Warm Weather Reads: Recommended by Writers
The Writers’ Trust asked a number of prominent writers to share with us their reading recommendations for the summer of 2014. Below, you’ll find out what books they are most looking forward to reading this summer.
There are a number of books I hope to get to this summer. I've heard very good things about Phil Klay's story collection Redeployment about American soldiers in Iraq. And after reading a sharp, aphoristic excerpt in the Paris Review, I've been meaning to pick up Jenny Offil's novel The Department of Speculation. I also plan to make time for Thomas Picketty's much-lauded book on economics, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. And last, but certainly not least, I'm eager to read Lee Henderson's new novel, The Road Narrows As You Go (published September 2014). I thought his last book, the excellent and inspired The Man Game didn't get half the recognition it deserved. He's one of our best and most inventive writers.
David Bezmozgis next novel, The Betrayers, will be published in September 2014.
I just finished Sharry Wilson's Young Neil, a meticulous and well-written account of his Canadian upbringing, chock full of photos of the musician in his school years. I also recently purchased copies of D.D. Wilson's story collection David Foster Wallace Ruined My Suicide and Peter Norman's novel Emberton and look forward to reading both.
Kevin Chong latest book, Northern Dancer: The Legendary Horse that Inspired a Nation, was published in April 2014.
My summer reading book pile is growing rapidly, threatening to take up all the space in the getaway car. But really, what else do I need on my vacation? I'll strap my kids to the roof rack and away we go. Here's what I'm most looking forward to savouring this summer:
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill, because it's been nearly 20 years since I lived in Montreal and in many ways my heart never left that city.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf, because it was given to me by a dear friend who has a spotless track record for book recommendations.
The Confabulist by Steven Galloway, because I am obsessed with magic.
This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, because I almost never read graphic novels but this one sounds like a summer treat.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff, because I love the concept of a novel written in verse.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, because she is one of my favourite writers and because just looking at the cover art makes me happy.
Gillian Deacon’s memoir, Naked Imperfection, was published in April 2014.
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Close to Hugh by Marina Endicott
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, Frog Music, was published in March 2014.
My summer reading list includes novels and short fiction I purchased after being wowed at several author's readings this spring (Tamai Kobayashi's Prairie Ostrich, Nancy Lee's The Age, and Kelli Deeth's short fiction collection The Other Side of Youth); a novel I keep buying and lending out before reading and its follow-up (Dan Vyleta's The Quiet Twin and The Crooked Maid); a selection of essays recommended by the very discerning Frank at Hamilton's Bryan Prince Bookseller (Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams); and a gem from John Vaillant's non-fiction backlist because I don't ever want to fully recover from The Tiger (The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness and Greed). I'm diving in right now, and when I get through my list I hope to re-read Nadia Bozak's beautifully observed and hard-to-forget El Nino.
Krista Foss’s debut novel, Smoke River, was published in May 2014.
I'm especially looking forward to some July and August time spent with the smart and singular short story collection How Does A Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? by Doretta Lau and with the crazy-long-essay-secretly-super-taut-book The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle by Francisco Goldman.
Rivka Galchen’s collection of stories, American Innovations, was published in May 2014.
Right now I am reading Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women. I am embarrassed to admit I waited so long to read this classic, and now seemingly at the prompting of Nobel’s committee, but I think I had some notion that Munro’s rural Ontario life was going to be much more sterile and dull, which I now know is ridiculous. I have been surprised at how familiar the characters feel, and how gently and lovingly their humanity is revealed.
I am also reading Dwellings, a book of essays by Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw writer from Colorado whose stories honour ways of knowing that we usually undervalue: animal ways, plant ways, indigenous ways. I have two new books of poetry on my desk: Bruce Rice’s The Trouble with Beauty, which has some powerful lyric and narrative passages from one of Canada’s best prairie poets; and Dee Hobsbawn-Smith’s Wildness Rushing In, which Don McKay says is “an exciting and accomplished poetic debut.”
This summer, I hope to read James Daschuk’s Clearing The Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life. Daschuk gained his respect for Canada’s Aboriginal people as a teenager, meeting trappers and hunters in the Ontario bush. This book, his first, unearths the footings of Canada’s Prairie culture deep within the starvation, disease, and forced removal of our first peoples.
Trevor Herriot’s latest book, The Road is How: A Prairie Pilgrimage through Nature, Desire, and Soul, was published in April 2014.
I have been finishing a PhD (and immersed in Victorian novels) so my reading list has been heavily prescribed for the past few years. That said, I do have some leisure time this summer and have lined up a few highly recommended books: Alison Pick's memoir Between Gods – which I've heard is wonderful and moving, Sue Goyette's poetry collection Ocean, and Michael Crummey's 2009 novel Galore, which comes highly recommended by Lisa Moore for how it engages masterfully with folk tales. I'm also hoping that I might be able to wrangle an advance reading copy of Helen Humphrey's new novel – I think it's called The Evening Chorus – even though it doesn't come out until 2015. She is one of my favourite writers and 2015 is so far away that I'm hoping that I might be able to bribe someone somewhere so that I don't have to wait. On the foreign front I am desperate to read A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride. Anne Enright called it uncompromising, brilliant prose. I can't wait to get my hands on it.
Aislinn Hunter’s next novel, The World Before Us, will be published in September 2014.
Terry Fallis’ No Relation: This is the latest from one of Canada’s leading comic novelists, who, of course, wrote two hilarious books on political life in Ottawa including The Best Laid Plans, which was turned into a CBC miniseries.
Lynne Olson’s Troublesome Young Men: This is an account of how a handful of Tory MPs in Britain defied their prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, and forced his resignation over his policy of appeasement toward Germany in the lead up to World War Two. This ultimately brought Winston Churchill to power. Evan Solomon, the CBC political anchor and host, recommended it to me as an example of how backbench MPs can make a tremendous difference when they’re willing to use the power and influence of their positions.
Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda: I might be the only Canadian book lover who hasn’t read this yet, a historical novel that examines the relationship between indigenous groups and settlers before the formation of Canada. My transgression will soon be rectified!
Alison Loat’s first book, Tragedy in the Commons: Former Members of Parliament Speak Out About Canada’s Failing Democracy, was co-written with Michael MacMillan and published in April 2014.
The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill. First of all, this book is about twins. I can never resist twins. But you could say the third sibling is Montreal and you come to understand that the city is like the characters: complicated, compelling, sometimes cruel, and full of life.
The Confidence Code by Katty Kay. Understanding why girls lose confidence and learning how to reclaim it – a book every women needs to read and, even if you don’t agree, the conversation that results is well worth it.
The Country of Ice Cream Star. Ice Cream is 15. She lives among children. Because no one in her community survives past the age of 20. This isn’t your average dystopian novel. Sandra Newman is too smart to be average.
Remember The Time by Bill Whitfield, Javon Beard, and Tanner Colby. They had access to Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, the King of Pop Culture, in the year before he died. The story they tell is incredible.
Elaine Lui is a celebrity gossip blogger who also appears on the CTV shows ETalk and The Social. Her memoir, Listen to the Squawking Chicken, was published in April 2014.
Some great Canadian books I've read this year:
Under the Keel by Michael Crummey
Hellgoing by Lynn Coady
Ocean by Sue Goyette
The City Still Breathing by Matthew Heiti
And books I've heard good things about and am looking forward to reading:
Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility by Theodora Armstrong
Sympathy Loophole by Jaime Forsythe
1996 by Sarah Peters
Holler by Alice Burdick
The Green and Purple Skin of the World by Paulo da Costa
Dana Mills' debut collection, Someone Somewhere, was published in September 2013.
My summer reading will be scant, but deep. I read slowly, because I spend a great deal of time –perhaps too much – imagining why a specific word was used, or why a sentence was constructed in its particular manner – so it is likely that I will enjoy no more than these four books over the course of the summer months: Miriam Toews' All My Puny Sorrows, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Tasneem Jamal’s Where The Air is Sweet, and Noviolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names. I am particularly interested in the last as my mind is on a new novel in which one of the protagonists is a young character of African decent living in the Caribbean. I’ve been told that Bulawayo’s Darling is unmatchable. This is a challenge that provokes me.
Shani Mootoo’s latest novel, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, was published in April 2014.
Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy – because she hugged me once at IFOA (International Festival of Authors), and my latest novel is my take on her style, with multiple characters and interwoven plot lines.
Empress of the Night by Eva Stachniak – for when I want to escape the oppressive heat and humidity of Toronto for palace intrigues in 18th century Russia.
The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes (coming in early September) – really looking forward to this novel about brothers, family, and home, it looks like it'll be a stunner.
Death's Last Run by Robin Spano – what better time to read a clever, fast-paced mystery set in Whistler during ski season than in the summer?
Kim Mortisugu’s latest novel, The Oakdale Dinner Club, was published in April 2014.
I have a fabulous line-up of books by women that I can’t wait to read this summer. In no particular order, I’m looking forward to:
Girl Runner by Carrie Snyder
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jameson
The World to Come by Dara Horn
The Juggler’s Children by Carolyn Abraham
Between by Angie Abdou
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
And my four-year-old daughter cannot wait to read Norman, Speak! by the brilliant Caroline Adderson.
Alison Pick’s memoir, Between Gods, will be published in September 2014.
There's a lot of poetry I'm excited to read this summer, including some collections that I've already swallowed in these early days of post-semester bliss. Two of them are debut collections: Anne-Marie Turza's new book The Quiet is really interesting and smart, and Brecken Hancock's Broom Broom is a heartbreak symphony. I've got Sina Queyras' new MXT waiting for me, as well as Rob Winger, Jen Currin, Garth Martens, and American Sarah Lindsay.
I don't only read poetry, though. I just finished Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's All the Broken Things, which was terrific. I've got plans to tackle new novels by Steven Galloway, Ray Robertson, and Jonathan Bennett. In non-fiction, I seem to be pursuing some doom and gloom. I just finished JB MacKinnon's The Once and Future World, and I'm finally diving into Romeo Dallaire's deservedly famous Shake Hands with the Devil.
When I had a year-long sabbatical, I tried to read my own height in books. Not sure I'll get that far, but I'm hoping to at least get to the mid-thigh range.
Adam Sol’s latest poetry collection, Complicity, was published in March 2014.
I'm halfway through Frederick Brown's Flaubert: A Biography and it's summer already, so I guess that's first on my list! Fiction that I've been saving up includes Ailsa Kay's Under Budapest and Jonathan Littell's The Fata Morgana Books. I'll read a couple of nonfiction books contemplating violence and forgiveness in the US, where I now live: my friend Justin St. Germain's memoir Son of a Gun, and True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas. In Montreal, where we spend a month each summer, I'll buy John Barton's new book of poems, Polari, and Phyllis Lambert's Building Seagram, as well as whatever I turn up browsing at my neighbourhood bookstore, the marvelous Librairie Drawn & Quarterly. Teaching prep will require me to read Homer, the Bible, and the Qur'an. (I'm incredibly fortunate in my work requirements.) And I look forward to a few surprises from the summer book club I have with my (now 9 year old) son, in which each of us prescribes a few of our own favourite books for the other.
Padma Viswanathan latest novel, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, was published in March 2014.
You've come to the right guy. I have an ebook reader loaded for summer, and a dock ready for lazing about!
My main fare this summer will be a back catalogue of books on North America's current and future leaders including Jonathan Allen's HRC, Dinesh D'Souza's Obama's America, and Mark Kennedy's Rebel to Realist on Stephen Harper. I am also really looking forward to Annie Jacobsen's Operation Paperclip, which tells the story of how U.S. intelligence quietly brought Nazi scientists to the United States after World War II. I don't read much fiction, but this summer, when I do it will be Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London.
Robert Wright’s latest book, The Night Canada Stood Still: How the 1995 Quebec Referendum Nearly Cost us our Country, was published in May 2014.