Day 6·Should I Read It?

Four fresh reads to add to your summer books list

If you're in need of a new book for your staycation or trip to the beach, Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne is back with her latest summer reads.

Day 6 books columnist offers up recommendations for your next trip to the beach

Day 6 books columnist offers up four books to add to your summer reading list. (granata68/Shutterstock)

If you're in need of a new book for your staycation or trip to the beach, Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne is back with her latest summer reads.

With fiction and non-fiction titles, Toyne's list offers literary escapes to 1960s Greece, a dystopian future and the back seat of a taxi cab.

Here are four of the titles she recommends.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun is the latest novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. (Penguin Random House)

Set in a dystopian future, Toyne describes Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun as a novel about "what it means to be human and what it means to have human emotions."

Klara is an artificial friend — robots designed to befriend children — to Josie, a 13-year-old girl who is sick. 

"Her job is to take care of Josie, and all she wants to do is to sort of understand what's going on around her and the emotions and what's wrong with Josie," said Toyne.

Though readers are never told explicitly what's wrong with Josie, reader do learn that she is "lifted" — a genetic modification to provide superior intelligence.

"The whole story is about these really deep questions about class systems and wealth and poverty and artificial intelligence and the decisions that parents make to do what they think is the right thing and the best thing for their children," said Toyne.

"It's a brilliant, very chilling book," she added. "I had to go sit down for a bit when I finished it, but [it is] highly, highly recommended."

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson

A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson takes readers back to the 1960s, says Becky Toyne. (Harper Collins)

Set on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, the fictional novel A Theatre for Dreams by Polly Samson follows a group of expat artists, including a Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.

Toyne describes it as a "soap opera on a beach."

"There is this huge cast of characters and they're all so passionate — they're so passionate about their art and so passionate about each other and about their loves and their lust and their fighting and their writing or not writing. And it's just great in that sense," she said.

"The island itself is one of the things that makes this such a fantastic summer read. It emerges is such a strong character…. It just felt that I could close my eyes and bask in it and be there."

She recommends it for fans of Paula McLain's The Paris Wife, a novel set in the 1920s and featuring characters like Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. (The Overlook Press)

Avni Doshi's Burnt Sugar, which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, is a story about care and mother-daughter relationships.

"The first sentence in the novel is: 'I would be lying if I said my mother's misery has never given me pleasure,' and that kind of just fully sets up what's going to happen in the story for you," Toyne said.

Antara is an only child to her mother, Tara, who shows signs of early-onset dementia. 

It becomes clear that Tara can no longer live alone, and Antara takes on the responsibility of her care — a complicated matter for her given that her mother never cared for her.

"It's this very heartbreaking, complicated story about the relationships we have with the people who have responsibility for us and the responsibilities we feel for the people that we are connected to," said Toyne.

Driven: The Secret Lives of Taxi Drivers by Marcello Di Cintio

Toyne's non-fiction pick, Driven: The Secret Lives of Taxi Drivers, takes readers into the back seat of Canada's taxis. (Biblioasis)

Driven: The Secret Lives of Taxi Drivers by Marcello Di Cintio is a non-fiction book that does "exactly what it says on the label," says Toyne.

"[Di Cintio is] not really interested, which surprises some of them, in hearing titillating stories about the crazy things they've witnessed driving a cab," Toyne explained.

"That's not what he wants to know. He wants to know about them. He wants to know, 'how did you get here? Where did you come from? Who are your family? Why are you driving a cab?'"

Driven digs into the lives of taxi drivers across Canada. It features stories of people from foreign countries, who came here alone or with big families, and who have struggled or found great success.

Di Cintio, a travel writer, is also the author of Walls: Travels Along the Barricades, which won the 2013 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Laurie Allan. 

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