Friday, February 23, 2024

The Five Books You Need to Read This Summer!

Hachette x Capsule

Looking for some great recommendations for what to put on your bedside table, or pack into your holiday bag for a weekend away? Or are you feeling a bit stuck on what to give as a gift this Christmas? Never fear! We’ve got the five books you need in your life this summer – they all come recommended by us!

All of theses great titles – and loads more – are available from

By Mathew McConaughey  

If there’s one thing 2020 hasn’t been short on, it’s surprises. Surprise! There’s a global pandemic. Surprise! You can’t leave your house now. Surprise! You’re being made redundant. Okay, you get the picture. It’s been tough.

Maybe that’s why a pleasant surprise this year seems all the more wonderful and incredible – which is exactly what happened when this book ended up in my hands and I decided to give it a read. Yes, I thought the cover image was very appealing, but I didn’t imagine Mathew McConaughey could possibly sustain my interest for an entire book. Well, shame on me, because I WAS WRONG. Mathew McConaughey can write.

From the moment you turn that first page, you immediately get Matthew’s distinctive southern drawl in your head as you read this semi-autobiography, semi-self-help book (I know, I was surprised – and happily – by this combination too). 

Matthew spitballs his theories on how you can make your life better, happier and more fulfilled by setting it up so you coast through a journey that’s all green lights, rather than constantly being pulled to a frustrating halt, catching red light after red light on the road ahead.

He weaves these theories through a series of captivating yarns that run that gamut of human emotion, making up his life story. From his childhood where his parents were twice divorced and thrice married – to each other! – to abuse as a teen, hilarious stories from his times as a student abroad in Australia, and then in Hollywood where he makes his way to international stardom. 

He discusses that infamous bongo drums incident and his yearning to become a father – a goal he’s proud to have achieved three times over. And, to be honest, it’s worth a read if for nothing else than the true story of how his infamous catchphrase – ‘alright, alright, alright’ – came about.  

Read it if you like: The sound of Matthew McConaughey’s voice. I can only imagine how incredible the audiobook version must be.
Gift it to: Your brother, a friend, your boyfriend (then immediately steal it back off him to read yourself!).

The Return
By Nicholas Sparks

While the border is shut, for now our greatest vehicle for escape is through books. 

If you’ve booked yourself a few days of leave – or are just having a couple of long weekends thanks to Christmas and New Year’s – may I suggest you escape overseas to the sticky heat of America’s deep south and let your guide be the man who does it best, Nicholas Sparks.

There’s a reason why Nicholas Sparks is a #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author many times over, and why so many of his books have been turned into hit movies (think The Notebook, Dear John, The Last Song, A Walk to Remember…). 

His books are enchanting, enjoyable and easy reads that always combine romance with a bit of mystery or puzzles to solve, but aren’t overly taxing. They’re almost always set in the south – which acts as another character in the narrative. You can almost feel the warm breeze, the sound of the porch door swinging open as the handsome lead walks through it with a pitcher of iced tea.

His latest is beautiful. It follows Trevor Benson, who moves back to New Bern in North Carolina to regroup in a dilapidated cabin that he’s inherited from his recently deceased grandfather. A former orthopaedic surgeon, he’s had to recalibrate his life after a mortar blast outside the hospital in Afghanistan he worked in, left him with devastating injuries. He’s not looking for love, but he feels a deep connection with the local deputy sheriff – and although she seems to feel the same way, she remains frustratingly distant. Then there’s the confusing presence of a sullen teenage girl who claims to be 17 and keeps to herself, but clearly knows more than she’s letting on. Trevor begins following the few clues that exist around the quite mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, when a crisis triggers a race to find answers…

Read it if you like: Anything by Nicolas Sparks, rom-coms (from Nicolas’ own The Best of Me and Safe Haven to feel-good southern charmers like Sweet Home Alabama or Hope Floats) – or if you’re a big softie at heart who just loves getting swept up in a romance.
Gift it to: Your cousin, aunt, sister, bestie who is desperate for a summer holiday abroad – or anyone who just loves a good old fashioned love story.

Where the Crawdads Sing
By Delia Owens

This book has been out since 2018 and has been on my list of books I MUST get to pretty much ever since. According to Amazon it was the top selling book of 2019 – edging out Michelle Obama’s Becoming

Now, you can say what you like about celebrity book clubs, but Gone Girl is one of my all-time favourites, so when Reese Witherspoon picked up the rights to it, and then another fave of mine, Big Little Lies, then Little Fires Everywhere, I decided it was time to start reading anything she had on her list.  Where the Crawdads Sing is not just one of her Book Club recommendations, but she’s currently making a screen adaptation of it.

Remarkably, it’s Delia Owen’s first novel. It follows the story of ‘Marsh Girl’, Kya Clark, a vulnerable young girl who is abandoned by her mother and siblings, owing to her father’s alcohol abuse and violent tendencies. 

Sensitive and intelligent she has survived for years alone in the marsh she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. It flicks between the story of her lonely childhood, and 1969 when a handsome young man is found dead, and the locals immediately suspect grown-up Kya. 

It’s a heart-breaking coming-of-age read, combined with a whodunnit possible murder mystery. Part of the absolute charm of this book is Delia’s unique prose, with her illustrative descriptions of the labyrinths of waterways and swamps, which are filled with rich, curious wildlife. It’s a complete triumph. If you weren’t one of the throngs who made this a best-seller last year – make this the summer you pick it up.

Read it if you like: Anything by Celeste Ng or Barbara Kingsolver. Or anything that comes recommended by Reese Witherspoon.  
Gift it to: Your aunt, sister, cousin, mother. If you’re a bit unsure about someone’s tastes when it comes to books, this is an excellent go-to – millions of people have picked up this book for good reason!

Home Stretch
Graham Norton

I’m sorry, but WHAT? So Graham Norton doesn’t just host one of the best shows on the telly? 

No, it appears as well as making great TV, and an excellent Shiraz or Prosecco (with NZ wine company Invivo), you can enjoy one of his wines while reading one of his excellent novels. The man is a multi-tasking genius. 

I expected to pick this book up and have Graham’s voice narrate a happy, snappy little comedy, but instead was treated to a powerful novel that explores the deep wounds caused by secrecy and stigma. It shouldn’t have come as so much of a surprise – Graham is a wonderful storyteller – and the characters he builds in his books are rich, multidimensional, and relatable.

Home Stretch is Graham’s third Irish contemporary novel – it’s a Sunday Times Bestseller and was shortlisted for an Irish Post Book Award. It’s set in 1987 where a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. 

The day before the ceremony a group of young friends, including the bride and groom, drive out to the beach. There is an accident where three survive, but three – including the bride and groom – are killed. 

Among the survivors is the driver, Connor Hayes, who is physically unscathed, but carries the shame and guilt of the accident, exacerbated by the continued outpouring of grief and anger of a mourning community. 

He leaves to make a new home – of sorts – for himself in New York, but before long, he must confront his past…

Home Stretch is beautifully written and brilliantly layered and arranged. It’s powerful, but heart-warming, and you’ll be thinking about it long after you put it down. Pour yourself a glass of shiraz and enjoy!

Read it if you like: Anything by Jodi Picoult, John Boyne or Marian Keyes.  
Gift it to: Anyone who spends their Friday nights watching The Graham Norton Show, or who enjoys a powerful read from a surprising author!

Tiny Pieces of Us
By Nicky Pellegrino

This beautiful book came into the world during the peak of the pandemic in NZ and while that may have been terrible timing for the Kiwi author, Nicky Pellegrino, it was fabulous timing for me, because it meant I had something to read that took me far, far away from reality here in NZ.

It’s a lovely, uplifting, heart-warming read, that has a meaningful message at the very core of it. 

The novel follows young journalist Vivi Palmer who knows what it’s like to live life carefully. She was born with a heart defect and gets a second chance after a transplant, but has never quite dared to make the most of it. That is, until she comes face-to-face with her donor’s mother, who wants something in return for Vivi’s second-hand heart: Help to find all the other people who have tiny pieces of her son. 

As a journalist, her training takes over as one by one she tracks down a group of strangers – and as their lives intertwine, she discovers there might be a whole new world waiting for her… 

One of the things I adore most about Nicky’s writing (this is now her 12th novel) is that she often takes her reader to Italy – Villa Girls, The Food of Love Cookery School and Delicious were all set there, as well A Dream Of Italy, which was the best-selling NZ fiction book of 2019. It’s like going on a fabulous Italian holiday – and better still, her tantalising descriptions of the food is so incredible, I can almost taste the melting mozzarella. For those who are fans of Nicky’s work, this book opens in London, but never fear, before long the story heads back into familiar – and delicious! – territory. 

Read it if you like: anything by JoJo Moyes, holidaying in small Italian towns, or if you enjoy reading Nigella Lawson recipe books. 
Gift it to: Your mum, aunt, relative or friend who has had a tough year and needs something to lift her spirits. 

All of theses great titles – and loads more – are available from

‘Coming From Being On The Brink… I Can Promise You, That Light Will Come.’ How Are You Today, Kiri Allan?

In our story series ‘How Are You Today?’, we have a meandering, mental-health focused chat with some of our most well-known New Zealanders. Check...

Famous or Not, The Consequences of AI-Generated Images Are Already Here For Women

With Artificial Intelligence enabling the creation of unrealistic, idealised images of women, what harm might that cause? And how might we protect ourselves –...

So You Are a Fan of ‘Leave the World Behind?’ Here’s What to Watch Next

Watched the creepy disaster film, Leave the World Behind, and are now looking for something to similar to get into tonight? We've got you! Whether...

THE ONE THING… ‘That, As a Paramedic, I Would NEVER Let My Kids Do”

After spending some 20 years working as a paramedic, Ken has been with many Kiwis on their absolute worst days. While the job took...