Bookends: Great Summer Reads

Eight local literati share recommendations for books to keep you entertained on a flight, in the backseat on a road trip, or while lounging on Accidental Beach.

June 30, 2018

Photography Bluefish Studios

Books provided by Indigo; Edge of Wild provided by Stonehouse Publishing; Whale 14 k goldleaf bookends from Bling

Claire Kelly    

Marketing and Production Coordinator for local publisher NeWest Press; her debut poetry collection, Maunder, was released in April 2017. One Thing — Then Another will be released in 2019.

When I was 17, a genius teen librarian put Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse in my hand. The teen protagonist, Cécile, and her summer troubles on the French Riviera — with her over-the-top ennui, aging playboy father and first taste of love — make Bonjour Tristesse a go-to book for me. It’s dreamy and tightly written and small enough to fit in a summer bag alongside sunscreen and water.

Michael James    

Poet, journalist and host of WORD on CJSR 88.5 FM, Edmonton’s only late-night poetry and literature talk radio.

Murder, mayhem and a little romance combine in D.K. Stone’s Edge of Wild to offer a compelling Alberta-grown mystery that peels back the layers on small-town tensions and complex everyday human dramas. Set in the tiny mountain town of Waterton, Stone’s characters are pushed far outside their comfort zones to discover much about themselves, each other, and the permeable physical and psychological borders that divide us from the vast wildness that surrounds. I could not recommend a better summer read. 

Fawnda Mithrush 

Executive Director of LitFest, Edmonton’s annual nonfiction literary festival (October 11-21, 2018).

Elizabeth Renzetti’s Shrewed is one of my favourite reads of the year. It has everything I love about fun, feminist lit: Biting humour, cultural commentary and honest observations about women’s day-to-day realities. It also has probably the best chapter titles of all time (“Weddings are Satan’s Playground” and “You’ll Pay for Those Breasts or The Costs of Being A Lady” are a couple of examples). Renzetti’s writing crackles with intelligence, too; there’s not much I enjoy more than a smart lady who makes me laugh.

Billy-Ray Belcourt   

PhD student in the Dept. of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. His debut book of poems, This Wound is a World, was named the best Canadian poetry collection of 2017 by CBC Books. It was a finalist for the 2018 Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize and winner of the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem exposes the ways in which something as seemingly innocuous as a season is bound up in the discursive web of ideas that is colonialism. Luckily, Pico is also a jokester and an anthropologist of the Internet, weaving issues of indigeneity, queerness, intimacy, racialization, popular culture and ethics into something that is greater than the sum of their parts.

Michelle Schultz  

Director of dc3 Art Projects (gallery and bookshop) and sits on the Board of Directors at Latitude 53 and the Edmonton Arts Council Public Art Committee.

Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick tells the story of a failed filmmaker obsessed with a man named Dick, and the relationship between Dick, Chris and her husband, Sylvère. A cult-classic memoir told largely told through the letters Chris and Sylvère write to Dick, the novel was first published in 1997 and has recently been adapted into an Amazon show. It is a book that is searingly honest and a perfect summer read.

Tina Thomas  

Executive Director, Strategy and Innovation, for the Edmonton Public Library; Top 40 Under 40 alumna.

Anything by Liane Moriarty! All her novels are addictive with wonderful Australian female protagonists in bizarre circumstances. My favourite is probably What Alice Forgot, a close second is The Last Anniversary, about a young woman who inherits a house on a small tourist island next to Sydney, where her ex-boyfriend and his extended family live. This is perfect for your summer reading because the audiobook is exceptionally read (Aussie accent to boot). Listen in your car. At the lake. While gardening. Added bonus, you can get it for free. Right now, with your Edmonton Public Library card.

Matthew Stepanic

Editor of Glass Buffalo and poetry editor of Eighteen Bridges. His first book, the collaborative novel Project Compass, was published by Monto Books in Fall 2017.

Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is pop horror and fairy tale at its best, and I haven’t been able to shut up about it since I read it. (Sorry, friends, but also you’re welcome.) I also can’t close my eyes at night without visions of ghostly girls with bells for eyes or faded women stitched into dresses. Fans of spooky stories will appreciate how Machado conjures and twists old myths and tropes to challenge modern concerns — such as a woman’s (or queer person’s) right to agency over their bodies. Be ready for this book to haunt you long after you return it to your shelf.

Ahmed Knowmadic Ali

Edmonton’s Poet Laureate, the artistic director of Breath in Poetry and a Top 40 Under 40 alumnus.

Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of those books that reminds me that humans are capable of magic. The story takes place in Afghanistan and is centred on two female protagonists. Regardless of the challenges they face being women living in a war-torn country, they demonstrate resilience and exemplify hope. The book is full of moments that will bring tears to your eyes and a smile to your heart.

            This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.


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