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Meet our Book Doctor... Lucy Diamond, author of An Almost Perfect Holiday

In our Book Doctor feature, we welcome a guest to prescribe just the right read for any mood or occasion.

Lucy Diamond, author of warm and honest bestselling novels about family, love and friendship, has joined us to prescribe some fantastic reads.

I've been reading some pretty dry non-fiction recently. I'd like my next book to be a really absorbing love story, either classic or modern, that I can lose myself in. Can you recommend any? – Dorothy

Absolutely! This summer I lost myself in Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls – a poignant, funny and bittersweet story of first love, plus Romeo and Juliet: what’s not to like? If you're after an epic story of doomed, passionate love, try Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – aside from the romance angle, I found it surprisingly funny in places (and learned a lot about Russian agriculture into the bargain). For something on a smaller scale, how about Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf: a quiet, beautiful story of love in later years, perfectly told.

Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls

I love to read children's books and young adult fiction. I find them adventurous, uplifting and full of hope. I'm put off by a lot of adult fiction as it seems bleak and depressing. But I'm worried I'm missing out on some sparkling stories. Can you suggest an adult read that will take me on an adventure without filling me with despair about the world and the humans that inhabit it? – Rosemary, aged 37

If adventure is what you're looking for, then I can wholeheartedly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. It reads like a dark Russian fairy tale, with a spirited heroine, a mysterious frost demon, family upheaval, lots of wintry magic and the best fictional horse ever. Utterly bewitching – and best of all, it's the first in a trilogy. Equally satisfying – yet completely different – is Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce, which is guaranteed to make you feel better about the world. A truly joyful, life-affirming read about courage, friendship, and finding light amidst darkness.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

When I am on holiday, I like reading books set in the places I am visiting. I have a long boring daily bus commute and thought it may be interesting to read about travelling, either in buses or other modes of transport, in the UK or anywhere in the world. Could you recommend any fiction or non-fiction books that may help me to learn to enjoy the ride? – Maria

Bill Bryson is a wonderful travel companion – I loved Notes From a Small Island, his funny and affectionate look at Great Britain, although he has also written other books on the US, Australia and mainland Europe if you’d rather venture further afield. My next recommendation is of a journey on foot – Wild by Cheryl Strayed, detailing her 1000-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. This is one of the most moving, inspiring and unflinching memoirs I’ve ever read – I remain in awe of her strength and bravery. Finally, for a very different kind of travel – time-travel – I have just read The Heavens, a novel by Sandra Newman, in which the heroine journeys from modern New York to Elizabethan England in her dreams. It’s gorgeously written – so imaginative and evocative. You’ll find yourself so engrossed, it’ll make your commute feel a whole lot shorter!

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I've just had a baby and all I seem to read now are baby books! I have trouble concentrating on reading (I'm blaming baby brain - it is real!) when I do carve some time out in the day. Do you have any tips on how to get back to reading something brilliant? – Carys

I remember it well, Carys. Perhaps you could ease your way back with some short stories to dip in and out of? Roald Dahl, Ernest Hemingway and Lorrie Moore are all excellent writers to try although my favourite short story collection has to be the deliciously dark The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which spins classic fairy tales into macabre, witty retellings. I’m also recommending I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron: a wry, intimate and frankly hilarious look at womanhood, ageing and love. Reading it is like talking to your wisest and funniest friend, effortlessly enjoyable.

I Feel Bad about my Neck by Nora Ephron

What genre of book would most help me relax and get a good night's sleep? – Diane

Throughout the relentless (and often unsettling) political turmoil of recent years, I have turned to nature writing in an attempt to unwind and help me sleep better at night. Maybe that would work for you too? Most recently, I read Wilding by Isabella Tree, an account of her and her husband’s decision to rewild their farm and surrounding land, and let nature take its course. The transformation that takes place is incredibly uplifting and the book left me feeling comforted that in one small corner of the UK at least, native species are flourishing once more. The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks is another wonderful read – lyrical and unsentimental, it’s a memoir that details the author’s childhood, his astonishing route through education and his life now as a shepherd in the Lake District with all that this work involves. Whichever you choose, I hope you sleep well. Sweet dreams!

Wilding by Isabella Tree
An Almost Perfect Holiday by Lucy Diamond

About An Almost Perfect Holiday by Lucy Diamond

The holidays are here, and down in Cornwall Lorna’s cottages are fully booked. The sun loungers are lined up beside the swimming pool, the sky is blue and a new set of arrivals are on their way...

Em’s planned the perfect break with her teenagers plus her new boyfriend, George . . . but now his difficult six-year-old is coming too. Will their romance survive the realities of parenthood?

Maggie’s hoping a seaside holiday will bring her and her daughter closer together, but when her ex makes a surprise reappearance, it changes everything. Can she trust the man who broke her heart?

Olivia has escaped the domestic grind, only for the past to catch up with her. Maybe the time has come to confess all – if she can find the courage . . .

Meanwhile, the teenagers are running wild and love is in the air. With friendship, heartache and secrets in the mix, will this holiday turn out to be a scorcher – or simply too hot to handle?

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