> Zed Book Club / Dive In: 8 Beach Reads

Austrian actress Mara Lane lounging by the pool, Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, 1954. Beside her is a copy of 'The Honeyed Peace: Stories' by Martha Gellhorn. Photo: Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Dive In: 8 Beach Reads

Whether you read them poolside, at the beach, camping or on the cottage dock, these books will let your imagination wander / BY Nathalie Atkinson / June 25th, 2024


A beach read has to be absorbing enough to tune out the surrounding vacation chaos for a few hours. Our picks will keep you glued to the page, whether you’re on vacation or lounging at home. To suit whatever mood you’re in, we have historical glamour, emotional drama, a heartwarming ensemble and pithy humour, plus the making of reality TV and a deep dive into the legacy of the summer staple Dirty Dancing.

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on a cover image or title.

1The Beautiful People by Michelle Gable

A glamorous new historical novel by the San Diego accountant-turned-bestselling author (A Paris Apartment) follows failed debutante Margo to posh 1960s Palm Beach (with shades of Kristen Wiig’s hit period dramedy, Palm Royale). Broke and dumped by her fiancé, Margo gets to know the jet set up close as an assistant to famed shutterbug Slim Aarons, where she forms a friendship with fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer and wonders if high society is all it’s cracked up to be. (For more on Aarons, read our piece on the former war photographer who reinvented himself as an anthropologist of the good life.)


2Cue the Sun! by Emily Nussbaum

Before Nussbaum gets to Survivor and The Golden Bachelorette in her entertaining dive into reality TV, the New Yorker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning television critic rewinds to experimental forays into unscripted radio and television. Pioneering producer Chuck Barris (The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game), early prank shows like Candid Camera and PBS’s 1973 documentary series An American Familywhich inspired the 1992 MTV show, The Real World – round out this astute pop culture history of TV’s dominant genre that’s sure to spark nostalgic reminiscences from the chaise longue.


3Devil is Fine by John Vercher

This is the literary fiction I’ve been recommending when asked for a quick and elegantly written read that’s captivating (and thought-provoking). It’s about a biracial Black college professor who’s coping with the death of his teenage son when he inherits property from an estranged white relative – land that was a former slave plantation. Told in a stream-of-consciousness style from both a real and surreal imagined past, the novel takes on challenging themes in emotional, clever and darkly funny ways, in the vein of Percival Everett’s brilliant Erasure (a.k.a. Oscar winner American Fiction).


4Long Island Compromise by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

In the follow-up to her 2019 smash debut Fleishman is in Trouble (later a hit miniseries with Jesse Eisenberg and Claire Danes), the features writer at The New York Times Magazine and supreme Taylor Swift chronicler traces four decades in the life of a rich suburban family whose patriarch was briefly kidnapped in the 1980s. The novel explores his roots as the son of a Polish Jew escaping the Holocaust and the trauma and anxiety handed down to his three anxious now-adult children. The stressful family saga is sharply, viciously funny (and sometimes just plain vicious), a book everyone will be seen reading this summer. (July 9) 

 


5How to Age Disgracefully by Clare Pooley

Denizens of a day care and a senior’s group come together to save their community hall from a property developer in this hilarious and heartwarming novel by the bestselling British writer of The Authenticity Project. The story mainly follows wily and secretive Daphne, who’s just turned 70, as she tries internet dating and forms unlikely friendships with other well-drawn misfits. With intrigue and plotting, the witty ensemble comedy hits the spot while the elderly sleuths of Richard Osman’s popular Thursday Murder Club series are on a break.


6The Time of My Life by Andrea Warner

A lazy day at the beach can still come with a sense of accomplishment if you pack the right pocket-sized pop culture read. The latest instalment from Canadian publisher ECW Press’s Pop Classics series trains its gaze on Dirty Dancing, the beloved 1987 teen summer romance and dance movie phenomenon that has been a cottage-viewing staple among successive generations since the days of VHS. In short, smart chapters, the Vancouver-based culture critic (a producer at CBC Music) dissects everything from the songs on the movie’s bestselling soundtrack to its subplots about class division, abortion rights and political activism. 


7Glory Days by Simon Rich

This new collection of short pieces by the American humorist (and, as the son of former New York Times writer Frank Rich, a nepo baby made good) includes stories about the battle between David and Goliath playing out in the media, a Nigerian email banking scam spurring a heartfelt correspondence and an aging Super Mario reflecting on the challenges of the job as he turns 40. Rich’s affectionately barbed skewering of modern life, participation trophies and indignities will have you chortling – and prove why, at 22, he was one of the youngest writers ever hired by SNL. (July 23)


8The Summer Club by Hannah McKinnon

What will we do now that Elin Hilderbrand, the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author who’s been synonymous with the blockbuster summer novel for a quarter century,  is going on permanent vacation? This Connecticut-based writer is among those vying for queen of the beach read, and her breezy multi-generational romantic drama checks all the boxes: summer romance, family dynamics and an exclusive society enclave (in New England, natch). (July 23)

 


THE SCROLL

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Five Canadian Writers Make the Long List for the Inaugural Carol Shields Prize for FictionThe US$150,000 English-language literary award for female and nonbinary writers redresses the inequality of women in the publishing world


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Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."


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Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


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Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


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Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde


Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 


Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members


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Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


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