2016-06-22 18:37:00

Books: This summer's best page-turners and beach reads

Finally. The sun’s blazing, the temperature’s rising, and we can imagine tucking into some fast and fun books. Here’s what’s crossed our radar for summer reading.

THE NEST, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney ($22.99, HarperCollins)

One book you’re guaranteed to see at the beach – or the airport, park or on the streetcar – is this wickedly entertaining novel about a group of adult siblings whose comfy nest egg is depleted when one of them fucks up. Entitled and overextended, the sibs have to learn how to get by with less, which ironically might bring them together.

The New York City setting is fantastic, and the characters – who range from an uptight soccer mom to a gay antiques owner and a once-promising young fiction writer – are beautifully drawn. Sweeney’s got some impressive connections: Amy Poehler’s a fan of the book, and Sweeney’s husband was a writer on the Conan O’Brien show. So read it before the inevitable film version.

SARONG PARTY GIRLS, by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan ($31.99, HarperCollins). On sale July 12

You can tell from the title that this is one juicy read. Jazzy has all kinds of plans for how she and her friends can marry into wealth, but of course, things don’t work out as she expects. Author Tan not only takes readers into the new world of Asian money in Singapore, she tracks the aspirations of women yearning for success in that world, highlighting the conflict between traditional values and modern consumerism along the way. 

Plus, Tan’s language reflects the cadence and slang in a Singaporan and English mashup called Singlish.

RICH AND PRETTY, by Rumaan Alam ($22.99, Harper Avenue)  

Here’s another novel about impossibly wealthy people – c’mon, that’s the life blood of a good beach read. It’s about what happens when two best friends grow up and are no longer dealing with teenage angst and first loves but very grown-up problems. Socialite Sarah is busy planning her wedding. Lauren is single and works in publishing, and she’s not entirely impressed with Sarah’s fiancé. 

But she’s also Sarah’s maid of honour. As the two cope with pre-nuptial pressures, their friendship is looking more and more fragile. Alam asks the question: does a best-friend relationship have a best-before date?

LOSING IT, by Emma Rathbone ($35, River-head), on sale July 19

There’s a double entendre in the title of Rathbone’s novel. The It refers to Julia Greenfield’s virginity, which she hasn’t lost yet – and she’s over 25 years old. And because of this, she’s kinda losing it. Her fear that she may never have sex is making her feel like she’s not getting anywhere. Visiting her aunt for the summer was supposed to shift her perspective, but it just deepens her insecurity. Turns out her 58-year-old aunt is a virgin, too. 

Rathbone brings the funny to this novel about desperation, desire and the age-old choice between sex – just to get it over with – and love.

MODERN LOVERS, by Emma Straub ($35, Riverhead)

Here’s a book that has all the elements of a great beach read: sex, drugs and rock and roll. But there’s a twist: that’s all in the characters’ past. They’re in their 40s now, dealing with the fact that it’s their young-adult children who are getting all the action.

Andrew and Elizabeth and Zoe were in a band together in their 20s. Now Andrew and Elizabeth are a couple living in the same Brooklyn neighbourhood as Zoe and her wife, Jane. When their kids start sleeping with each other, their parents start feeling their age. Plus, they’ve never really dealt with the overdose death of their bandmate Lydia. Fun – but not flip.

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, by Amy Jones ($24.95, McClelland & Stewart)

This page-turner takes off when 60-something grandmother Kate goes over the Kakabeka Falls in a barrel and survives, but winds up in a coma. Thing is, Kate’s stunt has been caught on a video that’s gone viral, and her family members slowly unravel under the glare of the media spotlight.

The story is told from the third-person perspectives of 10 characters – no mean feat, made all the more impressive by the fact this is award-winning short story writer Jones’s first novel. And the characters span generations, from the reprobate young Finn, who’s living it up in Toronto, to Kate herself, who may have been on the brink of dementia. A writer to watch.

susanc@nowtoronto.com | @susangcole

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