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!


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.





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.

What is the IFOA staff reading this summer?

Even though we’re busy planning the 2016 festival, the IFOA staff still finds time to read. Read on to see what everyone’s enjoying right now!

Catherine Coreno, communications and marketing assistant:

We're all in this together cover









The beach is my favourite aspect of summer, so I am making my way to the sand as often as possible, always with a book in hand. While taking a break from Elena Ferrante’s novels, my current beach reads include We’re All In This Together by Amy Jones and The Girls by Emma Cline.

Dean Keranovic, festival assistant:

Anansi Boys cover








As of now I’m reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, as well as Endymion by Dan Simmons.  Once those are done I’ll move on to some other sci fi/fantasy novel/comic!

Eirini Moschaki, communications and marketing coordinator:

My Name is Red cover









I love it when a story transports me to other times, traditions, and cultures. Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red is an intricate mystery that immerses you in the life of 16th century Istanbul miniaturists. Power, love, art, religion, and politics; this novel has it all!

Rebecca Hallquist, executive assistant:

The Return cover









I just finished reading Hisham Matar’s book The Return – just out – and it’s a bit of a heavier read but very important considering current events. This book discusses the repercussions of grief, loss and ultimately living history, which I just find so fascinating. At the heart of it all, this memoir is really about a son trying to comes to terms why his father has been absent from his life for some 20+ years.  I like to use the (traditionally) more time I have in the summer to read for pleasure to better inform myself about topics that interest me (history, current affairs, environment, biographies) as well as for general enjoyment. Any sort of fantasy/historical fiction series I can get my hands on to read in the shade on a sunny day is pure bliss to me.

Risa de Rege, communications and marketing intern:

Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories cover









I usually end up tackling really long, heavy books over the summer – past endeavours include Les Miserables by Victor Hugo; We, The Drowned by Cartsen Jensen; and (most of) A Song of Ice and Fire. But right now I’m taking it easy with a book of Edwardian ghost stories I picked up at a local bookstore. I love history, and ghost stories, so I’m really enjoying reading stories that have entertained people for so long.

Zviko Mhakayakora, executive assistant, programming:

The Bluest Eye cover










Right now I’m reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I’ll be reading some books by NoViolet Bulawayo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie too. I’m really into a mix of non-fiction and fiction right now.