Book Therapy: Late-Summer Reading

By Stacey May Fowles

Late-Summer Reading - Stacey May Fowles

We’ve now reached the point in the summer where my inner voice starts screaming “but there’s not enough time!” at full volume. With my genuine distaste for winter weather, summer is a precious commodity—the moment it starts is the moment I start to become frantic, afraid that it’s already slipping away. When the days are sunny every moment inside feels like a waste, and I seem to always be fretting about whether or not I’ve spent enough time near a body of water, or in a hammock, or (of course) reclining with luxurious summer read.

For a lot of us lounging with a book is a vital fixture of summertime, and despite the worry overtaking me as the calendar days flip by, there are still quite a few more reading days left before Labour Day rears its ugly back-to-school head. And while the frothy, fun, thrilling novel seems to be the preferred summer reading of many a published list, I’ve been finding my own tastes have an (unsurprisingly) therapeutic bent—whether it’s a guide to dismantling toxic masculinity, a tender and wise pandemic diary, or a moving collection of life-affirming essays. 

Here are some recent reads that have really made my summer thus far, along with the hope that you can squeeze in as many books as you can before the fall chill sets in.

These Days Are Numbered, Rebecca Rosenblum (Dundurn)

These Days Are Numbered, Rebecca Rosenblum (Dundurn):

You wouldn’t think a read about what was likely a few of the worst years of your life would make for a good poolside experience, but Rebecca Rosenblum’s intimate document of pandemic life somehow manages to be charming, witty, and deeply heartfelt. A rework of the online diary she kept from her high rise apartment during “the great loneliness,” Rosenblum reminds us not only of what we endured, but how strong we were to have done so. A friend accurately described the tone as “gentle” and I agree—this memoir is a much needed reminder to go easy on ourselves and each other, even if those dreary days in lockdown now feel like a loathed memory.

The New Masculinity: A Roadmap for a 21st-Century Definition of Manhood, Alex Manley (ECW Press)

The New Masculinity: A Roadmap for a 21st-Century Definition of Manhood, Alex Manley (ECW Press):

Mixing memoir with astute social commentary, AskMen senior editor Alex Manley gives readers a liberating alternative to the toxic tropes that limit men and cause genuine widespread harm. Written both thoughtfully and accessibly, each chapter dismantles a limiting pervasive stereotype, whether it’s that real men don’t cry, real men don’t go to therapy, real men don’t wear makeup, or real men don’t walk away from a fight. The New Masculinity is a genuine breath of fresh air and offers some real hope for the future—one where we can all shake free from the damaging limitations of rigid gender roles.

I Felt the End Before it Came: Memoirs of a Queer Ex-Jehovah's Witness, Daniel Allen Cox (Penguin Random House)

I Felt the End Before it Came: Memoirs of a Queer Ex-Jehovah's Witness, Daniel Allen Cox (Penguin Random House): 

This beautiful and candid memoir-in-essays takes us through the author’s early years growing up queer “in a group that taught me to hate myself,” through the journey to escape that prescribed hatred, and into a glorious celebration of the self. A genuinely life-affirming collection, brimming with joy, humour, and empathy, I Felt the End Before it Came reminds us of the power in documenting the personal, and the necessary salve of a shared narrative.

The Whole Animal, Corinna Chong (Arsenal Pulp Press)

The Whole Animal, Corinna Chong (Arsenal Pulp Press):

In 2021 Corinna Chong won the CBC Short Story Prize for "Kids in Kindergarten,” a sparse yet deeply affecting tale of pregnancy loss told by means of a fraught trip to kindergarten story time. In this debut collection of stories, Chong continues her inventive approach to the everyday in ways both subtle and unsettling, giving us the emotional clumsiness of relationships and the callous ways we harm each other (and ourselves.) A wiry stray hair, an earwig trapped in a glass, a child clutching a dirty shred of cotton batting—this deceptively simple and relatively quick read is littered with striking images, and their meanings will linger long after the last page. 

Lump, Nathan Whitlock

Lump, Nathan Whitlock (Rare Machines/Dundurn Press):

I’ve praised Lump elsewhere, so I would be remiss not to include this recent release on my official list of my recommended summer reads (especially because I clipped through it at record speed.) Whitlock’s searing and darkly comedic novel explores the confines of marriage, motherhood, and domesticity by means of a quickly dissolving family unit shaken by crisis after crisis. The societal themes mined here are timely and multifaceted, and thankfully Whitlock treats them with the nuance they deserve. The result is a tale that is heartbreaking, intelligent, and incredibly entertaining—perfect for summer.


Book Therapy is a monthly column about how books have the capacity to help, heal, and change our lives for the better. 

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 an award-winning journalist, novelist, and essayist whose bylines include The Globe and Mail, The National Post, BuzzFeed, Elle, Toronto Life, The Walrus, Vice, Hazlitt, Quill and Quire, and others. She is the author of the bestselling non-fiction collection Baseball Life Advice (McClelland and Stewart), and the co-editor of the recent anthology Whatever Gets You Through (Greystone).