At BookThug HQ, we spend much of our days reading, and thinking and talking about, books. But this isn’t enough for us. We always have several books on the go or waiting in our “to read” pile. So, if you’re looking for your next summer read, here are some recommendations from some of the members of our team including Jay MillAr, Hazel Millar, Ruth Zuchter, John Schmidt, and our fabulous interns Kelly and Stacey.
Jay is reading Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha right now. After that, he’s planning to read Last Seen by Matt Cohen, and The Illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila-Matas (translated by Anne McLean & Anna Milsom).
JM: Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, which is totally reminding me of a Toronto I lived through and recognize, but also never knew.
Up next, Last Seen by Matt Cohen, which is a wonderful book about brothers that should be right up there with All My Puny Sorrows in the fiction of sibling grief category.
The Illogic of Kassel by Enrique Vila-Matas (translated by Anne McLean & Anna Milsom). This should be read for the absolute pleasure of the opening chapter, which is all about the avant garde and McGuffins.
HM: I recently finished reading The Door by Magda Szabo. Long story short, a few years ago I found out that I am part Hungarian, on my mother’s side. As such, I am eager to experience Hungarian culture on any and all levels. When I first heard about this beautiful book (thanks to Jennifer LoveGrove) I knew I had to read it. The award-winning translation by Len Rix of Szabo’s work is stunning. A divine read, from start to finish.
What I’m currently reading: The Honeyman Festival by Marian Engel. This book has been on my “to read” list forever. In the last couple of months, it came up in several different conversations I had with people, and I realized that the time had come at last for me to read it. I am half way through it and am really enjoying it.
What’s up next: The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson. Why? Because Maggie Nelson. Enough said. (In case you don’t know, I ADORE her!)
RZ: Several seriously huge stacks of “To Read” books lie in wait on my bedside table and on my office shelves. As always, the titles comprise a very eclectic collection—from Boccaccio’s 14th century Decameron, to Anakana Schofield’s Martin John picked up after IFOA 2015, to Teva Harrison’s graphic memoir In Between Days (gifted to me on the night of BookThug’s Spring Launch by writer friend Paddy Scott).
As I continue to chip away at these leaning towers of wonderful and sometimes challenging writing, I’m setting my sights on 3 books in particular:
Currently reading – Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire: I picked up an old copy in a used bookstore in Chicago, as I was interested in reading more Nabokov and was attracted to this title as an important work of metafiction and (I think) a fascinating example of entre-genre writing. Since then, I’ve been immersing myself slowly and steadily in its multidimensional narrative that threads through a 999-line poem in four cantos by the fictional writer John Shade, plus a foreword, commentary, and index written by the self-appointed (again, fictional) editor, Charles Kinbote.
Also currently reading – Thomas F. Madden’s Venice: A New History: I fell in love with the sights, sounds, and yes, even the smells of Venice several years ago when I travelled there with my husband, and I dream of returning some day in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I’m using Madden’s comprehensive text to learn more about this lagoon refuge that’s seen so much turmoil, trade, and religious transcendence over the 1,500-odd years of its existence.
Up next – Sjón’s From the Mouth of the Whale: I find much of the art and culture that comes out of Iceland to be captivating in its off-kilter oddness and epical charm. And the writing of Reykjavik–native novelist, poet, and lyricist Sjón easily fits this description. In this, one of his most recent books of fiction (translated into English in 2011), the writer hearkens back to a time of superstition, poverty, and plague on the island. Junot Diaz blurbs the book as follows: “Sjón is the trickster that makes the world, and he is achingly brilliant. From the Mouth of the Whale is strange and wonderful, an epic made mad, made extraordinary.” ’Nuff said.
John is reading Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance right now. Up next on his reading list are All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio by Jessica Abel, and Rich and Poor by Jacob Wren.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance
“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” That quote from a Facebook engineer appears in the first few pages of this book and it underlines the lack of innovation happening in the western world in favour of getting people amuse themselves to death on the Internet.
But not Elon Musk.
With SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity he is risking it all on building world changing companies. Should be an interesting read.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. My son gave me this book for my birthday. It was recommended to him by the fine folks at Book City in Bloor West Village. It is not the kind of book I would choose for myself. I love it when he expands my literary horizons.
Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio, by Jessica Abel. I love audio storytelling and I love graphic novels. This is a graphic novel about audio storytelling told from the perspective of the people who are creating great audio shows (radio and podcasts). ‘Nuff said.
Rich and Poor, by Jacob Wren. Last summer I read The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King, which includes a compelling character study of the ultra-rich CEO of a multinational chemical company causing environmental devastation. So Jacob’s book about killing a billionaire as a political act dovetails nicely into that part of my mind interested in continuing the discussion around the wealth and privilege of the 1% framed against the trials and struggles of the rest of the world.
KD: Fates and Furies is the second pick for the book club that our peers in the Ryerson MA program recently started. It’s a story about a marriage over twenty-four years from the perspective of both the husband, named Lancelot (whose father is named Gawain) and the wife, Mathilde. I’m still reading the first section from Lancelot’s point of view (“Fates”), but I’m looking forward to the twist that apparently come up in the next section from Mathilde’s perspective (“Furies”).
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is an all-time favourite book of mine. I’ve been meaning to read The Buried Giant since it came out last year and since I heard him talk about it on a podcast. This book takes up a genre quite different from his previous books and deals with memory as a theme. I’m a big fan of basically anything he writes so I can’t wait to start this one.
Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For has been on my reading list for quite some time. Now that I’m living in Toronto, where the story is set, I figure it’s about time to finally delve into it.
SS: I picked up The Argonauts after seeing it at Type Books in Toronto while I was at Malcolm Sutton’s book launch (and after hearing Hazel rave about it), and it’s been a really fascinating read so far. It’s half memoir, half theory (and all excellent), in which Maggie Nelson explores relationships, her experiences with pregnancy, motherhood, and larger issues surrounding gender and sexuality.
Up next is Why Not Me? which I’ve been saving for when the summer gets here. Mindy Kaling’s first book (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?) was so much fun to read, so this one is my start-of-summer treat. The book is a series of essays in which Kaling tackles friendship, adulthood, body image, identity, etc., and in true Mindy Kaling fashion, she does it with humour and insight.
The third title on my list is Adrienne Gruber’s Buoyancy Control. I’ve been really excited about this book since seeing it in the BookThug Spring Catalogue for a few reasons. Academically, I’m really interested in how we talk about the human body in literature, and how identity and the body relate to one another. Non-academically, I love the water/the ocean, and octopuses, so I’m getting the best of both worlds here.
*Stacey is also reading Fates and Furies for the same book club as Kelly.