Staff Picks: Summer Readings

The IFOA staff is recommending a range of titles to quench your literary thirst this summer. Enjoy!

Pastoral by Andre Alexis (Coach House Books)Pastoral by André Alexis (Coach House Books)

Pastoral is the first installment in Andre Alexis’ quincunx (a five book series) which also includes Canada Reads 2017 winner Fifteen Dogs, and his most recent novel, The Hidden Keys.

Pastoral elegantly follows the personal meanderings of a young pastor, Father Christopher Pennant, and a recently engaged woman, Liz Denny, in the small town of Barrow as they struggle with their own doubts and questions about faith and love. Alexis beautifully reinvigorates the pastoral genre through his story about a modern-day Canadian town in the lush countryside, exploring how the land’s beauty and mystery affect the lives of the townsfolk who live there.

As always, Alexis’ unique insight into the human condition is startlingly evident as he takes readers on a gentle but compelling journey through the seemingly simple lives of his richly detailed characters. Pastoral is a perfect read for the summer season!

Brianna


A Body Beneath: Collecting Issues of the Comic Book Series "Lose" by Michael DeForge. Koyama PressA Body Beneath: Collecting Issues of the Comic Book Series “Lose” by Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)

I’m reading A Body Beneath: Collecting Issues of the Comic Book Series “Lose” by Michael DeForge. Graphic novels straddle both the literary and the visual worlds, and DeForge works beautifully within both mediums. A great book to start with for anyone who is interested in getting a taste of contemporary graphic novels!

Here’s a quote from Koyama Press because I cannot describe it better: “He has crafted a phantasmagoria of stories that feature a spider-infested pet horse head, post-apocalyptic dogs dealing with existential angst, the romantic undertones of a hired hit, and more.”

— Emily


Stopgap by Liam Card. Dundurn Press.Stopgap by Liam Card (Dundurn Press)

Local Toronto author, Liam Card, brings the mystery of the paranormal to Oakville, Ontario with his darkly comedic novel Stopgap. Written from the POV of a ghost, who while enjoying the blissful life of an invisible voyeur finds himself in the middle of an ethical dilemma that would change the world. Full of quippy remarks, thoughtful deliberations and digs about life in the GTA, this novel make for a quick read to lift your spirits this summer.

Madeline

 

 

 


Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway (Anchor Canada)Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway. Anchor Canada.

I recommend Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998) for reading anytime of the year. An accomplished playwright, pianist and novelist (all things I wish I was), Thomson Highway is an author I can never recommend enough.

A bestseller when it came out, his debut novel is a story about sibling love and rivalry, education, and religion as the reader is welcomed into the world of these two Cree brothers trying to navigate two worlds, two languages and two cultures. Especially given the conversations going on at the moment about what this 150th year means for Canada, this book is poignant and pointed wrapped up in beautiful language. Pick it up at your local library or indie bookstore, but be ready for a good cleansing cry.

— Rebecca


SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki. Drawn and Quarterly. SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

I find that summer is a time for a chuckle-inducing read and Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy definitely does that. The comic as the X-Men meets Harry Potter starring misfit teens and collects the 4 year webcomic with additional strips to create a cohesive storyline.

It’s hilarious and will look good in a selfie with a cold beverage of your choice. Tamaki also co-created This One Summer with her cousin, Mariko Tamaki, which won a Printz Honor, and a Governor General’s Award for Jillian Tamaki.

— Ardo


These are our recommendations. Tell or show us your summer recommendations at either @internationalfestivalofauthors on Instagram, @ifoa on Twitter or International Festival of Authors on Facebook.

A year in reading

It should come as no surprise that staff here at Authors at Harbourfront Centre love a good read. So we’ve put together a list of our favourite books from 2012 for your holiday reading pleasure—or for the bookworm on your shopping list. Many were written by authors we had the pleasure of meeting during the International Festival of Authors this October, but others are books we just happened to read this year, including a sci-fi throwback from 1971.

Thornell, Night StreetKristel Thornell’s Night Street

Who would have thought a story about an Australian woman painter (Clarice Beckett) at the turn of the last century could be a page-turner? It was wonderfully written and I had trouble putting it down each evening to go to bed. I’ve never been to Australia, knew nothing about this painter, but found myself completely immersed in the story while walking in Clarice’s shoes.
—  Gwen Hoover

Lee, BobcatRebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories

This collection changed my sense of what a short story can do. By presenting believable characters in slightly surreal scenarios and settings, her language sparkling with ethereal metaphors involving starfish, spacemen and jewellery, Lee reminds us that fiction can be a lot like a dream. I’ve recommended this book to several people, and they’ve all loved it.
— Nicole Baute

Liam CarCard, Exit Papers From Paradised’s Exit Papers from Paradise

Every once in a while you read a book that you can’t put down. A book with a character so well developed, one with whom you sympathize and cheer for. A book that makes you feel, that makes you laugh out loud on a busy subway and even tear up a little. A book that makes you think, that makes you reflect on your own life and that warms your heart. A book that you would recommend to everyone, because we’ve all found ourselves in a rut at some point. This is that book.
— Tina Kessler

Goldstein, I'll Seize the Day TomorrowJonathan Goldstein’s I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow

If you want to read something witty and extremely funny without necessarily following a chronological order of chapters, just pick any page from I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow. I once laughed frenetically out loud on my seat and while I was looking for a tissue to dry my tears, finally realizing that I was in a bus with people looking at me.
— David Gressot

Rachel Dewoskin’s Big Girl Smallbig girl small

You’re pulled into the world of the narrator, 16-year-old Judy, with whom you want to cry when she gets led astray by her high school crush and laugh when she’s at her most sarcastic—but ultimately who you remember being when you were a teenage girl trying to figure it all out yourself. This was a book I read early in the year but it stayed with me for its realistic twist and for the story of friendship embedded throughout the novel—plus, I always like a good underdog story.
— Jennifer Asselin

Philip José Farmer‘s To Your Scattered Bodies Go To Your Scattered Bodies Go

The story begins with every human in history being brought back to life in youthful bodies, scattered along the banks of a mysterious river world. I found myself engrossed in the tale and almost read the entire book in an evening.
— Eric Mannell

And from our Artistic Associate Jen Tindall, who can’t choose just one:

The book that impressed me most this year was Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. Her stories took me from this place to her places without me realizing until after I finished. Other notables: Embassytown by China Miéville squeezed my brain waves as I read it, sometimes painfully, but it was a wonderfully weird experience. Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station was a poetic and funny book about art and coming of age in Spain, and with This is How You Lose Her Junot Díaz was on top of his game, so honest and brutal that it made me never want to date again.
— Jen Tindall

Happy holiday reading from all of us!

Five questions with… Liam Card

Author and screenwriter Liam Card will share Exit Papers from Paradise at IFOA.

IFOA: What are you reading right now?

Card: I just finished Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard. The novel was exceptional. Yet another example of how unfairly talented the late Kurt Vonnegut was. I’m a few pages into Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel, Pygmy. I love his work as well, but this one is proving to be a little bit difficult to get into. We’ll see how it goes.

IFOA: You used to be a track and field star. What do runners and writers have in common?

Card: To begin with, they both have a tremendous amount of tenacity. When pain and frustration levels are high and the prospect of giving up seems outrageously appealing, runners and writers forge ahead and endure what is required to reach the finish line. Secondly, they both have a heaping tablespoon of focusthe ability to tune out the myriad of distractions, and the ability zero in on specific tasks, and seeing those tasks through. In track and field and in writing, in sport and in the arts, I believe these two factors to be as important as any amount of talent.

IFOA: You have written screenplays and now a novel. What’s one thing you prefer about the experience of writing a novel?

Card: Writing a novel is a dream, compared to writing a screenplay. Hands down…for me, anyway. Screenplays are highly formulaic, and certain events must take place at certain page points in your screenplay in order to follow the “tried and true” Hollywood formula of cinematic storytelling. That is all well and good, but I find it claustrophobic in contrast to writing a novel.  With a novel, the bones of good storytelling still apply. However, you have more runway to tell your tale. Simply put, a novel comes without such rigid guidelines, and there is freedom in that. After writing my screenplay, the novel was therapeutic.

IFOA: And one thing you prefer about the experience of writing a screenplay?

Card: A screenplay is a piece of art that undergoes major influence from several key people, at several points along the filmmaking assembly line. The writer gets notes from the producer. Then, the writer gets notes from the director. Then, the writer gets notes from financiers. Then, the writer gets notes from Distributors. THEN, the writer gets notes from the lead actors. So, a screenplay is a very collaborative process, which can be really interesting. That is, unless your vision for the screenplay differs drastically from one of the key people listed above. Then, it is a nightmare. Yes, I did experience a few of those along the way. But that level of collaboration was exciting…minus the nightmare conversations.

Moreover, with a screenplay there is also the magic in the sense that it will become a film. And I love films. My Dad and I have always watched films together and have bonded over several great works of art in the world of film. So, when writing a screenplay, there is something magical about the fact that someone will sit down with their father or mother or sister or brother or significant other or partner or wife or husband… or even their girlfriend or boyfriend du jour. It doesn’t matter. Just the thought of two people (or a large group of people) enjoying something artistic together at the same time is special and it makes the headaches of writing a screenplay entirely motivating.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: It really doesn’t matter if you…

Card: … are successful with your passions, but it does matter if you are proud of your attempts. NOTE: I didn’t used to believe this. When I was running track at a very high level, I couldn’t understand how or why people would train, practice, and work so insanely hard just to come fifth, or tenth, or twentieth, or last. Why bother? My association with hard work and pain was for nothing more than winning.

However, as my track coach Earl Farrell used to say, “life and the sport of track and field are incredibly humbling if you play them long enough.” As my Achilles became wracked with chronic tendonitis before the trials for the Sydney Olympics, and as my hamstring tore years later, I no longer occupied the top spot (or even the podium for that matter). I was no longer a track star or champion. Then, it clicked. My passion, in an instant, became entirely about the friendships, the process, and the ability to put yourself out there and have fun while doing it.

IFOA: Bonus question: This year’s International Festival of Authors in one word…

Card: Booktastic.  (You didn’t say I couldn’t make up a word).

Card will participate in two IFOA events: a round table October 27 and a reading October 28.