Collins Book of Best Loved Verse. Joy. Trips to childhood, verses never read – and you can always recycle it next year. But if you’re stuck for a novel and are trying to avoid Harry Potter, give Imperium (Arrow) by Robert Harris a whirl. This wonderfully well-researched thriller is a biography of Marcus Cicero, the great Roman orator and statesman. If you wouldn’t have thought a biography of a lawyer and politician could be a thriller, just consider some modern parallels.

Heather Pritchard, independent social work consultant and trainer

I have seven choices of holiday reading as my cousin, astonished by the fact that I had never read any Stephen King, gave me seven of his books for Christmas with a threat that I would be examined on the contents this December. Carefree holidays, anyone?

Dawn Beatrice Judd, senior social work lecturer, University of Central Lancashire

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (Headline Review) is a beautifully written and engrossing read about families, deception and mental health care. The book provides insight into the lives of older women labelled as “mentally ill” in the 1930s. It explores the impact of institutionalisation on identity, and shows with terrifying clarity how easy it was to incarcerate and exploit women who were deemed to be different 70 years ago. Highly recommended.

Chris Hadley, service manager, Derby City Care Line

When Calvin Simms’ wife of two weeks tells him she’s leaving him and taking half his huge assets, he offers her a deal. He is a judge (the Simon Cowell equivalent, only nastier) of Ben Elton’s Chart Throb (Black Swan), a reality TV talent show. He tells her to pick a ringer for the show. If they win, he keeps everything if they lose, she gets it all. With everything at stake, the pressure is on for Calvin to make sure this act makes the grade. Can he do it? An ideal book for dipping in and out of, particularly if you want a light read.

Val Brooks, service lead, CAMHS, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

A book of short stories, Cheating at Canasta (Viking), by my favourite writer, William Trevor. All his books deal with the emotions and turmoil we face in daily life with crystal clear observations of how we manage loss and adversity. I will have to read it quickly because my daughter will be waiting in line.

Maureen Floyd, team manager, Sutton Council

I’m planning to read The Other Mrs Jordan. A True Story of Bigamy and Betrayal (Mainstream). I heard a radio interview with the author Mary Turner Thomson (Mrs Jordan) in which she talked about being duped into believing her ­supposedly infertile husband (they met online) was a CIA agent. Two children and five years later, the myths and lies exploded with a phone call from the other Mrs Jordan, who’d been married for 14 years and had five children. Their mutual husband was a bigamist, liar, paedophile and more that I’m yet to discover.

Keith Popple, professor of social work, London South Bank University

Nick Cohen’s Pretty Straight Guys (Faber and Faber) about the rise of New Labour was outstanding. I’m interested to read his new book, What’s Left? How Liberals Lost their Way (Fourth Estate), which examines the issues and contradictions facing the Left in the early 21st century. Cohen is both angry and a satirist – an interesting combination.

Gerda Loosemore-Reppen, health and social care consultant

I will be reading Anne Tyler’s Digging to America (Vintage), a novel that looks at two American families – one of Iranian origin – and their adjustment to adopting babies from Korea. It depicts American suburban, middle-class life styles and cultural dissonance with a keen eye for detail and family dynamics. Now I have started this novel I cannot wait to finish it!

➔ For more reviews of books to take on holiday this summer, go to

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