Staff Picks: Hot Summer Reads

Ready for summer reading? We are too! It's summertime in Halifax Regional Municipality, and we're ready to share some of our favourite Hot Summer Reads with you—for the beach, the backyard, the patio, or cozy summer nights at home.

What's unique about these reads, is that we specifically asked our staff and Board members to also share some perhaps hidden gems you wouldn't always think of as 'summer reading' to help heat up your To-Be-Read (AKA #TBR) Pile! 

Browse through our picks, borrow and place holds, and please share your recommendations in the comments. We're always on the hunt for hot books!

Note: We've listed the titles below in book format, but many are also available as digital (e-book or audiobook) formats via our OverDrive collection.


Ashley's Picks

Staff member, Marketing & Communications

One Italian Summer

Prepare to be transported to Italy! I read this one and absolutely loved it. Take me back!

Eat your Heart Out

Why not put a cookbook on your Hot Summer Reads list? It serves dual purpose: You'll make delicious eats, and you'll have perfect outdoorsy reading material as you dream of what you're going to whip up next!

Elevation

This one from Stephen King surprised me in the best way! A short, quick read, it's a lovely, soft, thought-provoking tale of a man who keeps floating upward.

Grown Ups

A perfect, light summer read for when you want to escape from being a grown up for a little while.


 

Catherine's Picks

Staff member, Collections

The Knockout Queen

A plot unlike anything I’ve ever read before! Super original and entertaining. Picked this one up without knowing anything about it and absolutely loved every page. Also, the cover art screams summer read!

Luster

A debut novel that’s funny, awkward, and a bit cringe at times—but in the best ways. I was fascinated to see where this one was going to go. It somehow simultaneously had a dream-like quality, but also felt very realistic. The setting is mainly NYC in the summer.

The Past

A story about four siblings that have an annual summer holiday at their grandparents' country home in the English countryside. Lots of family drama and excellent writing, with the perfect backdrop for a summer read.


 

Chi's Pick

Board member, Halifax Regional Library Board

Man Descending

Although Canada's only Nobel Prize winner in literature is Alice Munro, Guy Vanderhaeghe is also a wonder at the short story form. For my summer pick, I will be re-reading Vanderhaeghe's brilliant debut collection, Man Descending, which came out 40 years ago. It's not hard to see why this first-time author won the Governor General's Award with this book.


 

Colleen's Picks

Staff member, Marketing & Communications

The Ex-boyfriend Yard Sale

This was such a unique concept. In this non-fiction book, Haley McGee tries to create an equation for the cost of love based on her past relationships, by methods that are part analytical, part heart-wrenching, and fully entertaining. 

The Spoon Stealer

There are a lot of holds on this one at the moment (and rightfully so!), so you'll want to place a hold now to get it on your reading list. By beloved local author, Lesley Crewe, this sweet novel will take you on a journey through time between Nova Scotia and England, with a cast full of unforgettable characters. If you liked quirky-character tales like A Man Called Ove, and Heft, this one will be a good pick for you.

Call Us What We Carry

I listened to this poetry collection on audiobook, and highly recommend it as a new soundtrack for your summer strolls. The 2021 presidential inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman shares her unique voice and observations through every beautifully-crafted poem.

Local Woman Missing

If you like a little mystery-thriller action as part of your summer reading list, here's a great find. This was probably one of my favourites I read in the genre last year.


 

Diane's Picks

Staff member, Bedford Public Library

You Think It, I'll Say It

I absolutely loved this book. Each story is a perfect little slice of contemporary life. They all felt real and relevant like it could have been taken from my life or someone I know, yet it's like nothing I find in other fiction. I loved it.

Seven Days in June

Okay, so it’s not exactly a 'hidden gem,' as it’s a New York Times Bestseller, but I still think it’s worth mentioning: Seven Days in June by Tia Williams is set in the “middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer” so already we’ve got an appropriate setting. From there, it’s unexpected, real, and my favourite, not ever cliché. It’s about a couple, or, two people who have some kind of relationship and their lives together, but not together. It’s a perfect hot summer read.

The Survivors

A body is discovered on a beach (ooh, how summery!) As police investigate, they pull on strings that reveal more secrets and more questions about this small beach town. Harper’s writing is fantastic. I would recommend any of her books, but this one feels particularly beachy.


 

Elizabeth's Picks

Staff member, Collections

Class Mom

You've Been Volunteered

Yoga Pant Nation

I recommend The Class Mom series by Laurie Gelman. There are currently three books in the series: Class Mom, You’ve Been Volunteered and Yoga Pant Nation. Jen Dixon is a hilarious, if not reluctant, Class Mom. Each book tells the story of her experience dealing with other parents (and school politics) while juggling the responsibilities of her family which include a husband, two older daughters and a young son. It’s a perfect summer read because it is funny, relatable and a quick read.


Emily's Picks

Board member, Halifax Regional Library Board

I recently visited Ireland and was able to do some literary touring and reading!

Time Present and Time Past

While in Ireland, I visited my brother in Belfast. He recommended I read One By One in The Darkness by Deirdre Madden to get a better sense of the history of The Troubles within the region, it was beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While the Library does not currently have a copy, here is another by Deirdre Madden you may enjoy.

Emily of New Moon

The other fun book I have highlighted is a copy of “Emily of New Moon” from 1925 that I found at a used bookstore in Belfast! I was so delighted to find it, one thing I find funny is that they mention Anne of Green Gables on the cover but spelled it “Ann” without the “E”! 


Erin's Picks

Staff member, Collections

One Last Stop

There is something about lounging in the sun that makes me crave books that have romance and time travel. And though I didn’t read One Last Stop during the summer, I sure wish I had! It is a beautiful love story about a jaded young woman who falls in love with a mysterious woman displaced in time. A perfect summer read that I plan to revisit on a sunny day.

Duma Key

It’s fun to mix up light summer reading with something a little darker, a little more twisted. One such book that I come back to time and time again, is Duma Key by Stephen King. I especially crave its story on a rainy summer evening, when the beautiful day has been shrouded in a touch of darkness. If you like psychological thrillers with elements of fantasy and compelling and complicated narrators, then this book is for you.

The Language of Ghosts

Summer reading always causes feelings of nostalgia for me—memories of reading at our cottage as a kid and getting lost in another world, race through my mind. As an adult, I try to choose at least one kid’s novel to read in the summer to help satisfy that feeling of nostalgia. Plus, there are many amazing kid’s books! The Language of Ghosts is a great summer read. It is a fantasy novel full of adventure, magic, and strong kid characters.


 

Heather D's Picks

Staff member, Programming and Community Engagement

Fifty Words for Rain

I listened to a full cast production audio book version of Fifty Words for Rain and this drama grabbed me on the first page when little Nori, half Japanese and half African-American, is left on the doorstep of her Japanese grandparents’ home at age 8. It is 1948, and being mixed-race and illegitimate at that time in Japan meant that she had a very difficult life. This story is about Nori’s fight to survive tradition, power, a changing society and family.


 

Heather R's Picks

Board member, Halifax Regional Library Board

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

This is my new favourite book to talk about in the past six months. I have bought five copies for gifts to friends and family. It is indeed a dictionary that defines new words for emotions that we have no language for—it is an absolute delight. Example:
looseleft
adj. feeling a sense of loss upon finishing a good book, sensing the weight of the back cover locking away the lives of characters you’ve gotten to know so well.

This Is Happiness

I laughed, I cried. The language in this book is lyrical - full of charm and truth. Set in rural Ireland in 1956, it is character-strong: a love story, a mystery, a journal.

Apeirogon

I have never read a book like this - not in format or language. It is a deeply powerful, hopefu,l and beautiful book about the Israel/Palestine conflict seen through the eyes of two fathers on either side who have both lost daughters to the violence - true people who are still living. It is mesmerizingly set in a form of “Scheherazade” storytelling in, yes, 1,000 chapters but don’t let that dissuade you!

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Part saga, part magical realism, part fantasy. See the word “looseleft” above from Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. This is an excellent example of how I felt closing the cover of this book. I didn’t want it to end.


 

Jocelyn's Picks

Staff member, Captain William Spry Public Library

The Unexpected Everything

Save the Date

 

When I think about great summer reads, I automatically think about Morgan Matson—these 2 books in particular. Partially because they take place in summer, but mostly because they both really capture that feeling of trying to cram a lifetime into a few short months (or days in the case of Save the Date). Matson's writing is so lighthearted, full of laugh-out-loud dialogue, and some real heartfelt tender moments. These are both wonderful character-driven books, perfect for a beach chair.

Nothing to See Here

The cover depicts a child bursting into flames and that is literally what you're gonna get with this book. But don't worry! It's actually such a charming read, and so quick you could probably finish it in one poolside afternoon. Lillian is hired to help manage her friend's twin stepkids who both spontaneously combust when they're upset. Lillian and the twins spend the summer in and out of the pool learning to trust each other and they all learn to navigate their messy emotions. It's heartfelt but there are also some hilarious moments in this slim novel.

Curse of the Spellmans

How to Start a Fire

The Accomplice

A great summer read? Anything by Lisa Lutz. Seriously. The Spellman Files series is one of my all time faves - hilarious, quick-witted, great mysteries. How to Start a Fire: what happened twenty years ago to 3 University friends, Anna, Kate, and Georgiana? You will NEED to find out! And her latest, The Accomplice. A little darker than the Spellmans, to be sure, but a fantastic mystery with Lutz's signature humour and strong characters.


 

Kassondra's Picks

Staff member, Programming and Community Engagement

Thirsty Mermaids

Three mermaids turn into humans so they can party on land, only to realize they don't know how to change themselves back! A fun graphic novel adventure for adults who love merfolk. It's body positive and diverse cast make this a bright and fun summer read.

Because Internet

Disconnect from the Internet by reading about it! McCuulloch outlines the history and culture shifts of communicating over the internet. I never thought I'd be fascinated by the history and cultural connotations of emojis, but here we are. She even helped explain why my parents and I never quite seem to communicate over text.

How Long 'til Black Future Month?

I love everything N.K. Jemisin does, and this short story collection is no different. A collection of short stories that all fall within the "speculative fiction" umbrella, including steampunk, climate fiction, time travel, fantasy, cyberpunk, and much more. It even includes a few short stories that Jemisin drafted into full novels, including her The Fifth Season and The City We Became.


 

Kenneth's Picks

Staff member, Delivery Services

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

You're probably thinking what I thought when I first saw this book, "Wow, what a title." But don't get too hung up on that, because inside the covers is one of the funniest and most empowering stories I've ever read. A perfect summer read with a bit of everything; humour, heartache, mystery, and yes, plenty of erotic stories told by an incredibly lovable cast of brilliant women.

Once Upon A River

Set near a quaint 19th century English inn on the River Thames, and full of magical realism, this story tells the tale of a shipwrecked man arriving at the Swan Inn carrying what appears to be a doll. As he collapses, the patrons of the Swan Inn realize what had looked to be a doll is actually the body of a young girl. Who is this girl? Is she the abducted daughter of the Vaughan's, or perhaps the granddaughter of the local pig farmer, Mr. Armstrong, and just what happened that night she arrived at the Swan Inn?

Moon of the Crusted Snow

What better summer read than a book set in the harsh Northern Ontario winter during the collapse of society? Full of good characters and great tension, this quick read will have you feeling very grateful for fully-stocked grocery stores and the summer months ahead.


 

Laurel's Picks

Staff member, Marketing & Communications and Fund Development

I seem to have read three complementary books back to back to back. One non-fiction title that considers the decisions we make today and the impact we will see tomorrow. The other two fiction novels play with time, and present future earths where pandemics and climate change have altered humanity. This was pure coincidence, but this triptych will make you consider our history, today’s options and tomorrow’s future.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Harari uses history to make observations about possible futures. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century considers how AI, climate change, democracy, news media, the food we eat, and whether or not humans meditate, will impact our future. This collection of essays does not make predictions, but asks fundamental questions, and wisely reminds us that, “a question without an answer is far better for you than an answer that you cannot question.”

Sea of Tranquility

If you liked Station Eleven (the book or the HBO series), you’ll be delighted by Mandel’s ambitious sixth novel. Jumping between the 20th to 23rd century, Mandel creates a world unlike any other. If you enjoy time hop stories that present plausible futures, where science and technology guide humanity, then I suggest you place a hold on Sea of Tranquility at your Library today. Coming in at 272 pages, you can read this in one sitting by the pool.

To Paradise

Similar to Sea of Tranquility, Yanagihara’s second novel leaps through centuries. Unlike Sea of Tranquility, this 900+ page epic will take patience as you consider the incredible world building Yanagihara weaves, the characters you meet, and the pain they experience. A lot has already been written about this book – mainly, what is it about? I think every reader will take something personal away from this ambitious story. If you’re bothered by reading books about global viruses and pandemics while experiencing a pandemic, I’d suggest skipping this book. However, if you enjoy considering the decisions we make today, and their impact on humanity’s future, and questioning society’s norms, then I’d recommend you read or listen to this important novel.


 

Marika's Picks

Board member, Halifax Regional Library Board

From my Kids

The Aquanaut

Ben says: “It’s good because of the interesting characters."

The Undercover Book List

Kaisa says: “I like it because the characters have an fun way of communicating using books."

From Me

Big Friendship

Summer is prime time for hanging out with friends and enjoying long evenings outside, and this book really honours the importance of friends in our lives and the complexities of friendship.

Save Me the Plums

Summer provides opportunities to enjoy produce fresh from the garden and this beautifully written memoir provides opportunities to reflect on the significance of food in our lives and our cultures.

The Best We Could Do

This is a memoir in graphic novel format that speaks powerfully to the immigrant experience, which is unfortunately especially salient this summer as Nova Scotia welcomes refugees fleeing conflict elsewhere in the world, as well as to experiences shared across cultures such as being parented and caring for parents.

All Systems Red

All Systems Red by Martha Wells is the first novella in a series called The Murderbot Diaries that centre around a snarky cyborg security agent that has secretly disabled the software that gives humans control over them and named themselves “Murderbot”. Murderbot is a fantastic character and the stories have a lot to say about equity, diversity, and inclusion.


 

Rosemary's Picks

Staff member, Alderney Gate Public Library

The Guncle

What do you get when you cross the words "uncle" and "gay"? You get "Guncle," or as he is referred to by loved ones, "GUP" (Gay Uncle Patrick). When tragedy strikes, Patrick is suddenly responsible for his niece and nephew for the summer, and he does it with a combination of snark and love.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

 For fans of The Little Prince, this wonderfully illustrated graphic novel presents a lesson of love, friendship and kindness.

The Windsor Knot

Amateur detective, Queen Elizabeth II , secretly solves a crime while carrying out her royal duties. Perfect for those who enjoy gentle British mysteries like Christie's Miss Marple or M.C.​ Beaton.


 

Sarah's Pick

Staff member, Collections

Saint X

Set at a resort on a Caribbean Island, this is a summer read that I absolutely devoured. Claire is a young girl vacationing with her family on the island of Saint X, when her older sister goes missing. Years later, Claire is an adult and trying to figure out what actually happened to her sister. First time novelist, Alexis Schaitkin’s writing had me hooked immediately. The author plays with timelines and perspectives to write a thriller that is very hard to put down. Hulu just announced this one will be turned into an eight-part series. I highly recommend reading the book before you watch the show. I’m also impatiently waiting for Schaitkin’s next book.


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