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Great books for a Canadian summer!

CC writers recommend some of their favourite books for our readers to enjoy. Let us know what you’d add to the list! Email ac.reiruocnaitsirhc@rotide.

FICTION

For all ages, Out of My Mind is a must read this summer! The main character, 11-year-old Melody, lives with cerebral palsy and has been unable to speak her thoughts until she receives a talking device. Her family, friends and school community are challenged to face their own limitations of what they expected Melody to do and think. She surprises everyone, including herself, with her new ability to communicate, and all of us (readers included) are forever changed. Taking Atticus Finch’s advice “to climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it,” author Sharon Draper takes us into Melody’s mind and sits us in her wheelchair.                                 
– Sara Pot

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
This stunning memoir about a uniquely dysfunctional family reads a little like watching a slow-motion train wreck. Each page reveals almost unbelievable accounts of the author and her siblings moving from place to place with their poverty-stricken-by-choice parents. It is difficult to decide whether Walls’ parents were both unconventional and brilliant or simply neglectful and abusive, and the ending leaves the reader wondering whether we become who we are because of our childhood circumstances or in spite of them.                                                 
– Monica deRegt

Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens
In this viscerally intimate novella, two strangers navigate a complicated childbirth over the course of 11 hours. Lore is a stubborn 31-year-old reeling from betrayal when she enters a New York hospital, alone, to deliver her first child. Franckline is a compassionate and newly pregnant maternity ward nurse from Haiti. As the two women wonder about each other, learn from each other and come to depend on each other, the narrative deftly swings between their painful pasts and the uncertain present.
– Adele Konyndyk Gallogly

A Bearer of Divine Revelation is a grimly triumphant anthology of stories by Hungarian-American author, Lawrence Dorr. His protagonists are the walking dead, wanderers who have been ravaged by WWII. They crawl out of their graves and cells to lunge at any bits of mercy and revelation left in the ruined landscape. The collected stories move, Passion-like, from torture to illumination. Dorr’s work is a singular blend of unflinching prose and unwaveringly Christian moral vision.                                         
– Cathy Smith

In On the Back of the Turtle, Thomas King returns to his central theme, the state of First Nations peoples and Native identity in postcolonial North American society. This time, however, he approaches through a fresh lens: the fact that human greed and biochemical engineering pose a serious threat to the natural world. Don’t be put off by the heavy subject matter, this is a great summer read. As with King’s other literary novels there is plenty of humour and lightness to cushion the weight, and (echoing one character’s passion for salvage beachcombing) the act of reading is an enjoyable treasure hunt for illuminating allusions and clever intertextual references.             – Michael Buma

 

NON-FICTION

Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions is not for everyone. When a recovering addict/alcoholic and former atheist finds herself as surprised to be a Christian as she is to be pregnant, some unorthodoxy is inevitable. But this journal of Lamott’s first year with her son is a great summer read because it is short enough to pop in a beach bag and rich enough to be both achingly tender and laugh-out-loud funny on the same page.                          
– Emily Cramer

Dear Fellow Canadians:
If you were asked to name great historical Canadian leaders from our prairie provinces, you might list William Aberhart, Tommy Douglas, J.S. Woodsworth. Perhaps Peter Lougheed or Louis Riel. Would your list include Piapot, Poundmaker, Big Bear or Crowfoot? If not, read anything by Hugh Dempsey or Indian Fall: The Last Great Days of the Plains Cree and the Blackfoot Confederacy, by D’Arcy Jenish. You won’t be sorry.                                                           
– Curt Gesch

The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss by David Bentley Hart
Over the last years a number of scientists have written books saying that science has rendered Christianity and religion irrelevant. In this book David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox philosophical theologian, has mounted a great defense of the rich theology of God arguing that science cannot speak beyond the bounds of nature. Not a light read, but going well beyond fundamentalist trite arguments and well worth the effort. His other books are also illuminating.                                 
– Rudy Eikelboom

Being Mortal by Atul Gwande:
So much of our culture seems to amplify the beginning of life, but what of its end? At a time when politics and faith are colliding over end of life court measures, Gwande’s book is an excellent read. He highlights the gaps of care and thought that exist from when we are in the prime of our life to when our faculties fail us. He includes fascinating research that both saddens and empowers the reader to learn and do more about honouring the sunset years for all of us.                        
– Sara Pot

 

A devotional to savour

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the straight-shooting, hard-hitting, stogie-smoking preacher from the late 19th century, is a fascinating character in his own right. In this daily devotional book, Morning & Evening, he takes snippets of scripture, sometimes only two words, and skillfully fleshes them out. With fierce tenderness and conviction, he uses God’s word to encourage, comfort or admonish, sometimes all at the same time. It’s my all-time favourite devotional and I read it year after year.                
– Heidi VanderSlikke

 

Best read-aloud with kids

Terry Fox: His Story by Leslie Scrivener
It was a joy to read my son the story of athlete and activist Terry Fox. Journalist Scrivener followed Fox through the summer of 1980 and offers a moving portrait of Fox’s courage, single-mindedness, discouraging setbacks and then his eventual defeat by cancer. She includes references to Fox’s engagement with Christian faith, which gives the Marathon of Hope wider dimensions. Gritty, sad, inspiring and a great conversation starter with your grade-school student.
– Peter Schuurman

 

Best book for perfectionists

In For the Love, Jen Hatmaker dismantles the unattainable standards of modern womanhood and sets about restoring our joy in Ordinary Good Hard Lives. Married? “Have fun and stuff!” We criticize ourselves so harshly, she says, that it’s no wonder we “love” our neighbours the same way – judgmentally. Witty and moving in turns, Hatmaker says we must allow people to be human and God to be God for the church to have a fighting chance.             
– Angela Reitsma Bick

 

Best new CanLit

His Whole Life  by Elizabeth Hay  
What is the worst thing you have done? This question from 10-year-old Jim to his mother Nancy permeates an intimate story of how a mother and son both grow up through a family breakdown.
Set in the context of cottage life in Quebec during the 1995 referendum, the novel explores the role of resentments, regrets and forgiveness in relationships. Hay’s warm, polished prose includes many wonderful lines that capture a reader’s reality as well as the storied lives.
– Kathy Vandergrift

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