With classes on break, the Muse Online staff has been busy this summer —we’ve been caught celebrating Canada Day with an all-Canadian playlist, staying in with (inexpensive and homemade) summer cocktails, and realizing our sexual empowerment.

However, in spite of having full calendars, we’re still burning through our summer reading lists and finding books we can’t put down.

Muse Online has compiled a list of the most compelling books we’ve read so far, including those that made us laugh, cry, feel less alone, and insist that our friends read them next. Scroll down to find out why each selection made the list —and your next summer read.


#1 When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Recommended by: Katherine Lidtke, Online Contributor

Genre: Memoir

The Low-Down:

When Breath Becomes Air will fill your heart to its maximum capacity of love and shatter it, all at once. A successful neurosurgeon one day, and a stage IV lung cancer patient the next, Kalanithi confronts his own mortality in this novel —detailing his experience of giving up the mundane balance of starting a family and excelling in his workplace. Kalanithi’s memoir suggests that it’s the people who are taken from the world too soon who have the most to offer.

I loved Kalanithi’s memoir because it made me see how important it is to roll with the punches and live every day as if it’s the last.


#2 Beautiful Boy by David Sheff


Recommended by: Taylor Ball, Online Editor

Genre: Memoir

The Low-Down:

You may recognize this title from the movie adaptation starring Steve Carell and, Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, Timothée Chalamet. Beautiful Boy is a heart-wrenching memoir told from the perspective of David Sheff, the father of a meth addict.

No one expected David’s son, Nic, to become addicted to meth —as a varsity athlete, lead in the school play, stellar student, and loving older brother, he was, by all accounts, a “beautiful boy”. As David depicts his son’s downward spiral, he can’t help but blame himself, wondering, “what could I have done?”

I adored this book, and so did everyone in my family, because it made us question how unconditional our love actually is. With a refreshing honesty and humility, David takes his readers on the emotional journey of loving a child who seems beyond help. Armed with a powerful story and well-researched facts, he draws much-needed attention to the American meth epidemic. For readers moved by this story, you can read the complimentary book, Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff.


#3 Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Recommended by: Taylor Ball, Online Editor

Genre: Mystery/Thriller Fiction

The Low-Down:

For those who devoured Gone Girl, this book is your next summer read. After her recent release from a psychiatric hospital, reporter Camille Preaker returns to her hometown to cover a troubling assignment —two young girls were violently murdered and the killer is still on the loose. The police refuse to adequately investigate because they’re reluctant to believe the killer could be one of their own, forcing Camille to take matters into her own hands.

However, the real challenge she faces is reconnecting with her long-lost family: a manipulative mother prone to hypochondriasis; a half-sister she barely knows; and a shockingly quiet father she barely sees. As Camille uncovers the most important story of her career, she’s caught in her own troubling past. Sharp Objects is beautifully written with vibrant, complex characters and shocking plot twists. You will not be able to put this book down, so plan your weekend accordingly.


#4 I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

Recommended by: Megan Fanjoy, Online Contributor

Genre: Autobiography

The Low-Down:

Written with raw honesty, I’m Afraid of Men details Shraya’s experience of having masculinity imposed on her as a young boy and explores how it continues to haunt her as a girl. The title is straight to the point and warranted —the reader is exposed to the numerous acts of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia that give Shraya reason to be afraid.

While most people are drawn to a light-hearted summer read, this book delivers an important message about toxic societal norms, fear, and how we might re-imagine gender in contemporary society —a must read for all, and one of my favourites.


#5 A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

Recommended by: Alexandra Jones, Online Editor

Genre: Fiction

The Low-Down:

Although it’s not a new novel, I still believe it’s one everyone should read. A Fraction of the Whole recollects the extraordinary lives of three generations of the Dean family. A constant adventure, readers follow the Australian clan on a journey that takes them through the jungles of Thailand to beautiful Parisian cafés, all while dealing with themes of love, self-discovery, and criminality

The characters are eccentric, the story never slows, and the writing is hilariously clever —I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t loved it.


#6 No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol

Recommended by: Claudia Rupnik, Online Editor

Genre: Memoir

The Low-Down: 

There seems to be a never-ending list of jokes about being alone. As an unmarried, childless woman with a successful career in journalism, No One Tells You This is MacNicol’s response to everyone who’s asked, “If the story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?”

Following her life as she navigates turning forty, losing her mother, and coming to terms with her relationship status, this memoir offers a long-overdue perspective on modern womanhood for those considering their own future.

As an added bonus, she’s from Toronto!


#7 Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Recommended by: Claudia Rupnik, Online Editor

Genre: Short Fiction

The Low-Down:

This summer, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories —for me, a collection of shorts is my go-to when my attempt at balancing a full time job with other life commitments makes it difficult to focus on full length novels.

In Difficult Women, Gay writes about women in relationships —complicated and loving relationships. She uses a diverse set of characters to illustrate the reality of modern womanhood from a number of perspectives, including a pair of sisters, a stripper, and a black engineer. I loved this collection because it led me to consider how the structures of my own relationships are influenced by other aspects of my life, and convinced me that’s it’s okay to experience the full spectrum of emotions.

While I’d recommend these stories to anyone, it’s a vital selection for those specifically interested in feminist literature.

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