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Books The summer’s best books: Stuff your beach bag with these compulsive reads

Justin Poulsen/The Globe and Mail

BEACH-BAG BOOKS

Page-turner alert! Will they? Won’t they? Why did he? How could she? Stuff your beach bag with these compulsive reads to find the answers … and many more intriguing questions.

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Wherever She Goes (Doubleday Canada, June 25) by K.L. Armstrong

A woman witnesses a young boy’s kidnapping, but nobody else has reported it. She knows what she saw, but nobody will believe her. Our unreliable narrator knows she must do something, but how far is she willing to go?

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Big Sky (Bond Street Books, June 25) by Kate Atkinson

After a nine-year-hiatus (during which Atkinson published novels including the massive international hit Life After Life), private investigator Jackson Brodie is back, gathering proof of adultery for a suspicious wife – and stumbling upon more than he bargained for.

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The Body Lies (Knopf, June 18) by Jo Baker

A young writer accepts a teaching job at a remote English university so that she can start fresh and forget being assaulted. Then she recognizes herself as the protagonist of a troubled student’s disturbing novel. Fiction and reality blur. Will she be able to stop life imitating art? A dark, psychological suspense story from the author of Longbourn.

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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (Knopf, May 7) by Casey Cep

In this true-crime page-turner about one of the United States’ most beloved writers, Cep follows the trail of Harper Lee’s unfinished and unpublished book of non-fiction, which the To Kill a Mockingbird author envisioned as her own In Cold Blood.

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The Chai Factor (HarperCollins Canada, June 11) by Farah Heron

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No dating until her thesis is finished. That’s the one rule 30-year-old Amira Khan has set for herself. But when her grandmother rents the basement to a barbershop quartet, things could be about to change.

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Hideaway (Viking, July 9) by Nicole Lundrigan

From the acclaimed author of The Substitute and Glass Boys comes a tense and chilling page-turner in which an outwardly doting wife and mother pulls the strings on a sinister cycle of adoration, banishment and control behind closed doors.

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The Reunion (Little, Brown, July 9) by Guillaume Musso

A disappeared prep-school girl; her lover, the philosophy teacher; a corpse in the walls of the gym. Long-buried secrets will give way to the truth in this tragic, riveting, French-Riviera-set story translated from the French by Frank Wynne.

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A Better Man (Minotaur, Aug. 27) by Louise Penny

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The latest Inspector Gamache mystery arrives just in time for late-summer reading. With floodwaters rising across Quebec, Gamache finds himself caught between a crisis wrought by Mother Nature and the entreaties of a distraught father.

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Your Life Is Mine (Simon & Schuster, June 4) by Nathan Ripley

Ripley’s second novel promises all the page-turning compulsion of his bestselling 2018 debut, Find You in the Dark. After a murderous shooting spree, a cult leader – father to a young daughter – turns his gun on himself. Years later, the adult daughter must face the recent murder of her mother, and the possibility that her father’s cult may once again be on the rise. Can she escape her family’s dark legacy?

FRIENDS-AND-FAMILY DRAMA

Running the gamut of secrets and lies, love and understanding, these stories place life’s most cherished, fraught and defining relationships at their centre.

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Bunny (Hamish Hamilton, June 11) by Mona Awad

A “pristine, delightful [attack] on popular girls,” Lena Dunham proclaims on the cover of this internationally anticipated sophomore novel. Awad’s follow-up to the Amazon Canada First Novel Award-winning 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl takes place at an elite New England university, where scholarship student Samantha couldn’t be more of an outsider. The school is cliquey, and the rich, cliquey girls all call one another “Bunny.” When Samantha receives an invitation to enter the world of the Bunnies’ “smut salon,” she discovers strange, magical, unreal activities are afoot. Prepare to go down the rabbit hole with this weird and wonderful book.

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Fleishman Is in Trouble (Random House Canada, June 18) by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Newly divorced Fleishman juggles work, parental responsibilities and a new-found sexual popularity, but is left bewildered when his ex-wife disappears. Has he been wrong about his life until now?

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My Parents / This Does Not Belong to You (Hamish Hamilton, June 11) by Aleksandar Hemon

The celebrated Genius Grant recipient, The Lazarus Project author and 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize juror shares an intimate portrait of his parents’ immigration from Bosnia to Canada in part one of this double book. Flip it over and start again from the end to read the observations and memories of This Does Not Belong to You.

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Every Little Piece of Me (McClelland & Stewart, June 4) by Amy Jones

In her second novel, Jones (We’re All in This Together) tallies the cost of living in the public eye for a life-long reality-TV star and a rock musician whose unexpected friendship will help them to take back control of their own stories.

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I’ll Never Tell (Simon & Schuster, June 4) by Catherine McKenzie

After the unexpected death of their parents, the five MacAllister siblings gather to discuss the will. But to access the prime real estate on which their parents used to run a summer camp, they must work together to unravel the mystery of their fellow camper and friend who was murdered there 20 years before. Will they each offer up their secrets?

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Dual Citizens (House of Anansi, June 4) by Alix Ohlin

Ohlin asks questions about sisterhood, motherhood and self-knowledge in this novel about how we care for one another – her first since 2012’s Giller Prize-nominated Inside.

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Necessary People (Little, Brown, May 21) by Anna Pitoniak

College best friends become fierce workplace foes in this literary thriller about class, privilege, female friendship and the dark side of ambition. From the author of The Futures.

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BACK IN TIME

From the Wild West to the Jim Crow South to wartime Russia, true events provided inspiration for some of this summer’s best historical fiction.

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A Bend in the Stars (Grand Central Publishing, May 14) by Rachel Barenbaum

This debut that will appeal to fans of All the Light We Cannot See is an epic love story and a tale of scientific discovery set against the backdrop of Second World War Russia.

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Girl at the Edge of Sky (Random House Canada, Aug. 27) by Lilian Nattel

Based on the life and death of Soviet fighter pilot Lily Litvyak, who was shot down behind German lines during the Second World War, this story of risk and adventure imagines what might have happened to the courageous young woman if she survived to become a prisoner of the Germans.

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Summer of ’69 (Little, Brown, June 18) by Elin Hilderbrand

Summer-reads staple Hilderbrand rewinds to Nantucket in the summer of ’69 for her first historical novel, about four siblings and the summer where everything changes.

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City of Girls (Riverhead, June 4) by Elizabeth Gilbert

In this highly anticipated new novel from the author of Eat, Pray, Love, the New York theatre world of the 1940s comes alive in all its sordidness and glamour, and a young Vassar dropout learns a very different side to life.

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Stalingrad (New York Review Books, June 11) by Vasily Grossman

For those for whom summer reading is a time to tackle the classics or a weighty tome, the prequel to Grossman’s Life and Fate is available for the first time in English – translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler. At more than 1,000 pages, this story of Second World War Russia and Soviet society will keep you going till Labour Day.

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Deep River (Grove/Atlantic, July 2) by Karl Marlantes

Another summer doorstopper comes courtesy of the author of Matterhorn – also a modern classic of war literature. Here, five siblings in early 1900s Finland are forced to flee Russian oppression and make new lives in the United States.

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Inland (Random House, Aug. 13) by Tea Obreht

The lives of a frontierswoman and a former outlaw collide in this epic Wild West adventure from the author of The Tiger’s Wife, set in parched and lawless Arizona Territory in 1893.

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The Nickel Boys (Bond Street Books, July 16) by Colson Whitehead

The author of The Underground Railroad, Sag Harbor and The Intuitionist heads to the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s for his latest, the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish Florida reform school.

ARMCHAIR TRAVEL & ADVENTURE

No vacation plans? No problem. Let these novels take you around the world and into the future, by land, air and even under the sea.

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Proof I Was Here (Wolsak & Wynn, June 25) by Becky Blake

A Torontonian thief reboots her life on the streets of Barcelona with the help of a Catalan separatist in this debut novel: a story about luck, art and rebuilding a country – or yourself – from the ground up.

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This Little Light (Random House Canada, Aug. 13) by Lori Lansens

Welcome to the (very) near future, in which a young woman is accused of bombing her posh California high school, and where husbands, bosses, politicians and social-media trolls wield their power to keep women in their place.

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Lampedusa (McClelland & Stewart, Aug. 27) by Steven Price

Travel back to sun-drenched 1950s Sicily and into the life and mind of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa as he struggles to complete his only novel, The Leopard. Late-summer armchair travel in the vein of Colm Toibin’s The Master or Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.

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The Great Eastern (Melville House, June 4) by Howard Rodman

Captain Ahab confronts Captain Nemo, while Isambard Kingdom Brunel get caught in the middle in this sprawling, literary nautical adventure. Expect kidnappings, dark cultural undercurrents and feats of engineering alike.

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The Last Resort (Simon & Schuster Canada, June 18) by Marissa Stapley

At the Harmony Resort, a luxurious couples-therapy retreat on the Mayan Riviera, spouses deal with their marital struggles. When one of the resort’s owners goes missing, everybody is a suspect. Oh, and there’s a hurricane bearing down on paradise. Secrets will be revealed and loyalties tested, and nobody’s relationship will be the same again.

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Turbulence (McClelland & Stewart, July 16) by David Szalay

The ripple effects of the actions of 12 people in transit around the world are the subject of Booker-nominated Szalay’s latest novel. Structured as 12 brief chapters each representing a flight – from LGW to MAD, DSS to GRU, YYZ to SEA and more – this story of interconnectedness makes a light addition to your carry-on.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

From dirt under your nails to rushing wind in your hair, from solitude in the wilderness to solitude at sea, these books offer four very different types of inspiration for outdoor adventure.

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Vegetables, Chickens & Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere (Appetite, Feb. 26) by Carson Arthur

Window box? Community garden? Hobby farm? Grow your own food whatever your setup. This easy-to-follow year-round handbook will guide your garden from seed to harvest to table (and will tell you how to keep chickens too).

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Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race (Catapult, May 17) by Lara Prior-Palmer

In the vein of Educated or Wild, this memoir is the doggedly determined story of the first woman to win the Mongol Derby, where riders race wild ponies across 1,000 kilometres of Mongolian grassland.

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Outpost: A Journey to the Wild Ends of the Earth (Canongate, July 12) by Dan Richards

From Scotland to Iceland to Utah, visit the simple, silent, man-made outposts – bothies, bivouacs, cabins and huts – that make wilderness adventure possible without detracting from the wildness of the wilds.

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Ready to Come About (Dundurn, May 18) by Sue Williams

In the wake of a perfect storm of personal events, a woman sets sail on an improbable journey across the North Atlantic with her husband. In this debut midlife memoir, life and liberty come into focus through an unexpected high-seas adventure.

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