It's summer, and the beach awaits! But instead of flipping through something light and fluffy, consider the merits of a heavier read. It may weigh down your beach tote some, but it’s also sure to have you covered for several long, lazy days of reading. After all, it’s been a tough year, and you might not want to leave the beach once you get there.
For the grounded traveller:
After a year of honing our Zoom camera skills to angle unmade beds and our favourite pair of sweatpants out of frame, we can’t blame you for wanting to go somewhere—anywhere—away from home. So why not travel vicariously alongside Belén Fernández as she shares her reflections from fifteen years of living abroad on what it means to be an American in a largely American-made mess of a world. While the countries she describes in incisive and pithy prose may themselves be replete with beaches, her “high adrenaline, funny, but wise meditations on the desperate state of a floundering world”—as described by journalist Eric Walberg—are quick to destroy any illusions about pristine tropical oases abroad.
For the tech-savvy tanner:
If you’re a light packer or indecisive reader, you may very well find yourself stuffing a Kindle into your beach tote instead of a paperback. But have you ever considered how the luxury of a portable e-reader is in fact destroying the very environment you’re off to enjoy? Unearthing Justice is Canadian Mining 101, brimming with case studies, anecdotes, resources, and illustrations that expose the mining process and its externalized impacts on the environment, Indigenous Peoples, communities, workers, and governments. Most importantly, the book shows how people are fighting back.
For the reluctant beachgoer:
Cocktails turned gritty with sand, obnoxious music blasting from a nearby boombox, the glare of a relentless sun, water graced by strangers’ pee... If a day at the beach represents everything you hate most about the social construction of “summer vibes,” then Alexander Wilson’s The Culture of Nature may just be the read for you. Wilson writes, “When our physical surroundings are sold to us as ... ‘natural,’ we should pay close attention.” With examples ranging from Disney World, to national parks, to zoos, Wilson offers up this needed attention, presenting an ecocultural compendium that critiques the discourse and ideology of nature.
For your body positive buddy:
Sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you try, you can never fully prepare yourself for the onslaught of “beach body” rhetoric couched in thinly veiled racism, ableism, classism, ageism, and transphobia that arrives like clockwork each spring. This year, prepare yourself to face the patriarchy of the beach armed with All of Me: Stories of Love, Anger, and the Female Body, or what author Inga Muscio calls “an almost step-by-step manual of rage.” Brimming with intimate stories and interviews about what it means to live as a woman (cis + trans) today, All of Me offers perspectives and experiences that help women find common ground, unity, and allyship. There is space for everybody and every body on this beach.
For the true crime enthusiast:
Capitalism: A Crime Story
Everyone has their own favourite flavour of escapist reading. While some prefer a frothy rom-com to read to the soundtrack of gentle waves, others crave a page-turning crime thriller. Next time you prepare to hit the sand, why not consider the ultimate true crime story—corporate capitalism? In Capitalism: A Crime Story, Harry Glasbeek argues that if the rules and doctrines of liberal law were applied as they should be according to law’s own pronouncements and methodology, corporate capitalism would be indefensible. As summarized by professor Adrian A. Smith, “Glasbeek annihilates apologist narratives by refuting the notion that capitalist business behaviour is distinct from the notion of a crime.”
For the starry-eyed vacation planner:
Dreaming about the crystal-clear waters of Cuba, piña colada in hand? It’s easy to forget that for local residents, life does exist in Cuba beyond the Beach. Distract yourself from your sorry attempts to beat the heat by diving into the everyday lives of old Communist ladies, their sceptical offspring, musicians, underground vendors, entrepreneurial landlords, and poverty-stricken professors in the complicated and contradictory city of Havana. An added bonus? By purchasing what Harvard professor Rainer Schultz calls “a carefully composed mixture of travel book, city memoir, and stimulating reflections on a changing Cuba,” you’ll help provide a Canadian student with the chance to explore the real Cuba too. A portion of proceeds is donated to the Queen’s University Student Overseas Travel Fund.
For the thalassophile:
When it comes to the beach, there are as many different types of water people as there are sea creatures, from amateur seashell collectors to surfer dudes to enterprising mud bath beauticians. But what about those whose cultures and communities revolve around water? Are they to be found at the beach or on the frontlines, fighting to protect this life-sustaining resource? Maggie Black’s No-Nonsense Guide to Water explores the many roles that water plays in human life—in history, health, transport, recreation, rituals, economic systems, and politics in what author and activist Howard Zinn calls “a lucid, factual, reliable guide to some of the most important issues of our time.” Part of the No-Nonsense Guide series of small books with big ideas.
For the sand castle city planner:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars?
Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber, and Elon Musk
No elaborate sand castle city is complete without a humane, equitable, and accessible public transit system. So while you’re sculpting towers and drawbridges with your trusty sand bucket and trowel, don’t forget to throw in a subway route...or three. Based on interviews with more than forty experts, including community activists, academics, transit planners, authors, and journalists, Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? is “a must-read for anyone who cares about building a transport system that truly serves everyone,” according to writer and editor Paris Marx. James Wilt explores our ability to exert power over how cities are built and for whom, laying out a blueprint for finally breaking free of automobility in North America.