The Reading List: 11 Book Picks for June

Reading guru Emily Landau is back with 11 must-read books for you to add to your summer reading list.

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Looking for a good book to curl up with? Find out which books made the top of our wishlists this month.

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The Dead Are More Visible

The Dead Are More Visible

Short stories are the ideal format for Steven Heighton-even though his last two novels were splashy adventure sagas, these tiny, distilled gems pack a greater punch.

A highlight: “Noughts and Crosses,” one woman’s obsessive, achingly emotional analysis of a breezy email from her former lover.

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The Banned List

The Banned List

British political journalist John Rentoul has developed an ardent Twitter following for his delightfully persnickety list-keeping of all the overused phrases and clichés he wants erased from the vernacular. Now gathered together in a book, his exhaustive collection is a treat: At first, you’ll smugly scoff at the jargon, then blush when you realize you’ve employed a hackneyed saying or two.
(Available June 1)

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At 81, Toni Morrison still has it. Her new epic bears the usual trademark: muscular prose anchored by historical social context. This time, she’s cast her gaze on a black Korean War vet and his reluctant return to the town of his childhood, where his sister has been the victim of horrific medical experimentation.

Sneak peek: “Lotus, Georgia, is the worst place in the world, worse than any battlefield. At least on the field there is a goal, excitement, daring, and some chance of winning along with many chances of losing. Death is a sure thing but life is just as certain.”

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Best antidote to Hair

Thirty-something Lauren Groff should be ill equipped to write about the hippie era, but in her latest novel she captures the politically, sexually and herbally charged late ’60s with perfect clarity. The book, about a patchouli-scented, free-loving hippie commune, follows one of its sons as he breaks away.

Best Father’s Day gift

After 50 years and almost as many comebacks, Neil Young is still everywhere-he won 2011’s Artist of the Year Juno, frat boys strum his tunes around campfires, and Jimmy Fallon warbles in an uncannily Young-like falsetto on his late-night show. This month, the rocker is the subject of a new documentary; plus, he’s releasing a new album-no better time to revisit his early antics in this definitive biography by Jimmy McDonough.

Most gripping true-life story

Deborah Feldman, formerly a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, broke ties with her family and community after finding herself in a bad marriage. It’s an engrossing but challenging story that unpacks the tension between duty and individual freedom, tradition and change.

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Most touching book about a robot
The Chemistry of Tears

Australian novelist Peter Carey is woefully under-read in North America-he’s one of the top historical fiction writers alive. His latest novel is a characteristically whimsical study of grief, death and the scary power of technology, as a museum curator obsessed with animating a 19th-century automaton becomes fixated on the notebooks of its mysterious Victorian commissioner.

Best deterrent to online dating
The Newlyweds

Nell Freudenberger has written a mail-order bride tale for the digital age: The title characters-she’s from Bangladesh, he’s from New York-fall in love online. That their marriage will be plagued by trouble is a foregone conclusion, but Freudenberger renders that tension with masterful observational writing and nuanced, original characters.

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Best Canadian writing-period
Lives of Girls and Women

The grande dame of CanLit, Alice Munro (sorry, Atwood) says more in her clipped, economical prose than most writers can manage in hundreds of pages. She’ll be appearing at Toronto’s Luminato festival this month, and a look at her unforgettable, bracingly sharp coming-of-age collection is the perfect way to prepare.

The anti-Archie
Ed the Happy Clown

Way before he wrote about Métis leaders (Louis Riel) and prostitutes (Paying for It), cartoonist Chester Brown wrote about the misadventures of a Pollyannaish clown. And misadventures they are-he deals with cannibalistic pygmies, werewolves, and Ronald Reagan’s head transplanted onto an unfortunate part of his anatomy. It’s violent, surreal and totally uproarious, and it’s just been reissued.

Most jocular memoir
In Spite of Myself

It only took 50 years, but Christopher Plummer is finally getting his due, sweeping the awards circuit for his delightful turn in Beginners. He returns to Canada this summer for a one-man show at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival; to reacquaint yourself, try this autobiography, which sparkles with Plummer’s droll wit as he recounts his romps and capers through Hollywood, London and beyond.

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