Here's your summer reading list by Ottawa authors

·4 min read
Pick up some of these great reads by Ottawa authors during the last stretch of our second pandemic summer. (CBC - image credit)
Pick up some of these great reads by Ottawa authors during the last stretch of our second pandemic summer. (CBC - image credit)

Heading out to a cottage? Staying at home for the long weekend? Or are you just looking for a bedtime story to hold you over the last stretch of our second pandemic summer?

Allison Hall-Murphy, a librarian and the adult English fiction selector at the Ottawa Public Library, gave CBC Ottawa her top summer picks — all written by local authors.

The interview has been edited for CBC style and clarity.

Mystery and thrillers

When you're on holiday and you have time to read, people like something that's going to be really absorbing, propulsive, and keep you reading.

HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins Publishers

My top recommendation for that is Dark August by Katie Tallo. This is a thriller set in and around Ottawa, which is so fun if you're an Ottawa resident to see familiar sites pop up in the book. It's also set in the summer.

The story follows a feisty young woman, totally alone in the world, and she is pursuing the solution to a decades-old mystery that her detective mother had been trying to solve at the time of her death. It has emotional resonance and also a lot of thrills.

Barbara Fradkin, who is an experienced mystery writer and Ottawa favourite, has a new book out in the Amanda Doucette series: The Ancient Dead. It's another book about a sleuth in search of answers to an older mystery.

This is not set in Ottawa. So if you want the armchair travel experience, this one's set in the Alberta badlands — the land of dinosaur bones. A photographer out on a shoot finds bones that turn out to be human bones, which may be connected to a 30-year-old disappearance of the main character, Amanda's uncle.

On the non-fiction side of mystery, we have Ottawa author Charlotte Gray who writes really great true-crime books. Her last one Murdered Midas is a real page-turner.

It's a very enjoyable, readable look at the life and death of the gold-mining tycoon, Sir Harry Oakes.

Non-fiction

We have a trio of great entertaining reads that can enrich your experience of Ottawa.

As I Walked About by Phil Jenkins, an Ottawa Citizen columnist, is a book curated by his columns. This book is a walking tour through Ottawa's history. It's fun, irreverent and a perfect companion for a staycation.

Ottawa Press & Publishing
Ottawa Press & Publishing

The next two are new volumes of series of Ottawa books.

There's a second volume of Andrew King's Ottawa Rewind called More Curios and Mysteries, and these books have fascinating and weird little known bits of Ottawa history he has dug up. From the mundane to the otherworldly (did you know we have our very own secret solstice pyramids?), these stories will keep you entertained.

The Lost Ottawa series by David McGee, now up to volume three, comes out of the popular Facebook group of the same name and is a wonderful collection of crowdsourced photos and funny anecdotes about bygone days in this city — told by the people who lived it.

If you want to reminisce about restaurants, theatres and stores that are now gone, or you just want to know more about what it was like for your parents or grandparents growing up here, these are great.

New releases

On the fiction side of new releases, there's a book called Everyone in This Room Will Someday be Dead by Emily R. Austin. This is a brand new book released in July and it's generating a lot of buzz (it was even reviewed in the New York Times, which is unusual for a debut Canadian author).

HarperCollins Canada
HarperCollins Canada

This is a story of a 20-something, terminally anxious, animal-loving lesbian who gets herself into a bit of a pickle when she gets mistaken for the new receptionist at the Catholic church she visited in search of free therapy — and she's too embarrassed to correct the mistake. Meanwhile, she's discovered her predecessor was a murder victim and she begins investigating.

The next one is a fun non-fiction called The Joy of Sweat by Sarah Everts, a local professor. This is perfectly timed for the heat of summer. It's just a great popular science book that offers a readable, entertaining look at why we sweat, how eating affects it, and the role of sweat in human history.

For those who like a more emotional read, The Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha is an engrossing, thought-provoking read with two intertwining stories of mothers and daughters set 20 years apart among the Indian diaspora community in Ottawa. The Sunnyside branch of the Ottawa library even makes a cameo appearance in this one!

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is a short book and is a rollicking, romantic adventure told in letters by Agent Red and Agent Blue who are fighting against each other in the time wars and end up falling in love. El-Mohtar, an Ottawa resident, writes Agent Blue's letters and the others are by her co-author.

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