Our 2022 Summer Reading List
The Book Awards Committee’s top picks for the season
By Amanda Leslie and Maazah Ali
The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator
Written by Timothy C. Winegard (Penguin Random House Canada, 2020)
For Canadians, the arrival of summer is synonymous with barbeques, hiking, and beaches.
But warmer temperatures also bring an influx of mosquitos. Most people are familiar with these seasonal pests, which are capable of drinking three times their own body weight in blood. Scientists estimate that mosquito-borne viruses, such as malaria, yellow fever, and dengue, are responsible for more than one million deaths each year. This issue takes centre stage in Timothy C. Winegard’s wide-ranging exploration of the world’s deadliest predator. Stories about Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, and George Washington prove that mosquitos have left their mark on mankind. A fascinating book, The Mosquito made the list of finalists for the RBC Taylor Prize in 2020, but make sure that you have a can of bug spray on hand before reading.
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
Written by Ed Yong (HarperCollins, 2018)
Ed Yong has a favourite bacterium: wolbachia. It’s a parasitic microbe that can block the dengue virus from replicating in insects, effectively stopping the spread of disease before it can be passed onto humans. More fascinating examples of microscopic organisms can be found in Yong’s book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, which earned high praise in the New York Times Book Review. This intriguing journey into the microcosmic world starts with Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s discovery of the microscope in the 17th Century, before clearing up present-day misconceptions about the relationship between people and germs. Neither benign nor malevolent, microbes work in a perfectly tuned symphony that the author, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, brings to life through careful research and storytelling. This informative book will take readers into a whole new world of microscopic life.
Herding Hemingway’s Cats: Understanding How Our Genes Work
Written by Kat Arney (Bloomsbury USA, 2017)
The unusual title of Kat Arney’s book was inspired by the fact that many of Ernest Hemingway’s cats had an extra toe, but it’s her detailed account of the genetic mechanism behind this physical anomaly that launches the audience into an engaging exploration of how genes work. Drawing on interviews with leading experts, the author, who was shortlisted for a Medical Journalists’ Association (MJA) Award in 2016, dives into topics like RNAi and epigenetics using clear and easy-to-understand language, while weaving a narrative that will appeal to scientists and non-scientists alike. Herding Hemingway’s Cats is a skillfully crafted book that reveals the complex, messy, and fascinating story of the evolving field of genetics. There’s no doubt that it’ll leave readers with a greater appreciation for the role that genes play in our everyday lives.
Fighting for Space: Two pilots and Their Historic Battle for Female Spaceflight
By Amy Shira Teitel (Grand Central Publishing, 2021)
Recounting the lives of two trailblazing pilots, Jackie Cochran and Jerri Cobb, Amy Shira Teitel’s book sheds new light on women in the Space Race, giving voice to a perspective that has often been overlooked by science. Her extensive research and vivid scenes will take readers on a journey that is both heartbreaking and thrilling: from the cockpit of a Beech D17W to an Ecuadorian jail; a laboratory testing site in Albuquerque, New Mexico to a courtroom showdown in Washington, D.C. Notable figures like Amelia Earhart and Lydon B. Johnson make interesting appearances, but it’s Jackie and Jerri’s struggle to gain acceptance in a male-dominated field that drives the plot forward. Fighting for Space is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the historic contributions of women in STEM.