Show and tell – Summer reading edition

The month of July, kick-started by Canada Day festivities, rounded out with my birthday, and jam-packed in between with beautiful sunny days, routinely inspires in me a nostalgia for my youth. I usually indulge this by revisiting some of my favourite childhood books, but I feel like it would be ten kinds of wrong to take a stroll down memory lane this time. Maybe even 13 kinds of wrong, because that’s how many new books I’ve acquired in the last few weeks for my summer enjoyment.

Instead of looking back, this year I’m excited to look ahead to the literary awesomeness that the rest of my summer will hold. I’m also challenging myself to summarize these books in as few words as possible, but hopefully I’ll spark some excitement in someone else. As always, let me know what you think!

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1)  Women Who Run With the Wolves – Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Written by a Jungian psychoanalyst, this book explores how women need to go digging through their own unconscious to reconnect with Wild Woman, the essence of female vitality, creativity and instinct that we have largely lost over time through societal and cultural interference. Already started; so far, dense but interesting.

2)  Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn. Fans of Gone Girl may want to check out Flynn’s debut novel about a reporter fresh from a stint in a psych hospital assigned to cover some grisly murders in her hometown. She will be confronted with bad memories from her past, as well as her estranged mother and half-sister. What summer is complete without murder and mayhem?

3)  Authority – Jeff VanderMeer. Book two of a truly disturbing and unsettling sci-fi series sees Southern Reach agent “Control” become the new director of operations after the fallout from the twelfth expedition to Area X. Control will confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he promised to serve. Let me just say, I had some bright ideas about things at the end of Annihilation, but I read the first twenty pages of Authority and realized I was laughably wrong.

4)  Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight. Apparently recommended to fans of Gone Girl, this book is about a lawyer and single mother forced to sort through her dead daughter’s emails, texts, and social media to discover the truth about the last days of her life at her exclusive private school. I’ve heard that the social media and texts are well done and convincing.

5)  Rebel – Amy Tintera. This sequel/finale to Reboot finds our favourite zombies Wren and Callum safely at the Reboot Reservation, which (shockingly) isn’t what they expected. The Reservation leader wants to wage an all-out war on humans, and Wren and Callum ultimately become rebels against their own kind. Once again, that’s zombies fighting to protect humanity. ‘Nuff said.

6)  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby. Bauby was a family man and magazine editor with a zest for life who suffered a rare kind of stroke at the age of 44 that led to “locked-in syndrome”, wherein his body was almost completely paralyzed with the exception of being able to blink one eye. This memoir was written after his stroke by blinking his eye every time the person slowly, repeatedly reciting the alphabet at his bedside hit the right letter. It took 10 months to write, and he died a few days after its French publication. It is the only known account of what it’s like to live with locked-in syndrome.

7)  The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith. Cormoran Strike and his secretary/sidekick Robin Ellacott return in this second murder mystery by J. K. Rowling. This time, Cormoran has to solve the murder of an author who was writing a vicious tell-all book about almost everyone he knew.

8)  Vagina – Naomi Wolf. This book, by the same woman who authored The Beauty Myth, documents the fairly newly-discovered relationship between the female sex centres and female consciousness. This “mind-vagina connection” can not only transform sexual relationships, but also a woman’s relationship to herself.

9)  Unwind – Neal Shusterman. I think I’ve mentioned this book before, but I’ve yet to seriously sit down and read it. I think because the concept actually horrifies me. Basically, there was a civil war in North America between pro-life and pro-choice supporters, and the compromise was that abortions were outlawed but you could decide to have your child “unwound” at 15 if you didn’t want it anymore. “Unwound” meaning harvested for parts. So of course there are teens on the run who don’t want to be involuntary organ donors.

10) Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism – Natasha Walter. Pretty depressing but super important book about how the feminist concepts of liberation and choice have been sold back to women through an increasingly narrow definition of femininity and a highly-sexualized culture. Well researched and full of testimonials.

11) American Savage – Dan Savage. This man is responsible for the “It Gets Better” project, a campaign to give hope to LGBT youth. In this book, Savage writes about marriage, parenting, the gay agenda, the Catholic Church, sex education, healthcare, gun control and the obesity epidemic.

12) Behind the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo. I first heard John Green talking about this book on his vlog, and later when I went to my local bookstore for something unrelated an employee practically pressed it into my already over-flowing arms. It’s a work of narrative non-fiction based on three years of reporting on the lives and struggles of people living in Annawadi, an impoverished makeshift settlement in the shadow of Mumbai’s luxury tourist hub. I’ve heard that the writing style, in combination with the shocking and tragic reality of life in this undercity, makes the book read like fiction.

13) Grimspace – Ann Aguirre. This is the first book of a six-novel series about Sirantha Jax, a navigator for the Corp who carries a rare gene that gives her the ability to jump ships through grimspace. If I understand it right, she’s like the warp drive. In this book, she’s imprisoned by the Corp for crashing her ship and killing everyone on board until a mysterious man breaks her out on the condition that she help him and his friends dismantle the Corp’s monopoly on interstellar travel. “Corp” is short for Corporation, of course, and what I find interesting is that a company has apparently become a galactic government.

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