Summer is finally here and many of us will soon be on our holidays, whether that is somewhere exotic or to enjoy warm, sunny days at home. If you have spare time to look forward to then what would be better than spending this time accompanied by a good book. Our volunteers and staff at Beanstalk and Story Starters have collected a list of recommendations for good summer reads. Hope you’ll find some of these suggestions inspirational!

Jacqui – Story Starters team

I would recommend Summer at the Lake by Erica James. It is a very enjoyable read set partly in Oxford, and Lake Como, Italy. The story follows the life of three strangers as they meet by chance when one of them is involved in an accident. A close friendship develops and Floriana, Adam, and Esme, share stories of past loves and friendships, which takes them from Oxford to Lake Como. A delightful read, the story has excellent descriptions of beautiful Lake Como scenery, which brought back lovely memories of places I visited there whilst on holiday. The characters were engaging, and it was enjoyable to read how the friendship developed between the three main characters as the story progressed.

Sarah - Marketing team

A friend of mine recently visited China and told me all about the rural landscape, halfway through she stopped, said she couldn’t even begin to describe the scenery and handed me Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie, and told me if I read it I would understand. The plot follows two boys who are deemed as needing to be ‘re-educated’ under Chairman Mao’s rule as leader of Communist Party of China. They stumble across Western literature and a young seamstress who has always lived a humble, rural life. The three begin to delve into Balzac and other great writers and become addicted to the style of writing and subjects, risking huge consequences to get hold of another book. Set in a devastating period of time in China, the book manages to be very light with a Huckleberry-esque feel. It is also quite short, a bit too short for me, I wanted it to go on and on and on! 

Pauline - Story Starter volunteer

The book that I am reading at the moment is called Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author - I read on a Kindle and find that I am exposed to an enormous amount of new authors that I would not necessarily buy from a bookshelf. This book has me gripped from the first chapter - an Accident and Emergency doctor (Alex) wakes up strapped to an operating table with an unidentifiable male dressed in surgical scrubs leaning over her. She is later found outside the hospital in the car park, believed to be the victim of a bump on the head. No one believes her story of being abducted and then other people start to die; a nurse from the same hospital, a lady of the night is found almost dead in her parking space at home and subsequently dies. Is Alex losing her grip on reality? The vodka and diazepam are not helping her to keep a clear head - did she imagine this happened? Or is there something connected with a past trauma that is waiting to resurface? This book is written with a good pace and I am excited to get to the truth in this story.

Emma – Marketing team

My choice for a good read this summer would be The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (the Scandinavian creator of The Moomins).

It’s the perfect book to read in the shade on a sunny summer’s day. Set (as the book title suggests) during a summer stay on a small island in the Gulf of Finland, it follows the adventures of a grandmother and her grand-daughter as they navigate through the challenges of both nature and their own moods and feelings.
It was first published in 1972, but is a timeless tale that I recommend to all my friends who are looking for a bit of escapism and slow-living in their holiday reading.

Karen – Fundraising team

I would recommend Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan.
Opening this book is like going to a reunion, not everyone’s cup of tea I know, but bear with me. The host is warm, witty and wise and she has invited only the people you loved most as a child. You haven’t seen or even thought about many of them for a long time, but it’s wonderful to see them and not at all awkward. 

Lucy Mangan writes beautifully about the experience of growing up with books, how they affected and influenced her, and why the books she read as a child still mean so much to her today. It’s neither sentimental nor nostalgic but an evocative, honest and often very funny account of the all-consuming joy of discovering and devouring book after book after book. 

Bookworm is not just a memoir, Mangan also writes about the history of children’s books, their authors and illustrators, and about their role as works of social commentary. She reviews both classics and the less well-known, all the time reminding us that ‘you simply never know what a child is going to find in a book (or a graphic novel, or a comic, or whatever) – what tiny throwaway line might be the spark that lights the fuse that sets off an explosion in understanding whose force echoes down the years.’

So, if you yearn to meet up with Milly Molly Mandy (she hasn’t changed a bit), need reminding of What Katy Did Next, or are desperate to know how Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy have aged (not well!), then this is the book for you. 

Want to know more about volunteering as a Story Starter? Read more here!