Summer Reads 2017: Benjamin

Summer! Here’s what will be accompanying me through the swelter.

The Idiot - Elif Batuman

I've been licking my chops over this new Elif Batuman novel for some time now. From the author who gave us the excellent The Posessed: Adventures in Russian Literature and the People Who Read Them comes another book that shares a title with a Dostoevsky novel. The Idiot is part bildungsroman and part historical fiction that follows Selin—a daughter of Turkish immigrants—as she makes her way through her first years at Harvard and navigates identity as it churns.

Whereas - Layli Long Soldier

Formally innovative, immediate, gut-wrenching: Whereas is the superlative debut poetry collection from Layli Long Soldier. The Oglala Lakota poet struts the tightrope between being an American citizen and an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, between the political and the personal, and between being a mother and a daughter. Long Soldier directly confronts the responses and apologies made by the American government to Native American peoples and tribes, and confronts what drips from the language. Whereas will undoubtedly appear on my year-end-list, and until then, I look forward to reading it many times over.

The Book of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa

What better way to spend languid summer afternoons than immersing oneself in literature's most infamous portrait of melancholy? I jest, but the stunning, new & expanded edition of Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet from New Directions is too significant to leave for dreary days.

Blind Spot - Teju Cole

Blind Spot is a collection of over 150 photographs from award-winning novelist and essayist Teju Cole, each accompanied by lyrical, ephemeral prose evoking the temperaments of Anne Carson, W.G. Sebald, and Chris Marker. Recommended to induce daydreaming.

Boundless - Jillian Tamaki

Woo! I have so much love for this strange collection of stories from the incomparable Jillian Tamaki. We catch up with an aging producer of a canned sitcom-porno, drift on a six-hour atonal drone, and go toe-to-toe with humankind's eternal foe: bedbugs. Freewheeling, virtuosic, and downright hilarious, Boundless is a tour-de-force from the endlessly imaginative Tamaki.

Rag Cosmology - Erin Robinsong

The poems contained in Rag Cosmology undulate freely, slipping traditional line breaks and sometimes abandoning horizontal displacement altogether. While formal experimentation is a major cog in Robinsong’s work, it is her pristine motions of thought, both outward and inward, that makes her crystalline craft tick.

This Accident of Being Lost - Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, acclaimed Nishnaabeg storyteller and poet, has returned with a collection of searing songs, poems, and stories. Simpson has long been a favourite of mine, and it is her grit, her commitment to uncompromised truth that seeps from every fragment, every turn of phrase, that keeps me coming back for more. Through a fusion of traditional storytelling and wry contemporary realism, Simpson manages to protect Indigenous knowledge while simultaneously providing valuable context for non-Indigenous readers.

Yôkaï - Shigeru Mizuki

I can't imagine I'll be lugging this beautiful book of Mizuki's art to the park, but it will certainly be splayed on my coffee table. This edition features over 200 black and white drawings (+ 32 coloured by the master himself!) of various yōkai—a generic term encompassing supernatural beings borne of Japanese folklore—rendered in Mizuki's distinct and elegant weirdness.

Uncomfortably Happily - Yeon-sik Hong trans. Hellen Jo

In 2005, cartoonist Yeon-sik Hong and his wife moved to the Korean countryside in order to escape the hubbub of Seoul. Uncomfortably Happily explores—in exquisite, minimal art—the unexpected anxieties that crop up in “simple” living. I find myself on the opposite trajectory, from the gurgle of a small town to the roar of a big city, which for me makes Hong's quiet observations on rural life all the more captivating.

Debths - Susan Howe

Susan Howe, a titanic figure in American poetry, has come out with her 13th book with New Directions—a puzzling and alluring assortment of lyrics and collage poems that confront language in relation to memory, how language shapes and warps, enters and even contaminates memory. This is my first encounter with Howe's work, a run-in that has sent me hunting after her back-catalogue.

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