18 must-read books to bring to the beach this summer

The beach isn’t just for bodice-rippers and detective stories. Here, our favourite titles of the season

18 must-read books to bring to the beach this summer
Five fine beach reads. Photograph by Carlo Mendoza

The season’s best literary picks

Serial Monogamy

By Kate Taylor
Globe columnist tackles relationship woes across two centuries. She weaves between the lives of Charles Dickens and his long-time mistress, Nelly Ternan, and the cancer-stricken Toronto novelist who’s writing about them. Aug. 23.


By Dan Vyleta Vyleta recreates the ornate world of Victorian London, with one twist: when someone sins, incriminating wisps of smoke emanate from his body. The author uses magical realism to expose simmering class conflict, as only the aristocracy have learned to suppress the plumes. Out now.

The Whale

By Mark Beauregard Fan fiction goes highbrow in Beauregard’s sprawling debut novel, about a feverish, imaginary love affair between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, sparked during a Berkshires summer picnic in 1850. Out now.

American Heiress

By Jeffrey Toobin After 40 years, we finally have the ultimate investigative thriller about Patty Hearst’s kidnapping—and brainwashing—by the SLA in the 1970s. Toobin brings his usual wry skepticism and legal analysis, spinning the bizarre case into a nuanced look at American misogyny, money, politics and radicalization. Out now.

The Girls

By Emma Cline Cline’s buzzy debut novel transforms a lurid criminal yarn into a hallucinatory study of youthful alienation, following a 14-year-old girl who joins a Manson-like cult in the psychedelic summer ’69. Out now.



Gritty, grisly mystery novels to chill your summer

Beware That Girl
Beware That Girl
By Teresa Toten Gone Girl meets Gossip Girl in Toten’s juicy thriller, about an ambitious Upper East Side orphan who manipulates her way into her prep school’s A-list clique, only to destroy it from within. Because summer isn’t summer without a sociopathic anti-heroine. Out now.  
Dead Ground In Between
Dead Ground In Between
By Maureen Jennings The Murdoch Mysteries mastermind swaps Victorian frippery for World War II austerity. Set in the green hills of Shropshire, the novel follows Tom Tyler, a brooding British sleuth investigating the death of a homeless man near an Italian POW camp. Out now.  
A Great Reckoning
A Great Reckoning
By Louise Penny Armand Gamache, Penny’s iconic homicide detective, takes on a new job at the police academy, where he’s immediately sucked into a new case. This one involves a murdered professor and four cadets—one of whom may have a secret connection to Gamache. Aug. 30.  
All Is Not Forgotten
All Is Not Forgotten
By Wendy Walker A year before this novel even hit shelves, Reese Witherspoon optioned the film rights. After being assaulted at a party, a young girl takes an experimental drug to suppress her memory. As she slowly breaks down, long-buried secrets and Waspy mistrust emerge in her small Midwestern community. Out now.  
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
By Iain Reid The creepiest book of the summer comes from an unlikely source: Iain Reid, the Toronto author best known for quirky bucolic memoirs. In his debut novel, a young woman and her boyfriend travel to his parents’ isolated farmhouse, where emotional disconnect turns into terror. Out now.


Three addictive memoirs by fascinating women

I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This
By Nadja Spiegelman Nadja Spiegelman is the daughter of Maus maestro Art Spiegelman and New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly. In this sharp, incisive memoir, she excavates the family secrets of her ambitious mother, playboy grandfather and unstable grandmother. Out now.
18 must-read books to bring to the beach this summer
Nadja Spiegelman. Photograph courtesy of Penguin Canada


The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
By Amy Schumer Schumer has parlayed her dirty brand of feminism into a $9-million book deal. Expect her essay collection to cover all of her trademark territory: bad sex, body angst, misogynist double standards and more mentions of her genitalia than we care to count. Aug. 16.
18 must-read books to bring to the beach this summer
Amy Schumer. Photograph courtesy of Simon and Schuster Canada


By Alexandra Risen Risen spent 10 years refurbishing the gardens on her rambling Rosedale property. They turned out to contain multitudes: hidden koi ponds, secret pathways and a crumbling pagoda. She entwines the story of the garden with that of her emotionally withholding Ukrainian parents. Out now.
Alexandra Risen.
Alexandra Risen. Photograph ourtesy of Penguin Canada


Sci-fi and fantasy books that range from serious fiction to lurid delights


The Last Days of New Paris
By China Miéville In an alternate 1950, World War II is still raging and a group of avant-garde Parisians accidentally detonate a so-called surrealist bomb—a nuclear weapon that releases thousands of figures from surrealist paintings and transforms Paris into a nightmarish hellscape. Aug. 9.  
Three Years with the Rat
By Jay Hosking Hosking’s mind-bending debut starts out as a stylish noir about a young man searching for his capricious sister. Things get weird when his only lead turns out to be a mirrored, human-size wooden box that travels through time. Aug. 9.  
Children of Earth and Sky
By Guy Gavriel Kay Westeros has nothing on Kay’s sumptuously detailed historical fantasy world, inspired by Renaissance Europe at the rise of the Ottoman Empire (or Osmanli Empire, as it’s called here). The novel chronicles the region’s religious and political upheavals, infused with fantastical adventure and wisps of Eastern-inspired mythos. Out now.  
By Kelley Armstrong Armstrong, best known for the werewolf-romance Otherworld series, follows the daughter of two notorious serial killers (and a descendant of fairies) as she attempts to conquer the demonic forces governing her mysterious town. Aug. 9.  
The Hatching
By Ezekiel Boone David Cronenberg wishes he’d written this campy horror novel about an ancient species of man-eating spiders that emerge from extinction, swarming tourists in Peru and causing earthquakes in India. It’s arachnophobic apocalypsis at its goriest. Out now.


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