Mid-Year Must-Reads – Fiction Edition

Typically the most-buzzy books get their dues in the fall – the primo book buying season of the year (hello holidays). But there are still plenty of ace books published on a weekly basis, and they’ll still be making waves come Christmas. If you’re looking to get a jump start on gifting your favourite bookworm – or even keeping an eye out for sales before the fall season – I’ve rounded up a list of the most talked-about, revered books out there right now. Great for readers, book club members, or even ailing friends – nothing helps pass the time like getting wrapped up in a great read. Today? We look at the most talked-about fiction titles.

The Land of Decoration
by Grace McCleen
This book has been dubbed ‘This Year’s Room‘ after Emma Donoghue’s massive 2011 best seller, a riveting kidnapping tale told through the eyes of a child. The Land of Decoration also capitalizes on a child storyteller, in the form of ten-year-old Judith, a British girl who’s been raised in ‘the faith’ – with nightly scripture readings, daily proselytizing, weekly council meetings, and no television or books to keep her entertained, she amuses herself by building ‘The Land of Decoration’, a replica world made from bits and bobs and scraps she finds in the real world. When her school tormenter dials up his torture, Judith is driven to try and make a miracle happen, and quickly discovers she may have a closer relationship with God than she’d previously imagined – to the distress of the adults around her. Whether you’re spiritual or not, this book is intensely riveting and incredibly hard to put down. Judith’s innocence sets the perfect stage for the mounting tensions in the book between her and her father, her bully, and the town in general, making every chapter incredibly anxiety-ridden, but also beautifully written.
Buy It For: Your friend or family member that absolutely devoured Room last year – they really do have a similar nail-biting tension to them, despite quite different subject matter.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Even if they say don’t judge a book by its cover, I promise you, the story inside these pages is as captivating as that summery villa cover image. In an ambitious tale that spans 50 years and multiple continents, this story of love lost, chance encounters, and Hollywood glamour has been highly touted as one of the must-reads of the year. In part, the triumph of the novel is its elaborate cast of characters – and I’m talking dozens here – that Walter somehow manages to not only make it easy to grasp, but finds a meaningful place for each and every one of them.
Buy It For: Your friend or family member that either has a lust for travel or following famous folks – they’ll eat up this two-sided tale.

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace
The proverbial ‘one’ could be anywhere, at least, that’s the premise of this dry humoured book about a man named Jason Priestley (not that Jason), who has a chance meeting with a woman on the titular street. Her departure leaves him flummoxed, particularly when he realizes the only hope he has of tracking her down – if indeed she is the one as he so dares to imagine – is through the battered disposable camera she leaves behind. Of course, things take a turn for the interesting when Jason discovers himself in one of the developed photos, and he is soon consumed with a bit of detective work (or you know, stalking) to find out what this mystery lady is all about. The book is one of the quieter titles on this list, at least here in Canada, but for a debut author, it’s definitely a strong start for this charming writer.
Buy It For: Your friend that’s still obsessing over the London games – this book is all about exploring the city. It’s also a great choice for fans of other big-time British authors like Helen Fielding or Nick Hornsby.

The Age of Miraclesby Karen Thompson Walker
Imagine waking up one morning and finding out the earth’s orbit has slowed. Maybe not by much, at first, but the impact is soon felt both on the planet, and its denizens in this arresting debut novel by Karen Thompson Walker. Our hero is eleven-year-old Julia, who is contending with the typical adventures of the tween years against the backdrop of what can only be called a quiet global crisis. What’s particularly mesmerizing with this one is the fact that Thompson Walker has meshed together two classic genres – the disaster novel and the coming-of-age story – into one wholly unique, sparsely told story that will do its very best to move you…even as the planet slows down.
Buy It For: Your niece that’s headed off to college this fall. She’ll get a kick out of the literary style, and even if she’s older than the protagonist, she’ll still learn plenty about growing up and moving onwards.

Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
If you love historical fiction, you are in for a serious treat with Tanis Rideout’s beautiful debut novel. Part romance, part adventure tale, and intensely researched – this is a tale of contrasts. It follows the ill-fated voyage of George Malloy, who in 1924, attempted to be the first man to summit Everest, and the immense dangers he faced. On the flip side, we get a rare glimpse into a woman’s life in this male-dominated era, through his wife Ruth, who is simply waiting at home (in a quite cushy setting) for news of her husband’s fate – both stories are actually interwoven with flashes of back story and history, both of their relationship, and of other mountaineering expeditions. To me, the mark of good historical fiction is a book where, despite knowing the outcome, you find it nearly impossible to put down – and Rideout has successfully accomplished that. The Everest chapters will leave you in nail-biting suspense, putting you the reader in the same frame of mind of his anxiously awaiting wife. Beautiful & sweeping, this is a must-read for anyone that loves daring adventures or a healthy slice of history in their novels.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
It’s rare I’ll feature a title more than once on the blog, but Gillian Flynn’s third novel is so undeniably buzzy, and my previous mention so fleeting, I couldn’t not include it on this list. For the unfamiliar, Flynn’s novels have been earning her a substantial following over the last few years – that is, if you can deal with the incredibly dark, sometimes violent tone of her work. If you like your books a little down & disturbed, then you’ll dig this one, considered by many to be her finest work yet. Much like other novels on this list, the book is told from two alternating perspectives – Nick & Amy have been married for five years, but on the eve of their anniversary, she goes missing. Suddenly Nick’s golden-boy reputation is tarnished to reveal an egotistical, uncaring, but debatably lethal man…and as for Amy? Well we get glimpses of her diary, that reveal more and more about the dark roots of their relationship. Like all of Flynn’s novels, proceed with caution if you can’t handle a little bone-chilling prose – but also? Be prepared to be totally gone from the world once you get hooked.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Another novel set in the 1920s, only this time it’s all about the glitter and glitz of the jazz age, as we follow a young Louise Brooks (the world-famous silent film star) before she was famous over the course of five weeks in New York City, where she’s chaperoned by a traditional woman named Cora Carlisle who has an ulterior motive for keeping an eye on the tempestuous, arrogant Brooks. The novel is about much more than the plot – which swings between Brooks’ launch to fame and Cora’s checkered past. It’s really a story about the era, and women in it, and the changing paradigms the two women both adhere to and challenge in unexpected and different ways. Societal norms of the time period may come as a shock to today’s readers (unless you watch HBO’s fabulous series Boardwalk Empire), which makes this that much more of a delight. You really don’t have to know much about Brooks to appreciate this surprisingly fun novel since the novel is primarily about Cora, and the internal struggles she has as she just tries to figure out where she belongs in this rapidly-changing world.

Canada by Richard Ford
With a title like this, you know a few Canadians’ ears perked up when Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford released his twenty-years-in-the-making novel. The story is told from the perspective of a teenage boy named Dell who’s parents committed a crime spree – starting with a bank robbery and ending with murder. Orphaned and uncertain about his future, especially when his twin sister Berner flees, Dell is squirreled across the Canadian border by a family friend, in hopes he’ll find peace and a new life in Saskatchewan. What follows there is a stirring piece of literary fiction – the classic coming-of-age novel against a dark yet familiar backdrop. What you might find particularly engrossing here is Ford’s examination of Canada – the way he touches on our legendary cultural mosaic and vast lands without making it feel tired or cliched. It’s neat to read a story about our nation from the perspective of an American teenager, over fifty years ago, but written in the present by an American. A great pick for anyone from the prairies in particular, or those that simply enjoy a good, deep read.

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

If you thought those scenes in Titanic where Molly Brown is begging people to go back and save some survivors was devastating, wait till you pick up this book. The gist of the tale? A luxury ocean liner goes down in 1914, but for a lucky few, they get onto lifeboats. The story is told by one of the survivors, 22-year-old Grace – newly widowed, and currently sitting in a jail cell. Why you ask? It’s revealed bit-by-bit as she recounts her 21 days on a lifeboat, where her fellow passengers quickly realized they were over capacity and needed to lose a few souls to make it through. Alliances are formed, plots are hatched, and survival is a very thin line for everyone involved. Of course, questions remain…what is the crime that has landed Grace in prison? How has her life changed since the moment she stepped onto that ocean liner? What sacrifices will each passenger make to make it to shore? If you liked Yann Martel’s legendary Life of Pi, also set on a boat, you’ll find this metaphor for society as a whole engrossing. On the flip side, if you’re simply looking for a heart-thrumming tale of survival, you’ll also dig this.

Dare Me by Megan Abbott
Like several other titles on this list, teenagers make for compelling protagonists, even if the novels aren’t necessarily geared toward that age group. This story follows a second-in-command, Addy, to her ultra-competitive cheer squad’s Queen Bee, Beth. The two of them are the very best of frenemies, and refreshingly, aren’t exactly seen in the best light within the school – their reign of terror is limited to their circle of follower cheerbots, and they’re somewhat considered outsiders by the rest of the student body. Things take a turn, however, when a new cheerleading coach that’s unimpressed by Beth’s antics creates a new order – one that infuriates Beth and blesses Addy with a more exalted position. When a suicide happens, the book becomes something of a noir murder mystery – wrapped up in the candy-coated yet intensely dark world of cheerleading and the emotions and long, long memories of teenage girls.

Hope you enjoyed checking out these top 10 picks! Feeling like turning some pages? I’ve got a great book prize package for one lucky winner. You’ll walk away with copies of Charlotte Street, The Lifeboat, Gone Girl, Above All Things, Age of Miracles, and Dare Me. Here’s how to enter:

1) Leave a comment by September 12th with the book(s) from this list you’re most keen to read.

2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around September 13th to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.

3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.

4) Bonus Entry: You all seemed to be having fun with Goodreads via the last MYMR contest, so let’s give it another whirl. Any books you add from this list to your ‘To-Read’ list will earn you a bonus entry, for up to 10 total. Please just link back to your ‘To-Read’ list in the comments, and make sure the books are visible so I don’t have to go searching for them. Good luck!

PSSSST! Did you know you can also win some other great nonfiction & YA fiction titles? Check it out here!

124 Responses to “Mid-Year Must-Reads – Fiction Edition”
  1. Mel says:

    I am most keen to read Gone Girl.

  2. Linda Chaput says:

    I would like to read Canada by Richard Ford.

  3. Suzanne G says:

    I look forward to reading Gone Girl

  4. arash naghdi says:

    Dare Me by Megan Abbott

  5. Aubrey Young says:

    The Life Boat, would love to read this book.

  6. Judy van Ryn says:

    I would love to read Beautiful Ruins

  7. would love to win gone girl

  8. darlene boyle says:



    Can’t wait to read The Chaperone……a story set in the 1920’s should be most interesting….such a fun era.

  10. Lori P says:

    So many great books but the one I’d like to read first is ‘Charlotte Street’ by Danny Wallace.

  11. laura says:

    I would love to read Canada

  12. Brenda V. says:

    Great selection of novels. I have already read three of the titles from your list. I have not read CANADA by Richard Ford and I would love to read it.

  13. I would love to read Dare Me.Would be super. Thank you.

  14. Emily says:

    I’ve added Beautiful Ruins and The Chaperone to my end-of-summer reading list.

  15. Vicki Hill says:

    I so want to read The Lifeboat!

  16. Nisha T. says:

    Oooh Gone Girl sounds good!

  17. aly3360 says:

    I’m interested in reading Dare Me by Megan Abbott and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    Thanks for the chance!!

    ayoung3360 (at) hotmail (dot) com

  18. Sasha says:

    I would love to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

  19. LINDA SCHELL says:

    I would love to read Gone Girl.

  20. Evan says:

    Canada by Richard Ford sounds like a great read. Thanks.

  21. Susan says:

    I keep hearing about Beautiful Ruins, so I’d like to reat that (first)! #CGG

  22. nancy brucas says:

    Canada by Richard Ford is a book I think I would love.

  23. beewbedard says:

    I cant wait to read to read Above All Things by Tanis Rideout

  24. Kelly P says:

    I’d love to read the Lifeboat!!

  25. anita f says:

    The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen is what captures my attention. i like the idea that it is told through the eyes of the child.

  26. ASHLEY O says:

    Dare Me looks VERY interesting:)

  27. Leigh says:

    I think “The Land of Decoration” looks interesting..

  28. Pat says:

    I want to read Gone Girl.

  29. intensev5 says:

    Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

  30. The book ‘Above All Things’ by Tanis Rideout


  31. P, Lambert says:

    would love to read Gone Girl and Dare me

  32. Debbie Petch says:

    I would love to read the Lifeboat!

  33. JM says:

    I would like to read them all!

  34. andrea says:

    The one that interests me the most it the lifeboat

  35. Cairine says:

    I would like to read Gone Girl it sounds most interesting and mysterious.

  36. Shayne says:

    Oh, they all sound fantastic! I think The Land of Decoration sounds especially brilliant 🙂


  37. There are 3 books on this list that I’ve been wanting to read- Gone Girl, Canada and The Chaperone!

  38. Michael says:

    I’ve had my eye on “Canada” for a few weeks – maybe once I get my vacation in mid-September, I’ll have some time to start it…

  39. sarah oliveira says:

    I would love to read the Age of Miracles and Canada.

  40. Blayne D says:

    Canada! My ears did perk up lol

  41. Janice B says:

    i would love to read The Chaperone looks like it would be a good book.

  42. Sheri Crawford says:

    I am looking forward to reading The Age of Miracles- what an original story-line!

  43. Mandy K says:

    Gone Girl is at the top of my list.

  44. Alexa says:

    I am most excited to read the lifeboat

  45. Marcia D says:

    It’s a toss-up for me. My first choice was “Beautifu Ruins”…… until I saw “The Lifeboat” .

  46. Sue says:

    I am hearing so much good buzz about “Gone Girl” that it’s difficult to ignore. I generally don’t follow trends when it comes to anything but all of the attention given this book has really made me curious to read it now.

  47. lloyd says:

    Dare me

  48. sean pynaert says:

    I’d like to read The Lifeboat looks interesting

  49. Ruth Ellen Smith says:

    Charlotte St looks very interesting 🙂

  50. Brenda Chernoff says:

    I would start with Gone Girl!

  51. Penelope Rambharose says:

    Need some new books as I have traded a lot in and given some away !!!

  52. Carrie says:

    I love stories about Titanic so I think The Lifeboat is right up my alley

  53. Elizabeth L says:

    I would most like to read Above All Things by Tanis Rideout.

  54. Lisa says:

    Each one grabs me but the first one I’d dive into is The Lifeboat. 🙂

  55. Sandy says:

    I’ve added so many books to my to-read list after reading this post! From the synopsis above I’m really interested in reading Beautiful Ruins!

  56. corrine says:

    i would read land of decoration

  57. Rose Hately says:

    These are on my to-read list for sure:
    The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    Canada by Richard Ford
    The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
    Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace

    I love books with an element of mystery.
    Added to Good Reads to-read!

  58. HEIDI says:

    I would love to read “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn! “The “Lifeboat” sounds like a great read, too!

  59. Tammy says:

    I’d love The Land of Decoration!!

  60. Dee says:

    I would really like to read Beautiful Ruins!

  61. Jeannie Smyth says:

    Im not sure which one I would like to read the most! Ive already read The Chaperone which was really good and Im right now reading Gone Girl which is awesome! I would probably most like to read Beautiful Ruins.

  62. Brenda S says:

    I’d love to read “Above All Things” & “The Chaperone”….as a matter of fact they’re already on my to-read list on goodreads.

  63. Heather Flynn says:

    I’d really like to read Gone Girl, and The Land of Decoration!!!!!!

  64. Karen W says:

    Beautiful Ruins sounds like my kind of book.

  65. Deanna says:

    The Lifeboat.

  66. Laurel Colletti says:

    Beautiful Ruins looks very interesting!

  67. Terrie says:

    I would like to read Gone Girl it sounds very good

  68. Carmen McConnell says:

    Looking forward to reading THE CHAPERONE, DARE ME, BEAUTIFUL RUINS and CANADA on this list.

  69. Jan says:

    Gone Girl sounds like a good mystery and I love a good mystery!

  70. Patricia Gonzalez says:

    I would want to read ‘The Chaperone’ by Laura Moriarty. I love the jazz age.

  71. John says:

    I look forward to reading THE CHAPERONE, DARE ME, and CANADA from this list

  72. Donnas says:

    I’m looking forward The Chaperone and Beautiful Ruins.

  73. Audrey Skinner says:

    I would gladly read any of these books but Canada by Richard Ford would be at the top of my list.

  74. vinci777 says:

    Would like to read first the amazing sounding book – Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
    Sure got good reviews on Amazon.

  75. vinci777 says:

    Thanks for hosting this amazing reading giveaway.
    As a avid reader would like to read first – Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

  76. Robin Greenhalgh says:

    I’m definitely hooked with the summaries of Gone Girl, Lifeboat, and especially since I’m a proud Canadian lol I’d like to read Canada. Since I’m an avid reader, I’m always looking for new or unknown authors and titles to keep me going!

  77. Pamalot says:

    I was so keen to read the above all things that I went out and got it from the library and I am loving it!

  78. Amanda Haines says:

    Definitely most keen on Gone Girl. Heard Reese Witherspoon has purchased the rights to produce the movie version!

  79. Dian anderson says:

    Anxiously waiting to read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. but they all look exciting

  80. tyronejames says:

    I would love to read any of these books but I’m totally into The Age of Miraclesby Karen Thompson Walker and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn! I’m having fun reading new types of books and they both really peak my interest! Great post, will be looking for most of these! Cheers!

  81. Megan says:

    I really would like to read gone girl by Gillian Flynn

  82. Leah says:

    I’m most keep to read “Charlotte Street” and “Dare Me”, but would love to read them all!!

  83. Rosanne M. says:

    I will definitely be reading Gone Girl!

  84. Melissa says:

    I cannot wait to read Age of Miracles, Dare Me, Above all Things and the Lifeboat!!!

  85. Megan W. says:

    i would LOVE to read dare me and gone girl!

  86. baygirl32 says:

    if I were to only pick 1 it would be The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

  87. Natalie says:

    IM really Looking Forward to reading Dare Me! Looks GOOD!

  88. I would love to read Dare Me.

  89. Rebecca H. says:

    I’d like to read Dare Me by Megan Abbott

  90. tennille says:

    alot of them look great, I would start with above all things

  91. Ali says:

    I would love to read Canada!

  92. Amy Brown says:

    I’d like to read The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan!

  93. Yvonne Pley says:

    They are all good books to read on a rainy day.

  94. Victoria Ess says:

    I would love to read Dare Me #CGG

  95. Tegan says:

    I’m a super pumped to read Beautiful Ruins – it looks awesome!

  96. Sam says:

    Dare me.

  97. Brook says:

    The Chaperone, The Ruins….so many I wish for…great giveaway! Love reading!

  98. Ines says:

    I would love to read The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty.
    I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but these covers make me think the books are great!

  99. darci says:

    I would love to read Dare me!

  100. Julie says:

    Would like to read The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, thanks

  101. Heather Holmberg says:

    The book I am most excited about reading is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and Dare me by Megan Abbot .. there is nothing more exciting to me then sitting down and cracking open a new book !

    Books added to read list !! http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/7639087?shelf=to-read

    Thanks so much !

  102. Meghan F says:

    I would like to read Gone Girl – and then pass it along to my mom who also wants to read it but is on a huge waiting list at the library for it!

  103. ellesy says:

    I would love to read Beautiful Ruins… travelling is one of my passions. 🙂

  104. Fay Greenough says:

    The novel I would like to read most is Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.

  105. Kristen says:

    Really want to read Beautiful Ruins! But obviously would be keen to read them all – and then review on Goodreads!

  106. Heather A says:

    I think “Charlotte Street A Novel” looks like an interesting read.

  107. Wayne Lecoy says:

    Please Enter Me In Your MID-YEAR MUST-READS – FICTION EDITION Giveaway.
    It Would Be Great To Win The Six Book Prize Package Of
    Charlotte Street, The Lifeboat, Gone Girl, Above All Things, Age of Miracles, and Dare Me.
    In Response To Your Question Of Which Books From This List Are You
    Most Keen To Read?
    I Think I Would Enjoy Reading Dare Me by Megan Abbott,Above All Things by Tanis Rideout,
    And The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan.
    Thanks For Having This Giveaway!!!!!!!!

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