I love summer reading! Preferably by a body of water; pool, river, lake, or ocean, I am not picky. But honesty compels me to confess I also love winter reading, fall reading, reading on a plane, reading on a train, a book is essentially my green eggs and ham.
Despite the ubiquitous presence and joy of reading, there are some distinct attributes of summer reading that distinguish it from the rest of my reading life. Allow me to recommend these distinctions to you too! Without the weight of classes, summer break is a time to read what you want to, not what you are required to. The portability of books makes them the perfect companion to a Canadian summer outside and off the grid.
THE CITY WE BECAME
If you love to read speculative fiction or would like to try some, I recommend N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became. In a summer when travel and crowds are a distant memory or hope for another time, this novel transports the reader to New York City and its five boroughs. It is imaginative, funny, and disturbingly timely.
Perhaps you want to get a head start on reading before the deluge of post-pandemic movies. In that case, the classic Dune by Frank Herbert is the book for you. The world building is intricate and innovative and the environmental issues it raises are perhaps even more pressing than when it was first published in 1965. A new movie adaptation starring Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya is slated for release later in 2021.
Maybe the 400-plus page-count of Dune intimidates, and if that is the case, then maybe you need some Persuasion. Jane Austen’s last complete novel offers an opportunity to get ahead of not one but two productions. There is a modern-day retelling starring Dakota Johnson produced by Netflix in the works and another adaptation starring Succession’s Sarah Snook coming. Persuasion ticks all the genre boxes for romance but it is also a quiet celebration of resilience after grief and trauma.
WHEN THE STARS ARE SCATTERED & A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA
After this year I know that these themes resonate with me and bring to mind another book, a graphic novel, When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Set in a Kenyan refugee camp it is a story of displacement, waiting, and creating home wherever you find yourself. A Long Petal of the Sea, a novel by Isabel Allende, also tells the stories of displacement and migration, but this time from Franco’s Spain to Chile. It is a story of political catastrophe and survival over the decades.
why i write
For another lens on the Spanish civil war there is the brief and powerful collection of autobiographical essays by George Orwell, Why I Write. His observations on the ways that political language obscures reality and creates conditions that foster totalitarian government remain relevant. If you have absolutely no interest in politics, this book is still worth the read for the advice on how to write.
Perhaps politics and economic theory are exactly what you want to be reading. In that case, Mark Carney’s book, Value(s), explores how Capitalism is working or not working and what levers we could pull if we decide to value the environment and people within the current economic system.
WELCOME TO THE GODDAMN ICE CUBE
Finally, for that week when it gets too hot and you start to wish for the end of summer there is Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman. Set in Norway and Alaska this story is packed with adventure, sled dogs, wilderness, and courage.
I hope that you have found a book or two that will delight, entertain, or maybe even edify you this summer. May your summer reading restore any curiosity that this last hurried semester might have stolen from you. May it comfort and surprise you. Happy reading.