Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

To Tenderly Toe the Line Between the Grime and the Beauty

A recommended reading list by the author of People You Know, Places You've Been.

Book Cover People You Know Places You've Been

Let’s get right into it! The theme is people: imperfect people, flawed people, dysfunctional people, REAL people. I love books that are able to tenderly toe the line between both the grime and beauty in average lives, books that are simultaneously grounded in the harsh light of day and whimsically philosophical in the way this often ugly reality is explored. These are the books that put a magnifying glass on the parts of our lives that are both boring and bold, that are the foundation of all the stories we tell. As much as I love to delve into fantastical escapism—I’ll never turn down a saucy vampire fic—there’s a special place in my heart for literature that honours life simply as it is. 


Book Cover Sharp Edges

Sharp Edges, by Leah Mol

One of the only fiction titles on this list! Yes, it may not be a true story, but it feels like it. A y2k era teen is sucked in by the allure of internet anonymity and freedom in Leah Mol’s debut novel. As someone who was also an adolescent in the early 2000s, cruising the very new world wide web, this book felt all too real. It’s scary and intense, because being a teen girl is scary and intense. Take all the glamorous actors, unrealistically cool-looking house parties, and Hollywood outfits out of teen narratives, and you get the real ugly thing; that’s what makes this book so compelling. 

Book Cover You Still Look the Same

You Still Look the Same, by Farzana Doctor

This collection of poetry by Farzana Doctor is vulnerable, genuine and speckled with earnest humour. Throughout I felt immediately captivated by the raw honesty of this collection, and the way beautiful poetic prose can be used to capture sometimes ugly and uncomfortable moments. I especially appreciate that Doctor doesn’t shy away from addressing challenging, even painful, subject matter like racism and misogyny; she calls it like it is, and there is courage and defiance in it. Ultimately, this collection delves into intimate and imperfect moments with both care and wit.

Book Cover Disintegrate/Dissociate

Disintegrate / Dissociate, by Arielle Twist 

The best way I can describe Arielle Twist’s debut poetry collection is that it is the written embodiment of blood, sweat, and tears. I love how visceral her writing is, and reading it feels like a full body experience: intense, heartbreaking, and real. If that sounds like a lot, don’t let it scare you away—amidst the intensity is also a deep hopefulness, and a gorgeous exploration of love and pleasure. I love that Twist’s writing is richly steeped in the five senses, and I especially encourage those who don’t typically read poetry to step into this stunning collection. 

Book Cover Flawed

Flawed, by Andrea Dorfman 

I absolutely love visual storytelling, and Andrea Dorfman’s book, adapted from her animated film, is a gorgeous short story with vibrant full-page illustrations. Dorfman’s playful and cartoon-like drawings lend perfectly to the subject matter—it explores our physical imperfections, and asks us to reconsider why we see these physical differences as flaws in the first place. There’s a caring warmth in the way Dorfman explores bodies, and the inherent awkwardness of growing into our own skin. This book is short, sweet, and whimsically blends together what it means to be ugly or beautiful in a colourful burst. 

Book Cover City Poems

City Poems, by Joe Fiorito 

As the title suggests, City Poems, by Joe Fiorito, shines a light on urban life, particularly on the parts that so many choose not to see. Those engaged in city life frequently learn to turn away from the aspects that make them feel uncomfortable, ashamed, or fearful, and Fiorito delves right into these matters with empathy and honesty. Substance abuse, poverty, violence, and mental health crises are all explored in this collection and boldly shatters the apathy that many city-dwellers have built up as a defence mechanism to worsening crises in the city. 

Book Cover Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday

Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday, by Jamaluddin Aram

The second fiction title on my list! This book is like a fever dream, and I mean that in the best way. Dreamy as it is though, it doesn’t feel removed from reality. The book explores the lives of the people of Wazirabad, from the small things like mundane jobs and the town gossip, to the big things: grief, love, hopefulness, violence. I love the way Aram manages to take all the moments and memories of the various townspeople and weave them into this beautiful lyrical prose that gives the book an almost ethereal quality to it, while still reminding us that real beauty can be found in the simplest day-to-day things.

Book Cover People You Know Places You've Been

Learn more about People You Know, Places You’ve Been: 

This collection of poems and illustrations is wholly dedicated to people: people you love, people you hate, people you envy, people you admire, and the average places you encounter them: the subway, the doctor’s office, the mall. It’s dedicated to the stranger you remember on the bus, the guy at the coffee shop you thought was cute, your best friend in the seventh grade. The characters that loom large in your own life may be unique to you, but they are also recurring figures and archetypes in the lives of everyone else; I divided the chapters into character tropes and settings for this very reason. I hope you’ll add my collection to your bookshelf alongside all these other wonderful titles that celebrate imperfection. 

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog