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Dive Into July

Zoomer's best July novels include a long-lost manuscript from John Oliver Killens, Vanessa Riley's 'Island Queen' and a queer retelling of Chinese history / BY Nathalie Atkinson / June 30th, 2021

From thought-provoking social satire to a nostalgia-fuelled, coming-of-age novel, we’ve got your summer reading ready. Just pop a copy of one of our top July fiction books into your beach bag, cottage duffel or park tote and you’re set!

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. 

1Shoulder Season Christina Clancy

Sherri, a successful, California, art-gallery executive, is approaching 60 when the illness of an old family friend calls her back to the small Wisconsin town where she grew up. The experience prompts her to revisit events from nearly 40 years before, when, as a shy and naive young woman, she impulsively got a job as a Bunny at the local Playboy resort. The decision dramatically altered the course of her sheltered life. With keen evocations of what it feels like to be on the cusp of adulthood, the novel thoughtfully unpacks the nostalgia of crushes, first love and the bonds of friendship sustained over a lifetime. (July 6)

2The View Was Exhausting Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta

When a fake-dating relationship that started as a publicity stunt has gone on for seven years, something’s bound to give. And it does in this clever beach read that deconstructs celebrity culture, race and modern romance in the age of Instagram. The opportunistic faux couple, British rising star Win Tagore and Leo, playboy scion of a hotelier and supermodel, are a match made in Daily Mail headline heaven. The catch is that true friendship (and maybe something more) lies beneath their carefully hash-tagged, jet set lives. When the lines between authenticity, reality and truth blur, you won’t be able to put it down. (July 6)

3Island Queen Vanessa Riley

Riley, who describes herself as a Southern, Irish and Trinidadian, is the author of historical romance novels that explore multi-culture communities and centre on marginalized characters. After reading Sanditon, Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel (which includes a biracial, West Indian heiress), she was inspired to research successful, Black historical figures during the Georgian and Regency periods. This saga, set in the West Indies in the 19th century, is based on the life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a formerly enslaved biracial woman who earned the money to purchase her freedom and that of her family members. ‘Doll,’ as she’s known, was a wily entrepreneur who became one of the wealthiest women and largest landowners in the Caribbean. The tale of female ambition and success within the colonial establishment comes to life and will pique curiosity about other neglected histories that have inspired formidable characters (like Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte). (July 6)

4The Final Girl Support Group Grady Hendrix

This chilling romp goes meta on the “final girl” trope of the slasher-movie genre. The idea refers to the last character standing – usually a young woman – who confronts the killer. (Jamie Lee Curtis’s girl-next-door Laurie Strode from Halloween is the mother of them all.) In this case, the last one left to tell the story, even as it’s unfolding, is the member of a therapy group for real-life survivors of murderous rampages. They’ve become minor true-crime celebrities and are being hunted down one by one in this entertainingly wry, knowing and affectionate subversion of the genre. (July 13)

5Ghost Forest Pik-Shuen Fung

Our unnamed narrator is one of the many so-called ‘astronaut’ parents who stayed in Hong Kong to work while their families immigrated to Vancouver before the 1997 handover (when Britain returned sovereignty to China). As the character mourns the death of her father, the author – a Canadian writer and artist born in Hong Kong who now lives in New York – takes readers on a journey through family memories in vignettes about unresolved issues, cultural assimilation and grief, and explores how absence itself can be a profound influence. (July 13)


6The Startup Wife Tahmima Anam

Between Anna Wiener’s explosive memoir Uncanny Valley and Kathy Wang’s new spy tale, Impostor Syndrome, Silicon Valley has become rich fodder for an emerging sub-genre: the feminist tech takedown. Toxic bro culture and real-world boondoggles like WeWork come to bear in this novel, set in the misogynistic world of would-be app billionaires. The engrossing and often funny satire follows a genius coder in the secretive tech scene and her reversals of fortune, as hollow buzzwords (and the con of disruption) justify Silicon Valley’s unconstrained power. (July 13)


7The Bachelor Andrew Palmer

“In an era in which reality TV can make two dozen women fall in love with one man in six weeks, where does entertainment end and reality begin?” That’s the tagline of this beautifully observed, coming-of-age story about a writer who finds himself rudderless after a bad breakup. While housesitting for his mother’s friend in order to reset his life (“or retire quietly from it”), he accidentally tunes in to an episode of The Bachelor, and gets sucked in – as one does. He is gripped with dual obsessions – the emotions running high in the reality-show mansion and the poetry of John Berryman – which spurs musings on the meaning of both high- and low-brow culture and the promise of connection they offer. (July 20)

8She Who Became the Sun Shelley Parker-Chan

This literary fantasy from debut novelist Parker-Chan (an Asian-Australian former diplomat who worked on human rights, gender equality and LGBT rights in Southeast Asia) offers an inspired, queer retelling of 14th-century Chinese history, namely the rise to power of Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant rebel who expelled the Mongols and was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty. It shows how the legend of Mulan is just the beginning of the country’s stories that are lesser known in the West. (July 20)

9The Other Passenger Louise Candlish

The bonds formed during a routine, daily commute are unique, but not what you’d call friendship, exactly. After one of the regulars on their Thames river bus goes missing, Jamie discovers this when he attempts to explain the nature of their relationship to police. The psychological suspense is structured between the present (in that strange and fallow limbo between Christmas and New Year’s) and looks back on the past year’s encounters. As she did in her bestseller, Our House, Candlish brings in the income and real-estate divide of the London property market, as well as cross-generational (Gen X and millennial) differences, to enrich the many implausible twists, turns and reveal. (July 20)

10What Strange Paradise Omar El Akkad

Simultaneously a mortality and morality thriller, this moving novel by the acclaimed Egyptian-born, Canadian journalist (and writer of acclaimed Canada Reads novel American War) chronicles what went wrong during a fatal Mediterranean migrant journey from Syria, where the lone survivor is a young boy. The chapters detail the Before and After of his arrival on land amid the dehumanizing forces of tourism, violence, intolerance and capitalism. (July 20)

11The Minister Primarily John Oliver Killens

This previously unpublished novel by Killens, the influential, U.S. political activist who died in 1987, is one of the most anticipated releases of the season. A founding member of the Harlem Writers Guild and the “spiritual father” of the Black Arts Movement, his fiction was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize twice. Killens was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and mentor to writers such as Arthur Flowers, Terry McMillan and Maya Angelou.

The novel is set in the 1980s in a fictitious democratic republic in West Africa recently freed from British colonial rule and newly famous thanks to the discovery of a rare and powerful new radioactive element. The far-fetched plot (about an assassination targeting the country’s leader that leads to his impersonation during a diplomatic mission to the U.S.) becomes a brilliantly barbed satire of racial politics. (July 27)


2023 Booker Prize: Irish Writer Paul Lynch Wins For Dystopian ‘Prophet Song’Canadian Booker Prize jury chair Esi Edugyan called the novel a "a triumph of emotional storytelling, bracing and brave."

Sarah Bernstein’s ‘Study for Obedience’ Wins 2023 Scotiabank Giller PrizeThe author, who gave birth to a daughter 10 days ago, accepted the award remotely from her home in the Scottish Highlands

Governor General’s Literary Awards: Anuja Varghese’s ‘Chrysalis’ Among This Year’s WinnersEach of the 14 writers, illustrators and translators will receive a prize of $25,000

Giller Prize Winner Suzette Mayr Among Finalists Shortlisted for 2023 Governor General’s Literary AwardsThe 14 winners, who will each receive a prize of $25,000, will be announced Nov. 8

Five Authors Shortlisted for This Year’s $100,000 Scotiabank Giller PrizeDionne Irving and Kevin Chong are among the finalists who "probe what it means to be human, to survive, and to be who we are"

Norway’s Jon Fosse Wins Nobel Literature Prize for Giving “Voice to the Unsayable”The author's work has been translated into more than 40 languages, and there have been more than 1,000 different productions of his plays.

Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist Recognizes 12 Authors Who Demonstrate “the Power of Human Imagination”The 2023 longlist includes the prize's 2005 winner David Bergen and debut novelist Deborah Willis. 

Duke and Duchess of Sussex Buy Film Rights to Canadian Author Carley Fortune’s ‘Meet Me at the Lake’Prince Harry and his wife Meghan have purchased the movie rights to the bestselling romantic novel, which was published in May this year.

Booker Prize Longlist ‘Defined by its Freshness’ as Nominees RevealedEsi Edugyan, chair of the 2023 judges, said each of the 13 novels "cast new light on what it means to exist in our time."

Barack Obama Releases His 2023 Summer Reading ListThe list includes the latest novel by Canadian-born New Zealand author Eleanor Catton.

David Suzuki Takes Inspiration From His Own Grandchildren for New Kid’s Book ‘Bompa’s Insect Expedition’The book features Suzuki and two of his grandchildren exploring the insect population in their own backyard.

Milan Kundera, Author of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, Dies at 94Kundera won global accolades for the way he depicted themes and characters that floated between the mundane reality of everyday life and the lofty world of ideas.

Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Dark Genius of American Literature, Dead at 89McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2006 novel 'The Road.'

Remembering the Life and Loves of Literary Bad Boy Martin AmisThe legendary British author has died at 73. His absence will be keenly felt, but Amis leaves behind a book shelf’s worth of novels, including 'London Fields', 'Money' and 'Success', filled with shambolic anti-heroes raising a finger at society. 

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to Publish Two Books Related to Mental Health and Wellness With Penguin Random House CanadaThe upcoming releases include a wellness book for adults and a picture book for children, which will roll out over the next two years.

Queen Camilla Celebrated Her Love of Books by Having Some Embroidered on Her Coronation GownThe Queen's coronation gown also featured tributes to her children, grandchildren and rescue dogs embroidered into it.

Better Late Than Never: Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s Unpublished Novel Set for Release in 2024'En Agosto Nos Vemos' or 'We'll See Each Other in August' was deemed by the late author's family to be too important to stay hidden

End of an Era: Eleanor Wachtel leaves CBC Radio’s ‘Writers & Company’ After More Than Three Decades on the AirAfter a career interviewing what she describes as the "finest minds in the world," the long-time radio host says she's ready to begin a new chapter.

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day Features Deals, Contests and ReadingsOn Saturday, every book purchased at an indie store qualifies you to enter the Book Lovers Contest, with a chance to win gift cards worth up to $1,000

Translation Project Will Bring Literature From the South Asian Continent to English-Speaking AudiencesThe SALT project aims to translate and publish 40 works by authors from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

The Book Thief: An Italian Man’s Guilty Plea Ends a Caper That Puzzled the Literary World for YearsFilippo Bernardini’s elaborate phishing scam netted 1,000 unpublished manuscripts by prominent authors including Margaret Atwood and Ian McEwan

The Late Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison Is Honoured with an American StampThe Obamas and Oprah Winfrey pay tribute to the writer whose poetic interpretations of the African American experience gained a world-wide audience

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

The Furry Green Grump is Back in a Sequel to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”Dr. Seuss Enterprises will publish “How the Grinch Lost Christmas!” in September

Chris Hadfield to Publish a Sequel to His Blockbuster Debut, “The Apollo Murders,” on Oct. 10"The Defector” brings the Cold War intrigue from space to Earth as the Soviets and Americans race to develop fighter jets

Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ Continues to Break Worldwide RecordsThe book also seems to have put a dent in the popularity of members of the Royal Family — including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Prince Harry’s Memoir Breaks U.K. Sales Record On First Day of ReleaseThe publisher of the new memoir, 'Spare", says it had sold 400,000 copies so far across hardback, e-book and audio formats.

Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2022The former U.S. president’s 13 titles include Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton, as well as tomes from Michelle Obama, George Saunders and Jennifer Egan

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world

Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."

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."

Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.

Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.

Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.

Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.

Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.

New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.

French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."

Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.

Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'

Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.

Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.

Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature

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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