Nick de Semlyen

Picador, £9.99

It’s no Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, but Wild and Crazy Guys is essential reading for anyone who loves the comedy output of Hollywood in the 1980s. The debut of Saturday Night Live marked the dawn of a new era in American comedy and de Semlyen charts the progress of its alumni as they made it big and dominated a decade basking in Reaganite optimism. Aykroyd, Belushi, Chase, Martin, Murray and Murphy are all here, along with Canadian contemporaries Candy and Moranis, in a saga of “extreme competitiveness, alcohol, drugs and fame” and “a decade-long duel” between Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. Their interwoven stories are linked by the loose theme of how well-suited they were to success and what they did when they attained it, but de Semlyen doesn’t look too deeply below the surface to tease out an analysis. What sustains this entertaining rollercoaster of a book is its wealth of anecdotes and the personalities of the comics themselves.

The Ungrateful Refugee

Dina Nayeri

Canongate, £10.99

Nayeri arrived in the USA in 1987, a refugee from Iran. Her mother had converted to Christianity, which under the Khomeini regime could mean death, and they had escaped via the UAE, Dubai and Italy. In a book subtitled “What Immigrants Never Tell You”, she recounts how, despite her best efforts to be accepted by her adopted country, her identity as an immigrant always defined her. Since then, she’s heard the language used against immigrants grow even harsher. With her own experience to guide her, she talks to present-day refugees in camps in Greece, weaving her own story into the tales of hardship she hears from a group that includes an Iranian who was so worn down by denials for asylum that he set himself on fire. Nayeri presents their stories sensitively and respectfully while scrutinising her own relationship with her Iranian roots, her mother, Christianity and feminism.


Sophie Pembroke (Orion, £8.99)

Designed to be a perfect holiday read, Pembroke’s latest seems stranded in something of a limbo this year. But it’s depiction of the idyllic Seashell Island is still seductive. Having been dumped by her fiancé and fired from her job, Miranda Waters is left in charge of her parents’ B&B for the summer. She’s always loved the peace and quiet of the island, far more than her brother and sister, Leo and Juliet, so she can’t believe it when they both turn up to stay. This is the first time for years that all three siblings have been together, and they have a lot of issues to work through while trying to save their parents’ business and organise a summer festival. Light, upbeat and romantic, with a charming sub-plot involving llamas, it won’t make up for the cancellation of a summer holiday, but might just make the back green feel slightly more like a sun-kissed beach for a little while.