It’s summertime and who says summer, also says vacation, afternoons spent at the house of our only friend who still owns a pool and, MOST OF ALL, endless reading sessions completed with an iced coffee or an aperol spritz depending on time of day.
Full disclosure: I’m not the biggest book reader out there. I read a lot of magazines and online articles, but up until recently, spending a whole afternoon getting lost in a novel didn’t feel like an instinctive thing to do.
Netflix’s vicious black hole might be the culprit. As much as many movies and series have the power to enrich and inspire, they still give every piece of the story to the viewer, from images to music. Reading solicit imagination in a more proactive way — as a reader, you have to make up many blanks on your own.
So whether you’re always carrying a book around or your reading habits include a Queer Eye episode between each chapter, it’s always cool to have some literary recommandations to make sure you’re diving into something worthwhile. That’s why I asked seven women who works in the “paper world” to share their favourite summer reads that are worthy of your precious me-time.
DANS LES EAUX PROFONDES: LE BAIN JAPONAIS
Recommended by: Patricia Lanoie and Jeanne Joly, Founders of Bien à vous Studio
Author: Akira Mizubayashi
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): In Japan, the bathroom space is (or should I say “was”) a special place where family and friendship intimacy manifests itself more viscerally than elsewhere. The Japanese bath is a cultural symbol, as much as are the tea ceremony or ikebana. Over there, a bath evokes a refined and romantic savoir-vivre, which allows two people to meet in a humble and caring environment.
Akira Mizubayashi expresses his critical awareness about a country in crisis by using water metaphors and juxtaposing the bath concept to our modern world’s dysfunctional democracy.
Why did you love it so much? The impressionist, almost poetic, representation of the Japanese bath tradition through the philosophical/sociological essay format reminded me of L’empire des signes by Roland Barthes, a book that really stuck with me. As someone who lived in Japan during my late teenage years in a deeply traditional family setting, I’ve since been fascinated with this culture frozen in time and so intricately chiseled.
It’s the perfect summer read, because… The discourse remains light and romantic despite its format. And also because of that drifting state of mind and profound reflections that linger on after finishing the book.
(Again) recommended by: Patricia and Jeanne
Author: Anne Wiazemsky
Genre: Semi autobiographical summer chronicles
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): Roséliane, a 12-year old girl, spends her summer vacation, surrounded by seven boys, discovering the essence of her femininity. Through kids games to which adults never participate, a curious atmosphere sets in. The air is filled with solemnity, like if those evanescent childhood years were the setting stone for the life to come. In fact, when and why does childhood have to end? That’s the question Anne Wiazemsky asks. Despite her lighthearted writing style, sparked by the sea, ripe fruits and South-of-France sun-kissed skin, she answers with a particularly dramatic outlook.
Why did you love it so much? I’ve read Anne Wiazemsky’s entire work and she also passed away earlier this year. I recently revisited her books — I was traveling to the Mediterranean coast and I often think of themes related to childhood’s griefs.
It’s the perfect summer read, because… She’s extremely sensorial and describes precisely those memories collected from unforgettable vacation and the nostalgic intensity found in prepubescent dramas.
WHEN I WAS A WORK OF ART
Recommended by: Sarah White, Photographer and Founder of Flanelle Magazine
Author: Éric Emmanuel-Schmitt
Genre: Philosophical drama
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): Tazio is the oldest brother of the Firelli twins, both models famous for their breathtaking beauty. At the age of 20 years old, Tazio thinks his so ugly and unspecial that he decides to take his own life. However, his suicide is interrupted by an artist, Zeus-Peter Lama, who transforms him into a living sculpture. Tazio lets him morph and dehumanize his body in order to become a piece of art, but his encounter with painter Carlos Hannibal and his daughter Fiona will change his vision on life and freedom.
Why did you love it so much? Today, the media push us to constantly compare ourselves while making us forget about the deeper values that make a human being so complex. The sculpture that Tazio becomes is also reminiscing of those who, in order to be at peace with their bodies, go under the knife.
The book also offers a critical point of view on art and how far artists are willing to go in order to have their work recognized.
It’s the perfect summer read, because… I remember devouring this book in one day at the beach a couple of years ago, sitting in the same exact position for hours. It’s not as colourful and joyful as one would normally expect from a summer read, but the story is full of meaning and will surely not disappoint.
Recommended by: Audrey Rivet, Content Creator and Graphic Designer
Author: Amélie Nothomb
Genre: Romantic Drama
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): An old man and a young girl named Hazel live on an isolated island off the coast of Cherbourg, France. Surrounded with maids, Hazel must not see her reflection; she was supposedly involved in an accident that left her disfigured. One day, a nurse, named Françoise, is hired to help out the young girl. She will learn about the mysterious events that brought together the elderly man and Hazel together.
Why did you love it so much? I have a profound love for all of Amélie Nothomb’s novels. I love her style and her ability to evoke a certain morbid romanticism. Mercure gives me mixed feelings: it’s simple yet complex. Every read (I’ve read it four times) leaves me perplexed, but I never get tired of it. She questions possessive love a lot, the one we isolate to keep solely to ourselves. Despite its dramatic nature, the story brings up an interesting lesson.
It’s the perfect summer read, because… It’s a pocketbook filled with plot twists, although it’s only 189-page-long, so you can literally bring it everywhere you go and read it at any moment! Once you dive in it, you can easily finish it in a day, like I did two years ago at the beach.
LES CHATS DU LOUVRE (VOL. 1 & 2)
Recommended by: Camille Doyle, Author and Multidisciplinary Artist
Author: Taiyo Matsumoto
Genre: Graphic novel
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): Cécile, a tour guide at the Louvre, catches sight of a white kitten during her work shift. After an encounter with the night keeper, she learns about the museum’s secret tenants: cats. The story that then unfolds is as magical and poetic as an ancient painting.
Why did you love it so much? The book shines with an incredible immersive power: when I finished it, its universe seemed even more tangible than the park where I read it.
It’s the perfect summer read, because… An affordable trip at the Louvre! With a little added value tourists don’t have: cats.
Recommended by: Vanessa Girard, Founder of Kayé and Marketing Coordinator at Odeyalo
Author: Sophie Bienvenu
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): The story is set in Montreal over many decades. We learn about Florence and her biological son’s life through people who knew them.
Why did you love it so much? It’s a choir novel, so its structure is super dynamic. It’s never boring; I was so sad to finish it! The twenty different points of view add a lot of richness to the story. It’s moving, intelligent and extremely well written. A literary love-at-first-sight.
It’s the perfect summer read, because… It’s not your typical light summer novel, but it’s so enjoyable to read. The words are perfectly picked, it flows effortlessly! It will make you want to read all of Sophie Bienvenu’s books.
ALICE MARCHE SUR FABRICE
Recommended by: Théo Dupuis-Carbonneau, Beauty Editor for Clin d’oeil Magazine
Author: Rosalie Roy-Boucher
What it’s about (but no spoiler!): After a five-year relationship, Alice’s boyfriend leaves her for one of her friends. Following their breakup, she decides to walk the Camino de Santiago, a project she’s had her eyes on for a long time. Walking to forget, walking to stop thinking, walking to escape reality for a brief moment. During her journey, from Puy-en-Velay to Santiago, we learn about her story while getting to know the other pilgrims — some enjoyable, some cumbersome — walking by her side.
Why did you love it so much? The author’s colourful and straight-to-the-point writing is highly entertaining and I laughed out loud many times when I read it. It’s full of imagery, it makes your mind travel and its tone is on the lighter side. It’s also easy to identify with Alice. Who has never wanted to get the heck away after a breakup?
It’s the perfect summer read, because… You can read it all at once, hence it’s perfect for a day off spent at the park. It also makes you want to escape, live fully and shake up your everyday routine!
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