Day 612:44Leaning into thrillers for this year’s summer reads recommendations
There’s something about this time of year that makes it a perfect time for reading. To that end, Day 6 book columnist Becky Toyne has provided us with her annual list of summer picks.
“The three novels that I’ve picked are all totally different types of books,” Toyne told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
“I’ve got a more literary novel, a commercial novel and something that is a straight thriller, but they all have thriller qualities to them.”
Toyne says being a page turner is a big part of being a good summer read, but she also included a thoughtful work of non-fiction on the list as well.
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
Toyne’s first pick is from Booker Prize-winning novelist Eleanor Catton who was born in Canada, raised in New Zealand and now lives in England.
“Birnam Wood is essentially a gardening collective, but they’re really kind of an activist, sort of a guerilla gardening collective. And what they do in New Zealand is they find unused or underused bits of land and they plant crops there and try [to] get away with it,” said Toyne.
The novel then takes a turn when a billionaire enters the scene and becomes involved with the collection.
“And so they sort of get wrapped into all these debates as a collective about … should we be taking this guy’s money? He’s against every single thing that we stand for, but if we take his money what good can we do and how can we further our cause? And how do we have to get into bed with the billionaire to be able to advance our environmental cause?”
Toyne says eventually things don’t go so well with the billionaire, but you’ll have to read it to find out.
Let it Destroy You by Harriet Alida Lye
Harriet Alida Lye is a Toronto-based writer whose second novel is fiction based on real events. It’s set in 1945 and tells the story of August Snow, a scientist who patented a more lethal variation of the atomic bomb, and a fellow scientist named June, who is also the mother of his child.
August is about to be tried at the International War Crimes Court. As they await the trial’s start, August and June each reveal their stories in alternating chapters.
It turns out that August invented a radiation machine to help cure his daughter’s cancer, but then his work was used for darker purposes.
Toyne says she adored the novel for the interesting ethical questions it raises.
“I read it in two sittings.”
Fit to Die by Daniel Kalla
Daniel Kalla is a Vancouver-based emergency room physician who is also a prolific crime novelist. His latest novel takes on the topic of diet pills and the influences of social media.
“The story centres around various healthy people who suddenly start to die, and the common link between them is found to be this sort of miracle weight loss drug that they’re obtaining on the dark web,” explained Toyne.
The deaths are then investigated by characters from Kalla’s previous novels, toxicologist Dr. Julie Rees and her boyfriend Det. Anson Chen. Though as Toyne notes, you don’t have to have read Kalla’s previous novels to understand Fit to Die.
Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock by Jenny Odell
This is the lone non-fiction book on Toyne’s list this year.
The book explores how we view time and how we use it. It delves into how we essentially “have a system of exchanging our time for money, for wages,” Toyne says.
That value proposition might look very different for an employee than it does for, say, an office manager.
“It’s something that helps you think more about yourself and about the moment that you’re sitting in and about the time that you have,” said Toyne.
Written and produced by Laurie Allan