Summer is here!
Did I mention I have nine weeks off? Don’t hate me.
Before I abandon you for the summer, here is a list of lovely books for you. I have completely overthought it (‘The last one was six. Should this be six? But I want more! But not too many. Ok, one more. Is that one too heavy? Is that one too light? Are reading lists supposed to be new books? What does this list say about me? Does anyone even read this blog? etc…).
Screw it. Here’s a bunch of books that range from Really Lovely to Bloody Amazing. Read them on a blanket in the park with a Steigl Radler in hand. Or maybe in a travel mug. You know… laws.
- Oh. This book is beautiful. Two pianists from very different backgrounds and with very different struggles form a very beautiful friendship. This book is about artists and the gorgeous and troubling nuances of race, and the limits women often face. It’s one of those books that is so delicately and beautifully structured that I don’t want to give too much away. Just read it.
2. President Obama’s favourite book of the year, which made me like him even more (certainly a better choice than Donald Trump’s favourite book, ‘Mein Wig: The Hairstyles of Tyrannous Men’). Simply put, this book is about a marriage. The remarkable thing about it is Groff’s meticulous structure – it is in two parts: the first half from the husband’s perspective, the second from the wife’s. It is a visceral reminder that our experiences are our own, and that we only ever really know ourselves. I spent an entire day in bed reading this book. It’s complex, intriguing, and startling.
3/4: A woman near the end of her life wants to see the sea. She leaves her husband and walks from Saskatchewan to the Atlantic Coast of Canada, and befriends a talking coyote along the way. Need I say more? This is a really wonderful book: poignant, quirky, winsome. While we’re at it, you should probably read this one too:
Basically any book where the elderly go on long walks. Makes my heart go bubbly.
5. This book won the Pulitzer Prize. No big deal. It is about 5,298,147,598 pages long, and it’s a big of a haul, but hey, it’s summer, you have nine weeks off (or is that just me?). Teenaged Theo loses his mother and in the process, gains a rather famous painting which becomes the great burden of his life. The narrtive voice is so remarkable in this book, and the characters so cleanly drawn. The last twenty pages make the first billion so, so worth it. Truly a wonderful book.
6. Confession: I judge books by their covers. I really do. I am a real snob when it comes to what I read. I have this really gross affectation where I figure that if a book is popular, then it must be shite. What I am getting at here, is that a gold embossed book that was designed at Tiffany’s is not something I would usually want to be seen with on the TTC (Toronto’s epicurious public transit system). BUT. More than my snobbery, I am a sucker for stories about big, dysfunctional families with quirky, contrasting personalities (especially if one is a long-suffering-writer-sister). This is a really fun read, very well written, and my only complaint is that I think it should have been twice as long.
7. More Heather O’Neill? You’re damn right. Everything she writes is gold. I am visiting Montreal for the first time this summer, and there are only two things I want to do: 1) Openly weep at a Celine Dion concert with my mum (tickets in hand! Whoop!) and 2) Walk around. Heather O’Neill has set her two novels and many of her short stories in ‘Daydreams of Angels’ in Montreal, and her descriptions are so vivid and so colourful. This novel follows Nouschka, daughter of a formerly famous folk-singer, and twin to a destructive brother, as she grows up in a changing Quebec. O’Neill is a master of metaphor, and Queen of Writing. I loved this one.
8. If I could have lived in any place at any time, it would have been Paris in the 1920s. This lovely novel is the story of Hadley Richardson, first wife of Ernest Hemingway, and outlines the first years of their marriage, the Paris year, and their demise. It’s a fun romp through the literary haunts of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein and the gang, and quite a stirring imagining of their inner lives. Really lovely.
- In many ways, women have come a very long way in the last 100 years, but our current society, media, social media, have created some real trouble spots. ‘Feminist’ is a loaded word, and it can be hard to navigate the many layers involved in living this word these days. Roxanne Gay is like a really bad-ass big sister who is really current and cool and also fiercely intelligent and is kind of humbly and loudly announcing her big ideas about our present world. She is sassy and sharp and really un-pretentious.
2. This is a book by my personal best friend Sara Bareilles who decided that being a remarkable songwriter and Broadway musical maker and PRINCESS ARIEL wasn’t enough, so she made us a book. Bareilles is somewhat notoriously irreverent and saucy (which is why we are such close friends) and so I expected this book to be a raucous tell-all sort of thing. Not so. She has taken a lovely approach in telling stories from her life as they relate to, and have inspired, her songs. It is personal, vulnerable, inspiring, and I cried about eight times. It is a quick read, but powerful and entertaining. One of my favourite books of the year.
3. The incredible story of Henrietta Lacks, a tobacco farmer whose cells, taken in a routine surgery without her knowledge, and having an ability to regenerate unlike any discovered before or after, were used in developing medical vaccines, cloning, and research. Rebecca Skloot investigates this remarkable story as it continues through Lack’s family, who had no knowledge of their mother’s medical fame, and who themselves could not afford health insurance. The injustice, racism, and human right violations that spin through this story are incredibly frustrating. Oprah thinks so too, which is why she’s making it into a movie. A compelling read.
4. This was one of my favourite reads last summer. In this book of personal essays, Meghan Daum says the things we are not supposed to say. She is brash, funny, and also incredibly reflective, resulting in several moments of real affirmation, and some surprisingly emotional turns. My favourites are ‘Matricide’, ‘The Joni Mitchell Problem’, and ‘The Dog Exception’. It’s really smart, and pretty brave.
5. I just finished this beautiful book by Ann Patchett about her complex and beautiful friendship with the poet Lucy Grealey. It is a beautiful and immediate memoir, a hard and loving tribute to her friend, and such an intoxicating read. It’s really wonderful.
There you go, folks! Be sure to follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for weekly re-runs, and I will see you in September.
Have a beautiful summer!
p.s. If you have any great suggestions for my own stack of summer books, drop me a line, or leave them in the comments below!