What We're Reading: A Few Picks from TEC Editors

by Lesley-Anne Longo and Beth McAuley

Published at 2016-06-30

Here at TEC, we generally view summer as prime reading time, what with all the vacations, long weekends at the cottage, and general relaxation. We've all started in on our "to be read" piles, and this summer, we'll be doing a "what we're reading" series to pass on our favourites and top choices. So, read on for Beth and Lesley-Anne's choices.



What Lesley-Anne Is Reading

Over the past month, I haven't been doing as much reading as usual, and when I tried to recall books I had read in the past while, Beth laughingly pointed out that I’d been busy working my way through my stack of wedding how-to books! I enjoy researching things, and apparently wedding planning is no different (I became engaged just a few weeks ago). However, I have read a book or two outside that particular genre recently. My favourite recent read is a book I actually wanted to get for my friend as a gift: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps, by Kelly Williams Brown. I thought it looked funny, so I bought myself a copy too!


The world can be pretty intimidating for young adults (those of us in our 20s and 30s) nowadays. Steady jobs are becoming more and more scarce as companies move to a freelance-reliant model, benefits and pensions are just as rare, and, as many of my friends are finding out, buying a house is next to impossible (unless you have an unlimited budget, of course). We’re coming of age in a time that’s tough. But just because you don’t feel like an adult doesn’t mean you can’t act like one. Enter: Adulting.


Born from a blog of the same name, Adulting is exactly what its title implies: 468 mostly-simple tips on how to be an actual grown-up. Divided into handy sections like “Domesticity,” “Cooking,” “Friends and Neighbours,” “Love,” “Times Were Tough,” and “Money,” the book covers everything a young adult needs to know to be a well-functioning member of society, and still entertains the reader with funny anecdotes, amusing illustrations, and strange-yet-interesting food for thought. Tips that stuck out for me are things that you might never think of until it is otherwise too late, for example, when you are looking for an apartment, make sure all the outlets work and aren’t just decorative. Other tips cover basic and not-so-basic things, like when (and how) to write a thank-you note, what basics you should have in your kitchen, how to move cross-country, or how to find a good mechanic. Williams Brown also doles out tough love, such as Tip #3: “Don’t get hurt when the world doesn’t care about you.”


I think books and sources like Adulting (both book and blog) that help us young adults find our way in this ever-changing world are always going to be appreciated, especially if the advice within them is funny, sympathetic, and, when necessary, stern. This will definitely be a book I know I’ll refer to again and again. And, while some may laugh that those crazy millennials are so helpless they don’t know how to do, well, anything, I ask you this: do you know when you should or should not send a thank-you card? (Spoiler: always send one. If you have to ask, just send the card.)



What Beth Is Reading

The Daughter Who Got Away by Leora Freedman (Yotzeret Publishing, 2016) captured my attention from page 1. It was reminiscent of opening The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and having the same immediate attachment to the story at the first sentence. In Freedman’s most recent novel, the story opens with its main character, Celia, hurrying home through a snowfall to her New York apartment. It is the first night of Hanukkah and Celia has guests arriving for dessert sometime soon. As she walks, she thinks of her daughter Sharon, now living in the more remote areas of British Columbia and who will be waiting for Celia to phone her, as she promised she would.


As the story unfolds, Celia decides to go out west to visit Sharon and to experience the wilderness of British Columbia. Celia is 70 years old. She is charming, witty, and honest about her shortcomings. One of which is how long it is taking her to finish her biography of her most favourite artist. Her daughter Sharon is in her 30s, a lawyer working part-time in a small community, and living in a log cabin on the side of a mountain. Leaving the routine and familiarity of her Jewish east coast community, Celia embarks on her adventure.


What follows is a well-written, beautifully set story of the mother-daughter relationship, of self-discovery, the complexities of identity, and the love of friendship and family. Through the settings, characters, pace, and storyline, Freedman’s The Daughter Who Got Away weaves a captivating, insightful, and charming tale. 


Did you know Leora Freedman is a Canadian who lives and teaches here in Toronto? Visit her blog for more of her writing: Jewish Short Stories by Leora Freedman.


Quill & Quire Fall Preview (July/August 2016, available at bookstores now)

Another captivating read for me is Quill & Quire's fall preview of more than 245 new titles. Each issue of Q&Q is a rich compendium of books being published in Canada, and abroad, and the fall preview is exceptionally so. The cover story alone offers a glimpse into the forthcoming title The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall. This will be a must-read on my list (being published by House of Anansi in August). Plus the regular book reviews offer a wide selection of great titles now available—fiction and non-fiction for adult readers, and a wonderful array of titles for kids and young adult readers.


Then begins the fall preview, which opens with forthcoming titles in fiction. Previews range from Quebec writer Maxime Raymond Rock’s Baloney, to Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder, to André Alexis’s The Hidden Keys. And that is just a taste of the titles introduced in this genre.


Non-fiction previews are just as remarkable. Among them are Joy Kogawa’s Gently to Nagaski, her first book since Obasan, and Charlotte Gray’s The Promise of Canada: 150 Years—People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country (400 pages and 20 years in the writing). There are introductions to graphic novels, art books, poetry, pop culture memoirs, and international novels like Zadie Smith’s Swing Time.


Reading this issue of Q&Q is a wonderful thing. And all the titles are handily listed in a two-page author index. You can circle what you want to read and put it on order. The Books for Everybody ad reminds booksellers to order their holiday titles by August 3. Not a bad idea to pre-order a few of those favourite titles from a favourite bookstore (indie or not)!