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Saturday, 30 May 2015

Summer Reads 2015 - Kira's Picks

Precious few things in this life can rival the satisfaction of diving into a good book on a summer day. After grimly weathering the brutal winter Montreal threw at us this year, I'm more than ready to get languorous, preferably in a hammock, with a cat, and a frosty drink in tow. Here are a few of the books that will surely accompany me in said hammock:

Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels (ed. Tom Devlin) 

D+Q has been publishing top-notch comics for a quarter century now, and this collection brilliantly celebrates that history. So much more than a trip down memory lane, it's also jam-packed with new work from the D+Q roster of amazing artists, essays from literary luminaries, and more never-before published ephemera than you can shake a stick at! You can open this gorgeous book up to any page and be sure to discover something unexpected and great. Upon reflection, this hefty tome might actually be better suited to indoor reading, as the sheer volume of stellar content within might hurt my spindly wrists if I try to hold it aloft for too long!

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (ed. Adrienne Maree Brown and Walida Imarisha)

I'm a latecomer to Octavia Butler's work, having just started getting into her in the last couple of years, but better late than never - what a revelation! I've long loved sci-fi, but not appreciated the 'boys club' atmosphere that often permeates it, so I tend to devour the work of authors like Butler who break that mould. A collection so explicitly inspired by and dedicated to Butler's work has massive appeal to me. To paraphrase the editor's introduction: any engagement with social justice work involves a kind of speculative thinking, because it requires us to imagine a world without whatever oppressive structure we are fighting. The combo of sci-fi and politics appeals to the nerd and the activist in me in equal measure, and I can't wait to discover some new authors that blend those worlds.

Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology (ed. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer)

The title really says it all! Between this and Octavia's Brood (see above) my feminist sci-fi dreams are shaping up to come true this summer.

The Neapolitan Novels (Elena Ferrante)

The literary world has been all abuzz with praise for Ferrante this year, so I paradoxically avoided reading her...just to be contrary, I suppose?! Luckily, I finally succumbed to the tidal force of good feedback from colleagues, customers, and critics alike, and was immediately won over by Ferrante's fantastic bildungsroman. If you haven't already done so, do pick up these first three books, because English translation of the fourth and final novel is coming this summer, and believe me, you'll be chomping at the bit! Hype = warranted! 

Melody: Story of a Nude Dancer (Sylvie Rancourt)

If you've slept on the French version of Melody, never fear; D+Q is publishing the English version of Sylvie Rancourt's autobiographical comic chronicling her experiences dancing in strip clubs in 1980s Montreal. I'm only a few pages in, and already totally charmed by Rancourt's drawing and narrative style. There's never been a better time to pick up this Canadian comics classic!

Chickpea Vegan Quarterly

As the days get longer and hotter, I have to change my ordinary cooking routine dramatically to accomodate. Apart from a few summer staples, I'm more savvy at cooking hearty winter fare, so I'm officially on the hunt for some tasty summer dishes that require as little use of heat-creating appliances in my kitchen as possible! The cover of Chickpea's spring/summer issue looks like exactly the ticket with all that fresh greenery calling my name. With some of these tasty recipes in my arsenal, I won't have to be that person who shows up at your BBQ or picnic with nothing but a bag of chips and a conciliatory grin.

Subtly Worded (Teffi)

Hailed as a lighthearted and comedic writer in her time, Russian emigrée Teffi's short stories are deceptively gutting. Though they are undoubtedly funny on the surface, on another level they speak deeply of human tragedy. Most of them are just a couple of pages long, and I am blown away by anyone who can run the emotional gamut, as well as be so bitingly satirical, in such a short narrative span. Teffi fell largely into obscurity after her death, and I'm so glad the folks at Pushkin Press have made her work widely available again, and in such a beautiful lilac-hued, pocket sized volume, too! 

SuperMutant Magic Academy (Jillian Tamaki)

I blazed through this one as soon as I could get my hands on it, but I heartily recommend it to anyone who has yet to do so. With teen angst aplenty, the kids of the SuperMutant Magic Academy navigate the peaks and valleys of high school. (Even magical powers can't save one from the banalities, indignities, and heartaches of adolescence, it seems!) Oh, and there are also a lot of D+D references, which is a surefire way to win my heart! Most of the strips are just a page or two long, so if you only have time for a quick browse on your break at work, or for a few stops on the metro, this is a great choice.

Seveneves: A Novel (Neal Stephenson)

Did you think you'd make it to the end of my list without encountering yet more sci-fi? HA! I'm afraid not. In between all the aforementioned short stories, I'm going to sink my teeth into this epic tale of humanity's exodus from the Earth after the moon explodes. 5000 years later, the descendents, by this point both literally and figuratively very far-removed from their human ancestors, come back to examine the fiery wreckage. Stephenson's visionary imagination never disappoints, and this premise is certainly an intriguing one.

For more summer reads, check out my lovely colleagues' lists:

Helen's picks
Alyssa's picks
Julie's picks
Daphné's picks
Kate's picks

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