13 of the Best Summer Books for 2017

Summer Books

There are few things better than a great book, any time of the year.  But it’s summer, in particular, that sends us running to the bookstore or our local library for the latest must-reads. Whether you plan to spend entire days lounging around with your feet up (#goals) or you’re hoping to devour a few pages when the kids are in bed, here are some suggestions for your summer reading list.

Leopard at the Door, by Jennifer McVeigh
What is it about Africa that draws us in? The wild landscape? The presumption of danger around every corner? In “Leopard at the Door” we’re treated to all of the above, plus rich atmosphere, romance, history, family drama and an indomitable female heroine. McVeigh knows and loves Africa, and her reverence pours from every page. Pick this one up if you want an irresistible story that drops you right in the middle of the personal and political turmoil of 1950s Kenya.

The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein
Ever since Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” we’ve been fascinated by the concept of enlisting “the Universe” in our quest for happiness and self-fulfillment. Now, 11 years later, Bernstein reminds us how our intentions create our reality, and that we can choose how to perceive our world. The author expects her readers to believe in the existence of a higher power, but her teachings are perfect for newbies. Using practical language and simple tools (including meditations and mantras) Bernstein explains how to collaborate with and benefit from the energy of the Universe. If you’re interested in cutting through the mental clutter, and learning to live with more purpose and intention, this is the book for you.

Into The Water, by Paula Hawkins
By virtue of its predecessor being the wildly successful “The Girl on the Train”, “Into the Water” will probably land on every list of must-reads in 2017. But comparing the two thrillers is almost impossible. Told from the alternating perspectives of more than ten people (residents of the town where dead women keep turning up in the river), “Into The Water” lacks the structure and focus that made TGOTT so compulsively readable. This one delivers another missing/dead girl mystery that is entirely compelling and rich with eerie symbolism, but the way the story unfolds may annoy you if you’re expecting another version of TGOTT. “Into the Water” checks most of the boxes of a good thriller, but the shadow of its older sibling looms large.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
When an African-American nurse is accused of killing the infant she’s forbidden to care for, readers begin a tumultuous journey through court rooms, familial love, identity, the white supremacist movement, and what it means to be black, and white, in America. This book is painfully relevant and its readers should be prepared to squirm and consider their own prejudices and misconceptions about race. Picoult brings the full force of her trademark humanity to these themes in a way that is frank, but not obnoxious; empathetic, but not sappy. “Small Great Things” is one of those extremely rare pieces of fiction that should be required reading for all.

Miss You, by Kate Eberlen
Tess and Gus meet in Florence when they’re both eighteen and this warm and wry novel follows a series of near-miss encounters between them over the next sixteen years. The suspense comes not from “will they or won’t they” but “when and how”. The feel good factor is high, and readers who believe that love conquers all will feel satisfied and vindicated by the ending. Leah McLaren described “Miss You” as the “love child between the film Before Sunset and the novel One Day.” Add to that a touch of Jojo Moyes and some great subplots and this might just be the perfect summer read.

Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy
When a tropical vacation goes horribly awry for mothers Liv and Nora, their loss becomes the reader’s gain in this fast-paced, impossible to put down thriller. The initial setting, a luxury cruise, sets up a precarious juxtaposition between danger and tranquility. When the children disappear during an on-shore excursion, what follows is a tale of despair, desperation and enough twists and turns to keep us guessing. Look for compelling subplots on race, privilege and modern parenting to round out this gripping tale.

Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris
Humourist and best-selling author David Sedaris is kind of a big deal. There are ten million copies of his books in print, translated into 29 languages. Not bad for a kid from North Carolina whose father wore only underpants to dinner. Sedaris’ latest collection of stories is based on the diary he kept between 1977 and 2002. Despite his raw, and somewhat caustic observations on modern life, Sedaris’s humanity always comes through. He’s just a nice guy trying to navigate some of life’s weirdest moments. And happily, he’s taking us along for the ride.

Forensics, by Val McDermid
Most diehard crime fiction fans rarely detour into non-fiction territory, where the plots are less fantastic and the details less salacious. But “Forensics” brings enough of the intrigue and complexity to make it worth our while. McDermid is one of the world’s best crime writers and this book is a culmination of the research that helped her craft some of the genre’s most compelling stories. From war zones to autopsy tables, from maggots to DNA, her tales of real-life murders and interviews with the scientists who solved them will satisfy CSI wannabes and anyone fascinated by evil, both real and imagined.

A Stranger in the House, by Shari Lapena
Toronto-based Lapena’s previous novel, “The Couple Next Door”, took the concept of a surprise ending and put it on steroids. In her second domestic thriller, Lapena explores the familiar and irresistible question of how well we really know the people we love (a theme that also plays heavily in “The Couple Next Door”). When a husband returns home from work to find his wife missing, he fears the worst. As circumstances unravel, he’s left to wonder who she really is and what she’s hiding. “A Stranger in the House” has all the twists and turns we expect from Lapena, making us hope her second suspense novel isn’t her last. Look for this one in stores at the end of July.

Hunger: A Memoir of My Body, by Roxane Gay
In her wildly popular Tumblr blog and in multiple published essays, New York Times best-selling author and social critic Roxanne Gay tackles the issues and fears most of us don’t even share with our inner circle. Not surprisingly, her memoir pulls no punches either. Food, body-image, self-care and what it means to be big in a world that values small are tackled with candor and a disarming sense of vulnerability. In rooting for Gay we may discover things about ourselves too, and isn’t that the best part of a great book? Originally set to be published last year, Gay admits her memoir was “stressful to write” resulting in procrastination and an eventual revised publication date of 2017. It will no doubt be worth the wait.

Everything You Want Me to Be, by Mindy Mejia
Small town secrets are irresistible fodder for mystery and thriller writers. The idea that everybody knows everybody but no one really knows anyone is like catnip to readers and authors alike. Throw in the murder of a good girl gone bad and you have a familiar story readers will devour time and time again. But “Everything You Want Me to Be” stands out by inviting us to witness a year in the life of a young woman whose quest for something more leads her into a dangerous and online relationship that ultimately proves fatal. Mejia’s assembly of all the usual suspects (the hapless Sheriff, the heartbroken boyfriend), make this a familiar story, but one we never seem to tire of.

The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck
If you love historical fiction, you’ve likely read your share of novels set during World War II. But you probably haven’t experienced that period of history through a lens like this one. As Nazi Germany lies in ruins, Marianne von Lingenfels’ husband is murdered in a failed plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. As a result, Marianne flees to a castle in Bavaria with the wives and children of his co-conspirators. But rather than bonding over their mutual pain, Marianne discovers that the choices each woman has made, and the secrets they keep, may tear them apart more savagely than the war itself. Rich in historical atmosphere, moving and captivating, this will likely be one of the stand-out books of 2017.

The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova
When young Alexandra Boyd arrives in present-day Bulgaria to travel and teach, she expects her life to be markedly different from the one she left behind in America. But the bag of human remains that mistakenly ends up in her possession is definitely not part of the plan. Alexandra’s subsequent journey to return the bag to its rightful owner takes her across the Bulgarian countryside where what began as a puzzling mystery leads to the revelation of an entire nation’s history and culture. Beautifully written, with depth and mystery, “The Shadow Land” belongs on the nightstand of anyone craving a thriller with characters and plot that are anything but ordinary.

What are you reading this summer? Anything you’d add to the list?


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