Shelf Talkers: Books for Summer 2020

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It’s probably an understatement, but we seem to be living in uncertain times.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that time has continued its inexorable march, and we find ourselves suddenly, perhaps surprisingly, in the heights of summer.

Ah, summer. One of the very finest seasons for reading. Top four, at least.

It is the season of difficult decisions: do I read on the couch in a sunbeam, or on the beach? In a park, or in the hammock? In a socially distanced pub, or in the backyard? These are vexing questions: you should probably try them all before you decide. No reason to rush these things.

But what, I hear you asking, should I read?

This too is a difficult decision. Thankfully, we have the members of the Shelf Talkers advisory board to assist, booksellers from across the country, each with a recommendation to make your summer even dreamier than it is already. And what’s this? A bookstore customer in the ranks?

That’s the wonderful thing about independent bookstores: every bookseller is able to build relationships with fellow readers, recommending books and receiving recommendations in turn, until the line between customer and bookseller blurs entirely and we’re all just readers, spending a sunny summer afternoon with a good book.

Here are our booksellers’ picks for your endless summer days. And if you exhaust this list, remember, more recommendations are as close as your neighbourhood bookstore.

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The Bookseller: Antonia Colapinto, Mulberry Bush Book Store (Qualicum Beach, BC)

The Pick: Ridgerunner, by Gil Adamson

Ridgerunner follows William Moreland, a most dedicated and unconventional father, in his quest to provide for his young son. This book also follows Jack Boulton, William’s son, as he struggles to find his own freedom and spirit. Full of unexpected twists and turns, Gil Adamson’s follow-up to The Outlander is an incredibly beautiful story. This novel is brimming with mundane moments and memories which Adamson has crafted into something intensely intimate and dreamy. As a whole, it is at once endearing and harrowing, a novel with complex characters to be cherished and remembered.

**
The Bookseller: David Worsley, Words Worth Books (Waterloo, ON)

The Pick: Still Here, by Amy Stuart 


Amy Stuart's Still Here is the third book in the Claire O'Dey series, and the author keeps raising the narrative tension and thickness of the plotting in this easy-to-drink thrillerfest. Claire is on the trail of her recently deceased sort-of-boss Malcolm, after his abrupt disappearance. As with Amy's first two installments, there’s plenty of foul play, and all manner of deception, familial politics, and secrets that refuse to remain buried. 
I'm all in for the series’ characters and tight plotting, but what continually wins me over is Stuart's seemingly effortless ability to make the ragged downward spiral of a seaside town such an integral part of the setting. I'm trying not to coin the term "Pyperesque," (Andrew Pyper’s got a new one coming as well), but I guess I just did.
 This is a great beer and a hammock read.

**

The Bookseller: Christie Shaw Roome, Salt Spring Books (Salt Spring Island, BC)
The Pick: The Forgotten Home Child, by Genevieve Graham

Perfect summer beach read. Pack tissues. At 97 years of age, Winny finally tells the story of her life to her granddaughter and great-grandson. This well-researched book by Genevieve Graham tells the story of Winny, whose life is indelibly fused to those of Jack and Mary, children like herself plucked from the streets of Liverpool in 1936 and sent to Canada to start a new life with a new family. In stark, Depression-era Canada, the children are not welcomed as family; rather they are discriminated against and treated as indentured workers. A very accessible fictionalized account of a very bruised and complicated time in Canadian and British history, this story shows the resilience of children and the power, warmth and beauty of chosen family bonds.

**

The not-a-bookseller: Deborah Watson, customer of Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

The Pick: Aubrey McKee, by Alex Pugsley

Aubrey McKee, written by Alex Pugsley, is an autobiographical fiction set in Halifax during the mid 1970s and 80s. This book will draw you in, and hold you captive, as Pugsley cleverly develops the rich cast of characters from his youth. It’s a brilliant novel that’s intelligent, funny, moving, and unforgettable. If you loved A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Catcher in the Rye, Aubrey McKee is your next great read.

**

The Bookseller: Jan Lindh,  Mulberry Bush Book Store (Parksville, BC)

The Pick: Beyond the Trees: A Journey Alone Across Canada’s Arctic, by Adam Shoalts

In the spring of 2017, Adam Shoalts headed out alone in a canoe across Canada’s Arctic. Often he saw no power lines, no roads, few people, and assorted wildlife. He experienced sometimes harrowing conditions and breathtaking sights in a race to reach his destination before winter arrived. His writing has a you-are-there quality which often left me breathless waiting to see if he would overcome the next obstacle, and what next spectacular vista await.

 **
The Bookseller: Lee Trentadue, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: The Last Goldfish, by Anita Lahey

This is a beautifully written and poignant memoir of a friendship between two young girls. I was drawn in immediately by Lahey’s command of language and the story of this complex and rich friendship from their first meeting in grade nine. Anita has captured this friendship with humour, intelligence, and so much love.

**

The Bookseller: Michelle Berry, Hunter Street Books (Peterborough, ON)

The Pick: Kingfisher Days, by Susan Coyne

Kingfisher Days, by the Canadian Shakespearean actress Susan Coyne, came out in 2001.

This is her memoir about a special childhood summer and is a perfect holiday read. Susan writes about her childhood cottage near Kenora, Ontario, where, as a child one summer, she finds an old stone fireplace underneath a hedge. Her father tells her that fairies live there. So she cleans the fireplace out and leaves presents (flowers, treats, letters). Every morning her presents and letters disappear. And then Susan suddenly starts receiving letters from someone named “Nootsie Tah” thanking her for her gifts. These letters slowly introduce her to a fairy world living around the cottage. The fairies include Shakespearean fairies from Midsummer Night’s Dream—Oberon, Puck, Ariel and Titania—and Susan corresponds with Nootsie Tah all summer. She shares her thoughts about the fairies with her kind, elderly neighbour, Mr. Moir and a friendship between the older man and the younger girl ensues.

The book is physically beautiful, there are different fonts for the written letters, it’s small, and fits perfectly in your hand. It has a lovely cover and decorations inside. There are funny stories about the fairies hanging out with her cat and about the mischief they get up to. Kingfisher Days is an uplifting book—something we need right now more than ever—and makes you believe in friendship and the power of nurturing the imagination of children.

August 5, 2020
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