Editor’s Picks: New Books for Summer of ’17

18 books worth getting sandy this summer

The Water Beetles
Michael Kaan
Goose Lane Editions

Kaan’s mature debut, based on his father’s memoirs of youth in Hong Kong, offers Tolstoyesque metaphors on violence and turmoil. From the first page, Kaan’s simple, longing prose dissects the human condition: “Like everyone else, [this beetle] is at war, which means its every move is inevitable and prescribed.”


Barrelling Forward
Eva Crocker
House of Anansi Press

Crocker’s stories are like autopsies, dissecting events, objects, rituals and peering intently at them from all angles. But the result is so pretty it seems effortless, finding beauty in the mundane, delivered via short, metered phrasing. Not a word is wasted here.

Life on Mars
by Lori McNulty
Goose Lane Editions

McNulty covers an array of styles and sub-genres, realism to fable, always with a nod to the strange and surreal, often with an exhilarating quality of desperation. She’s earned praise from Alexander MacLeod, who says her stories “pound with an energy that is simultaneously physical and philosophical.”

The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes
Bridget Canning
Breakwater Books

What felt like a reflex–hurling a can of coconut milk at a gunman’s head–has made Wanda Jaynes a media sensation and upended her life. This is the highly anticipated debut novel from Bridget Canning, one of Newfoundland’s most promising new writers.

Scars and Other Stories
Done Aker
Pottersfield Press

Don Aker probes deep with his flawed characters, whose scars aren’t always visible, their injuries often much deeper. The acclaimed young-adult author will surprise you with his insights on small-town culture and how pain and fear motivate and change us in unexpected ways.

Five Crows Silver
Vernon Oickle
MacIntyre Purcell

It’s rare that Atlantic Canadian fiction runs quite this dark, but the fifth in Oickle’s internationally acclaimed Crow series takes readers into every parent’s worst nightmare. “Mystical grit” might make an apt title for this bent on the mystery genre. The crows are key to relieving the slow-building tension.

Short for Chameleon
Vicki Grant
HarperTrophy Canada

For all those times your real family isn’t good enough, wouldn’t it be nice to hire a rent-a-relative? This is the LOL-funny premise of Grant’s latest YA book, and only her wacky but believable characters could pull it off. It’s a quick read but there is depth here too.

Road Signs That Say West
Sylvia Gunnery
Pajama Press

Three teen sisters drive west and back to Nova Scotia, escaping memories of a friend’s suicide and experiences of sexual harassment. Despite the weight of the themes Road Signs is funny and full of heart, with skillful depiction of the hooks and barbs of sibling rivalry.

Rez Rebel
Melanie Florence
James Lorimer & Company

“Suicide among young people, especially in Indigenous communities, is a problem that needs talking, writing, and reading about,” says author Melanie Florence. The voice she uses, that of a determined young man who refuses to accept the status quo is believable, direct and engaging.

Icarus, Falling of Birds
Harry Thurston and Thaddeus Holownia
Anchorage Press

Thurston’s poetry and Holownia’s art commemorate the centenary of the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the thousands of birds killed in 2013 by a 100-foot gas flare in Saint John. The images are morbidly beautiful and haunting. The language is frenetic pulsing, rhythmic song and mournful lament.


The Canticles I
George Elliott Clarke
Guernica Editions

Dramatic monologues detail the transatlantic slave trade and its propaganda and resistors. Clarke has raised the dead to give us Dante on Chris Columbus among others, a textured mash-up of historical voices in verse. Or, as Terrance Hayes puts it, Clarke has captured the “syntax of humanity.”

The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers
Edited by Lesley Choyce and Julia Swan
Pottersfield Press

“Dad appreciated the wit and cleverness of a good Weird Al Yankovic parody,” writes Alexander MacLeod. Daniel Paul’s father proclaimed at 97, “It’s time for me to get the frig out of here!” Anne Murray’s dad, a physician, helped victims of Springhill mining disasters. These dads rock.

As the Old Folks Would Say: Stories, Tall Tales, and Truths of Newfoundland and Labrador
Hubert Furey
Flanker Press

Renowned media personality and live performer Hubert Furey has won three tall-tale contests (if you can believe that) and finally has a book of recitations on the rural life of yesteryear Newfoundland. Delightful stories of courting, cooking, preaching and hunting.

Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse
Rosalie M Lombard
Flanker Press

Originally self-published in 2014, Newfoundland’s Flanker Press loved the book enough to publish a revised edition with fresh content and images. Lombard’s enthralling adventures as a travelling nurse are reminiscent of a Tintin adventure in their harrowing nature. Her life is a wonder.

Doctors in Denial: How the Canadian Medical Profession has Been Captured by Big Pharma
Joel Lexchin (Foreword by Dr. Brian Goldman)
Formac Lorimer Books

Are doctors addicted to the perks–dinners, trips, training sessions–offered by multinational pharmaceutical companies? How does that hurt Canadian patients? This is the true story from an emergency physician.

The Sea Was in Their Blood
Quentin Casey
Nimbus Publishing

Reminiscent of The Perfect Storm, Casey combines sleuth-like instincts with immersive storytelling knowhow to piece together the tragic tale of the crew of the Miss Ally, which sank with no survivors in February 2013.

Seven Grains of Paradise: A Culinary Journey in Africa
Joan Baxter
Pottersfield Press

Baxter’s books celebrate the beauty of African nations and peoples often neglected in Western narratives of poverty. Here she focuses on a rich farming heritage and tremendous variety of cultural cuisine from farms, kitchens, markets and restaurants, guided by African food lovers.

Robert Bond: The Greatest Newfoundlander
Ted Rowe
Breakwater Books

Robert Bond, the first prime minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland, is an enormous figure in Newfoundland history and was a tortured and complicated man. Rowe gives us a long-overdue biography of the reclusive man and lifelong bachelor who went 30 years without losing an election.

Written By

Chris Benjamin is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. He is also the author of Boy With A Problem; Indian School Road; Eco-Innovators and Drive-by Saviours; as well as several short stories in anthologies and journals.

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