Canada just a border away but their reading choices are different

Some of these choices are totally familiar. Others are totally new. Perfect.

Looking for a new summer read? Notable Canadians share their top book picks

Sen. Murray Sinclair, mystery author Louise Penny on what they’re reading this summer

CBC Radio · Posted: Aug 03, 2020 10:08 AM ET | Last Updated: August 3

What are you reading this summer? (Shutterstock)


With many Canadians enjoying a summer long weekend, Cross Country Checkup asked notable Canadian podcasters, writers — and readers — for their summer reads recommendations.

Guest host Shelagh Rogers, of CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter, asked Canadians to share their top book picks for the beach or a backyard staycation.

Here are some of the highlights.

Indigenous voices

When it comes to summer reading, Sen. Murray Sinclair says he often turns to his “secret stash” of Stephen King thrillers. 

“It really draws me away from everything that I’m doing and everything that I am involved with,” he told Rogers.

Sen. Murray Sinclair says he has gravitated toward the work of Indigenous authors this summer. (The Canadian Press)

But this year, he says he hasn’t been able to get through any of the famed horror writer’s novels because he’s “been astounded at the number of books that have been coming out from young Indigenous writers.”

“I just want to read what they’re writing, I want to read what they’re saying, I want to read what they’re thinking,” he said.

Sinclair pointed to Daniel Heath Justice’s work as a favourite this year — Rogers also recommends his trilogy The Way of Thorn and Thunder — in addition to the poetry of Katherena Vermette.

The senator added that he’s revisiting some older favourites including the poetry of Indigenous writer Lee Maracle, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian, and Native American author Vine Deloria Jr.’s works.

“[Deloria] was the first one who instigated my thinking above what it means to be Indigenous and what it means not to have felt Indigenous for so long,” he said.

Cross Country Checkup listeners share what they’re reading this summer:

Historical fiction

Canadian mystery novelist Louise Penny says that while she may be the “last human being on Earth” to read Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction trilogy Wolf Hall, it is “sublime.”

“Everybody kept telling me — and maybe that’s why I was a little hesitant — everyone kept saying, ‘It’s wonderful, it’s perfect, it’s fantastic,’ and I think I kind of dug my heels in a little bit,” she told Rogers.

Mystery author Louise Penny told Checkup that Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy is her pick for the summer. (Jean-François Bérubé)

The series traces the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, a minister in King Henry VIII’s court.

“Interestingly enough she has a very curious style of writing which makes it even more delightful,” she added.

Mantel’s third book in the series, The Mirror and the Light, was recently nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize — the author’s third nomination following wins for the trilogy’s two earlier novels.

“I think because her style is unusual it took just a little bit of time to get into it. But once there — once into the tempo — I was consumed,” Penny said.

Science fiction and memoir

Leah-Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson, known for their CBC podcast The Secret Life of Canada, spend a lot of their reading time going through history books.

“So reading other stuff not connected to the history work we’re doing is always a nice mind break,” Bowen told Rogers.

Falen Johnson and Leah-Simone Bowen co-host the Secret Life of Canada, a history podcast about the country you know and the stories you don’t. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Bowen says she’s recently gotten into science fiction writing — the novella The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark in particular.

“It really feels like the beginning of an adventure series,” she said. The story follows a 14-year-old girl named Creeper in New Orleans during the Civil War.

“She’s connected to an orisha — which is a god, really — Oya, who is the mother of wind and storms, and she has an adventure with sky pirates and airships and is on a mission to stop this very mysterious weapon called the Black God’s Drum.”

Johnson, who says that she gravitates toward “darker books,” recommends Heart Berries, a memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot.

“It tells a bit of her life story, talking about her struggles growing up with abuse and poverty, her mental health struggles, but it’s just like one of the most strikingly honest memoirs I have ever read,” she told Checkup.

“Every sentence is so loaded — but I would be reading it and then I would laugh. She would write something that was hilarious, but in the same breath … I would die.”

“Just such a complicated mix of emotions, and just unlike anything I’ve ever read.”

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