Summer ReadingWondering which books to take to the beach or on your summer vacation? Look no further. LitFest, Canada’s only nonfiction literary festival, is featuring six books for your summer reading list.  They are inviting reviews — coolly professional, intensely personal, or in a style of your choosing — by September 1, 2013 and offering prizes. They’ll post the reviews online (perhaps with a bit of editing). Their favourite reviewer of each book will win a signed copy of the book, and a pair of tickets to an event featuring the author at LitFest 2013 which runs from October 16 – 27, 2013. Submissions can be emailed to litfest2@uniserve.com. Reviews must include your name and email address, and the title of the book that you’re reviewing. Reviews must be 250 words or less and can be submitted in the body of the email, as a PDF, or as a Word document. Check out the six books LitFest recommend for this year’s summer reading list.

Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World by Kate Braid

JourneywomanSince women started working in the trades in the 1970s, very little has been published about their experiences. In this provocative and important book, Kate Braid tells the story of how she learned the carpentry trade in the face of skepticism and discouragement.

Kate was one of the first qualified women carpenters in British Columbia, the first woman to join the Vancouver local of the Carpenters’ Union, the first to teach construction full-time at the BC Institute of Technology and one of the first women to run her own construction company. Though she loved the work, it was not an easy career choice but slowly she carved a role for herself, asking first herself, then those who would challenge her, why shouldn’t a woman be a carpenter?

Told with humour, compassion and courage, Journeywoman is the true story of a groundbreaking woman finding success in a male-dominated field.”

About Kate Braid
Kate BraidSince publishing In addition to teaching creative writing at various universities including Simon Fraser and the University of British Columbia, Kate has taught poetry and non-fiction writing for ten years at Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University) and many non-credit writing courses in writing workshops across Canada. In 2012, Kate was writer-in-residence at Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. Also in 2012, she was selected by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation for their Remarkable Women: Honouring Women From Our Vancouver Communities poster series for 2012.

Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book: An Anatomy of a Book Burning by Lawrence Hill

Book BurningCensorship and book burning are still present in our lives. Lawrence Hill shares his experiences of how ignorance and the fear of ideas led a group in the Netherlands to burn the cover of his widely successful novel, The Book of Negroes, in 2011. Why do books continue to ignite such strong reactions in people in the age of the Internet? Is banning, censoring, or controlling book distribution ever justified?

Hill illustrates his ideas with anecdotes and lists names of Canadian writers who faced censorship challenges in the twenty-first century, inviting conversation between those on opposite sides of these contentious issues. All who are interested in literature, freedom of expression, and human rights will enjoy reading Hill’s provocative essay. Co-published with Canadian Literature Centre.

About Lawrence Hill

Lawrence HillFormerly a reporter with The Globe and Mail and parliamentary correspondent for The Winnipeg Free Press, Lawrence Hill also speaks French and Spanish. He has lived and worked across Canada, in Baltimore, and in Spain and France. He is an honorary patron of Canadian Crossroads International, for which he travelled as a volunteer to the West African countries Niger, Cameroon and Mali. Hill is also a member of the Council of Patrons of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, and of the Advisory Council of Book Clubs for Inmates. He has a B.A. in economics from Laval University in Quebec City and an M.A. in writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Hill lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

Leonardo and the Last Supper by Ross King

Leonardo's Last SupperEarly in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history’s most influential and beloved works of art-The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at forty-three, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His latest failure was a giant bronze horse to honor Sforza’s father: His 75 tons of bronze had been expropriated to be turned into cannons to help repel a French invasion of Italy.

The commission to paint The Last Supper in the refectory of a Dominican convent was a small compensation, and his odds of completing it were not promising: Not only had he never worked on a painting of such a large size-15′ high x 30′ wide-but he had no experience in the extremely difficult medium of fresco.

In his compelling new book, Ross King explores how-amid war and the political and religious turmoil around him, and beset by his own insecurities and frustrations-Leonardo created the masterpiece that would forever define him. King unveils dozens of stories that are embedded in the painting. Examining who served as the models for the Apostles, he makes a unique claim: that Leonardo modeled two of them on himself.

Reviewing Leonardo’s religious beliefs, King paints a much more complex picture than the received wisdom that he was a heretic. The food that Leonardo, a vegetarian, placed on the table reveals as much as do the numerous hand gestures of those at Christ’s banquet. As King explains, many of the myths that have grown up around The Last Supper are wrong, but its true story is ever more interesting. Bringing to life a fascinating period in European history, Ross King presents an original portrait of one of the world’s greatest geniuses through the lens of his most famous work.

Winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction and nominated as a Best 100 Books of 2012 by Amazon.ca.

About Ross King

Ross-KingRoss King was born in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada and was raised in the nearby village of North Portal. He received his undergraduate university education at the University of Regina, where in 1984 he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in English Literature. Continuing his studies at the University of Regina, he received a Master of Arts degree in 1986 upon completing a thesis on the poet T.S. Eliot. Later he achieved a Ph.D. from York University in Toronto (1992), where he specialized eighteenth-century English literature. Ross King is the author of The Judgment of Paris, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, and the novels Ex-Libris and Domino. Born and raised in Canada, he now lives near Oxford, England.

Rosina, the Midwife by Jessica Kluthe

MidwifeBetween 1870 and 1970, 26 million Italians left their homeland and travelled to places like Canada, Australia and the United States, in search of work. Many of them never returned to Italy. Against this historic backdrop comes the story of Rosina, a Calabrian matriarch, who worked as a midwife in an area where only one doctor served three villages. She was also the only member of the Russo family to remain in Italy after the mass migration of the 1950s. Written by Rosina’s great-great- granddaughter, Rosina, the Midwife is a charming memoir that is at once a Canadian story and an Italian one.

Through Kluthe’s meticulous research and great insight, we see her great-grandfather Generoso labouring through the harsh Edmonton winter in order to buy passage to Canada for his wife and children; we glimpse her grandmother Rose huddled in a third-class cabin, sick from the motion of the boat; and we watch, teary-eyed, as her great-great-grandmother Rosina is forced to say goodbye, one by one, to the people she loves.

About Jessica Kluthe

Jessica KlutheSome of Jessica Kluthe’s shorter work has appeared in Canadian literary journals and online publications (most recently in the fabulous Little Fiction). She is a writing instructor and a teaching assistant at the University of Victoria. She has taught for the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension, and is currently teaching Advanced Business Writing for MacEwan University. She holds B. A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Alberta (2009), and an MFA in Writing from the University of Victoria (2011).

Working the Dead Beat: 50 Lives that Changed Canada by Sandra Martin

Working the Dead BeatGlobe and Mail columnist Sandra Martin honours the lives of Canada’s famous, infamous, and unsung heroes in this unique collection of obituaries of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Here are Canadian icons such as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, social activist June Callwood, and urban theorist Jane Jacobs. Here are builders such as feminist and editor Doris Anderson, and businessman and famed art collector Ken Thomson. Here are our rogues, rascals, and romantics; our service men and women; and here are those private citizens whose lives have had an undeniable public impact. Finally, Martin interweaves these elegant and eloquent biographies with the autobiography of the obit writer, offering an exclusive and intimate view of life on the dead beat.

Beautifully written, compelling, and vivid, Working the Dead Beat is a tribute to those individuals who, each on their own and as a collective, tell the story of our country, and to the life of the obit writer who chronicles their extraordinary lives.

About Sandra Martin

Sandra MartinThere is no such thing as an uninteresting life, is Sandra Martin’s motto.  As a feature writer, she has recently written profiles of politicians, Bob Rae, Deb Matthews and Alison Redford, as well as the obituaries of  hundreds of significant Canadians – Pierre Berton, Jackie Burroughs, Ed Mirvish, June Callwood, Arthur Erickson, and Ken Thomson to name only a handful. Her book, Working the Dead Beat: 50 Lives that Changed Canada, was published  to glowing reviews in October, 2012.  Before taking on the dead beat in 2004, she was an arts and culture writer, specializing in books for The Globe. The co-author of three books including Rupert Brooke in Canada and Card Tricks: Bankers, Boomers and the Explosion of Plastic Credit, she edited The First Man in My Life: Daughters Write about their Fathers in 2007. Sandra Martin is the obituary columnist at the Globe and Mail. She has won the Atkinson and Canadian Journalism Fellowships and multiple National Magazine Awards. She lives in Toronto.

LitFest encourages readers to sample and savour the books over the summer, then return for a buffet of great ideas and great conversations in the fall. Each author will be featured in multiple panels and readings in October. A detailed schedule will be available in August.

To help us promote the list, readers are encouraged to tweet their capsule reviews, impressions or simply their participation using the hashtag #litfest13. We will be drawing from related tweets to give away pairs of tickets to the authors’ readings.

See more about LitFest at www.litfestalberta.org. Tickets go on sale on August 31, 2013.