Usually when the warmer months of the year are upon us, our minds turn to all of that fun, relaxing reading we’ve been putting off. There’s just something about summer that makes us fantasize about being in a poolside deck chair, sprawled out on a beach towel, or swinging in a hammock, devouring that buzzed-about new release, or taking in an old favourite perfectly suited for a sunny day.
If you haven’t got your summer reading list sorted yet, it’s definitely not too late. I talked to six esteemed writers about what they’ll be visiting and revisiting this season, and for a bit of fun, a few shared their favourite ways to spend a summer moment. (Beyond having their head in a book, of course.)
Kerry Clare, author of Mitzi Bytes (Harper Collins Canada)
“Like so many others, I read Lianne Moriarty's Big Little Lies this winter, and plan to devote some time to her back catalogue this summer, beginning with Truly Madly Guilty. I'm also looking forward to Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy, which is one of the many books I've been directly hand-sold by Ann Patchett. Two books I've read already that are perfect for summer reading are Glass Beads, by Dawn Dumont, and Boundary, by Andrée A. Michaud, and I heartily recommend these. And if you need any other recommendations, you can find me in my backyard hammock drinking pot after pot of tea.”
Canisia Lubrin, author of Voodoo Hypothesis (Buckrider Books, October 2017)
“While it is getting increasingly unlikely that I will read every book on my summer list, that foreboding does not stay with me. In fact, my summer list continues to grow—much like my winter, spring and fall lists. All my to-read piles are ceiling-height and I’ve learned to just let this be. I’m happy to have every wall in my home lined with books. Perhaps, because of this (though not likely), I tend to read several books at once.
"This summer, I am looking forward to at least one trip out-of-country but if that doesn’t happen, I will be spending a good deal of time at home. Not terribly exciting, but I do have the thrill of a few books awaiting me not matter what I end up doing."
Fiction: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Everything is Awful and You're a Terrible Person by Daniel Zomparelli, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Son of A Trickster by Eden Robinson, Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau, Swing Time by Zadie Smith, Augustown by Kei Miller, Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy.
Nonfiction: Homo Deus by Yuval Harari, Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, Baldwin's Collected Essays by James Baldwin, Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game that Saved Me by Stacey May Fowles. I will likely read Notes From a Feminist Killjoy by Erin Wunker again because her brilliance just keeps on giving.
Poetry: This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Simpson, Passage by Gwen Benaway, House of Lords and Commons by Ishion Hutchinson , Look by Solmaz Sharif, Whereas by Layli Long Soldier, Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi.
Diane Schoemperlen, author of First Things First (Biblioasis)
"I have already kicked off my summer reading with a new book by Fay Weldon called Mischief. It includes her pick of 21 favourite short stories from her fifty-year career and a new novella, The Ted Dreams. I have always been a Fay Weldon fan but I bought this book as much because of its gorgeous cover and the red ribbon bookmark bound into its spine as because of its author. I suspect I would have bought it no matter who wrote it.
"My summer reading tends to be random. I relish the opportunity to read books I might not have picked up otherwise and that have nothing to do with what I’m currently working on. My list includes Down Inside: Thirty Years in Canada’s Prison Service by Robert Clark; Barrelling Forward by Eva Crocker; Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character by Kay Redfield Jamison: and The Son by Jo Nesbo. I might also read at least one thriller with the word “girl” in the title.
"Because I’m not an outdoorsy person and am not fond of the heat, my other favourite summertime activities include making collages and having a nap whenever the opportunity presents itself."
Andrew Pyper, author of The Only Child (Simon & Schuster)
"Black Mad Wheel, by Josh Malerman. Malerman's first novel, Bird Box, was a tremendously inventive horror story about creatures you can't open your eyes to see or...well, bad stuff happens. His follow-up is about a strange sound that may - or may not - threaten humankind.
"Be Ready for the Lightning, by Grace O'Connell Another second novel, this one about a hijacked bus. I loved O'Connell's first novel, Magnified World—such a great, convincing voice—so I'm psyched for this one.
"Last Days, by Brian Evenson. Evenson has been recommended to me by many and I'm now correcting not having got around to him sooner. He writes (judging from the synopses) weird fiction with dollops of horror and absurdism, which is my kind of dock read."
Meaghan Strimas, author of Yes or Nope (Mansfield Press)
"I have a pile of books that have been patiently waiting by my bedside and on my shelves all winter long. This summer, when I am not searching for 'jumbo juicies' (frogs) with my little guy, Lou, or splashing in the waves at Sauble Beach, I'll be reading more of by one of my favourite authors Barbara Pym (she's so funny!), plus Aisha Sasha John's poetry collection, I Have to Live. And, let's see, Jennifer Lovegrove's Children with Pet Foxes, some trashy mags, of course, and any newspaper I can get my hands on."
Jen Sookfong Lee, author of Gentlemen of the Shade: My Own Private Idaho (ECW Press)
"This summer, my reading is mostly about catching up on books that I meant to read when they first came out years ago, with a couple of newish ones sprinkled in. I’m possibly too excited to read Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (because ghosts). Also in my pile is This Accident of Being Lost by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and Hellgoing by Lynn Coady. As well, my son and I are working our way through the Calvin and Hobbes canon by Bill Watterson.
"My favourite summertime activity is a very chill, writerly one: I plan to sit in my neighbour’s yard and write poems while my son swims in her pool."
The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Stacey May Fowles is the author of three novels, and her bylines include The National Post, The Globe and Mail, Elle Canada, Maisonneuve, Toronto Life, The Walrus, Vice Sports, Hazlitt, Quill and Quire, and others. Fowles' third novel, Infidelity (ECW press 2013) was shortlisted for the ReLit Award, was selected as an Amazon Best Book of 2013, and won an Independent Publisher Book Award. Her most recent book, Baseball Life Advice, is an essay collection released by McClelland & Stewart in spring 2017. Editor of Best Canadian Sports Writing (ECW 2017,) Fowles writes about books for The Globe and Mail, baseball for Jays Nation and The Athletic, and is author of the popular weekly Baseball Life Advice e-newsletter.