Current Affairs / History / Lists / Middle East / News / Politics / Religion / Reviews / Travel

The I.B.Tauris Summer Reading List 2017

birch beach

‘Birch Beach’ [detail] by Tom Clayton, 2017

With summer reaching its traditional drizzly climax, I’m sure your thoughts are turning to the most important issue of the season: which books to take on holiday? Here at IBT we’ve come up with a few suggestions, both from our own stables and from further afield. We hope you enjoy our picks!


Tom Stottor – Editor, History

The Perfect I.B.Tauris Book for my Summer Travels is…

The Idea of Russia by Professor Vladislav Zubok (I.B.Tauris, 2017, £64)

Dmitry Likhachev (1906–99) played arguably an unrivalled role in the cultural life of twentieth century Russia. This biography brings Likachev’s incredible life, from the dying days of tsarist Russia to the rise of Putin, to an English-speaking audience for the first time. A must for anyone with an interest in Russia – past or present.

Idea of Russia, The

 The Non-I.B.Tauris Book I’d Recommend as a Holiday Read is…

Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin (English translation: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010, paperback, £8.99)

 This summer I will exclusively be reading the works of Boris Akunin (well, almost – my hand luggage will of course also be brimming with IBT manuscripts). Set in the dwindling days of tsarist Russia, Akunin’s riotous murder mysteries see his protagonist – the now world-famous Erast Fandorin, with more than 15 million copies sold worldwide  – charge across Russia and Europe in increasingly far-fetched scenarios, unravelling complex crimes, foiling devious plans and outwitting master villains. Warning: they are unreasonably funny too. I chuckled so much and over such a sustained period of time whilst dipping into one on the Eurostar last week that the poor man sitting next to me began to look genuinely quite disturbed.



Clare Kathleen Bogen – Head of US Publicity and Marketing

The Perfect I.B.Tauris Book for my Summer Travels is…

Vanessa Bell Edited by Sarah Milroy (I.B.Tauris, 2017, paperback, £25)

Not your typical summer reading book, and certainly too hefty for a beach read, nonetheless my recommendation this summer is Vanessa Bell by Sarah Milroy and Ian A.C. Dejardin. This book, published in conjunction with the Vanessa Bell exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, is so much more than an exhibition catalog. And while the paintings inside are beautiful, what really makes this book good reading are the variety of essays about Vanessa Bell, her art and her life. Some of my favourites are Grace Brockington’s ‘Design and Experimentation’ on Bell’s foray into abstract art and Christopher Reed’s ‘Domestic Modernism’ about the intersection of domesticity and modernity in Bell’s work and what her paintings of home tell us about the lives and philosophies of the Bloomsbury Group.

Vanessa Bell - Dulwich Picture Gallery

 The Non-I.B.Tauris Book I’d Recommend as a Holiday Read is…

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Virago, 2003, paperback, £8.99)

This book had been on my to-read list for years and finally someone gifted it to me and I had no more excuses. Now I’m kicking myself for not reading it earlier. A stunning, atmospheric, haunting novel about a young woman. While the suspense, and the twists, are what people talk most about, I was most struck by the characterisation of the narrator. Du Maurier perfectly captures the anxiety of feeling out of place and the fear in a new romance. Manderley’s setting on the southern coast makes this the perfect read for a rainy English summer and it is genuinely unputdownable.



Alex Wright – Executive Editor

The Perfect I.B.Tauris Book for my Summer Travels is…

Cromwell at War by Martyn Bennett (I.B.Tauris, 2017, £20)

My late father, my brother and I were all – like Cromwell – undergraduates at Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex College; and my dad even spent a year in what he was told were Cromwell’s old rooms, out of whose window (perhaps apocryphally) the young Oliver once leaped ill-advisedly but athletically into Sidney Street. So, he is a figure who has loomed quite large in the recent Wright family history. Martyn Bennett’s fine-looking book addresses the development of the controversial Lord Protector from burgess of Ely and principled parliamentarian into one of the most successful generals of the English Civil War, and sheds lots of useful light on tactics, strategies and major battles along the way. Bennett is an expert on the English And Irish civil wars who writes with pace and style. This looks like a brilliant read for anyone who likes to get stuck into the tumultuous mid-seventeenth times that followed on from era-defining political upheaval (and please don’t get me started on Brexit).

Cromwell at War

The Non-I.B.Tauris Book I’d Recommend as a Holiday Read is…

The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds by Francis Young (Lasse Press, 2016, paperback, £19.99)

For those who – like me! – can’t get enough medieval history, East Anglia will always seem one of the most interesting regions of England. Not only was it the first frontline of Anglo-Saxon resistance against the Danes, it also became one of the most distinctive theatres of early English spirituality. Central to the development of that emergent religiosity was the cult of St Edmund, King of the East Angles and England’s first patron saint, martyred by the Vikings in the ninth century. The legend that grew up around his murder by Ubba, Ivar the Boneless and their marauding gang led to the foundation in Bury of one of the most important Benedictine shrines anywhere in Europe and the construction of the largest Romanesque church ever built. Alas, the great Abbey is ruined now; but any visitor to the town’s magnificent gardens – now, in summer, at their very best – can see from the melancholy remnants of the medieval church how important to the wider community this bucolic Suffolk market town must once have been. Francis Young is one of the most talented young historians whom I know, and is finishing off a scintillating new history for IBT of the significance of the Edmund cult in reconciling Saxons, Vikings and Normans and in forging a true sense of ‘England’ as a united entity. This engaging volume provides the essential background reading to our book and to the remarkable history of Bury and its Abbey church. The town named after King Edmund may seem somewhat out of the way, even these days a bit of backwater; but if the Saxon saint re-emerges from beneath the tennis courts adjacent to the abbey’s east end (and Francis believes he soon may), it will be as sensational a discovery as the excavation of Richard III from beneath a Leicester car-park. Bury St Edmunds may just be about to have its second coming. Watch this space!

Francis Young The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds


Tomasz Hoskins – Senior Editor, History

The Perfect I.B.Tauris Book for my Summer Travels is…

Battles for Freedom: The Use and Abuse of American History by Eric Foner (I.B.Tauris, 2017, paperback, £10.99)

Like many of us looking at America from across the Atlantic, I’ve been surprised, infuriated, disgusted, elated and astonished by the Trump administration and the many powerful responses to it this year. Every few years on my summer holidays I dip into Walden – Henry David Thoreau’s 19th century account of living alone in the American wilderness – and though I find his teachings of self-control and scarcity rarely last past lunchtime, I do feel that history of the making of the United States is a sort of lodestar for us all here in the ‘west’. Last year’s election and its aftermath has shown me how little I was paying attention to what America was and where it had come from – which is why I’m so looking forward to reading this collection of the work of the thinker and historian Eric Foner, whose writing I’ve always admired. Writing for The Nation on America and American-ness for over thirty years, Foner is also an expert on the reconstruction era after the American Civil War, a formative period in the American character I’ve never really paid enough attention to.

 So I’ll dip into Battles for Freedom on the plane, and then head off to find my own Walden with Thoreau’s words in my ears: “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” 

Battles for Freedom

 The Non-I.B.Tauris Book I’d Recommend as a Holiday Read is…

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (Penguin, 2017, paperback, £8.99)

Deborah Levy’s writing is one of my favourite pleasures when I have the time and space to read more fiction. Her latest novella Hot Milk is so suffused with the heat and light and sensuality of summers abroad – it’s a little miracle of a book. I’ve found myself recommending it to everyone since I read it a few months ago, and now I’m recommending it to you too. It’s also incredibly acute and controlled and accurate on young adulthood, family dynamics, aging, sex, sexuality and freedom – and includes some good advice on jellyfish stings.

hot milk


Angelique Neumann – Assistant Production Editor

The Perfect I.B.Tauris Book for my Summer Travels is…

Miss Palmer’s Diary by Gillian Wagner (I.B.Tauris, 2017, hardback, £20)

 Miss Palmer’s Diary is the perfect answer to my newfound love of non-fiction and my schoolgirl penchant for the English class novel. A descendent of the lady herself, Dame Gillian Wagner pens riveting analysis and narration of passages from Ellen Palmer’s diaries – notebooks that have been hitherto lost since the mid-19th century. Intrigue, romance, tragedy, war, royalty, history – Ellen’s shrewd musings have every hallmark of an exciting, transportive travel read. I particularly enjoyed strolling down the Boulevard du Temple this summer, imagining Ellen waltzing with Napoleon III behind its ornate facades.

Miss Palmer's Diary

 The Non-I.B.Tauris Book I’d Recommend as a Holiday Read is…

Cheri by Colette (Vintage, 2001, paperback, £7.99)

 The heart-stinging story of an ageing courtesan and her handsome, indolent protégé, the intimacy and immediacy of this short book say things about human nature and relationships that ring true almost a century later. Even in translation, Colette’s language is bewitching. This is my first delve into the classic author’s oeuvre and won’t be my last.



Tom Clayton – Marketing Executive

The Perfect I.B.Tauris Book for my Summer Travels is…

The Land of the Green Man by Carolyne Larrington (I.B.Tauris, 2017, paperback, £10.99)

 I try and make it down to Cornwall every summer, and this year is no different. So in between long walks to the abandoned tin mines of the rugged north coast, I’ll be keeping one eye out for ogres and dipping into The Land of the Green Man. Cornwall, and indeed the West Country as a whole, still feels closely linked to its mythology and fantastical imaginings, and I hope Carolyne Larrington’s all-encompassing guide to the supernatural will bring me a closer understanding of the fog-shrouded legends of old.

Land of the Green Man, The PB

 The Non-I.B.Tauris Book I’d Recommend as a Holiday Read is…

Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes (Atlantic, 2017, paperback, £8.99)

 Though I’m hardly a connoisseur of science-fiction, I must admit that Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground has completely beguiled me. What begins as an ostensibly routine investigation into the disappearance of an office worker in an unnamed South American country quickly turns sinister, as it becomes apparent that he has fallen victim to a previously undiscovered – and seemingly malevolent – macrobiotic phenomena. This hugely atmospheric and thematically febrile novel is full of tricks and surprises; it deserves to transcend genres, and will keep you guessing until its astonishing rainforest-set denouement.

infinite ground


All I.B.Tauris books mentioned are available to order from our website.

Happy travels!

Compiled by Tom Clayton




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s