Winter is good, autumn is nice, spring is okay, but there is nothing else quite like reading in the summer. Except for, perhaps, reading about summer, books about road trips, swimming, canoe paddling, long lazy days, and even a little bit of summer intrigue. The books in this list, out now or coming soon, have all of this, and they run the gamut of fiction, non-fiction, YA, and a most excellent picture book. These are books that mean summer starts NOW.
The Last Wave, by Gillian Best (Out in August)
About the book: A beautifully rendered family drama set in Dover, England, between the 1940s and the present day, The Last Wave follows the life of Martha, a woman who has swum the English Channel ten times, and the complex relationships she has with her husband, her children, and her close friends. The one constant in Martha’s life is the sea, from her first accidental baptism to her final crossing of the channel. The sea is an escape from her responsibilities as a wife and a mother; it consoles her when she is diagnosed with cancer; and it comforts her when her husband’s mind begins to unravel.
An intergenerational saga spanning six decades, The Last Wave is a wholly authentic portrait of a family buffeted by illness, intolerance, anger, failure, and regret. Gillian Best is a mature, accomplished, and compelling new voice in fiction.
Why we're taking notice: Because we're crazy about swim-lit, plus Best was previously winner of the Bronwen Wallace Award. This one sounds excellent.
The Summer Book, edited by Mona Fertig
About the book: Focusing on the joys of summer, The Summer Book features new creative non-fiction by twenty-four exceptional and award-winning British Columbian writers: warm and wonderful tales, meditations on nature, memories, humour and seasonal anticipations. The Summer Book—a refreshing collection readers can relax and dip into, anytime of year. A small positive treasure in this complex crazy century.
Contributions by Luanne Armstrong, Kate Braid, Brian Brett, Anne Cameron, Trevor Carolan, Claudia Cornwall, Daniela Elza, Carla Funk, Jane Hamilton, Eve Jospeh, Des Kennedy, Theresa Kishkan, Chelene Knight, Fiona Lam, Grant Lawrence, J.J. Lee, Sarah De Leeuw, Peter Levitt, Christine Lowther, Pearl Luke, Susan McCaslin, Briony Penn, D.C. Reid, and Harold Rhenisch. Drawings by Gary Sim, Peter Haase, and Briony Penn.
Why we're taking notice: Oh my gosh, just read the first essay by Theresa Kishkan, this amazing, mesmerizing, transporting, telescoping thing. Which is kind of just like summer is. And then read the rest of the book, but not too quickly. Also like summer, you'll want this one to linger as long as possible.
In a Wide Country, by Robert Everett Green
About the book: Twelve-year-old Jasper is watching his mother, a sometime model named Corinne, prepare herself for what he does not realize will become an unannounced escape from the life they share in Winnipeg. A short trip out of the city turns into what Corinne calls a summer of adventure, as they drive with no set destination across the prairies. Dean, the generous story-telling boyfriend Corinne is determined to flee, vanishes in the dust rising behind her Corvair—the last and biggest gift he gave her. As Jasper and his mother settle briefly in Edmonton, and then flee again for Vancouver, Jasper feels like an exile from a life in Winnipeg that offered stability, a place to find himself, and—in Dean—a substitute for the father he never knew. In a Wide Country is the moving story of a mother and son traveling together, but in different directions, across western Canada in the summer of 1961. It's about two people living in a web of stories, spun from their experiences but also from things they've heard, imagined, or misunderstood. In this debut novel by Robert Everett-Green, stories blend into each other from many sources: family anecdotes, movies, newspapers and tales that Corinne improvises at her makeup table. In a Wide Country is about growing up along the soft border between truth and illusion, and a boy's awakening from a childhood ruled by stories more satisfying than true.
Why we're taking notice: Open roads, a beautiful woman on the run, and a young boy on the cusp of everything. This is the debut novel by Green, an award-winning fiction writer and frequent contributor the Globe and Mail.
Shepherd's Watch, by David Gane and Angie Counios
About the book: The boys are back! Tony Shepherd’s relaxing summer at the lake with his family crashes to a halt when Charlie Wolfe arrives at the cabin after a local man goes missing. Nothing is ever simple when Charlie’s around, and soon the boys are caught in a dark tangle of violence and danger. If they’re not careful, their search could bring harm to more than just themselves… Can Tony protect his family and Charlie?
Why we're taking notice: This is the second title in Gane and Counios' YA series, following on Along Comes a Wolfe, which won the First Book Award at the Saskatchewan Book Awards this year.
Just Like Family, by Kate Hilton
About the book: Avery Graham has built a life that anyone would admire. She has a brilliant career as chief of staff to Peter Haines, the charismatic mayor of Toronto. She has a devoted partner in Matt, her live-in boyfriend of 14 years. And she has a loving family and deep friendships that stretch back to childhood summers at the cottage.
But when Matt proposes, Avery’s past threatens to engulf her present. Can she contemplate a lifetime commitment to Matt after her disastrous first marriage to Hugh? And is Matt really the love of her life, when she has spent so much of it by Peter’s side? Avery could use some good advice from the women who know her best, but her closest friends, Jenny and Tara, have drifted away over the years.
When a scandal erupts at city hall, Avery must overcome her deepest fears about love and loss, and discover what it means to be a family.
Why we're taking notice: Readers have been looking forward to the bestselling Hilton's second novel (after The Hole in the Middle) and it's got great reviews already. With its cottage setting, this one is a perfect summer read.
Wesley James Ruined My Life, by Jennifer Honeybourn
About the book: Quinn is having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.
So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all—by getting him fired.
But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.
Why were taking notice: This is the debut novel by BC author Honeybourn, published under the very cool crowd-sourced Swoon Reads YA imprint.
Turning, by Jessica J. Lee
About the book: Jessica J. Lee swims through all four seasons and especially loves the winter. "I long for the ice. The sharp cut of freezing water on my feet. The immeasurable black of the lake at its coldest. Swimming then means cold, and pain, and elation."
At the age of twenty-eight, Jessica, who grew up in Canada and lived in England, finds herself in Berlin. Alone. Lonely, with lowered spirits thanks to some family history and a broken heart, she is there, ostensibly, to write a thesis. And though that is what she does daily, what increasingly occupies her is swimming. So she makes a decision that she believes will win her back her confidence and independence: she will swim fifty-two of the lakes around Berlin, no matter what the weather or season. She is aware that this particular landscape is not without its own ghosts and history.
This is the story of a beautiful obsession: of the thrill of a still, turquoise lake, of cracking the ice before submerging, of floating under blue skies, of tangled weeds and murkiness, of cool, fresh, spring swimming—of facing past fears of near-drowning and of breaking free.
When she completes her year of swimming, Jessica finds she has new strength, and she has also found friends and has gained some understanding of how the landscape both haunts and holds us.
This book is for everyone who loves swimming, who wishes they could push themselves beyond caution, who understands the deep pleasure of using the body's strength, who knows what it is to abandon all thought and float home to the surface.
Why we're taking notice: I was totally sold by Lindsay's review at the swimming blog, Swimming Holes We Have Known. And yes, it's swim-lit. So, of course...
Mermaids and Ikons, by Gwendolyn MacEwen
About the book: The island is shy and exuberant, savage and fair, bold yet self-effacing. It is a woman in heat, a man in despair, a blonde horse at sunset, a riot of fig trees, a flaking white salt bed, an arid garden of thyme and oregano, a hundred clotheslines full of octopi hung up to dry, a warm night of fireflies and tiny shrimps with burning eyes.
In her first work of nonfiction, Mermaids and Ikons: A Greek Summer, originally published in 1978, beloved poet and novelist Gwendolyn MacEwen explores her strongly personal responses to a complex civilization. Partly written during a trip to Greece in 1971, MacEwen moves from the urban tumult of Athens to the radiant simplicity of an island in the Aegean.
In this intimate and exquisitely written travel diary, she evokes the very spirit of Greece—the exuberance of the people, the sun-drenched landscape, and the shaping power of ancient traditions and myths in modern Mediterranean life.
Why we're taking notice: Part of House of Anansi's A List series, we're looking forward to having this work by CanLit legend MacEwen back in print.
Boundary, by Andrée A. Michaud
About the book: In the deep woods of the Maine borderlands, the legend of huntsman Pete Landry is still told around cottage campfires to scare children, a tragic story of love, lust, and madness. During the early summer of 1967, inseparable teenage beauties Sissy Morgan and Zaza Mulligan wander among the vacation cottages in the community of Boundary, drinking and smoking and swearing, attracting the attention of boys and men. First one, and then the other, goes missing, and both are eventually found dead in the forest. Have they been the victims of freak accidents? Or is someone hunting the young women of Boundary? And if there is a hunter, who might be next? The Summer of Love quickly becomes the Summer of Fear, and detective Stan Michaud, already haunted by a case he could not solve, is determined to find out what exactly is happening in Boundary before someone else is found dead.
A story of deep psychological power and unbearable suspense, Andrée A. Michaud’s award-winning Boundary is an utterly gripping read about a community divided by suspicion and driven together by primal terror.
Why we're taking notice: For this novel in its original French, Michaud was awarded her second Governor General's Award for Fiction in 2014. And it sounds terrific.
How Deep is the Lake?, by Shelley O'Callaghan
About the book: A prudent and intentional examination of privilege and belonging in Chilliwack Lake by retired environmental lawyer and grandmother. Curious about the previous inhabitants of the lake where her family has spent the summer for over one hundred years, author Shelley O'Callaghan starts researching and writing about the area. But what begins as a personal journey of one woman's relationship to the land and her desire to uncover the history of her family's remote cabin turns into an exploration and questioning of our rights as settlers upon a land that was inhabited long before we came.
In her research, O'Callaghan uncovers a history that runs as deep as the three hundred metre lake itself. Eager to pass on her discoveries, she shares her journey with her six grandchildren. Together they learn of her grandfather's intriguing connection with the First Nation's chief, whose ancestry goes back to the earliest recorded history at the lake, and her grandmother's attendance at a school where First Nations girls were taught servitude instead of knowledge. They find the headstone of an American scout with the 1858 International Boundary Commission Survey, a 1916 silver mine set up by Chief Sepass and the remnants of the original Indian Trail. They learn about trapper and prospector Charlie Lindeman, who introduced her grandfather to the lake in the early 1920s and rescued her mother and grandmother from a fire that engulfed the lake in the 1930s.
After a summer of discoveries, O'Callaghan and her grandchildren consider the impact of the legacy of white settlement in the area-what is received from the past and what is given to the future. As they reflect on the essence of a "summer cabin," a place that brings family together and that nourishes the soul with its solitude and beauty, they gain a new perspective on the inevitable repercussions of privilege and the nature of change.
Why we're taking notice: A fascinating book that, in the very best way, complicates the relationships of settler Canadians to "their" summer places.
The Weekend Effect, by Katrina Onstad
About the book: Encroaching work demands—coupled with domestic chores, overbooked schedules, and the incessant pinging of our devices—have taken a toll on what used to be our free time: the weekend. With no space to tune out and recharge, every aspect of our lives is suffering: our health is deteriorating, our social networks (the face-to-face kind) are dissolving, and our productivity is down. The notion of working less and living more, once considered an American virtue, has given way to the belief that you must be “on” 24/7.
Award-winning journalist Katrina Onstad, pushes back against this all-work, no-fun ethos. Tired of suffering from Sunday night letdown, she digs into the history, positive psychology, and cultural anthropology of the great missing weekend and how we can revive it.
Onstad follows the trail of people, companies, and countries who are vigilantly protecting their time off for joy, adventure, and most important, purpose. Filled with personal and professional inspiration, The Weekend Effect is a thoughtful, well-researched argument to take back those precious 48 hours, and ultimately, to save ourselves.
Why we're taking notice: Because we've been loving Onstad's fiction and journalism for years, and this is the perfect book to underline the value of lazing away a summer day.
Me and You and the Red Canoe, by Jean E. Pendziwol
About the book: In the stillness of a summer dawn, two siblings leave their campsite with fishing rods, tackle and bait, and push a red canoe into the lake. A perfect morning on the water unfolds, with thrilling glimpses of wildlife along the way.
The narrator describes the experience vividly. Trailing a lure through the blue-green depths, the siblings paddle around a point, spotting a moose in the shallows, a beaver swimming towards its home and an eagle returning to its nest. Suddenly there is a sharp tug and the rod bends to meet the water. A few heart-stopping moments later, the pair pull a silvery trout from the water, then paddle back to the campsite to fry up a delicious breakfast.
The poetic text is accompanied by stunningly beautiful paintings rendered on wood panels that give a nostalgic feeling to the story.
Why're taking notice: This book is terrific, so perfectly evocative of a lakeside morning, and you've never seen illustrations like these ones. It's a gorgeous, timeless story.
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