Recommended Summer Reading: A Booklist from Jonathan Barnes

InterviewsSummer is here at last! Words, Pauses, Noises suggests that the best way to spend a lazy summer afternoon is with a good book. One of our students, Jasmine, asked Kingston University’s writer-in-residence Jonathan Barnes for his recommendations on books to read this summer. He gave us a great list of some of his favourites as well as those he’ll be reading over the holidays. So, pull out those deck chairs, grab a cool drink, and get outside for some sunshine with a good book!

Jonathan Barnes’ Summer Reading Recommendations

I have been reading a lot for review lately so it will be an enjoyable break over the summer to experience some fiction purely for pleasure. However, books that I’ve read and written about lately which I would also recommend include Julian “no relation” Barnes’ memoir Levels of Life – heart-breaking in its candour; unflinching in its depiction of an almost unbearable grief – and Patrick McGrath’s deft, stylish Constance. McGrath is one of our most underrated novelists – I’ve been a fan ever since the early works: his short story collection, Blood and Water, his first novel, The Grotesque – and his latest, about a brittle, troubled young woman in 1960s Manhattan, is as elegant and subtly potent as I’d expected. I’ve also written a short piece on the new edition of J B Priestley’s 1927 classic, Benighted (filmed twice as The Old Dark House) which remains, almost a century after it was written, chillingly effective. His description of some primal evil which might lie behind even the most tawdry of domestic horrors is unforgettable: “his mind… found an opposing presence, an enemy… a density of evil, something gigantic, ancient but enduring… it was working everywhere, in the mirk of rain outside, here in the rotting corners, and without end, in the black between the stars”.

When going away for the summer, my suitcase often strains towards the upper limit of the baggage allowance due to the volume of books that I’ve crammed into it. This year, I’ll be bringing (for review) the late Iain Banks’ last novel, The Quarry. For research purposes I’ll have with me Arthur Conan Doyle’s Tales of Unease and that strange, ghost-written nineteenth-century text Awful Disclosures, composed, supposedly, by the wronged nun “Maria Monk”. For sheer fun I’ll be taking two books that I’ve never read but which have been on my list for a while: Julian Maclaren-Ross’ novel Of Love and Hunger and F Scott Fitzgerald’s Collected Short Stories. I’ll also have with me – and for this, I make no apology whatever – Stephen King’s splendid-looking new novella, Joyland.

Next Sunday, join Words, Pauses, Noises for more original content to help make summer a little bit sunnier.

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2 thoughts on “Recommended Summer Reading: A Booklist from Jonathan Barnes

  1. As writing students we are interested in what books our tutors are reading/ would recommend to us. But as writers we struggle to unravel the infinite reading lists we would suggest for our friends and fellow writers. The best way to sort your favorite works would be by genre (obvious), or better yet, how about thinking of books suitable for holiday travels (think size, ‘tone’, maybe books set in the destination you are heading to). It’s a challenging way to think of your collection, also a motivator to dip into genre’s you might not be familiar with. Read wide, read well, creatives!

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