Summer Reads 2021 - Saelan

June 17, 2021

Summer Reads 2021 - Saelan

We're kicking off this year's Summer Reads series with recommendations from Saelan!

Here's a selection of titles I've either read lately or am excited to get into while lounging on patios, in parks, and beside bodies of water.


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Michael Lapointe - The Creep
Lauren Oyler - Fake Accounts
Patricia Lockwood - No One is Talking About This

I’m starting off this list with a trio of debut novels that all push against the weird edges of reality in 2021 how truth and lies, self-knowledge and relationships are refracted within the mirrored labyrinths of social media, which have colonized so much of the reality-defining function previously accorded to news media and journalism. All three of the protagonists in these novelists are writers (one a viral internet sensation, one an out-of-work clickbait writer, and one a veteran of the prestige era of print journalism), each of whom finds themself in a conundrum that upends their grasp on what counts as real. Each of these writers had already established themself Oyler as a critic known for her merciless wit, Lockwood as a figurehead of “Weird Twitter” poetry and then a celebrated nonfiction writer (with her memoir Priestdaddy), and Lapointe as a versatile literary journalist with bylines at the New Yorker, The Atlantic, Paris Review, and Times Literary Supplement and their first novels announce each of them as major writers of the moment. All three books are great, and they read well together.

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Torrey Peters - Detransition, Baby Jackie Ess - Darryl Francesca Ekwuyasi - Honey Butter Pig Bread

These three novels all pull at the knots of relationships -- marriage, family, and parenthood, romance, desire, and sex -- and the ways that these knots are tied and retied by how we understand gender. Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby features three women (trans and cis) as their relationships split apart and come together to form an unconventional family. In Daryll, the debut novel from intellectual provocateuse (and co-founder of the Bay Area Trans Writer’s Workshop) Jackie Ess, a “normal” Oregonian man struggles with an addiction to internet drugs while his passion for watching other men have sex with his wife tests his definitions of marriage and manhood. Giller Prize nominee and Globe & Mail Best Book of 2020 Butter Honey Pig Bread follows two sisters and their mother between Lagos, Montreal, and London in an intergenerational story of queer love, friendship, spirituality, and family.


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Michael Robbins - Walkman

Ten years ago, Robbins was an enfant terrible of American poetry, a bad boy whose pyrotechnic verbal feats mined the surreal, post-industrial wasteland of the English language for things to shred. Now older, less showy but more bitter, Robbins has perfected the art of Marxist miserabilism in verse, allowing himself a measure of self-pity and nostalgia (and even some unorthodox faith) in the face of political and ecological catastrophe. Still militantly funny, still the realest.


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Deborah Levy - Real Estate

Gail Scott - Permanent Revolution

Tove Ditlevsen - Childhood, Youth, Dependency

And here we have three very exciting books of women narrating their lives. I devoured the first two volumes of Deborah Levy’s “living autobiography” when they came out in 2018 and I can’t wait to get into the third and final instalment, which takes up the question of ownership: space and home in both the literal and figurative senses. Tove Ditlevsen’s autobiographical Copenhagen Trilogy, first published between 1967 and 1971 in Danish and newly reissued in English, follows the struggles of a working-class girl to live an artistic life on her own terms. Described as compulsively readable and unflinchingly honest, it seems likely to appeal to fans of Elena Ferrante (which is almost everyone, myself included). Finally, Montreal legend Gail Scott’s essay collection, Permanent Revolution, surveys her own work and that of her contemporaries in the field of experimental, politically-committed queer/feminist prose. I’ve meant to read her books for years, plus I’ve long wanted to get better acquainted with the history of New Narrative and Québecois écriture-au-féminin; this seems like an excellent place to start.


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Rinaldo Walcott - On Property

Laura Raicovich - Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest

Kate Soper - Post-Growth Living: For an Alternative Hedonism

These three books all stake out how recent years have called so many political certainties into question and put new possibilities up for grabs. Rinaldo Walcott’s manifesto-like On Property is one of those small books that seems to say everything. In it, he lucidly explains how capitalist property relations are inextricable from the wealth created by transatlantic slavery and settler colonialism; prisons and policing arose as modes of controlling enslaved and dominated populations and defending those property relations. Consequently, the project of abolishing police and prisons must be seem as part of the longer, unfinished project of abolishing slavery and, ultimately, undoing the idea of a society founded on extraction, exploitation, and private wealth. In doing so, he shows how movements for racial, economic, and climate justice are all part of a unified struggle. The new book from Laura Raicovich, former director of Queens Museum (until her resignation following disputes with the museum board and city officials), surveys recent flashpoints in which museums have been objects of protest, analyzes the colonial origins and conservative, capitalist functions of museums, and suggests ways that museums can be reconceived as genuinely public spaces. Finally, philosopher Kate Soper’s post-growth manifesto re-examines the idea that curbing consumption and reducing carbon output and energy usage has to equate to a decline in living standards. She offers an urgent plea for a new version of the good life that acknowledges how many possibilities for pleasure, fulfillment, and fairness are foreclosed by the capitalist imperatives of private property and continual economic expansion, and how a global Green New Deal could build a better world for everyone.


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Lee Lai - Stone Fruit

Cesario Lavery - Der Eydes

Two of the most exciting debut comics of the year are both, coincidentally, by Tio’tia:ke/Montreal-based trans comic artists whose books feature protagonists working in childcare. Lee Lai’s Stone Fruit is a raw and tender breakup story about two women whose shared love for the child that they babysit keeps them tethered to each other. Cee Lavery’s Der Eydes (produced in collaboration with the Museum of Jewish Montreal) is about the author’s serendipitous discovery, in a free box, of a rare Franz Kafka book that once belonged to Chaim Shatan, a Jewish-Canadian psychiatrist born in Poland who was instrumental in codifying the diagnosis for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the 1970s. Lavery’s accomplished drawings are steeped in Montreal flavour and the storytelling brims with the excitement of discovery and the joys of historical lore. As this riso-printed zine is only the first volume, I can’t wait to see where Lavery takes the rest of the series.

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Brecht Evens - The City of Belgium
Guy Delisle - Factory Summers
Pascal Girard - Rebecca & Lucie in the Case of the Missing Neighbour
Daryll Cunningham - Billionaires

Drawn & Quarterly's summer lineup this year is ALL BANGERS! It's quite remarkable, honestly -- these four are just the beginning. Brecht Even's magnum opus The City of Belgium is finally out in English; Guy Delisle's new book takes a Rabagliati-esque nostalgic turn through his teenhood working a factory job in Quebec City; Pascal Girard's whodunnit features his own child and partner (incidentally, the store's erstwhile manager) on a post-partum sleuthing expedition through a lovingly-rendered version of the Mile End neighborhood (where I live and work!); and Daryll Cunningham's Billionaires takes a muckraker's approach to the fortunes of infamous wealth criminals like Jeff Bezos, Rupert Murdoch, and the Koch Brothers, exposing how they won their money and what they use it for. 

Plus, Walter Scott’s first two now-classic Wendy books are coming back into print in July after nearly a year of being unavailable! 

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Anna Jones - One Pot, Pan, Planet
Anthony Falco - Pizza Czar

Anna Jones is likely no stranger to any reader of vegetarian cookbooks, and her latest might be her best: it's full of simple, delicious, interesting recipes, along with tips on how to reduce waste and eat mindfully. I've cooked a bunch from it already and it's  all been great!

Anthony Falco is maybe the world's foremost pizza influencer, an "international pizza consultant" and now viral chef who made his name at Roberta's in Brooklyn -- where he was fired in 2016, a circumstance that has made his present fame somewhat controversial. By the time I learned about his checkered reputation, though, I had already levelled up my home pizza game with the useful recipes and tips from this book. I was already getting a little obsessive about bread and pizza baking (I blame the pandemic) so this guide hit at the right time.

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The Creep

Michael LaPointe

"A deep, weird and uncanny tale" —Sheila Heti"A book to devour"—Iain Reid"Sinister good fun" —Lee Henderson"Gripping and unassumingly smart" —Lauren Oyler A journalist with a history...

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Fake Accounts

Lauren Oyler

"Social media has lurked in the background of contemporary literary fiction . . . but here it feels, finally, fully and thoroughly explored, with style...

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No One Is Talking About This

Patricia Lockwood

"I really admire and love this book. Patricia Lockwood is a completely singular talent and this is her best, funniest, weirdest, most affecting work...

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Detransition, Baby

Torrey Peters

“An unforgettable portrait of three women, trans and cis, who wrestle with questions of motherhood and family making . . . Detransition, Baby might destroy...

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Jackie Ess

Darryl Cook is a man who seems to have everything: a quiet home in Western Oregon, a beautiful wife, and a lot of friends...

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Butter Honey Pig Bread

Francesca Ekwuyasi

Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize An intergenerational saga about three Nigerian women: a novel about food, family, and forgiveness. Butter Honey Pig...

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Permanent Revolution

Gail Scott

"A writer may do as she pleases with her epoch. Except ignore it." From iconic feminist writer Gail Scott comes Permanent Revolution, a collection...

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Real Estate

Deborah Levy

From one of the great thinkers and writers of our time, comes the highly anticipated final installment in Deborah Levy's critically acclaimed "living autobiography"...

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Childhood, Youth, Dependency

Tove Ditlevsen

'Utterly, agonisingly compulsive ... a masterpiece' Liz Jensen, GuardianFollowing one woman's journey from a troubled girlhood in working-class Copenhagen through her struggle to live...

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On Property

Rinaldo Walcott

From plantation rebellion to prison labour's super-exploitation, Walcott examines the relationship between policing and property. That a man can lose his life for passing...

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Culture Strike

Laura Raicovich

A leading activist museum director explains why museums are at the center of a political stormIn an age of protest, cultural institutions have come...

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Post-Growth Living

Kate Soper

An urgent and passionate plea for a new and ecologically sustainable vision of the good life.The reality of runaway climate change is inextricably linked...

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Der Eydes

Cesario Lavery

(Der Eydes—The Witness) is Cesario’s ongoing serialized comic about the treasure he found and the treasure it led to. It is one part detective...

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Stone Fruit

Lee Lai

Bron and Ray are a queer couple who enjoy their role as the fun weirdo aunties to Ray’s niece, six-year-old Nessie. Their playdates are...

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City of Belgium

Brecht Evens

AN EXQUISITELY DRAWN EXPLORATION OF THREE LOST SOULS' EMOTIONAL TERRAIN As night falls in the City of Belgium, three strangers in their late twenties - a...

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Guy Delisle

The legendary cartoonist aims his pen and paper towards his high school summer job For three summers beginning when he was 16, cartoonist Guy...

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Rebecca and Lucie in the Case of the Missing Neighbor

Pascal Girard

A mat-leave murder mystery, complete with post-partum physiotherapy and suspicious grocery store footage Rebecca?s got an eight-month-old baby and a mystery to investigate! Late...

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Darryl Cunningham

An informative and funny deconstruction of how the giants of American capitalism shape our world In Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich and Powerful, Darryl...

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One: Pot, Pan, Planet: A greener way to cook for you, your family and the planet

Anna Jones

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Pizza Czar

Anthony Falco

In his comprehensive first book, legendary pizza czar Anthony Falco teaches you everything you need to know to make pizza wherever you are, drawing...

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Click through to read my colleagues' picks: Arizona, Catherine, Chantal, Rifah