Book in holiday scene.

Escape into a good book

…Or get those headphones in.

Every year around this time, I message friends and family to get book recommendations for the holidays.  Recently I’ve added in requests for podcast recommendations too.

And, more than once, I have been part of an interview panel where we asked for the interviewees all time favourite book – partly to give them a nice easy question, but also to add to the summer reading list.

For me, a great story really helps me switch off and forget about the to-do list.

So, although the holidays are looking a bit different this year, I hope that you will still be able to find time to switch off and lose yourself in a great story in whatever format suits you.

Here are some of my favourite books and podcasts. I’d love to hear yours.


If I have spoken to you in the last few months, the chances are that I have recommended the West Cork podcast to you  If I haven’t then consider this your official recommendation.  I would also strongly suggest listening to the podcast before watching either the Sky or Netflix series.

True-crime type podcasts in a similar vein (more procedural than gratuitous) are:

Gangster – Manchester often steals Salford’s limelight, and this might not be the way many Salfordians would want to get it back but I thought this was really well made with a great soundtrack and a compelling narrative.

The Northern Bank Job – it’s hard to believe this is a true story, and I can see why the creator wanted it to be a film script instead. (Again, I think a much more satisfactory format for the story than the recent TV programme on iPlayer).

The Missing Crypto-Queen – this isn’t new, but I couldn’t really do 3 true-crime podcasts and leave it out.  A really great listen and there’s hope for more to come.

Lighter Listening

There is, apparently, more to life than true crime, so for humour or light relief I go with:

Off Menu – I am a fan of Ed Gamble, James Acaster and food so this scores highly for me.  Can’t wait for travel to return in full so that I can visit some of the global recommendations that I’ve listened to over lockdown.

Desert Island Discs rarely has a duff episode – even if you haven’t heard of the person, there will be a great story in there (maybe we all have a great story in us).  Ones that stand out for me on the inspiration-front are Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Ian Wright and my mate, Tim Peake

Cath Brown and Tim Peake.

This makes us friends.

I’m going to include You’re Dead to Me in the lighter relief section too because it’s funny and very easy to listen to as well as being really educational.

Finally, I’m not sure this will work for everyone, but if you’re Irish or Irish descent give Tommy, Hector and Laurita a go.  Absolutely hilarious.

The written word

For this part, I’m going to steal some answers from the 20 Questions I did for BCL Legal because I had to really wrack my brains for that.

Favourite book:

Depends when you ask me is the real answer, but I went with An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (although on different days I might have answered A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – that one divides opinion).

And just before I went back to Uni to do a law conversion, in a sliding doors moment, I nearly went back to Uni to become an academic focusing on Latin American literature so in the all-time favourites list, I would include virtually anything by Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Book I’m Reading Right Now:

My answer to BCL Legal at the time was that I was re-reading the Shetland Books by Ann Cleeves for the geographical escapism.

I am now on to A Place of Execution by Val McDermid – there the escapism is to the past as well as the Peak District but it does deal with some very unpleasant themes so be warned – not for everyone.  I

thought the scope of it was mindblowing though.  It dominated an entire weekend for me.

Book I wish I had written:

This is still No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol.

But because I always have a half-baked plan to write a novel set in glamorous locations based on a vague sense that it might make the research-travel tax-deductible and allow me some time on location when the film is made, I am also going to add in: Daisy Jones And The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  She’s nailed this plan.

That’s my novel-writing plan out there – now you can all hold me accountable for my version…


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