As summer comes to an end, so does the brief period in many lawyers’ busy calendars where they might have the odd spare hour for some light reading.
We asked some of London’s top lawyers which books they have particularly enjoyed over the last few months.
Their responses covered fiction, non-fiction, even poetry—and represent some pretty good suggestions for what to read next if you’re stuck for ideas.
James Libson, managing partner, Mishcon de Reya:
I got to read a ton of books this summer but my runaway favourite was a novel called Spies in Canaan by David Park. It is a fantastic story of a U.S. government official and his last days in Vietnam as the U.S. withdrew and the consequences many years later. It is a beautifully written meditation on the consequences of decisions made over a lifetime.
Plus my friend Jonathan Freedland’s book—The Escape Artist. It has been widely and rightly praised as an incredible story and one of the few recent books capable of bringing fresh and relevant perspective to the Holocaust.
Kathleen Russ, senior partner, Travers Smith:
I’ve read lots over the summer but my favourite book was Love Marriage by Monica Ali. A great plot focusing on cultural and class challenges, as well as the challenges facing our social health care system as our population becomes increasingly elderly.
It is a book which covers some difficult and, at times, deeply troubling, themes. But alongside that, the book vividly portrayed some of the best sides of humanity, some great examples of the joy of life and of the deep potential of Britain’s multi-cultural society. And it finishes with a happy ending and that is something I am always a sucker for! Since I finished reading it, I have thought back to the plot on numerous occasion. For me, that’s always the sign of a great book.
Richard East, London senior partner, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan:
At the moment I am very into Nordic Noir and have been reading detective novels by Mari Jungstedt and Arnaldur Indrioason.
Julian Taylor, senior partner, Simmons & Simmons:
I’m currently reading Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s a novel set in the near future about a world desperately trying to come to terms with the climate crisis—and all scarily plausible. It’s certainly gripping, but not sure I can extend to “enjoyable”!
Peter Jackson, managing partner, Hill Dickinson:
The best book I’ve read over the summer is City on Fire by Don Winslow. Shades of the Godfather and the first part of what I fully anticipate will be a great trilogy/saga. A strong and flawed hero with room for development. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Kathleen Harris, London managing partner, Arnold & Porter:
Way too Fast by John J Farmer Jr. It is based on the real-life events of Danny DeGennaro. Danny was obviously an extremely talented musician in the U.S. who failed to make it to rock star legend status but clearly had the raw talent to do so. He unfortunately was consumed into the world of narcotics, and it may have contributed to his life being very sadly cut short.
I was moved to read the book as I have worked with John over my years in practice and my comments are not down to that fact I hugely admire him, but the sheer literacy talent and the absolutely thoughtfully composed book made it a real standout for me. It will sit alongside A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole as some of the most enjoyable books that I have ever read.
Helen Croke, partner, Ropes & Gray
Femina by Janina Ramirez. As a geeky medieval historian by degree this is a wonderful book putting women back in the narrative. They were always there doing what they did—but unrecognized and unrecorded in our traditional academic studies
The Dealmaker by Guy Hands. I hear a lot of people have been reading this. My youngest son is severely dyslexic so the early parts were inspiring and it was great to read them to Rory. But I then read a lot of the rest of the book with a dropped jaw… for good and bad reasons.
Robert Shooter, managing partner, Fieldfisher:
Two books that kept me utterly captivated.
Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green. The real life story of how Gilbert and Green created the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine within two weeks of hearing about a new virus that was making people ill in China. An incredible, inspirational story from two brilliant women. I’d like to put anti-vaxxers in a room and force them to listen to the audiobook!
Bad Blood—Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. I’m a tech lawyer by trade, so I loved reading about the rise and fall of Theranos, the multi-billion dollar biotech startup that was exposed as a complete fraud. It’s all the more interesting knowing that two of the key players are currently awaiting sentencing.
Nick Roome, head of KPMG Law
I’ve been enjoying the T.M. Logan books—The Catch, The Holiday, The Curfew, Trust Me.
Monica Gogna, head of financial regulation, EY Law:
When Genius Failed:The Rise & Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein.
It’s a book that I often return to when wanting to better understand the signs and how things can go wrong in the financial services sector—it’s quite eye opening how history and human tendencies do have a habit of repeating themselves…
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce. A book I’m currently reading to my son Kabir, he loves it! One of my favourites from childhood and it’s a joy to share it with him.
Richard Goold, partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati:
Just finished and enjoyed Artemis by Andy Weir (of The Martian fame). A fun story about what life might be like in the early days of settling on the Moon. It’s feeling not so far off now. More science, less fiction…
Kevin Ingram, head of London structured debt group, Clifford Chance:
I’m currently plowing through John Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River which is very good, and very interesting. I’m a huge fan of Irving’s writing, and I think his characterisation is always really interesting. It’s a very allegorical story that is a big sweep of time and place, moving from Northern New Hampshire across the U.S. and Canada.
Otherwise I always like to bring an anthology of T.S. Eliot’s poetry when I go away, to have a read through at the end of a tiring day.
Simon Laird, global head of insurance, RPC:
General Sir Richard Dannatt’s book, Leading from the Front. I was meant to see Dannatt at a book event in Bath when this first came out but he cancelled it due to a cold. As someone who has been awarded the military cross and was the former Chief of General Staff, that excuse left me feeling quite underwhelmed and the book has sat on the shelf for some time. Given developments in Ukraine and knowing Dannatt had a good strategic view on what the army needed to combat the risks of the modern world, I was encouraged to pick it up and give Dannatt another chance. It didn’t disappoint. Would love to get his take on what the armed forces need to combat the evolving risks of today, in light of developments in Ukraine in particular.
This summer has also seen me dipping in and out of a couple Katherine Randall novels. Randall is my nine-year-old son’s favourite author. She is a great storyteller and the best bit is he does all the hard work in terms of the reading. I just get to listen and enjoy!
Sir Nigel Knowles, CEO, DWF:
This summer, I read Silverview, the last novel written by John le Carré before he died. I’ve always been a great fan of John le Carré, and his last novel was as good as any and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments made by his son, Nick Cornwell, in the Afterword, who completed the book for publication. A great read, written by a great man.
Jonathan Jones, managing partner, Squire Patton Boggs:
The best book I read over the summer by a country mile was The Second Sleep by Robert Harris.
Chris McGaffin, partner, Slaughter and May:
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. Are you Listening? Stories from a Coaching Life by Jenny Rogers.
With reporting by Law.com International staff