We’re packing up for the summer. But, before we do, we wanted to pack you off with a different style of post. No ageist bashing, no political lampooning, not even applause for forward-thinkers. Leaving the heavy hitting for now, we leave off on a lighter note.
Aside from sunblock and a bathing suit, no self-respecting 50-plus vacationer would leave home without a good book and some tunes. We’ve got both.
You’ll find this lineup of hot summer books mixed into every book reviewer’s must-read lists, but – for a different twist – we whittled down all the possibilities to only those authors who kick-started their writing careers at midlife and beyond. From crime and espionage to humour and twisted history, there’s a book for every week of the summer (or, for voracious types, a book for every day of a week off).
The Red House, by Mark Haddon (Random House) Best known for the hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the 2003 bestseller was the illustrator and children’s book author’s first adult novel. This time, Haddon takes us on summer vacation in the English countryside with two estranged siblings and their combined families for seven tense yet comic days of resentment, guilt, grudges, fading dreams and desires.
Mission to Paris, by Alan Furst (Random House) The 71-year-old, longtime author didn’t see his career take off until he hit on the idea of writing historical spy novels. His latest, set in 1938, puts a Hollywood star – on loan from Warner Bros to a French director – in the middle of pre-war Paris and the murky midst of French fascists and German Nazis.
Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles (Penguin) This 2011 New York Times bestseller makes the list because it’s just come out in paperback and it’s also the first novel from the 48-year-old investment executive. Called a ‘snappy period piece,’ it tells the story of Katey, a young woman from Brooklyn who finds herself swept up in New York high society in 1938.
Stray Bullets, by Robert Rotenberg (Simon & Schuster) According to the Canadian criminal lawyer, it took 20 years to finish his first book, which was published in 2009. His new novel, the third in the Detective Ari Greene series, begins on the streets of Toronto in front of a donut shop where a young boy is hit by – you guessed it – stray bullets.
True Believers, by Kurt Andersen (Random House, July 10) Co-founder of Spy magazine, Andersen began writing novels little over a decade ago. His third, described as a coming-of-age story and political mystery, travels between 1968 and the present as a celebrated attorney retraces her college days to reconcile the past before her memoir – and her secret – is published.
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen L. Carter (Random House, July 10) A professor of law at Yale, Carter had his first novel published 10 years ago. His upcoming book – a twist of history and fate – finds President Abraham Lincoln facing impeachment trial, two years after surviving an assassination attempt at Ford’s Theatre, and a young black woman caught up in the ensuing intrigue and political conspiracy.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple (Hachette Book Group, August 14) You’d expect a witty plot from a TV writer whose credits include Mad About You and Arrested Development. In Semple’s second novel, you get it. Beset by a feuding neighbour, a crumbling house, the disdain of other private-school mothers, and a husband who thinks she should be committed, Bernadette runs away from home only to be tracked to the ends of the earth by her teenage daughter.
Instead of ending on one note, we leave you with a playlist. An entire soundtrack of summer songs – or a dozen songs with ‘summer’ in the title – spanning (appropriately) 50-plus years of music. Pick your favourites, play them all, watch them (many have montages or videos, but the original footage of Mungo Jerry is a must) or just listen. Either way, enjoy the tunes, enjoy your summer.
Rolling Stone calls RIPE “the must-read book of the summer!” Vanity Fair says, “If you’re 50-plus and you only read one book this year, make it RIPE.” And the New York Times review dubs it “a gem you’ll want to share with your best friends.”
Well, okay, not really – at least, not yet. But it’s fun to contemplate. In the meantime, do add RIPE to your book bag this summer. It’s the perfect summer read, a great hostess gift, and a thoughtful donation to your local library. You’ll discover it has everything you need to discover passion, purpose, and possibility after 50.
Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley have been writing and editing for the media and corporate sectors for a combined 50 years. Today, they’re reconnecting with their generation and helping their clients engage with Boomers, too.