The Reading List: 13 Books to Enjoy in August
Adventure, memoirs, fiction, olympic heroics, and more. They’re all here to round off your August literary selection.
Not the Israel My Parents
by Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman
Harvey Pekar’s bracing intellect, twitchy neuroses and delightful curmudgeon-liness are front and centre in his final graphic memoir, finished before his death in 2010. An unflinching-and hilarious-sucker punch to the Zionist beliefs of his youth, it’s also an impressively succinct Jewish history lesson.
In stores now.
The Age of Hope
by David Bergen
Repressed, unhappy women are a hallmark of CanLit (shout-out: Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro). David Bergen takes up the torch with this wry, compassionate story of a young Winnipeg housewife grappling with the apathy she feels towards her home life.
In stores Sept. 9.
The Mansion of Happiness
by Jill Lepore
New Yorker staffer Jill Lepore takes the sprawling, sombre subject of mortality and lends it focus and surpris-ing levity. Instead of grand hypotheticals, she takes an intimate approach, zooming in on iconic figures, such as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and euthana-sia pioneer Karen Ann Quinlan, whose struggles speak to larger issues surrounding dying. In stores now.
Sneak peek: “This matter of life and death would not be decided in a stone church, perched on a bluff. It would not be decided in the Quinlans’ bungalow, down by the lake. It wouldn’t even be decided in a hospital room, where a respirator whirred as the rain pattered on the windowpane, something Karen Ann Quinlan, who had once taught herself to play piano by ear, could no longer hear.”
Best Olympics training
Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics by Jeremy Schaap
Jeremy Schaap’s in-depth look at the 1936 Berlin Olympics examines a time when there was more at stake than just medals, and the victory of Jesse Owens, a working-class African-American runner, was an elegant and profound criticism of the rising Nazi State.
Anne of Green Gables for grown-ups
The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
This stand-alone novel features a spinster who, after discovering she has only a year to live, vows to make the most of it. It’s as lively, warm and wonderful as L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series, but a little more mature.
Best outlet for extreme urges
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
After a Toronto woman’s recent death at the summit of Mount Everest, it’s clear that scaling the storied peak is still as harrowing as ever. Jon Krakauer’s thrilling book explores the simultaneous danger and attraction of extreme adventurism.
Best antidote to summer blockbusters
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
This summer is a doozy for superhero movies. If you get film fatigue, mix things up with Michael Chabon’s whimsical Pulitzer winner about two 1940s boys who make it big with their superhero comic.
Coolest success story
The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson
C.S. Richardson, a creative director at Random House, penned his first novel, The End of the Alphabet, on a lark-and it ended up being a worldwide hit. In this new effort, he crafts a fanciful love story between an illiterate baker and a bookworm.
Most cathartic downer
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Ian McEwan’s thriller Sweet Tooth is out this summer, but the author is never better than when he’s writing heart-wrenching, sob-inducing novels, like this 2001 book about a couple torn apart by war and petty treachery.
Best dockside read
Swim: Why We Love the Water by Lynn Sherr
Lynn Sherr’s history of humanity’s recreational relationship with water-from canoeing to racing-will force you out of that Muskoka chair and into the lake.
Most harrowing investigative read
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Journalist Dave Cullen stumbled upon the Columbine story by accident: He was eating lunch in his Denver apartment when he saw the news reports on TV and immediately drove over to cover the story for Slate. His nuanced, authoritative account showcases a decade of determined reporting.
Best Latin-American epic
The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
The recently deceased writer Carlos Fuentes is generally considered to be Mexico’s finest novelist. This landmark 1962 book is the spellbinding fictional biography of a Mexican tycoon as he recalls his country’s revolution and various political upheavals.
Best portrait of a genius
Glenn Gould: The Ecstasy and Tragedy of Genius by Peter Ostwald
Canada’s most prodigious pianist was born 80 years ago in September. Peter Ostwald’s thoughtful, sensitive biography focuses as much on his psychological idiosyncrasies as his rhapsodic musicianship.