Books

What Are You Reading?

A summer survey of Walrus writers, artists, and readers

by
• 1,024 words

Artwork by The WalrusSummer Reading: Ten years of fiction, poetry, memoir, and escape from the magazine

David Macfarlane, author, novelist, and magazine writer: I’ve been saving Don Gillmor’s Mount Pleasant for a good long read on the dock.

Mark Jaccard, Royal Society of Canada fellow, author of “The Accidental Activist”: I am reading Eric Newby’s Slowly Down the Ganges. Then I will read Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush.

Dani Couture, poet, novelist, fiction and poetry editor of This Magazine, office manager of The Walrus: I’m reading The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck’s last novel. I thought I’d read everything by him, but on looking through my books for something to read this summer, found it and realized that while I’d purchased it, I’d never read it. A strange, rare treat.

Pasha Malla, author of People Park, All Our Grandfathers Are Ghosts, and The Withdrawal Method: After realizing that in 2012 my reading favoured books by men over books by women six to one, I’m trying to enact a little gender equality this year. Up to June, the men were up 23–17, but since then I’ve read:

    Men (6)

  • Divorcer – Gary Lutz
  • Tenth of December – George Saunders
  • Henderson the Rain King – Saul Bellow
  • The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira – César Aira
  • The Inferno of Dante – Robert Pinsky, trans.
  • In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods – Matt Bell
    Women (6)

  • West with the Night – Beryl Markham
  • 1996 – Sara Peters
  • The Double Hook – Sheila Watson
  • Glass, Irony and God – Anne Carson
  • A Small Place – Jamaica Kincaid
  • Our Andromeda – Brenda Shaughnessy
    Currently reading:

  • Ferdydurke – Witold Gombrowicz
  • Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
    Up next:

  • The Land of Green Plums – Herta Müller
  • Selected Stories – Guy de Maupassant
  • Crossings – Betty Lambert
  • The Book of Monelle – Marcel Schwob

John Macfarlane, editor and co-publisher of The Walrus: Adultery, by Richard B. Wright, who also wrote The Weekend Man and The Age of Longing, each of which I read and loved.

Alison Pick, novelist, poet: Books I’ve read so far this summer:

  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  • In Calamity’s Wake by Natalee Caple
  • In the Land of Birdfishes by Rebecca Silver Slayter
  • Caught by Lisa Moore
  • A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  • Swimming Home by Deborah Levy
  • The Dinner by Herman Koch
    Books waiting beside my beach towel:

  • New Ways to Kill your Mother: Writers and their Families by Colm Tóibín
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  • The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
  • Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
  • Norman Bray in the Performance of his Life by Trevor Cole

Jason Fulford, photographer, publisher, and designer: I’m reading Hell Screen, Cogwheels, A Fool’s Life by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa—recommended to me years ago by Adam Gilders.

Stacey May Fowles, novelist, essayist, director of circulation and marketing of The Walrus: There strangely seems to be a lot of suffering, sex, and death in my summer reading. I’m working my way through Marie Calloway’s what purpose did i serve in your life? and Brenda Shaughnessy’s Our Andromeda, while looking forward to Lindsay Hunter’s Don’t Kiss Me and Helen Humphreys’ Nocturne.

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of Perfecting, The Nettle Spinner, and Way Up: I just read The Changeling by Joy Williams. It was originally published in 1978 and is said to have died a sad death after an excoriating New York Times review. It was given a rebirth by The Fairy Tale Review Press a couple of years ago, an apt house for it, since it plays extensively with fairy tale tropes and supernatural questions. I found its narrative pulse quite particular. It merged with the dreamy spaces of my summer thoughts. It’s about a beautiful drunk mother, who lives on an island of foundling children. It is strange—baroque, mystical, and fiercely itself. It reminded me of other books l have loved: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie and A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. Joy Williams writes some of the most arresting sentences you will ever read. It’s a stunning book.

Keep watching this post, and share your reading choices with us either in the comments below or on Twitter, using the hashtag #WalrusSummerReading. Survey results will be continued. And if you missed the link at the top, make sure to visit our complete archive of summer reading from The Walrus magazine.


  • Marcella Corroeli Jager

    Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game – marvellous book, it’s been two days since I’ve finished and I still can’t let go

  • http://www.bestfivereviewed.com/ BestFiveReviewed.com

    I’m currently reading 35 Oriental Philosophers and Jay Abraham’s Getting Evrything You can out of all you’ve got.

  • Miss P.

    Just finished Susannah Moodie’s Roughing It in the Bush and Life in the Clearings versus the Bush, followed by Sisters in the Wilderness, Charlotte Gray’s masterful biography of Moodie and her sister Catharine Parr Trail (The Backwoods of Canada). I so enjoy the writers’ insights into growing communities, hard-won progress, local politics, the grand natural landscape, Canadian literature and periodicals, and the myriad domestic details. Now immersed in Annie Dillard’s The Living, another saga of pioneer aspiration and hardship in the early to mid–nineteenth century. All of these add layers to life at our family’s log cabin on Snake Island, Lake Simcoe—especially the reflections on Native life and the immigrants’ interactions with local First Nations, as we lease the land from the Chippewas of Georgina island.

  • [email protected]

    George Bowering – Shoot (under rated)

    Alice Munro – Runaway (justly rated)

    Russell Smith – How Insensitive (rate Muriella Pent instead)
    Mavis Gallant – From the Fifthteenth Arrondisement (Munro’s equal, but so different)