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Warming Up to June

Zoomer's best June fiction includes a meditation on mortality, a feminist utopia, a reimagined Great Gatsby and a new thriller from Bill Clinton / BY Nathalie Atkinson / June 1st, 2021


“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

We kick off our summer reading with this list of our June fiction picks, from Lionel Shriver’s thought-provoking yet playful (yes, playful!) meditation on mortality to a feminist utopia where all is not as it seems, to an other-worldly The Great Gatsby re-imagined as a sexy summer read.

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 the cover image. 

1The Chosen and the Beautiful Nghi Vo

The copyright on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic expired this year and there have already been several alternate takes on his legendary characters. None are as darkly beautiful as Vo’s queer retelling, in which Jay Gatsby works a beguiling but malevolent enchantment on revellers at his West Egg estate. Fantasy elements mix with the familiar speakeasies and fateful events of that hot, 1922 summer, told from the point of view of Daisy Buchanan’s childhood friend Jordan Baker, a young Vietnamese woman with a gift for magic. It’s sumptuous and sexy, and with prose to rival the original.


2Hot Stew Fiona Mozley

The Booker Prize finalist for her novel, Elmet, returns with a Dickensian novel of social realism set in a Soho brothel in London. The sprawling tale is a critique of capitalism that teems with nearly two dozen main characters – from grubby magicians and drug addicts to lawyers, sex workers and property developers – without ever feeling cluttered thanks to swaggering, cinematic writing.


3The Other Black Girl Zakiya Dalila Harris

“An edgier Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out’” is how one advance review describes this debut by Harris, 28, a former editorial assistant. It’s about Nella and Hazel, two Black women who work at a publishing house, and how one of them hopes to have found an ally in the other. After a bidding war, the novel landed a seven-figure book deal (and is currently being developed as a Hulu series) both for its propulsive and thought-provoking insider view of issues like racial infighting, assimilation, micro-aggressions and gas lighting as well as its depiction of the universal experience of workplace bureaucracy.


4Double Blind Edward St. Aubyn

Surprise! The aristocratic, Booker Prize shortlisted author of the acclaimed Patrick Melrose series (also a miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbatch) has moved past plumbing his semi-autobiographical trauma and pivoted to happiness. This optimistic novel chronicles a transformative year in the life of a group of 30-something friends (all of whom work in or around science, as the title suggests). From rural Sussex to the South of France to Big Sur, there’s nary a tortured alter ego in sight. Instead, “the whole novel is about healing,” St. Aubyn said in a recent interview. “It’s permeated with a sort of faith in regeneration.”


5Malibu Rising Taylor Jenkins Reid

Remember when everyone you knew was reading Daisy Jones and the Six? Prepare to spot the refreshing surfer-blue cover of this follow-up everywhere this summer. Four talented adult siblings have grown up in the shadow of their famous father, the rock star Mick Riva. (Fans of the author will recognize him as the third husband in a previous novel about a fictional classic Hollywood superstar named Evelyn Hugo). Told over the course of one long day and night as the Riva family prepares to host their annual end-of-summer bash in August 1983, there are multiple storylines and flashbacks to their parents’ 1950s heyday in this highly original dissection of family drama, betrayal, and celebrity culture.


6The President’s Daughter James Patterson and Bill Clinton

Matt Keating is an ex-Navy SEAL and former U.S. president. When he loses a second term to his female vice president, a terrorist abducts his teenage daughter Melanie (in retaliation for collateral damage that took the lives of the man’s family; the guy’s been biding his time). Keating’s single-minded mission to get her back is the premise of former President Bill Clinton and super-seller Patterson’s second collaboration (after their global No. 1 bestseller, The President is Missing). It’s not so much a novel as a Liam Neeson revenge movie waiting to happen. (June 7)


7Should We Stay or Should We Go Lionel Shriver

After watching her parents languish with dementia and treating patients in the ruthless decay of aging, a London medical couple in their 60s make a pact to end their lives when wife Kay turns 80. This parallel universe story (a high concept reminiscent of her Sliding Doors-style gem, The Post-Birthday World) uses the intervening decades to posit a series of alternate endings for the couple, including some where one or the other chooses not to comply with their bargain. As she proved in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Shriver’s not one to shy away from exploring thorny issues and speaking hard truths aloud — in this case, it’s the aging, illness and care giving as the author explores the possibility of chosen death, cryogenics and assisted living. Brilliant. (June 8)


8The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels India Holton

The title attracted me to this historical romance novel, but the bonkers plot grabbed and more than held my attention. There are pirates, Gothic abbeys, would-be assassins and handsome henchmen in this tale about Cecilia, raised by her aunt in a ragtag group of lady thieves who flit around an alternate-historical Victorian England. She lives by her wits and must join forces with a sworn male foe to save the society. This novel is the reason the word skullduggery was invented. (June 15)


9Dream Girl Laura Lippman

Novelist Gerry, 61, moves to Baltimore to be close to his ailing mother. She dies, but before he can start writing again, he has a serious accident. Confined to his bed for a long, drugged recovery, he requires 24-hour care. It’s in this hallucinogenic dream-state that he lapses into memories of childhood, failed marriages, book tours and even novels. One night, for example, a woman claiming to be the inspiration for his first character telephones him. There’s also a dead woman in his bed. Is it the pain medication, the beginning of dementia or something more nefarious? It’s not summer until the new literary thriller from Edgar winner Lippman arrives and this one is a smart tease laced with nostalgic pop culture references and full of delicious dread. (June 22)

 


10The Husbands Chandler Baker

The first lady of the feminist thriller (The Whisper Network) is back with the story of a successful lawyer who stumbles upon Dynasty Ranch, a subdivision for professional women. It’s one where the husbands share equally in the domestic duties, or what’s known as “the second shift.” Is it a gender-swapped Stepford Wives, or something even more sinister? The answer proves the adage that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. (June 29)


11The Personal Librarian Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

As J.P. Morgan’s private librarian and head of the Morgan Library for 43 years, Belle Da Costa Greene was one of the early 20th century’s most powerful figures in arts and literature, and guardian of some of the world’s great cultural treasures, from Gutenberg bibles to Michelangelo sketches. She was also a Black woman forced to conceal her identity to achieve her legacy. Although her father was the first Black graduate of Harvard, her divorced mother went to great lengths to craft a white identity so they could navigate the racist society of the time by changing their surname and publicly describing the family as Americans of Portuguese descent. There has only been one full-length biography of the woman who built collections, mentored colleagues and promoted the work of women scholars – not least because, before her death, Greene burned all her private papers. This historical novel pieces together clues from letters and her whirlwind social life to restore her identity. (June 29)


THE SCROLL

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.


Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.


Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.


Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”


Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956


Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."


The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.


American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history


Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.


Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."


European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.


Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


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


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


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.


Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events


Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards


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


Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations


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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