Illustration by Emilie Simpson
Canadian Living staffers love a good book—and we know you do, too. Here are our picks of the first of this year's summer reading bounty. If these page-turners are anything to go by, we're in for a bumper crop!
THERE THERE (Fiction)
"All put together, all our stories. Because all we got right now are reservation stories, and shitty versions from outdated history textbooks. A lot of us live in cities now. This is just supposed to be like a way to start telling this other story." So says Dene Oxendene, one of the principal characters in the debut novel by Tommy Orange, who offers a gripping exploration of a contemporary Indigenous community in Oakland, Calif. Dene's words encapsulate the main sentiment of this fierce fast-paced narrative, which tells the interconnected stories of 12 people—male and female, young and old—and what brings them to the Big Oakland Powwow. —Amanda Etty
There There (McClelland & Stewart) by Tommy Orange, $32.
Since one of my favourite books, In the Skin of a Lion, is by Michael Ondaatje, I was excited for this new work. It didn't disappoint. Set in the post–Second World War era, Warlight centres on a man's discovery of familial secrets, and it's more focused than previous works. As always, the author meanders through the tale, gathering memories and anecdotes to create a fully realized story world that seems familiar, if also a little hazy. My favourite remains (my love of ITSOAL is too strong), but I'm looking forward to rereading this one, too, to learn more about protagonist Nathanial and his stoic mother, Rose. —Alexandra Donaldson
Warlight (McClelland & Stewart) by Michael Ondaatje, $34.
AYESHA AT LAST (Fiction)
This sweet debut novel ticks all the boxes for one of summer's best reads: It's smart, witty, romantic and utterly charming. Taking cues from Pride and Prejudice, the story revolves around pretty Ayesha Shamsi, who, along with her Muslim family, lives across the street from the more conservative—and attractive—Khalid Mirza. As the two clash over everything from poetry to arranged marriage, they also begin to connect. When mistaken identity, troublesome relatives and workplace drama loom, it's up to these two adorable characters to save the day and find their path to true love. —Suzanne Moutis
Ayesha at Last (Harper Avenue) by Uzma Jalaluddin, $23.
THE WORD IS MURDER (Fiction)
I have such a talent crush on Anthony Horowitz. The prolific author (his works include the YA Alex Rider series, as well as inventive takes on James Bond and Sherlock Holmes) and screenwriter (he created U.K. mainstay Midsomer Murders and the brilliant Foyle's War) has a mind like no other. This latest book is fiction with a twist: The protagonist is Anthony Horowitz himself, who is asked to write a tell-all about a seemingly random death and the investigator who pursues the truth behind it. It's not often I read a mystery that keeps me guessing, so I'm happy to say that this original novel had me delightfully on my toes. —SM
The Word Is Murder (HarperCollins Canada) by Anthony Horowitz, $25.
THE MARS ROOM (Fiction)
For those awaiting Orange Is the New Black season 6, The Mars Room is here to quench your prison-drama thirst. Serving consecutive life sentences, Romy Hall is accustomed to being behind bars and, at times, finds it easier than living on the streets and struggling with addiction. Detailed flashbacks of Romy's depressed upbringing, rebellious teen years, jobs stripping and, ultimately, drug dealing are interspersed with the day-to-day: life at a California correctional facility for a set of powerless prisoners struggling for a sense of normalcy, camaraderie and levity in their severe surroundings. —Sara Cation
The Mars Room (Scribner) by Rachel Kushner, $25.
SPOTLIGHT: WORLD REFUGEE DAY
To mark World Refugee Day on June 20—and to recognize the millions of displaced persons around the globe who demonstrate strength, resilience, courage and determination in their pursuit of basic human rights—we've rounded up some of the most compelling, heartbreaking and inspiring reads that shine a light on the experience of refugees. Featuring individuals coming from, and landing in, various countries around the world, these novels and memoirs open a window into other realities and call on us to stand #WithRefugees, not only on June 20 but every day.
- What Is the What (Vintage Canada) by Dave Eggers, $21.
- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Penguin Canada) by Ishmael Beah, $20.
- The Boat People (McClelland & Stewart) by Sharon Bala, $25.
- Exit West (Riverhead) by Mohsin Hamid, $35.
- The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After (Doubleday Canada) by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil, $33.
- Little Bee (Anchor Canada) by Chris Cleave, $20.
- Vi (Random House Canada) by Kim Thúy, $28.
OUR STAFF REVIEWERS
Sara Cation has wept-in-public her way through a litany of literary heartbreaks, from The Little Prince to A Little Life, but she's buoyed by the likes of Shteyngart and Safran Foer. She reads anything set in North Korea or India but never touches self-help books or romances (they're just not her bag).
Alexandra Donaldson loves reading literary fiction, essay collections, dark humour, Canadian authors and magical realism. This, and the fact that she's one of our resident fashion editors, makes her the closest thing we have to Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Amanda Etty has an affinity for nail-biting thrillers and smart, funny books written by smart, funny women. She's always on the hunt for her next favourite novel, although she's currently working her way through a stack of parenting books (toddlers, right?).
Suzanne Moutis almost always has her nose in a book, be it Golden Age mystery, Second World War history or Hollywood tell-all. She unapologetically loves Regency romances and young adult fiction but flatly refuses to read anything that will make her cry.