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(David Woodside / The Globe and Mail)
(David Woodside / The Globe and Mail)

Books

Readers’ picks for sizzling summer reads Add to ...

In winter, I try to be disciplined and force myself to read only books I should be reading, novels somehow related to work and biographies of people I really should know more about. Or at least that is what I tell myself, as I put aside a treatise on peace in the Middle East for a fat life of Mordecai Richler or a novel by Julian Barnes. In summer, quite the other way, I indulge myself with the comfort of old favourites and the dazzle of new books that have been waiting patiently on my bedside table, and dip into the police procedurals and Scandinavian crime fiction that I have tucked away in the cold, austere working months.

But not everyone feels that way, as the following responses from Globe readers make clear.

Despite his rampant republicanism, I like the work of Australian novelist Thomas Keneally, who is probably best known for Schindler’s List. But I want this summer to reread his earlier Gossip from the Forest, a revealing account of the immediate events leading up to dramatic signing of the Armistice in November, 1918, with a focus on that railway car in the Forest of Compiègne just north of Paris. It seems somehow appropriate as we begin the countdown to the centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of the First World War. – Regor

This is easy: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernières. I’ve read it every summer for the past five years. It’s romantic, it’s beautifully written. And reading on the beach you can imagine you’re in Greece. (Don’t see the movie, please. I'm begging you.) – rosie33

This year, I’ll be doing what I’ve done every year since my son started high school: peeking over his shoulder at his summer reading list and compiling my own list of must-reads. There are always a few titles that I’d read and enjoyed when I was in school: John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Pride and Prejudice. Last summer’s offerings included Great Expectations, which had slipped by me. Forty pages in, my son abandoned it for more contemporary fare, but I was happy to pick it up and immerse myself in Dickens’s world. My son’s preferred genre is science fiction, while I love a good murder mystery, but sharing a reading list with him reminds me of all those bedtimes when he was little and I would read the early Harry Potter books aloud to him. This summer, we are both looking forward to Crime and Punishment, James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. – Rosie

The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. Although it is more than 80 years old, the story is wonderful. I can read this over and over again. The characters are strong and the life lessons still apply today. I also read The Berlin Boxing Club, by Robert Sharenow. It may be junior fiction, but adults will enjoy it. – Mary N

I am rediscovering the books of Robert E. Howard (1906-1936). His sword-and-sorcery tales ( Conan,Kull,Solomon Kane) are wonderful escapist jaunts. And his writing is infinitely superior to a lot of what's published today. His use of language, imagery and narrative pacing are superb. Highly recommended summertime reading. – Paul Ratte

George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series has taken over my life this summer, as it has so many others. Nothing like a little escapism to go well with a beer on the back deck! – Rae

I love my Kindle. It has allowed me to explore an endless number of new authors and books I would never have found. I read at least eight books a month, sometimes many more. Currently I am exploring indie authors, hidden gems, that may receive little fanfare but have talent and passion. There is a surprising amount of talent out there if one looks and doesn't simply follow the herd. I recently read Have a Little Faith, by Mitch Albom, an excellent book that pulls the emotional strings, and an unknown author, Sarah Middleton, on Kindle (ebook) with a relatively short novel, The Sun Set on Yorktown College. This dramatic romance brought tears to my eyes.

justsomecanadian

The serious me says Richard White’s Railroaded. The super-serious me says L.S. MacDowell’s An Environmental History of Canada, Neil Forkey’s Canadians and the Natural Environment to the Twenty-First Century, and lots of 19th-century Canadian travel literature. The husband me says books by some guy that Gen recommends named Thomas Hardy. The dad me says the Ramona books. The summer me says more Jo Nesbo thrillers, with their nicely balanced mix of crime and character.

Alan MacEachern

I am currently reading Auto da Fe, by Elias Canetti, and will following this with Conversations in the Cathedral, by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera, On the Natural History of Destruction, The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald. Quite a variety, but these are the writers I am interested in at the moment.

Hans Denee

I’m giving John Irving’s new novel, In One Person, a shot. I am a big Irving fan, mostly due to his excellent character development. The topic of this book is a bit heavy for the beach, but might be best read by the fire with scotch. Just finished reading Why Men Lie, by Linden MacIntyre, another author with great talent for character development. I put it off for a while as the title did not appeal to me, but quite a good story. – Stephanie

Summer is the time for rereading favourite classics. Time seems to expand with the light allowing one to really savour the words. This summer, it will be The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, which speaks of a time when romance was contained in a kiss on the wrist. – ailmclaren

I just reread Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind and loved it. I think I first read it when I was about 15. It transported me to a time and place unlike any recent book has. I couldn't read anything else for about a month after that. – cmv

I just finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. What a wonderful story – I was crying and blowing my nose at one point. So beautifully written – you must try it. – Lynda Anderson

Janet Flanner’s Paris was Yesterday is perfect escapist reading, stylish reportage on Paris in the 1920s and 30s from a witty New Yorker correspondent who knew everyone in the bohemian quarter. Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is the very poor relation of Flanner’s highly polished aperçus about art and artists, decaying aristocrats and corrupt politicians, outré fashion and outrageous crimes. – Flaneur

My pick is Old Filth, by Jane Gardam. I had loved others of her books – The Queen of the Tambourine, Bilgewater,Crusoe’s Daughter – and bought this one because of them. But what a revelation! Characters who became friends (or enemies); a plot unfolding with perfect craft and surprises along the way; my emotions involved one by one; and complete satisfaction at the end. I reread it because I must. It has become a treat to be savoured in the summer, with new insights, understanding and enjoyment each time. My favourite book/friend of all time. One of my guilty pleasures is to find a book by Donna Leon that I have not read, and to sink into the world of Guido Brunetti and his family in Venice and follow his latest murder investigation. – Lisey

The book I am looking forward to most this summer is Every Night’s a Saturday Night, by Bobby Keys, the saxophone player famous for playing with the Rolling Stones and others. He tells of how he ended up playing with all these A-list musicians. – Michael Ribicic

I’m reading Dance, Dance, Dance, by Haruki Murakami. How did I miss this guy? He writes like an angel with a magic pen. Very funny. The protagonist is middle-aged wise guy looking for meaning in his life, but first he has to chaperone a sullen 13-year-old girl around. – davek65

Guilty pleasures? Just the act of escaping from work deadlines and reading for fun – pausing frequently to savour a phrase or perhaps to think of nothing, while the rest of the world labours on – is deliciously sinful in itself! – Pollyanna

I just finished Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. It's the story of two young girls raised by a series of relatives following a tragedy that befalls their mother. Disturbing but beautifully written. – mscharlie

I’m reading Americas, by Jason Lee Norman. It's a book of short stories, which is new for me. A quick, short, summer read, 22 stories, one for each country in the Americas. A beautiful combination of fact and fiction. I keep thinking about the stories days after I've read them. Excellent small-press work. – Edm Reader

This summer, I have some big, chunky reads planned: Bleak House, by Charles Dickens, and Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. I hope to read as well The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, which seems like a great book for summer! – JoJoWordsmith

I could not recommend Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, more highly. Our book club raved over it, and we have the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, slated for summer. I would like to add a word of thanks for not engaging in the usual diatribe about what constitutes a beach book. Those easy, fast reads that marketing departments everywhere suggest we pick up in the summer may be suited to some, but are certainly not for everyone. My love of reading sprang to life in the summer. I used to love afternoons spent in the hammock, strung between two trees, overlooking Lake Joseph and losing myself in wonderful stories. It was there that I read all of L.M. Montgomery's books, followed by the Brontës, Jane Austen and Tolstoy. Doesn't it stand to reason that when we have the time to spend a few hours reading, we spend it enjoying the greatest books ever written? – Elizabeth S. Brinton

Love these recommendations for reading. I've just finished the latest title, Elegy for Eddie, in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The entire series, featuring a female detective in post-First World War England, is worth reading. I do recommend, however, reading it chronological order. I’ve started Prague Fatale, by Philip Kerr, which features private detective Bernie Gunther. Again, the entire series is worth reading, beginning with the Berlin Noir trilogy. – C. Braun

I've been reading the novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. They predate the current popular Scandinavian writers by some 30 years or more, but their series, set in the Sweden of the 1960s and 70s, is a classic. – Morgwen

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