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American actor James Stewart in 1962's "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" with Valerie Varda, a new Hungarian film actress. Photo: L. J. Willinger/Keystone Features/Getty Images

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8 Hot Beach Reads

A steamy romance, gripping thrillers and a dark historical non-fiction round out our picks for the season's most enticing beach reads / BY Athena McKenzie / July 10th, 2021

The ideal beach read is whatever captivates you and keeps you turning the pages. Whether you prefer a steamy romance, an against-the-clock survival story, a compelling memoir or a riveting piece of historic investigative journalism, it’s only a matter of taste. If it’s enjoyed while sipping your favourite summer cocktail, all the better.

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. 

1While Justice SleepsStacey Abrams

There’s a small risk this title will make you feel like an underachiever, especially if you’re lounging on the beach, since this legal thriller is by that Stacey Abrams: the U.S. lawyer and Georgia politician largely credited with mobilizing Black voters and ensuring victories for the Democrats in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections in January. Set in the U.S. Supreme Court, it follows Avery Keene, a young law clerk for the Washington judge Justice Wynn. When Wynn falls into a coma, Avery is shocked to learn he has given her power of attorney. She also discovers he was looking into a controversial biotech merger. As political players maneuver to replace the judge, Avery tries to unravel the clues he left behind.

2SufferanceThomas King

Jeremiah Camp seems to embrace a quiet existence, living at an old residential school on a small reserve, with no phone, no Internet and no television. Then, his past comes calling. Once known as the “Forecaster,” Camp worked for a powerful multinational conglomerate that profited from his unusual ability to see complex patterns in the world (including those that led to the dot-com bust and the U.S. Savings and Loan collapse). Before he ran away, he created a list of 12 names – every one a billionaire – and now the people on the list are dying at an alarming rate.

3FallingT.J. Newman

This one comes with a warning: Do not choose this for in-flight reading. It follows pilot Bill Hoffman after he’s been given an impossible choice – crash the plane he’s flying, with its 143 passengers on board, or let his kidnapped family die. The author, a former flight attendant, wrote most of this suspense-filled thriller on cross-country, red-eye flights while passengers were asleep.


4RememberingsSinèad O’Connor

In 1992, when Sinèad O’Connor ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live to protest child abuse by the Catholic Church, it set off a firestorm that destroyed the singer’s career. But, as O’Connor shares in this revelatory memoir, the incendiary act allowed her to escape the superficial and frivolous demands of stardom.

Before we get to this pivotal event, the singer recounts her traumatic upbringing in an abusive household in Ireland. Inspired by a brother’s Bob Dylan records, music was her escape. From her popular cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2U” and her outspoken activism, to her struggles with mental illness, O’Connor puts everything she remembers on the page.

5The RetreatElisabeth de Mariaffi

This thriller delivers double the chills, making it the perfect book to beat the heat. First there’s its wintry setting in an isolated snowy mountain lodge, The High Water Center for the Arts. Second, is its unsettling premise. Dancer Maeve Martin arrives at the retreat hoping to use her time to develop her new dance company. It’s the off season, so there are only a few other guests, and they have already formed strange relationship dynamics. When an avalanche cuts the lodge off from the outside world and traps everyone inside, the guests begin to die mysterious deaths, one by one, and Maeve’s life could depend on who she trusts.

6While We Were DatingJasmine Guillory

What’s a beach read list without a steamy romance? Rom-com darling Jasmine Guillory takes her unofficial series to Hollywood with her latest — the last of the linked novels that started with The Wedding Date. This installment follows Ben – who fans may recognize as Theo’s brother from The Wedding Party – a career-obsessed advertising executive. When he lands a huge campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, he finds it increasingly difficult to keep things professional. Cue serious flirting and physical connection. When Ben helps her with a family emergency, they connect on a new level. But will their relationship only be for the benefit of the Hollywood spotlight?

7Once Upon a Time in HollywoodQuentin Tarantino

Writer-director Tarantino returns to the colourful days of 1969 for this novelization of his 2019 film, which revisits the story of aging cowboy actor Rick Dalton, his stunt double sidekick Cliff Booth, actress Sharon Tate and cult leader Charles Manson and his “family.” Pull up the soundtrack on Spotify to complete your immersion in this fairytale about Hollywood.

8The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial KillerDean Jobb

Sometimes the most chilling tales are the true ones. Thomas Neill Cream was the Glasgow-born son of a wealthy Quebec City timber merchant who earned a medical degree from McGill University in 1876 and almost immediately employed his newfound skills to lethal effect. As the “Lambeth Poisoner,” Cream killed as many as 10 people in Canada, the United States and Britain, a rampage that eclipsed the crimes of the notorious Jack the Ripper. Jobb, a Halifax-based, true-crime writer and former newspaper reporter, provides the first complete account of Cream’s crimes, his victims and how Scotland Yard’s best detectives struggled to end his deadly attacks.


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