By Shannon Culver
July is for relaxing.
We don’t care what the workweek says, weekends are all yours. That is, if you happen to be lucky enough not to be attending 17 weddings this summer.
So while spending your days lounging dockside with a beer in hand sounds pretty great, we suggest you strive to keep your mind from going full comatose by providing it with a selection of stellar reads.
‘Cause if you want to look smart (at the cottage or in the city) while you get smart, picking up one of these must-reads for July is the only way to do it.
1. The Fever
Little, Brown and Company
Megan Abbott writes the type of teenaged girl who would make Regina George break down and cry. When the female students at a suburban high school start falling prey to a strange illness that causes seizures and hallucinations, fingers are pointed every which way: is it an STI? A side effect of an HPV vaccination? A result of the polluted lake nearby? The Fever plunges you into the hysteria created by a mysterious plague in a small community – and the even scarier world of teenaged girls.
2. The Vacationers
Are your summer holiday plans going to involve more hot asphalt and balcony barbecuing than lounging by aquamarine pools and dining on freshly-caught seafood? That’s okay, ‘cause Emma Straub is inviting you along on a trip to Mallorca, Spain, with the Post family. And spending time with someone else’s dysfunctional family is always preferable to your own, isn’t it? The Posts decamp to the Mediterranean for a break from the tensions of their home lives in Manhattan, but of course those anxieties are never far behind when a grown family is packed together in a confined space.
3. Nobody is Ever Missing
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Who hasn’t fantasized about picking up stakes and buying a one-way ticket to the other side of the world? Lacey’s protagonist, Elyria, yields to that craving, leaving behind her husband and life in Manhattan to disappear into the wilderness of New Zealand. The ordeals that Elyria faces outwardly – hitchhiking, sleeping in fields and forests – are rivaled by her interior ones, grappling with the death of her sister and her own inner discord. Nobody is Ever Missing takes you to some dark places, but don’t worry: Lacey’s prose and sardonic humour are there to guide you.
1. Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation
If the word “irregardless” makes your skin crawl, this one is for you. Bad English is a history of the English language and its uses and abuses. This is the type of book that will supply you with endless dinner party tidbits, like “Did you know that it was once considered incredibly vulgar to use the word lunch as a noun?” Just don’t blame us if you suddenly start getting punched in the face a lot.
2. Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men Around the World
David L. Chapman
Arsenal Pulp Press
With World Pride upon us in Toronto, it seems appropriate to celebrate the man of the hour: the muscle-bound hunk who has been toiling away at the gym for the past few months in preparation for the shirtless glory of the annual parade. Universal Hunks explores the politicized, sexualized, and commercialized male image through history and also gives us a good excuse to ogle the six packs and pecs of some serious stud muffins.
3. My Salinger Year
At 23, fresh out of grad school and pursuing her dream of becoming a published poet, Joanna Rakoff landed a dream job: assistant to the literary agent for J.D. Salinger. Her job is rather tedious on the surface; she’s tasked with responding to Salinger’s multitudes of fan mail with a template response crafted by the agency. Reading the protracted, heartfelt letters, though, Rakoff veers off template and begins writing back to the fans. Rakoff’s memoir will remind you of what it feels like to be young and ambitious, and to have to square your aspirations with the opportunities available to you.