Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Recommending Books Based on Twitter Personalities: Twitcommendations, Round 2

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

If you missed the first round of Twitcommendations, you can read about the process here, but the general idea is that I recommend a book to you based on the persona you construct on Twitter. It’s (not) highly scientific and your satisfaction is (in no way) guaranteed.

Let’s just dive in, shall we?

Victim #1: Dread Pirate Khan

I have never recommended a book to a pirate, so I’m not going to pretend I’m not a little intimidated here. I am shivering in my timbers, Dread Pirate Khan! From your profile, I know you like kittens, and side with the Muppets over Chick-fil-A (side note: we don’t have this restaurant in Canada and I only recently found out it’s not pronounced chick-filla), and like When Harry Met Sally. I think we’d get along. I’m going to suggest that you read Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by ZsuZsi Gartner. This collection of short stories is truly marvellous — I’ve just finished it myself, and I think the humour will really click with you. Each story is quite evocative, painful in its humour, and just twisted enough to keep you guessing. If the mantel of Canadian short fiction writing is passing from Alice Munro, these are good hands for it to settle in.

Victim #2: Joshua Mostafa

Oh man, how do I recommend a book to a hipster?! He has a pipe in his profile picture! I’m going to have to find a book in a language that hasn’t been committed to written memory yet! Just teasing, Joshua — mostly. That’s an intimidating pipe/hat combo. I find you challenging, I have to say, but have decided to suggest Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan for your reading pleasure. The novel is a gorgeous meditation on the power and importance of art, set primarily in WWII Berlin and Paris.  Could the greatest jazz record in the world be worth more than a man’s life? I think you’ll find the story compelling and thought-provoking.

Victim #3: Deborah Smerek

Deborah, I am so delighted by the photo of Parliament in your avatar. So delighted. Bless her, when I stumbled upon Deborah’s profile today she was trying to explain the difference between liberalism and socialism to someone on the internet, so clearly she’s a fan of lost causes and self-inflicted migraines. She also loved Maeve Binchy, which means I need to give her a good female protagonist to curl up with, so I’m recommending Lisa Moore’s Alligator. Deborah, I think you’re going to dig Lisa Moore. Her style is minimalist and raw, and her women — Madeline, Isobel, and Colleen, in this novel — will make you ache at their choices sometimes. But I think you’ll find the narrative compelling and altogether charming.

Victim #4: Francesca

Francesca is a book editor and someone who works in publishing, and she seems to be on something of a Hemingway kick at the moment, so I want to suggest something to her with interesting characterization and minimalist language — I’m going with Richard Ford’s newest novel, Canada. In this novel, Ford tells the story of a man who is effectively exiled to Canada to protect him from the crimes of his parents. It’s really a novel about family and about how our individual choices impact our lives effectively forever. I think you’ll really dig it, Francesca.

Victim #5: Kristin Shafel

Kristin seems like a really rangy, interesting reader — from Tuck Everlasting to Into Thin Air in only a few short tweets! — and I have to admit that her broad interests that would make her a totally fun person to talk books with make her a little overwhelming to recommend a book to! I’m going to sort of take a shot in the dark with Kristin and recommend to her a personal favourite novel of mine: Unless by Carol Shields. It was the last novel Shields penned before her death, and tells the story of Reta, a woman coming to terms with the fact that her college-aged daughter, Norah, seems to have walked away from life. It’s a book about writing, a book about life, and a meditation on the very definition of “goodness.” Kristin, I think you’ll dig it.

And finally, my Rioter for the week is Rachel, who you can find on Twitter @homebtwnpages.  Rachel’s blog at was one that I read before we got to know each other as Rioters, but I’m still nervous about recommending to her because she is such smart, voracious reader. My suggestion for you, though, Rachel, is Marina Endicott’s latest Glass Boys. This is one of the most haunting novels I have read so far this year. It’s a Newfoundland gothic all about family, secrecy, and deceit — one of those novels that leaves you questioning your own perceptions of reality before it’s all over. I think you’ll love Endicott’ facility with description, especially.

There’s another round! Again, please let me know how I’ve done with your recommendation, and let me know if you’d like to be included in a future round (Twitter keeps eating my @replies at a certain point, so throw your hat in the ring via the comments).