Summer Book Column – 17 Degrees Magazine

Summer is here at long last!  Hope that you enjoy the diverse range of books that are being released to enjoy in the sunshine.  Whatever your tastes, there’s something here to enjoy. Keep an eye on my Twitter account @OnTheShelfBooks for more summer reads to enjoy on a lounger! 


How to Live Your Best Life at Home at Work and with Others’ – Pamela Scott

Pamela Scott was the most senior woman worldwide in Global Supply within Diageo. In 2020 she left Diageo to start her own business, Pax and Iris. She also spent time creating a book to support others to fulfil their own potential– ‘How to live your best life at home, at work and with others’ It’s for people who want to make the most out of every minute and reach their dreams. If you think that this summer might be the time to start thinking about your future and working on yourself then this is the book for you. Pamela’s book is a powerful way of reflecting on your life and giving yourself the space and the framework to move forward and realise your ambitions. The inspiration for this book was to capture …‘the stuff we would have wanted to know earlier in life to pursue our dreams and ambitions’ All profits from the book are going to charity CHAS and Big Hearts.

The Mash House – Alan Gillespie

The Mash House is the debut novel for English Teacher Alan Gillespie who hails from Fife and it’s one of the most enjoyable slices of tartan noir that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Alan whisks the reader off to Cullrothes and we get the chance to navigate the dark heart of this remote community. It’s a twisty tale indeed, full of characters that aren’t quite what they seem and simmering secrets and grudges as dark and lingering as the finish on the local whisky. You will absolutely love this trip to the Highlands and it’s the perfect read if you’re off on an epic NC500 journey. I was totally caught up in this story and as a fellow teacher, I  love the way that the teacher is the slipperiest character in the entire book! 

One August Night – Victoria Hislop

25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences. Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island – the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island… and beyond. I can’t be the only one who’s dreaming of a trip to a Greek island and hearing  the sea lapping against the shore as I relax with a book. This is the perfect book to transport you there and you will not be able to put this gripping and emotional read down once you start. 

If You Were There: Missing People and the Marks They Leave Behind – Francisco Garcia 

When Francisco Garcia was just seven, his father, Christobal, left his family behind. Christobal decided he would rather disappear altogether than try and navigate the difficult situation he found himself in. He has been missing ever since. Twenty years on, Francisco is ready to search for the why. During his journey, which takes him all the way back to his father’s homeland of Spain, Francisco tells the stories of those he meets along the way who form part of the complicated jigsaw of people who deal with the missing, thinking about the way that our lives are woven together and how it feels when these strands begin to unravel, from every perspective. You won’t read a more moving or articulate book this year. It is an absolute must read. Francisco grew up with family, here in Dunblane and we are very proud of his success. 


Falling TJ Newman – Simon and Schuster

You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight… Maybe this summer is the ideal time to enjoy this fast paced and unbearably tense read. Anyone who’s even thinking of reading this on a flight will need to have nerves of steel! What a thriller. You will be up all night finishing this one and will close it with your nerves torn to shreds. 

The Great Silence – Doug Johnstone – Orenda Books 

The discovery of a human foot in an Edinburgh park, the inexplicable circumstances of a dying woman, and the missing daughter of Jenny’s violent ex-husband present the Skelf women with their most challenging – and deadly – cases yet… If you haven’t already met funeral directors and private investigators The Skelfs then you are in for a treat. Doug Johnstone might be the greatest Scottish writer you haven’t discovered yet. His books are the perfect blend of darkness and light and you’ll fall hard for these characters. Just read it! 

I Know What I Saw – Imran Mahmood  – Bloomsbury

I saw it. He smothered her, pressing his hands on her face. The police don’t believe me, they say it’s impossible – but I know what I saw. Xander Shute shelters for the night in an empty Mayfair flat. When he hears the occupants returning home, he scrambles to hide. Trapped in his hiding place, he hears the couple argue, and he soon finds himself witnessing a vicious murder. But who was the dead woman? And will the man Xander saw her with evade justice? A tense and gripping summer read that will grab you by the lapels and refuse to let you go. This is a book that will have everyone talking, buy yourself a copy and join the conversation. 

Joseph Knox True Crime Story – Transworld Publishing 

‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a nineteen-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.She was never seen again. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. One of my reads of the year already. An original, compelling and novel take on the crime genre that you will need to read for yourself to understand just how brilliantly clever it is. 


Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Read – Cornerstone

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer and their adored baby sister, Kit. If you loved ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’’ you will adore this 80’s summer sizzler that will whisk you away to a perfect family going down in flames and immerse you in their secrets, lies and betrayals. This is a perfect beach read and you’ll be seeing it everywhere this summer. Read it before it’s a movie…

The Summer Job – Lizzy Dent – Penguin Books

Have you ever imagined running away from your life? Birdy Finch didn’t just imagine it. She did it. Which might’ve been an error. And the life she’s run into? Her best friend, Heather’s. The only problem is, she hasn’t told Heather.Can Birdy carry off a summer at a luxury Scottish hotel pretending to be her best friend (who incidentally is a world-class wine expert) And can she stop herself from falling for the first man she’s ever actually liked (but who thinks she’s someone else) A perfect summer rom com that you will love enjoying over a nice cold drink in the garden. 

The Getaway – Isabelle Broome – Hodder and Stoughton

Most people travel to Croatia for its endless sunshine, pebbly beaches and crystal clear sea. Kate goes there to disappear. She needs to escape from a life that has fallen apart in spectacular and public fashion, and no one here knows who she is or what she’s running away from. Until she meets another lonely soul. I love Croatia and this is the nearest I’ll get this year. Isabelle Broom is as essential a summer holiday ingredient as my suncream and her latest book is no exception. You will love this escapist read, filled with summer atmosphere and the spirit of romance. 

That Night  – Gillian McAllister – Penguin Books 

During a family holiday in Italy, you get an urgent call from your sister. There’s been an accident: she hit a man with her car and he’s dead. She’s overcome with terror – fearing years in a foreign jail away from her child. She asks for your help. It wasn’t her fault, not really. She’d cover for you, so will you do the same for her?But when the police come calling, the lies start. And you each begin to doubt your trust in one another. You will not be able to put this book down. A breathless and relatable summer read that I’m definitely buying for my sister 


Sorrow & Bliss – Meg Mason – Orion 

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave? You will not be able to tear yourself away from Meg Mason’s hilarious, moving and unforgettable look at mental illness and the way that sometimes the darkest hour takes a long bloody time to show any signs of the dawn…I loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone this summer. Brilliant.

This is How We Are Human – Louise Beech –  Orenda Books 

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely. Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants. Violetta steps out into the night thinking of money. Of her nursing degree. Of paying for her dad’s care. When these three lives collide – they intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone

Moth – Melody Razak  – Orion Publishing

Set in 1946 Delhi, Moth is the story of an ordinary family living through extraordinary times. I was blown away by this debut novel and its richly observed portrayal of the very human impact of partition in India. It was a subject that I knew very little about before reading the book, but discovered through witnessing the way that Alma’s family’s entire settled existence is turned upside down in the course of a few months.  I was both fascinated and devastated by the story and the writing here. An extraordinary book that I unreservedly recommend. 

Mother Mother – Annie Macmanus – Headline Publishing Group

Mary McConnell grew up longing for information about the mother she never knew, who died suddenly when Mary was only a baby. Her brother, Sean, was barely old enough to remember and their father numbed his pain with drink. Now aged 35, Mary has lived in the same house her whole life. She’s never left Belfast. She has a son, TJ, who’s about to turn 18, and is itching to see more of the world. One Saturday morning, TJ wakes up to find his mother gone. He doesn’t know where – or why – but he’s the only one who can help find her. Just read this incredible debut and experience the joy, pain and complexity of family ties alongside TJ. You will love it.


Animal – Lisa Taddeo – Bloomsbury  

If you loved ‘Three Women’ Lisa Taddeo’s non fiction read that blew so many people away in 2019, then you will love this searing look at one woman’s journey from being preyed upon to someone who sets off to hunt down some prey of her own. Joan’s pathway to vengeance makes for unsettling reading and this provocative and shocking read will have you hooked. You will never have read anything like this so prepare to strap yourself in and get ready for a brutally honest and unflinching ride. The perfect book club read that will definitely have everyone talking. 

Lives Like Mine – Eva Verde – Simon and Schuster

Meet Monica. With her three children in school, Monica finds herself wondering if this is all there is. Despite all the effort and the smiles, in the mirror she sees a woman hollowed out from putting everyone else first, tolerating her in-laws’ intolerance, and wondering if she has a right to complain when she’s living the life that she has created for herself. Then along comes Joe, a catalyst for change in the guise of a flirtatious parent on the school run. And that’s where it all begins…

Yours Faithfully – AJ Pearce-  Pan Macmillan 

From the author of  Dear Mrs Bird, comes a much hoped-for sequel, Yours Cheerfully. Charming, heart-warming and hilarious, Yours Cheerfully is just the tonic we’ve all been waiting for. I couldn’t wait for this wonderfully quirky read to be published and absolutely loved the next chapter in Emmeline’s wartime adventures. A fantastic retro read that’s witty, warm and uplifting in equal measure and just what we all need after a year like the one we’ve just had. Treat yourself. 

The First Day of Spring – Nancy Tucker – Cornerstone 

This book needs absolutely no spoilers as you need to experience it for yourself and be equally as blown away as I was at this unforgettable portrayal of a bleak childhood with even bleaker consequences. This is my read of the year so far and I can’t stop thinking about Chrissie and her powerfully original voice.  I love the way that it makes us think about morality and the darker reaches of humanity from a very different perspective. A solid five star read and one that I know I’ll be recommending for a very long time. Outstandingly good. 

I absolutely loved the job of choosing these books and hope that you enjoy reading the ones that appeal to you over the summer days to come…

If you’ve enjoyed reading these reviews, you can check out my book blog at  to see me posting regularly about great books. Have a great summer and please do share any of these books that you have enjoyed there with me!


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