Summer Reading List 2018

By Grant T. Smith

readingSince it is summertime and we should all be sitting by a lake somewhere, swatting mosquitoes and reapplying sunscreen, I thought we might take a different approach to our book review.  


Here is the first annual edition of Grant’s Summer Reading List:


Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock This silly little book, first published in 1912, is probably best read if you are at a cabin in the Muskoka’s, in Ontario. Leacock has the title of Canada’s foremost humourist, a position he has held for a century. I enjoyed this book tremendously, but would only recommend it as a historical, charming way of viewing human nature. I suspect many people would see it as dated, if you are so inclined give this a pass. If you love Chekhov’s short stories, give it a read.

Qualities: Fun, Easy to Read     Pairing: Gin and Tonic


Fifth Business by Robertson Davis This novel was written in the early 1970s and I first read it when I was at university in the 1980s. The last time I read it would be 20 years ago, but it came to mind as soon as I thought summer book list. I remember reading it during reading week at York University. It was my first year and this novel was required reading for Can lit. I picked up the book and hardly put it down.  Once finished I had far more to read, but put all the required books aside and immediately read the rest of the Deptford Trilogy. Perfect for a summer novel that will occasionally jolt you and pull you through.

Qualities: Intense, Addictive     Pairing: Scotch, definitely


Cardinal Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt What summer reading list would be complete without a mystery novel. This one is set in the fictional city of Algonquin Bay, but as I read it I feel enveloped by my year in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Blunt keeps you on your toes and keeps both the plot and the characters moving forward. Be warned, it is part of a series and you will read them all if you enjoy mysteries.

Qualities: Suspenseful, Steeped in the Essence of Northern Ontario     Pairing: Beer (Mr. Canoehead, from Sleeping Giant Breweries – or your favourite dark ale)


Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis This made the list because it is a fun and clever novel, even if it did not challenge the way I hoped. The premise is simple: two gods (Hermes and Apollo) are sitting around a bar in Toronto talking about the misery of people. They make a bet that dogs, “would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.” Then they grant 15 dogs human consciousness and language. The majority of the book follows the dogs in this experiment, the results may surprise you and some events may haunt you.

Qualities: Thought Provoking, A Quick Read     Pairing: A light beer or toilet water


The Bear by Clair Cameron This fast-paced book is truly extraordinary. The story is told by our five-year-old narrator Anna. It is the story of Anna and her brother as they struggle to survive after their parents are killed in their campsite by a black bear (they hurriedly stowed their father in a cooler). As a reader, you will marvel at Cameron’s ability to write in a child’s voice and you will be fully engaged in her journey. Although I would not recommend reading this if you are camping, especially if you are faint of heart.

Qualities: Intense, Extraordinary Voice     Pairing: Apple juice or cider


A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Towes This recommendation comes from Clearline Senior Associate Rebecca Davidson. It is a novel told through the eyes of a young girl about her family being torn apart as they each internally struggle with the reality that comes with living in a small Mennonite community. Rebecca writes, “Admittedly, I have not quite finished the novel, but tears were streaming down my face and filling my eyes so fast that I was not physically able to read the last few pages. It is a short book, weighing in at only 246 pages that are extremely hard to put down – Miriam’s dark humour is completely captivating.”

Qualities: You Will Laugh and Cry Simultaneously     Pairing: Baby Duck or Cab Sav if you are of drinking age


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood This recommendation comes from Clearline Associate Jasmine Hartwig, even before she read the book. Jasmine writes: “I just received this book from a friend at my weekly wine night and have been given a brief explanation of the premise to share. I anticipate a page turner. The story is set in a dystopian future that centres around a woman named Offred who lives in a totalitarian state. It follows her life as a handmaid whose only purpose is to bear children for the wealthy. I am told that it is heavy, gritty, sad, intriguing and suspenseful, and if it is written by Margaret Atwood I can only expect a phenomenal read!” Jasmine, I read this in 1985 and you are in for a difficult journey, but a great read.

Qualities: Heavy, Thought Provoking      Pairing: A White Burgundy