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What Writers Read On Holiday

What Writers Read On Holiday

Looking for a great book to read this summer? We asked authors, editors and writers to share their favourite beach reads.


Diana Reid, author of Seeing Other People

My favourite beach read…
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I know, I know, a 500-page tome about a group of students studying Ancient Greek sounds like the last thing you'd want to lug to the beach. But I wrote my latest novel, Seeing Other People, about summer and for summer, so I've spent a lot of time thinking about what makes the ultimate beach read. I've decided that above all else, a great summer read needs to be gripping — it needs to cut through all those seaside distractions of sun and sand and salt. From murder and drugs to nerdy historical references, Tartt's The Secret History is a true literary thriller: as tightly plotted as it is beautifully written. I promise you, you won't want to put it down — not even to go for a dip!

Victoria Hannan, author of Marshmallow

My favourite beach read…
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One of the most accurate and nuanced depictions of siblinghood I’ve ever read, Ann Patchett’s seventh novel is about two family trees that intertwine in the 1960s and the lives that are forever changed as a result. It’s captivating, surprising, heart breaking and I re-read this book every year. This meaty literary page turner is perfect for the beach.

“A great summer read needs to be gripping — it needs to cut through all those seaside distractions of sun and sand and salt.”

Ingrid Kesa, beauty writer and editor

My favourite beach read…
Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes
In my opinion, the best beach reads are those that are lighthearted and palatable, that you can come back to in between swims and applying SPF. Pretty Iconic is just that; a collection of short personal essays about the beauty products that left an impact on Guardian journalist Sali Hughes’ life. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this, the writing is evocative and emotive, and Sali generously shares her coming-of-age anecdotes and skincare knowledge in equal measure. 

Amy Thunig, author of Tell Me Again: A Memoir

My favourite beach read…
Dark As Last Night by Tony Birch
When I’m relaxing at the beach I want to be able to dip in and out of a book, and that’s why I recommend the master of short storying Tony Birch. This collection is beautifully crafted, with each story being the kind that can be enjoyed on its own, or read one after another if you are in the mood. Perfect for slow summer days. 

“I've found sand in between the pages since then, like magic dust.”

Oliver Mol, author of Train Lord

My favourite beach read…
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
Never before has such a delicate, unsentimental and wonderful love letter to the world been written. I will not tell you the plot because largely there isn’t one, but trust me: this magical book will leave you changed.

Shana Chandra, writer, and arts and culture editor of Jane magazine

My favourite beach read…
The Dark is Light Enough: Ralph Hotere: A Biographical Portrait by Vincent O’Sullivan
For a beach read, I always love a meaty biography. It feels like I've spent the summer with my chosen artist or writer, and can mark each by the time spent with them. Last summer was Ralph Hotere. I began reading Vincent O’Sullivan's biographical portrait when I was back in Aotearoa for the winter to visit, reading it at the windswept beach near my home. Being amidst our country’s landscape added so much to my reading — it made me homesick even though I was right there. I came back to France and continued to read it over the summer months, and ended up following Hotere's footsteps, travelling to St Paul de Vence where he was once an artist in residence, visiting the Matisse chapel where he would sit and ponder. I've found sand in between the pages since then, like magic dust from home.