Photo © Vassil Tzvetanov
As Canadians we look forward to summer all year long, and the pinnacle of summer is, of course, vacation. Lazy days spent on the beach or by the lake with nothing else to do but read a good book. And that time of year is now upon us, so the question is: what to read? We spoke with five esteemed professionals in the Canadian books community and asked them what new releases they recommend this summer. So whether you spend your whole vacation in a chaise longue in the blazing sun or you have to endure a little rain, you can pack a book or two, that – you have it on good authority – will enrich your vacation.
Featuring literary news and book reviews co-editors Ron Nurwisah and Mark Medley have made the National Post’s The Afterword one of the country’s best books blogs. This summer, Nurwisah recommends Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!. Of the acclaimed young author’s first novel, he says, “Russell’s prose creates a memorable portrait of a lush, mysterious, haunting Florida swamp. Swamp gothic at its best.” His second suggestion, Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, by local flâneur Shawn Micallef, is a collection of essays that document the history, details and urban textures of Toronto’s city streets. “I’ll be dipping into this one when I want to play tourist in the city I call home,” says Nurwisah. Co-editor Medley is throwing his weight behind Alexi Zentner'sTouch, which takes place in northern B.C. at the tail-end of the gold rush. About this re-imagining of Canadian history, Medley says, “there are scenes in that book that will haunt me for years to come.” For short story lovers, Medley urges readers to pick up By Love Possessed, Lorna Goodison's latest collection. According to Medley, “Goodison is one of Canada's masters of the form.”
The Montreal Review of Books reviews English-language books coming out of Quebec, providing a platform this small but vital writing community. Aparna Sanyal, editor of the mRb says “I’ve decided to ignore the conventional wisdom about fluffy summer reading.” She recommends Tommy Douglas, by Vincent Lam, part of Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series; a biography of the politician who dreamt of "Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent." Her second choice is Mobilizing the Will to Intervene, a small but influential book which has helped to reshape the way the world approaches humanitarian intervention.
Based out of Halifax, Invisible Publishing publishes first time authors and work that might otherwise get overlooked. This summer publisher Robbie MacGregor suggests Roll With It, by Heather J Wood, a contemporary novel of youth. About the recommendation MacGregor says, “I'm a sucker for coming of age stories, possibly because of my own terrible teen years.” And because “nothing says summer like road trip,” MacGregor’s second suggestion is Jessica Westhead’s hilarious novel Pulpy and Midge, which he recommends purchasing on Iambik audio books.
Over on the West Coast in Victoria, Jessica Walker is assistant manager and a buyer at one of the country’s favourite bookstores, Munro’s Books. She recommends the thoughtful prose of Elizabeth Hay’s Alone in the Classroom, an exploration of family relationships, obsessive love and hate, and childhood experience. She also suggests Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, which according to this aficionado is “replete with poison arrows, deadly snakes and cannibals ... a wonderful summer escape from the everyday.”