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What to Read in August

Zoomer's best fiction picks this month include a hardboiled noir from Stephen King, a heartbreaking and hilarious novel from Miriam Toews and another nail-biter by Paula Hawkins / BY Nathalie Atkinson / July 30th, 2021

We’ve got 11 novels for the flickering hot days of August, which Sylvia Plath called “the odd uneven time.” From Stephen King taking a pulse-pounding page from the legendary crime writer Donald Westlake and a satire of Conran-era design to Charlotte McConaghy’s lyrical new eco-fiction and a sprawling saga named for the influential African-American rights activist who co-founded the NAACP,  here are our picks for the best fiction coming out this month.

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. 

1Something New Under the Sun Alexandra Kleeman

As a writer oversees the big-screen adaptation of his novel, the machinations of the movie business commingle with a looming eco-catastrophe. It’s set in a near-future Hollywood ravaged by wildfire, where the synthetic water supply is privatized; it also skirts southern California cults and conspiracies. As she did in her acclaimed debut You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, the U.S. writer grapples with contemporary maladies. While water was the source of Los Angeles corruption in Chinatown, here it’s a way of exploring how much can be lost, and how quickly. (Aug. 3)

2Billy Summers Stephen King

King, who recently observed that the pandemic isn’t that different from his bleak fantasy The Stand, sets his customary supernatural horror aside for this hardboiled noir about a well-read former military sniper turned ruthless killer-for-hire. It’s a rescue and revenge story set during the penultimate summer of the Trump presidency when Summers, the hit man with PTSD, is doing his proverbial final job before taking a stab at redemption. All the while, Summers is penning a memoir, so the taut set pieces are interspersed with musings about the craft that recall King’s memoir On Writing. A road-trip crime thriller stuffed with highbrow literary references and hints of The Shining? Hell, yes. (Aug. 3)

3Once There Were Wolves Charlotte McConaghy

In her instant bestselling novel Migrations, McConaghy followed a woman who traced what might have been the last migratory journey of the Arctic tern. The Australian writer returns to the lessons and perils of the natural world in this literary eco-thriller about twin sisters who grow up in the forests of Alaska and British Columbia, where one goes on to make a career out of reintroducing grey wolves to habitats where they have gone extinct. Inti arrives in Scotland to lead a conservation team in the Scottish Highlands, and there’s a whodunit element as the local farming community resists her work. (Aug. 3)

4We Are the Brennans Tracey Lange

What is it about summer reading, where we escape real-life family drama by reading novels about family drama? The engrossing reason is that Tolstoy was probably right: All happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This perceptive and compassionate debut about a wayward daughter who reluctantly returns to the fold of her multi-generational, dysfunctional, Irish Catholic family after a failed attempt at independence has been compared to Ann Patchett’s novels and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest. The U.S. author comes from a big Irish family herself, and this novel singles her out as one of Publishers Weekly’s Writers to Watch this season. (Aug. 3)


5Clark and Division Naomi Hirahara

In this Second World War story inspired by real events, 20-year-old Aki Ito doggedly uncovers the truth behind the Chicago subway death, by apparent suicide, of her beloved older sister, Rose. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Japanese-American Ito family was incarcerated in California’s Manzanar internment camp. In 1944, after their release, they are about to be reunited with Rose – who was relocated to Chicago’s Clark and Division neighbourhood two months before – when she dies. Based on years of meticulous historical research, this resonant, bracing mystery from the author of the Edgar-winning Mas Arai series explores rising anti-Asian sentiment in the 1940s, as well as the dark, racist legacy of the federal 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned the immigration of all Chinese labourers, and the 1924 Immigration Act that barred all Arabs and Asians from entering America. (Aug. 3)


6The Shimmering State Meredith Westgate

In this enthralling novel, Memoroxin is an experimental new drug developed for Alzheimer’s patients, but the twist is that the pills contain happy personal memories chosen by its subjects. Naturally, off-label applications have made it a black-market sensation for those who seek the allure (and nostalgia) of experiencing other people’s memories. The dreamlike story from this New York writer follows two patients who bond over possible déja vu in rehab, after one of them steals his grandmother’s Mem pills in order to re-experience his late mother through her eyes. (Aug. 10)

7Fight Night Miriam Toews

With the movie of her international bestseller All My Puny Sorrows set to have its world premiere at TIFF and Sarah Polley currently filming Women Talking with Frances McDormand, Claire Foy and Rooney Mara, it’s the season of Toews. The Toronto writer’s latest novel takes the form of a letter written by a precocious nine-year-old girl, who lives with her physically frail grandmother and psychologically damaged, pregnant mother, to her absent father. The Fight of the title is a nod to Fight Club novelist Chuck Palahniuk, but it’s about women girding themselves to be resilient, and, as always with a Toews novel, it’s both heartbreaking and hilarious. (Aug. 24)

8Mrs. March Virginia Feito

Our titular housewife is married to a bestselling writer and has an enviable life – much like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway – forever preparing to host cocktail parties in their handsome Upper East Side apartment. The fact that she’s reading Daphne du Maurier in this domestic potboiler is a clue, however, that sex and jealousy aren’t far off. Mrs. March believes she is the inspiration for the unlikable prostitute in her husband’s latest novel, and that not only is he having an affair, he’s also a murderer. We’re privy to the paranoia and insecurity of her inner monologue as she dwells on her perceived deficiencies and (slowly, maybe) unravels. The story from Feito, a Spanish writer, so enraptured Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men) that she’s developing it into a movie. (Aug. 10)

9The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

This ambitious epic spans 500 years (and more than 800 pages) and covers the genocide of Native Americans and the Atlantic slave trade as it follows the fortunes of a Black American family to the near-present. Rooted in Georgia, it’s also the renowned National Book Award-nominated poet’s novel debut. Modern-day protagonist Ailey was raised in Washington, but moves to the South and explores the roots of her maternal ancestors. The much-anticipated novel from the U.S. poet is described as a “loving and sprawling portrait of Black Americans who survive slavery only to fight to make space for themselves in a country that continues to question their worth.” (Aug. 24)

10A Slow Fire Burning Paula Hawkins

There’s no girl in the title, but there are several in the plot – and all three become prime suspects after a young man is murdered. Unfolding with inventive layers and a large cast of characters, the small-town secrets and drama is a novel-within-a-novel, interspersed with excerpts of a book written by one of them (not unlike Margaret Atwood’s Booker winner, The Blind Assassin). What a ride! You’d expect no less from the British author of the relentless page-turner, The Girl on the Train. (Aug. 31)

11The Art of Living Stephen Bayley

Best known in his native Britain as a cultural commentator, Bayley wrote many appreciations of democratic design pioneer Sir Terence Conran after his legendary friend and colleague died last fall. Now he’s written the roman à clef. Imagine a not-entirely flattering but avidly entertaining portrait of the Habitat mastermind called, in these pages, Sir Eustace Dunn. Through witty set pieces and episodes, Bayley paints an immersive, nostalgic picture of how revolutionary it was to introduce “good design” (Scandi ceramics, Japanese paper lanterns and everyday French kitchen kit) to post-war England’s aspirational and emerging suburban middle class. The sly romp is both a blistering satire and a love letter about the genius magpie who changed British society through design. (Aug. 31)


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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