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CanLit Summer Reading Suggestions From Calgarians Who Care

It’s the summer vacation conundrum we’ve all encountered: what to read? On one hand, the book should be fun and frothy and perfect for the beach, a camping chair or cottage. On the other hand, it should be something worthwhile. The solution is to choose a CanLit page-turner. We asked some of our favourite Calgarians what’s on their reading list, CanLit and otherwise, and now we can’t wait to get to the library and check out every single book.

Patrick Hunter, Arthur / Hunter

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

I just finished reading Eugene Stickland’s soon to be classic The Piano Teacher. The book won the 2015 W.O. Mitchell Book Prize. It was a fascinating read, exploring the isolation of an aging artist. Eugene is a local fixture in Calgary and a Governor General nominated playwright. This book came highly recommended and did not disappoint. Eugene was kind enough to sign my copy!

What’s your all-time favorite summer read?

My favourite all time summer read is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. I’ve read most of Márquez’s work but this piece stands above the rest. For me, the novel has a sublime texture which is hard to match. I’ve read it more than a dozen times.

Where’s the perfect place to read this book this summer?

The perfect place to read is in my backyard with a glass of port.

Bethany Graburn, The Social School

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

The Icarus Deception, Shoe Dog, and Essentialism are all on my summer reading list. None of them are light, beach-time reading or not light and summer reading-y at all, or fall into the category of CanLit for that matter. I look to be inspired or educated when I crack the cover of a book.

What’s your all-time favorite summer read, and why?

What is it about the summer that makes us all want to be better people? More fit, more tanned and better read? At any rate, I am embracing it and think that Essentialism is my favourite summer read. It is about living an intentional life, where you only say yes to your priorities. One where quality always trumps quantity.

Where’s the perfect place to read this book this summer?

I love curling up at night on my balcony by my fire (yes, it’s to code) with a glass of wine and reading.

Colleen Pound, Executive Strategy Advisor

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

I’m re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale — for obvious reasons. I can’t wait to read The Illegal by Lawrence Hill — a reminder on how important it is to continually welcome refugees, especially now

What’s your all-time favorite summer read, CanLit or otherwise?

Difficult to narrow down to all-time summer read; however, I love reading funny books like Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo because she is so fresh and honest. I also really enjoyed reading Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It reminds me of a special inside joke I have with a friend that recently passed away — every time I see that book, it makes me smile and think of her.

Where’s the perfect place to read these or any books this summer?

On my patio, from 4 pm until midnight! And Prince’s Island Park.

Ricky Zayshley, Press + Post

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

One summer I read every Roberston Davies book I could get my hands on; if I were to recreate a perfect summer of reading I’d start with the Tempest-Tost and end with The Lyre of Orpheus. But if I was to choose a perfect CanLit summer read book it would be Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley. I still dream about that book.

What’s your all-time favorite summer read?

There’s something so irresistible about buying a 1,000-page paperback from a garage sale and devouring it on holiday. That’s how The Thorn Birds came into my life, and I’m so happy about it. I remember how taboo the miniseries was when I was a kid; I can still remember the shock i felt when I found out my grandma WATCHED it! After I read it as an adult I felt I was an expert on colonial-era Australia, much to the joy of everyone around me, I’m sure.

Where’s the perfect place to read these or any books this summer?

I love reading while laying in bed in full air conditioning feeling great about not taking part in any outdoor activities.

Dawn Johnston, PhD, Associate Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

My summer reading list has a couple of interesting Canadian writers — I’ve just burned through Scaachi Koul’s One Day We’ll All be Dead and None of This Will Matter, and I’m about to start Suzette Mayr’s Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall. If this year’s CanLit debates have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be diversifying our understanding and consumption of Canadian literature, and I’m loving my choices so far.

What’s your all-time favorite summer read?

Summer, for me, is the perfect time to have multiple books on the go at once. I like having a mix of memoir, fiction with great characters and a fast moving plot, books of essays that I can pick up and put down with ease, and, my staple, detective novels. Picking a favourite would be impossible, but a couple of favourites in recent years have been Jowita Bydlowska’s Drunk Mom, Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, and Roxane Gay’s Hunger, which I had to put down long enough to answer these questions!

Where’s the perfect place to read these or any books this summer?

Any place outdoors. My personal favourite is a leisurely afternoon read on my back deck with a super cold G&T by my side!

Danielle Couturier, Press + Post

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve always heard really great things about this novel, and I’d like to read it before I start watching the series.

What’s your all-time favorite summer read?

I’m big into the mystery/suspense fiction genre right now, so anything similar to Gillian Flynn novels that really allow you to get lost in the read are the perfect summer escape. Last summer I read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty while I was on vacation and literally couldn’t put it down — those are my favourite kinds of books for the summer. A close second would be funny, honest books by funny and honest people. I recently read Yes Please by Amy Peohler and was laughing out loud the whole time.

Where’s the perfect place to read this book this summer?

If you can make it to a body of water, that’s would be my ideal spot. All you need is a big blanket and some snacks and it makes for the perfect afternoon.

Kaitlyn Hanson, Teacher and Journalist

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

I really need to get out my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale again. I read it in 2004 for an English course at Ryerson University and remember being really shocked and enthralled by it. Margaret Atwood isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I enjoy her writing. It seemed so disconnected from the life I was living as an undergraduate in Canada 13 years ago. I’d like to read it again with fresh eyes — given the current political state of the world, I think the message resonates even more strongly than it did in the past.

What’s your all-time favourite summer read, CanLit or otherwise?

I’d have to say Anne of Green Gables. It’s a childhood favourite — my mom read it aloud to me, chapter by chapter, every night before bed the year I was seven. I try to re-read it at least once a year, and I always manage to take away something new from it. It’s one of those rare books that speaks to both children and adults, and the story is quite timeless, really.

Where’s the perfect place to read these or any books this summer?

I’m spending part of July at my husband’s family cottage in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. It’s right on the water in an absolutely beautiful spot. Is there a better place to read Canadian books than on a Canadian beach?

Julya Hajnoczky, Photographer

What’s on your CanLit summer reading list, current or classic, new to you or a re-read?

Jane Urquhart’s A Number of Things – Stories of Canada Told Through Fifty Objects — the cover is what caught my eye, but I love collecting things that have stories associated with them (mine or someone else’s), so the premise appealed to me too. I’m finally at #14 on the holds list at the library so I think I’ll get it in time to make this a summer read. Heather O’Neil’s The Lonely Hearts Hotel — I loved her last book, Lullabies for Little Criminals, and how can any self-respecting feminist skip a novel by someone whose “central characters”, according to the Globe and Mail review, “are smart, strong-willed, articulate and female; the males are mostly feckless, often addicted and sometimes downright evil?” I’m at #135 on the hold list for this book, it’s looking like a late summer read. I hope.

A book I’ll be re-reading is Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s The Global Forest: Forty Ways Trees Can. I love to re-read this book by my botany hero every summer to remind me just how incredible trees are. The author has her own research garden, has visited most of the existing old-growth forests in the world, and has devoted most of her life to studying how plants work and how they interact with their surroundings.

What’s your all-time favorite summer read, CanLit or otherwise?

I have two: The Golden Spruce, by John Vaillant is non-fiction, but is written so well that it reads like a novel, if you know what I mean. And Gathering Moss, A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which might sound like the most boring tome you ever laid eyes on, but is an absolutely magical exploration of the tiny world of mosses.
From the publisher: “Drawing on her diverse experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains the stories of mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of indigenous ways of knowing. In her book, the natural history and cultural relationships of mosses become a powerful metaphor for ways of living in the world.” It’s very approachable-level science.

Where’s the perfect place to read these or any books this summer?

In your camper or tent, in the forest, as far away from the city as possible (physically, mentally, spiritually, etc.).

What books will you be reading this summer? Tell us! Email to hello@vernmagazine.com, comment on Facebook and Instagram. We are not opposed to adding onto this list!

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