Summer Reads 2017: Kira

After a hiatus during the school year, I'm back at Librairie D+Q for the summer. I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to be able to choose what books to read again, and to have some precious leisure time in which to read them. What a true luxury to have such freedom! Here are some of the books that have made their way into my mitts now that my textbooks are reverse-hibernating:

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy)

I have been chomping at the bit waiting for this book to come out, Arundhati Roy’s first work of fiction in 20 years! I first read her Booker-winning debut novel, The God of Small Things some dozen years ago while in a small town in rural Kerala, very close to where the bulk of the narrative takes place, and I was absolutely spellbound. The unforgettable story stuck with me in a way that few have, thanks to her masterful storytelling, character development, and poetic prose style. Though I’ve admired her activism and non-fiction work in the subsequent years, I’ve been dreaming of delving back into a world painted by Roy ever since!

Videogames for Humans: Twine Authors in Conversation (Merritt Kopas)

What initially caught my eye was this book’s very handsome cover, illustrated by Michael DeForge. Twine, an open-source software, allows game creators to make interactive, text-based games (somewhat reminiscent of “choose your own adventure” books) without requiring extensive programming knowledge. Editor Merritt Kopas assigned each contributor a game, and had them document their playthrough and reflections, resulting in a satisfying fusion of analog and digital storytelling. It was fun to vicariously play along with the authors as they explored a wide range of experiences, including cruising in gay bars, living with depression, and turning into a 10-storey tall, capitalism-destroying demon, to name but a few!

Uncomfortably, Happily (Yeon-sik Hong)

This memoir of the author and his wife's move to the countryside outside Seoul is a slow-burn, but so satisfying. The young couple moves to escape the stress of the city, trusting that a bucolic atmosphere will inspire them to work on their respective cartooning projects. Though their new mountainside home is idyllic in many ways, country living also proves to be a constant battle with the elements, lack of funds, a daunting commute, and endless creative clashes with the editor at the protagonist's soul-sucking job back in Seoul. I particularly love the way Hong draws the couple's dog and three cats, who delight in their newfound easy access to the wilderness even more than their human caregivers do! A thoroughly charming book all around, it's definitely one of my favourite recent D+Q releases.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body (Roxane Gay)

The inimitable Roxane Gay is back with this raw, unflinching, difficult memoir of her ongoing struggles with food and weight. Herein she details her complicated relationship with eating, which became a strategic way to protect herself in the wake of a trauma caused by being raped by a group of boys when she was a child. Honestly, it is tough to read at times, but Gay's excellent writing is as compelling as ever, and her willingness to delve into her own vulnerability is admirable.

Art Sex Music (Cosey Fanni Tutti)

Full disclosure: I don't know so much about Cosey Fanni Tutti, beyond the fact that she was a member of Throbbing Gristle, but a cursory glance at her Wikipedia page piqued my interest. Her memoir sounds like she has led a fascinating life as an avant-garde performance artist, sex worker, mother, and musician. Very excited to read about all of her endeavours in greater detail!

Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions (Valeria Luiselli)

In addition to being an author, Valeria Luiselli has worked as an interpreter for migrant children apprehended crossing the USA-Mexico border. This book is based on the series of 40 questions each child has to answer as part of the bureaucratic process that will determine whether they will be able stay in the USA or be sent back to the countries they've fled. It's a bleak and distressing read which confronts the stark contrast between the self-styled image of the USA as a country that welcomes immigrants vs. the way that migrant children are actually treated.

All That the Rain Promises and More (David Arora)

This cult classic on edible mushroom species boasts what has got to be a contender for one of the best cover images ever! (Watch out, Daniil Kharms, David Arora is coming for you!) I was pleasantly surprised to find that the information, illustrations, and photos within are equally delightful. Despite being an avid mushroom-hunter at one point, I have yet to experience the mycological offerings of the Montreal region, and hope to remedy that this season if I can. This pocket-sized guide will be of great service in the bush, and is sure to "put the fun in fungi," as it claims!

Cats and Plants (Stephen Eichhorn)

The title says it all! Chicago-based artist Stephen Eichhorn has taken cats and plants, two truly delightful muses, as the subjects for his book of collages, and the results are as spectacular as you could hope! It's published by the uber-cool creative agency and imprint Zioxla, whose earlier Strange Plants books which celebrated plants in contemporary art were also store favourites. A joy to behold!

Eaten Back to Life: Essays (Jonah Campbell)

Jonah Campbell's previous book, Food and Trembling was super enjoyable, and I'm excited to see what he's got on offer for his latest collection of essays on food. Though I appreciate a tasty meal as much as the next guy, I'm definitely someone who eats to live rather than the reverse, and I find the constant need to fill my gullet to sustain life to be, more often than not, a banal and tedious affair, so Campbell's ability to make this topic not only interesting but downright fun to a reader with no particular culinary leanings is no mean feat! His love for potato chips (and his ability to wax poetic about them) is matched only by his fondness for metal, as evidenced by the nod to Cannibal Corpse's death metal classic album in the book's title. Looking forward to delving into this over a nice glass of summer-appropriate wine!

Crawl Space (Jesse Jacobs)

The psychedelic colours of the cover drew me in to Jesse Jacobs' latest graphic novel, out from the consistently awesome Koyama Press. Turns out that this rainbow-hued multiverse is accessible by way of the laundry machine in the basement of the teenage protagonist's home, and is populated by an array of weird and beautiful beings. Stylistically and thematically, it's reminiscent of Adventure Time, which makes sense since Jacobs has worked on the show. As interesting conceptually as it is visually striking, this is a real gem for any curious cosmonauts!

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