Gail Sidonie Sobat Gets Serious in Summer


I’m a hopeless snob when it comes to summer reading.  Neither a fan of the bestseller nor of the page-turner, I prefer to delve deep when I’m on the beach.  So, if you are a deep-sea treasure seeker, like I am, here are my recommendations:

Non-fiction – One of the most important books of the last ten years, in my humble estimation, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, while not for the faint of heart, is an education in economics and disaster capitalism, forces that have shaped the world’s economy since the late twentieth century and into the twenty-first.  If it sounds boring, I assure you it isn’t – Klein is articulate and engaging, and her assertions are backed by sound and exhaustive research, interviews and reading.  Sobering and so important!  And she’s Canadian!

Fiction – So is Gaétan Soucy.  And I love his work.  A great place to start with this Quebecois writer is The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches. Seldom have I encountered such a compelling and convincing voice, completely original, as that of the intrepid logophile protagonist.  Soucy is that rare combination of poet and storyteller.  I am in complete awe!

Young Adult/ Children’s – As with his The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I was moved to tears by John Boyne’s new novel, Noah Barleywater Runs Away. Part fairy tale, part honest account of losing a parent, the novel transports the reader—whether child or adult—to another realm while asking essential questions of what it means to leave home, to watch a parent age or fall sick and die, to bear witness to one’s own ageing as time travels ever onwards.

Picture book – On a related theme, and apropos of the beach and beach reading, is the lovely illustrated story, The Castle Builder, by Dennis Nolan.  Beautifully rendered in grainy, almost sandy black and white pictures, is the story of a boy at the seashore, earnestly building a sand kingdom replete with castle, knights and dragons, only to have it all washed away by time and tide at the closing of the day.  A pleasure to read and re-read, to oneself or a younger audience.

Poetry – And finally, one more great Canadian read, that of the late and much-missed Robert Kroetsch.  His poetry collection, Too Bad: Sketches Towards a Self-Portrait, is perfect beach reading, especially against the backdrop of a salmon-coloured sunset and between sips of a chilled New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon. Kroetsch’s fine assortment of short poems are easily read aloud alternately between lovers, as you sit and stare at the ocean and contemplate the shortness and sweetness of it all.

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Gail Sidonie Sobat

Gail Sidonie Sobat's novel, Gravity Journal, was a 2009 White Pine Honour Book, a Moonbeam Gold Award winner, and a 2011 Stellar Award nominee. Her latest novel is Chance to Dance for You. She lives in Edmonton.