It’s a tradition that has survived everything modern life and technology can throw at it: When summer rolls around, people reach for a book. Reading, it would seem, is the perfect activity for that very specific state in which heat-induced lassitude and mental engagement overlap. There’s even a small sub-genre of books about reading books in the summer.
Here, then, are some suggestions for filling the seasonal reading need. There’s no particular genre bias at play, the reasoning being that a good book is a good book no matter the weather. Included are a couple of titles already covered in this space but long enough ago that a friendly reminder won’t go amiss, as well as a couple still unread by this reviewer but worthy of a flyer based on reputation. Most are available electronically, but as always this reviewer recommends the format that you won’t mind seeing splashed with the occasional bit of water or lotion.
Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (Drawn & Quarterly, 180 pages, $24.95) charts one African-American woman’s youth and coming of age through a series of short stories and vignettes, all having something to do with hair. Graphic lit is a form ideally suited to the story Hot Comb tells: Flowers is able to pack her frames with the kind of detail that brings a narrative fully alive, while her deceptively naive drawing style belies the psychological depth of her character portraits, pulling you in by stages until you feel yourself a participant in these women’s travails.
Occupying a similar but different space in the comics Venn diagram is This Woman’s Work by Julie Delporte (Drawn & Quarterly, 256 pages, $29.95). Named for the Kate Bush song, this impressionistic work is essentially a meditation on how women who create are faced with the reality that they will still be expected to do everything traditionally demanded of women as well. Delporte’s chosen medium — her palette looks to this admittedly untrained eye to be drawn from a set of Laurentien coloured pencils — communicates both vulnerability and a guarded optimism, and her writing is razor-sharp.
Young readers, and all seekers of comic relief, should investigate Elise Gravel’s laugh-per-page The Worst Book Ever, a meta exercise in creating exactly what its title claims.