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My American Holiday TBR 2013

DSCN7776My Top Summer Reads 2013 has attracted a lot of interest and it’s great to be getting positive feedback from readers who’ve discovered titles they loved amongst my selection.  Of course I’ve already read them, so when it comes to my summer trip I relish choosing what else to read.  I find the books I read on my travels are more likely to remain in my mind and to have enjoyable associations – if I pick the right ones!  As I’m spending most of August in the USA, this year it’s an American Holiday TBR in which I am unashamedly indulging my passion for American fiction*.

If you know me in real life or are a regular visitor to the Literary Sofa, you’ll know of my fascination with the United States. I am continually touched by the openness and friendliness I’ve encountered there, especially since writing my novel, partly set in Brooklyn.  It’s as much the people as the place which make New York the first stop on our family trip (hopefully minus hurricane this time!) before we head over to the west coast.  Writing this blog has led to me concentrating on new releases, so whenever I take time off I make sure to fit in some titles I’ve missed along the way.

These are the books I’ve chosen and why.  How do you choose your holiday reading?

My-Education-3D-Image-200x273My Education by Susan Choi (Short Books, 2013)

This novel about an illicit love affair between literary types leapt out at me: I like campus novels, stories where the past and present are interwoven and, as you’ll know if you read Sex Scenes in Fiction, I have nothing against a well-written erotic element, which this is said to have.  Oh, and the protagonist lives in Brooklyn.  Sounds promising.

Light YearsLight Years by James Salter (Picador, 1995)

James Salter may have been around forever but he’s a recent discovery for me.  His latest novel All That Is certainly made an impression, above all for the beauty of the writing.  I wouldn’t have thought anyone could join Richard Ford in my league of literary heroes on the back of one book (they greatly admire each other’s work).  However, almost everyone I’ve discussed Salter with has told me to read this earlier novel, Light Years – I’m really looking forward to it.

& Sons& Sons by David Gilbert (2013 –  Random House USA)

Suddenly a band of friends on Twitter whose literary taste I regard as impeccable are getting very excited about this one.  It’s only available as an import in the UK, so I’ll be making a beeline for the nearest bookstore when my plane lands.  Set in New York + intergenerational family saga + one of the characters is an author = definitely my kind of novel.

Hope - A TragedyHope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander (Picador, 2012)

I’m usually sceptical about books billed as funny, in an I’ll be the judge of that kind of way.  But I am genuinely intrigued by this satirical novel which, by all accounts, pulls off something audacious:  Anne Frank survived and is now an elderly woman hiding in an attic trying to write a follow-up to her Diary.  For some unaccountable reason, I’m fascinated by Jewish life and the American fiction I like often has a Jewish angle.  This sounds hilarious – I only hope it is.

Silent WifeThe Silent Wife – A S A Harrison (Headline, 2013)

* Ann Harrison was Canadian, but her debut novel is set in Chicago, hence its inclusion here.  It’s very sad that the author died of cancer before seeing the book published, but it seems destined to do well.  A story of the fallout from a marriage breakdown, it has a similar premise to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and is rarely mentioned without some comparison between the two.  There’s even a jacket quote from Sophie Hannah on the UK edition saying it’s ‘better than…’, and for all that I enjoyed GG up to a point, I think that’s a distinct possibility.

Goon SquadA Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan (Corsair, 2010)

Since I read a lot, I try not to make myself unpopular by saying I can’t believe you haven’t read that! to other people.  Nobody out there has read everything.  But plenty of friends have said that to me of this book. I’ve been meaning to read it since it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, not least because it’s partly inspired by The Sopranos.  It also has a San Francisco strand, which is good, because I’ve had surprisingly little luck tracking down contemporary fiction set on the west coast which I haven’t already read.  Suggestions welcome!

JackJack by A M Homes (Granta, 1990)

I really like A M Homes’ writing.  She seems a very interesting person and is one of the authors I’d most like to meet.  I really admire and relate to her saying I write the things we don’t want to say out loud.  It was hard to choose one of her earlier novels, but Jack, in which a teenager must come to terms with his dad’s revelation that he’s gay, touches on several engaging themes.  It’s been compared to Catcher in the Rye and unless I had faith in the author I wouldn’t risk it.   If I race through this, I’ll also read Music for Torching.

Read any of these?  I’d love to hear what you’re planning to read on your summer travels, or indeed at home.  Happy reading!


It’s been too long since I took a proper break from the blog, so the next post will be at the end of August when Wendy Wallace will the first guest author to return to the Literary Sofa to talk about her second historical novel The Sacred River, set in Egypt (published 6 August).

About Isabel Costello

Writer (novels: Paris Mon Amour 2017; Scent 2021).Host of the Literary Sofa blog. Co-founder of Resilience for Writers with Voula Tsoflias. Perfume lover and Francophile.


3 thoughts on “My American Holiday TBR 2013

  1. Hi Isabel,
    The one book that I’ve also been meaning to read for ages too is A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan so this has prompted me to add it to the TBR pile. Also, although I still wasn’t convinced that I’d want to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn following your review, I’ve since had it recommended by two friends so it looks like I’ll give it a go now too.
    I try not to take anything too heavy away with me for holiday reading in case I spoil the mood but I have been known to shed a tear by the poolside.
    Have a fantastic holiday and a well deserved break! 🙂

    Posted by Helen MacKinven (@HelenMacKinven) | July 29, 2013, 13:26
  2. What a good idea. I’m going to be in America for most of August too, unfortunately for work instead of pleasure, but an American reading list might make it less painful!

    Have a lovely time!

    Posted by Cariad Martin (@cariadmartin) | July 30, 2013, 09:38


  1. Pingback: The City and the Road – August in America | Isabel Costello - August 30, 2013

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