Chilliwack readers share their favourite summer titles

Reading choices include fantasy novels, locally-written tomes, political autobiographies and more

A couple enjoys a relaxing reading session in the sun at Cultus Lake on a hot summer day.

A couple enjoys a relaxing reading session in the sun at Cultus Lake on a hot summer day.

If you’ve planned your summer right, there will be moment spent curled up with a good book.

It could be a few stolen mornings on the back porch, or an afternoon propped up in the shade at Cultus Lake, or flying to a summer getaway.

When that time comes, it’s best to be armed with a few options. The Progress checked in with some local avid readers, to see what they’re throwing in their beach bags this summer.

The Politicians

“I’m looking at three books right here on my desk,” Mayor Sharon Gaetz said.

The first she wants to dive into is The Summer of My Amazing Luck, by one of her favourite Canadian authors, Miriam Toews.

“I love books, and I love the library,” she says. And she has a travel tip for other loyal library goers — getting the OneCard decal on your library card means you can check out libraries all over the province. Whistler’s library is one of Gaetz’ favourites, and where she picked up the Toews novel.

“I’ll always pay a visit to their library,” she says. “It’s a nice area to kick back and if it’s raining you can sit with a coffee and read.”

When she’s done with that novel, she’ll drop it at the Sardis branch. It’s a handy option for people on the go this summer, she notes. Summer also provides a nice break from the complex three- and four-hundred-page agendas Gaetz is regularly required to read for council and the FVRD board.

“All year I read mostly about sewer, water and roads,” she laughs. “While it’s important work, it’s not as riveting as a good book.”

Still, she won’t be straying too far from politics when she makes her way to another summer read she’s chosen — The Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton.

“It’s her biography and all the things she wants to tell the world,” she says. “I’m really interested in biographies.”

With the U.S. election looming this November, she wants to see “what’s behind the woman” who could make a return to The White House, not as First Lady but as President.

“There’s not as much written about Donald Trump,” she says. “But if I can get my hands on a book that is good, I would like to read that.”

Finally, she’s happily devouring The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver.

“It’s an excellent book,” she says. “It’s the story of a very traditional conservative guy going on his mission to Africa with all his white ideas, and not understanding the culture.”

She points out you don’t need too much downtime to ‘read.’

“If you walk a lot, and you’re not playing Pokemon, you can get the digital books (from the library) and just put a battery in, hook it up to your phone, and walk. But I like reading from a traditional book, one that you can take in the bathtub, or to the park. I have a Kindle and Zinio, but I prefer the old fashioned way where you can hold the book while you’re cooking spaghetti.”

So does Heather Maahs, a school board trustee who is familiar with reading endless documents all year long.

She’s just finished her first summer book while on a plane home from Manitoulin Island, Imagine Heaven by John Burke.

“It’s a compilation of people’s documented near-death experiences, also looking at all the commonalities. It was an excellent read!” she enthuses.

While she does prefer “lovely, hold in your hand, actual books with pages,” she sometimes reads on an iPad for convenience’s sake. She loves scouring airport book stores for the next book, and will be curling up this summer with Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, and The Taliban Don’t Wave, by former Canadian Infantry Officer, Robert Semrau.

“And sometimes, I like to read a favourite book that I’ve read before,” she says. “It’s kind of like revisiting an old friend.”

Media and Arts

Anne Russell, media and communications manager for the University of Fraser Valley, is another reader with a voracious appetite for the written word.

“I know I won’t get to all of them but a theme is emerging,” she says, of Fraser Valley authors and/or authors connected to UFV, most of whom she’s had the pleasure of meeting.

They include Wild Sex by Dr. Carin Bondar of Chilliwack (in which the esteemed biologist and science communicator explores the sex life of the animal kingdom); Stories Your Mother Never Told You by local fiction writer and UFV employee and alumna Michelle Vandepol; and I Bificus by punk rocker, activist, and UFV honorary degree recipient Bif Naked.

She’s also set her eye on The Miracle Mile: Stories of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, by UFV alumnus and curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame Jason Beck, who grew up in Chilliwack. She’s also considering Openings, a Meditation on History, Method, and Sumas Lake, by Dr. Laura Cameron, who is a a 1984 Chilliwack secondary grad who now holds a Canada Research Chair in Geography at Queen’s University in Kingston.

She rounds out her diverse list with The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, who visited and read at UFV in 2009, and Shelter by Jen Sookfong Lee, who was UFV’s 2016 writer-in-residence.

UFV professor Darren Blakebourough spends his work days teaching media and communications, and his personal reading reflects his chosen work.

“To be honest, I don’t get nearly enough time for ‘pleasure’ reading as most of my book time is monopolized by textbooks and theory but I do manage to steal moments here and there to read,” he says.  “When it comes to fiction, I tend to read horror/thriller novels. I remember an old roommate had the book Swan Song by Robert McCammon laying around and I picked it up and started reading. As I am wont to do, I finished this rather large tome inside of 24 hours…For non fiction, I read wrestling biographies and music based books.”

“On my read list this summer is a re-read of the fantastic Pain & Passion by Heath McCoy which looks at the history of Calgary’s Stampede wrestling. Definitely in the top three wrestling books I’ve read. I just finished White Line Fever, which is about Lemmy from Motorhead and hope to finally get to Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman. That is a book I’ve wanted to read for years but never find the time to start. This is the summer!”

“While I do read some stuff on my iPad it seems to be primarily when travelling, like finally reading A Tale of Fire and Ice last summer on the way to Ireland, I will always prefer the printed book,” he continues. “There is something so beautifully tactile about the ritual of preparing a beverage, grabbing the book, getting comfortable on the couch, and opening it. The smell and feel of the paper just adds to the beauty. I am a home based reader as I find it a very personal and individual experience, at least with a physical book. If I’m reading an ebook then it doesn’t matter as much.”

Writers’ choices

The Progress tapped the artful mind of singer/songwriter Lori Paul for some great summer reads, and her list does not disappoint.

“Right now I’m reading Neil Gaimon’s The View From the Cheap Seats, assorted non-fiction, and I just finished and loved Barkskins by Annie Proulx.

Paul is a fan of literary works for younger readers, and recommends Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie.

“I recently thoroughly enjoyed Stephen King’s End Of Watch, so you can tell I enjoy reading a wide variety of books,” she muses.

While she enjoys reading on her own private deck in the summer, and curling up under the covers anytime of year, she is often down at the Chilliwack Library enjoying all they have to offer.

“If there’s one book I would recommend to everyone it’s Hyperbole and A Half- Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Bosch, an animator whose delightful autobiographical drawings and musings on loving dogs, surviving childhood and dealing with depression are both hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure. It’s one of my very favourite reads, so I had to buy a copy, but it’s available at the library, of course!”

Local student and author Mary Johnson is also diving into a Neil Gaiman title, Neverwhere, along with A Tale of Two Cities and Last Year When We Were Young by Andrew McKeirnan.

“I don’t really find myself sticking to one particular genre, especially in the summer when I have more time to invest in reading. During school months it can be tricky to find the time to finish books, so I love being able to properly get into all sorts of different reads.”

And for Johnson, there’s no book like a real book.

“Until e-readers find a way to mimic the smell of traditional books and make that snapping noise when you close them, I will be a supporter of hard copies,” she says.

The Booksellers

Monique Neufeld from The Bookman has been into fantasy lately, a genre that’s perfect for the summer. Her choices are The Night Circus, the Beautiful Creatures series and The Witch’s Daughter.

” I typically like easy reads in the summer, and sometimes I’ll indulge in some ‘Chick Lit’. When I lived in Chilliwack I loved reading by the river! Find a big rock and listen to the water, feel the breeze, watch the fishermen for a while,” she says. “Nothing will ever replace a physical book in my life. I love the feel of a book and the smell of the paper and print. It relaxes me.”

Amber Price, The Bookman’s owner, says she’s currently reading Getting Things Done:  The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

“That being said, I lean towards edgy contemporary fiction in the summertime. I love reading up at Cultus Lake or by the Vedder River.  I am a big fan of print books – e-readers feel too impersonal for me, and I love the tactile sensation of reading a book. “


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