Some books for the beach…

With vacation time coming up quickly for most of us I thought that I might post a list of my favourite writers and books that I am looking forward to reading.

I am a huge fan of mystery fiction and there are several authors that I highly recommend.  Top of my list is James Lee Burke who has been writing excellent mystery fiction for almost two decades.  This summer we have a double helping of Burke with a new Dave Robicheaux novel and a book of short stories.  Both are set in post Katrina Louisiana which Burke makes vividly alive in the best southern gothic tradition.  The novel is “The Tin Roof Blowdown” and the short story collection is “Jesus Out to Sea“.  If you haven’t read James Lee Burke yet go quickly to your local bookstore and pick up an armful of the best fiction you could take to the beach this summer.

Michael Connelly, like James Lee Burke, has been writing exellent literature disguised as mystery fiction.  His latest is “The Overlook” and stars his detective hero Harry Bosch.  Connelly sets his stories in Los Angeles and bases them, in part, on his own experiences as a police beat reporter in the City of Angels.  For a real taste of Michael Connelly’s fiction check out these short promo videos on YouTube.

John Sandford has been producing great mysteries set in the mid west since the early 1990’s.  Like Burke’s Louisiana and Connelly’s Los Angeles Sandford makes Minneapolis come alive on the page.  His hero Lucas Davenport has starred in over a dozen of the “Prey” series starting with “Rules of Prey”.  His latest in the series is “Invisible Prey” and it is a great story – told with Sandford’s usual wit and eye for detail.  For a taste of Sandford here is chapter one of “Invisible Prey”. 

Irish mystery writer John Connolly (not to be confused with Michael Connelly) sets his Charlie Parker mysteries in Stephen King country both literally and figuratively.  His latest is “The Unquiet” and has the creepy provenance of his previous Parker novels which feature strong supernatural horror and unspeakable crimes and are set in Maine.

Robert Charles Wilson is one of the best science fiction writers in the world, and he lives right here in Toronto.  His latest novel “Spin” won the Hugo Award for best novel at last year’s World Science Fiction Convention.  Reading one of Bob’s novels is a special pleasure because of his ability to meld strong characters to intriguing ideas.  The result is completely satisfying. 

I am also taking some great non fiction to the beach this summer including Niall Ferguson’s “The War of the World”  According to historian Ferguson, we need to rethink our understanding of the 20th century.  Ferguson believes that the 20th century was not a series of wars but a single conflict which has resulted in a slow migration of power to the east. 

Blackwater is the world’s most powerful mercenary force and the fascinating subject of Jeremy Scahill’s expose “Blackwater”.  These are the warriors who are “off the books” in the conflict in Iraq – which he describes as “Bush’s Shadow Army” in a recent Nation article.

Finally, what better time than a relaxing vacation to contemplate the structure of the universe?  Walter Isaacson’s “Einstein:  His Life and Universe” takes us into the mind of the greatest thinker of the 20th century.  Isaacson reveals how a creative and rebellious nature helped Einstein to pave the way to the future.  Read Chapter One here.

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