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What we're reading this summer

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

It’s always reading season as far as we are concerned here at AfterWords, but there is something especially glorious about sinking into a good book on a warm summer day. Here are a few we’ve been loving lately, and that we think you’ll love, too!

book cover for Some Hellish by Nicholas Herring. A small orange and white boat travels over a stormy sea.

Some Hellish, Nicholas Herring (Goose Lane Editions)

The triumph of Some Hellish is its language--surprising, powerful, utterly unique. I could never get more than a few paragraphs without stopping to read another section aloud, either to myself or anyone around to hear, and even out of context the poetry of Herring’s words would arrest them. Speaking of the families of PEI lobster fishers, he writes: “Each clan, with its own little ways, its own minute but graceful distinctions of methodology, every man of them trying so hard to enact their own little sacraments and superstitions as a way to mislay the truth that all of these men were, in some shape or form, relatives, that in their blood flowed all of the same intuitions, all of the same appetites and furores that could not be purged.” —Ryan Turner, co-founder and co-executive director

A History of Burning, Janika Oza (McClelland & Stewart)

This debut novel travels across time, the globe, and history, as its characters find their way toward an idea and reality of home. From a village in India to Uganda’s fight for independence, into and out of exile, the story of Pirbhai and his descendents unfurls in stunning prose and tremendous narrative control. This is a book to get lost in, and a writer to watch. —Stephanie Domet, co-founder and co-executive director

End Times, Michelle Syba (Freehand Books)

Michelle Syba’s new short story collection End Times is billed as tackling heavy subjects such as “evangelical culture” and “idealogical polarization”--and she does so with intelligence and refreshing insight--but it’s the third part of the jacket’s description that I would emphasize: Syba writes lovingly and humorously about “the mysteries and messiness of humanity.” Ultimately, these are simply great short stories. —RT

The Berry Pickers, Amanda Peters (HarperCollins Canada)

I gobbled up The Berry Pickers the minute I got my hands on it (full disclosure, I had the privilege of mentoring Amanda Peters several years ago) and this book did not disappoint. A beautiful, and beautifully told story of secrets, pain, guilt, and grief, and ultimately, of family reconciliation. Peters writes with honesty, insight, and most of all compassion. This is a wonderful debut novel from an extremely promising Mi’kmaw writer.


Entre Rive and Shore, Dominque Bernier-Cormier (Goose Lane Editions)

Entre Rive and Shore reminded me of the early, fragmentary, genre-bending work of Michael Ondaatje. Moving between poetry, prose, exquisite “Notes on translation,” and intimate emails with his father, Bernier-Cormier explores the erosion and complexity of Acadian language and identity. “When French or Québecois tourists visit our part of l’Acadie, they come in order not to understand,” he writes. “They believe… that they are visiting the outer borders of language, and are thrilled by the few clear words that rise, like crystals, out of what they consider muddled, mud.” —RT

The Lost Supper, Taras Grescoe (Greystone Books)

A fascinating exploration of how and what we used to eat—and how and why we might want to start again, from insects to ancient grains like emmer, from farmhouse cheese to a well-fabled Roman fish sauce. Taras Grescoe is the kind of journalist who puts his all into his research. Here, he takes his considerable passion for and curiosity about food on a trip around the world and across the centuries, meeting and interviewing those who are keeping ancient foodways alive, or reviving heritage species of flora and fauna. And he doesn’t stop at talking. Grescoe rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty—literally, more than once—helping to harvest, process, make and eat meals that, he argues, more of us should be eating. For our own good, and for the good of the environment. This engrossing and highly readable book is technically an end of summer read—its release date is September 19—but you can preorder it now if your appetite is whetted.


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