By Shannon Culver
We’re fast-approaching the dog days of summer.
See: every sent email has at least a 50% chance of receiving a bounce back from the recipient’s out-of-office vacation response.
But before you find yourself stranded on a rainy afternoon in a cabin in northern Ontario with nothing but moldy Danielle Steel paperbacks to keep yourself entertained, check out one of these new summer releases.
‘Cause if you want to look smart (rainy day or not) while you get smart, picking up one of these must-reads for August is the best way to do it.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
What exactly does it mean to be an adult? At the age of 30, longtime friends Bev and Amy are still trying to figure it out. Bev is living the kind of life that’s fine at 23, but pretty much intolerable by 27: working for a temp agency, living with a bunch of roommates, slowly chipping away at a massive student debt. Amy is coasting on some good luck and early success, but bad decisions they made in their 20s are catching up with both women and putting their friendship to the test. Emily Gould writes the kind of conversations that you have with your friends, and she’s ace at capturing the zeitgeist of what it’s like to be a young person trying to figure it all out in New York.
Little, Brown and Company
Come for the Amazon bashing, stay for the stellar storytelling. First-time author Edan Lepucki struck gold when Stephen Colbert urged his viewers to purchase California from Portland-based independent bookseller Powell’s in an attempt to divert business from Amazon. Luckily for Colbert devotees, California is a gripping read. Cal and Frida are living in the wilderness of a post-apocalyptic California of the near future, trying to figure out how to survive and who to trust. Discovering that Frida is pregnant compels them to seek the security of the nearest settlement, but they soon realize that the community holds its own set of dangers. This is the kind of book that compels “I couldn’t put it down!” reviews.
Hamish Hamilton Canada
Eliza Robertson has a soft spot for the outsider: the quirky roommate, the solitary child, the animal lover. Her short story collection opens with a young girl cat-sitting for a neighbour in a non-descript suburb. She’s reveling in her quiet freedom in the uncanny mirror image of her own home when a nearby dike fails. The neighbourhood is instantly flooded, and the girl may be the only one left alive. Robertson’s stories have a dream-like quality to them, and although the dream turns nightmarish at times, there are also heartfelt moments of humanity and spontaneous bursts of joy.
Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
In a world where Google is in the process of photo-documenting every inch of the known world, it’s hard to believe that there could be any uncharted territories left. Alastair Bonnett’s Unruly Places proves that there are locales that even Google’s streetview cams can’t get to, though. He travels to secret cities, floating communities and imaginary islands – and about 40 other far-flung places that will have you dusting off your compass and planning your next adventure.
Bad Feminist: Essays
Feminism has been getting a bad rap in the media lately. Starlets from Shailene Woodley to independent lady Kelly Clarkson have been disavowing the term, and even Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, has said she rejects the feminist label. In a series of essays touching on pop culture, politics, and critical theory, Roxane Gay unpacks what it means to be a feminist in the age of Lady Gaga and Girls, and proposes that it’s possible to describe yourself using the F word and still read Vogue.
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Daniel J. Levitin
Allen Lane Canada
It’s not your fault that you keep forgetting to pick up your dry cleaning; it’s your brain. It’s not designed to keep track of so many things at once. Neuroscientist and McGill Professor Daniel Levitin explains that the human brain evolved to focus on one thing at a time and filter out distractions, a system that is increasingly at odds with our multitasking world. There’s hope for your errant car keys and cell phone, though; Levitin has plenty of creative suggestions for keeping track of your to-do lists and belongings. Levitin is the author of the excellent This is Your Brain on Music, and he’s proved himself to be an expert on the way our brains work and what they respond to best.