Skip to main content

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

This summer's blockbusters aren't only in movie theatres. Book lovers are pumped about hot new releases like Go Set a Watchman (HarperCollins, 2015) – the recently discovered "prequel" to Harper Lee's legendary To Kill a Mockingbird (Lippincott, 1960). There's also In the Unlikely Event (Knopf Doubleday, 2015), the first novel for grownups by beloved young people's author Judy Blume, and the follow-up to E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey (Vintage, 2012). We know a few bookworms who will devour all three.

Summer reading is an epic escape you can take without leaving your couch. The books we savour most are those that transform our thinking by transporting us beyond news headlines and into someone else's world.

Craig's understanding of Canadians' relationship with aboriginal people was forever altered by Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). The history we thought we knew looks vastly different through the eyes of our country's original peoples. And King's humorous personal stories expose what it's like to grow up under the burden of stereotypes. It's a must-read for anyone who followed the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission report on residential schools.

That book prompted us to dive deeper into aboriginal perspectives. Our friend, aboriginal artist and activist, Wab Kinew, suggested Joseph Boyden's historical novel The Orenda (Hamish Hamilton, 2013) and Leanne Simpson's collection of short stories, Islands of Decolonial Love (Arbeiter Ring, 2013).

The greatest literature entertains while enlightening us about issues, and opens our minds to perspectives we might not otherwise see.

This week's question: What's your recommendation for a transformative summer read?

Kristina Parlee, collection development librarian, Halifax Public Libraries

"We Need New Names (Back Bay Books, 2014) by Zimbabwean author and Stanford University fellow, NoViolet Bulawayo. The book challenges our assumptions about life and wealth in Africa and America through 10 year old Darling, who leaves her impoverished life in Zimbabwe to join her aunt's family in America. Her new life is financially stronger but poorer in many other ways."

Ian Hudson, professor of economics, University of Manitoba

"Paolo Bacigalupi's Ship Breaker (Little Brown Books, 2010) is a fantastic adventure story that warns of a grim future of massive inequality resulting from unchecked climate change. And George Saunders's The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip (McSweeney's, 2006) is a delightful child's tale about the importance of community."

Shadia Drury, Canada research chair in social justice, University of Regina

"It would be an eye-opener to read Homer's Iliad, especially the Penguin Classic version (2003) translated by D.C.H. Rieu into flowing prose instead of verse. It's quite easy to read, and the earliest account of the confrontation between East and West. Homer does not demonize the Trojans and offers a neutral perspective."

Have your say in the comment section.