As we bid farewell to the summer, here are five books we read while on vacation
- Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (By Lydia Anderson)
Maybe it was because I read it lying underneath trees and blue skies on grassy knolls, but Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Montreal’s own Heather O’Neill, was a book that surpassed the rest of the reads on my summer book list. Little did I know how fitting it would be to read this novel when I first returned to Montreal—most of the novel takes place in this fair city. The book is written from the perspective of Baby, starting from her 12th birthday, and follows her as she navigates her youth with a heroin-addicted father. Not well-off to say the least, the two bounce around apartments as Baby grows more knowledgeable about street life with each passing chapter. Baby’s is a perspective that maintains some innocence and remnants of a childlike worldview, but also introduces readers to the realities of her rougher situation. From foster homes to becoming involved with a pimp, the readers follow Baby as she navigates her reality and speculates about what she’s experiencing. O’Neill’s ability to embody tainted innocence was impressive and prevented me from leaving the book out of my hands for too long. The weather still allows for some reading on a nearby grassy knoll, but not for long, so grab a copy of this novel and enjoy it as much as I did.
- You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart (By Marco Saveriano)
When I look back at my summer, the first things that come to mind are STIs, hallucinogenic drugs, and endless drunken nights. No, I didn’t spend the last few months on shrooms, getting drunk, and having sex with strangers—my loss, I know—but I did read all about it in Mamrie Hart’s You Deserve A Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery.
In a world where it seems like every YouTuber has a book deal, it’s hard not to write them all off, but Mamrie Hart is an exception. Anyone who watches Hart’s videos (notably, her “You Deserve A Drink” series) knows that she has great comedic timing and a gift for coming up with perfect puns—as well as being a master mixologist. I had no doubts that her book would be equally as hilarious.
You Deserve A Drink flawlessly captured Hart’s voice and shared stories so outrageous that if it were anyone else, I would have assumed they were exaggerating. Even though I was tucked away in my basement, curled up in a ball with her book, I felt like I was right there with Hart on spring break at a gay nudist resort, or when she accidentally set her coat on fire—twice—while tripping on shrooms at a Flaming Lips concert. The best part is that Hart never seems like she’s trying too hard. She’s authentically funny, which made for one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in a while. After restraining myself from reading this book cover to cover in one night, I definitely deserved a drink.
- Paper Towns by John Green (By: Alex DiMeglio)
While vacationing in Paris I decided to pop my John Green cherry and give Paper Towns a read. The coming-of-age novel follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen as he spends his last days of high school searching for the love of his life Margo Roth Spiegelman when she goes missing after a night of debauchery.
Whether I was reading the book on the sands of Saint-Tropez or at a café in Paris, I always managed to forget my surroundings and fall for the witty writing and engrossing mystery, which frustrated me to the point where I just kept on reading because I craved the answers to all the ridiculous questions brought about by the novel. This novel was bought from the ‘young adult’ section, but should be required reading for all of our inner-teenagers that we still cling to, because youth reminds us that we are alive and we should be embracing such a precious gift, as opposed to complaining about it day in and day out. This novel managed to transform an unlikeable main character into a likeable one because his tireless pursuit taught him a valuable lesson. Our life is like a novel—what sort of things can you do to make others want to read it? A truly remarkable read from start to finish, full of humour, passion, romance, a few surprises and enough cheese to remind you that the word impossible shouldn’t exist in our vocabularies.
- Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (By: Jessica Romera)
Despite it being nearly 400 pages, I devoured Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get The Blues in a matter of days during my summer break. I was away in Europe for about a month which meant lots of trains, planes and bus rides, so a ridiculous amount of time for reading. I had never read anything by Robbins before, but now my bookshelf is spilling over with more of his novels. This is the story of Sissy Hankshaw, a stunning girl growing up in small-town America. She embodies most of the feminine ideal—Sissy appears to be nearly perfect, except for the fact that she has gigantic oversized thumbs. While she sees these thumbs as a gift, everyone else around her sees them as a grotesque deformity. This prompts her to pick up hitchhiking and she ends up crisscrossing the country. She eventually finds herself on a ranch run exclusively by cowgirls and Robbins weaves Sissy’s narrative into theirs. He uses satire unapologetically while tackling larger social issues predominant during that time, like feminism, free love, experimental drug use and cultural identity (the book was published in 1976). Robbins’ style is easy to digest and ridiculously fun to read—he’s crude, but not unecessarily gross. He uses a ton of vivid descriptors to paint his scenes, but his words are not gratuitously flowery and redundant. If you’re looking for a funny, yet smart read for an upcoming trip, I recommend you give Even Cowgirls Get The Blues a shot.
- Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert (By Elijah Bukreev)
Longing for more after falling in love with the prose and style of Madame Bovary, I found myself reading Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education. Like the main character, I was a young student living in Paris—it was during the last month of my exchange. I found the novel in a second-hand bookstore. It was brand new, probably bought by a high schooler for a French class, never read, and discarded as soon as the year was over. And now it was mine. I read it all over the city, sometimes in the very places that were being described.
As with Madame Bovary, which, as far as film adaptations go, has been somewhat misunderstood, it is acutely caricatural, with vibrant characterizations. If in Bovary Flaubert was mostly concerned with deromanticizing typically romantic characters, in Education he was drawing a portrait of the social and political life of his time, the mid-19th century, through the story of a young bourgeois man’s absurd infatuation with an older, married woman, which lasts for decades. Reading it now, in France, it is surprising to see that many things have remained the same.
One of the most poignant passages is the detailed description of a revolution, each step being thoroughly documented. The events unfolded unexpectedly and with shocking speed. Many speeches covered in the novel are things that are still being said today, and there is such recognizable dissatisfaction with the government in the air that many of Flaubert’s points still stand in today’s political landscape.