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Summer Reads to Add to Your Backpack From the Whyte Museum Book Shop

Updated: Aug 1

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From backcountry hammocks to riverside park benches, Banff National Park abounds with beautiful spots to relax with your next summer book. And while summer in Banff can be chockfull of bucket list hikes and weekend adventures, it's essential to carve out time to rest and reflect with a good read.

The Whyte Museum Book Shop has stocked the shelves with books perfect for your summer reading list. With a variety of genres available, there's something to pique everyone's interest! From ecology to historical fiction to Indigenous literature - we've hand hand-picked a few of our top favourites. Look no further than this local Banff book shop for the latest summer reading!

1. What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

Birders will love the research brought to life in Ackerman's recent publication on this complex species. For millennia, owls have captivated and intrigued us. Though our fascination goes back centuries, scientists have only recently begun to understand in deep detail the complex nature of these extraordinary birds. Jennifer Ackerman illuminates the rich biology and natural history of these birds and reveals remarkable new scientific discoveries about their brains and behaviour, illustrated with her own personal field observations.

Be sure to check out our summer exhibition For the Birds when you stop by!

2. Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel

In this haunting and groundbreaking historical novel, Danielle Daniel imagines the lives of women in the Algonquin territories of the 1600s, a story inspired by her family’s ancestral link to a young girl who was murdered by French settlers. The Whyte Museums' project archivist Nicole Ensign reviewed this novel - read her account of this historical fiction inspired by the lives of the writer's French and Indigenous ancestors.

3. Outsider: An Old Man, A Mountain and the Search for a Hidden Past by Brett Popplewell

This read is sure to inspire anyone drawn to the outdoors - from dirtbag trail runners to off-the-grid daydreamers. Journalist Brett Popplewell tells the story of Dag Aabye, an aging former stuntman and super-athlete who lived alone inside a school bus on a mountain, running day and night through blizzards and heat waves. What Popplewell witnessed on a secluded mountain perch led him on a six-year odyssey to uncover the true story of the 81-year-old man. Outsider takes readers on a remarkable journey from Nazi-occupied Norway to Argentina and British Columbia. From a child born during World War II to the big screen in Hollywood and eventually into the depths of the wilderness.

4. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born in the mountains of southern Appalachia to a teenage single mother in a single-wide trailer. Told from his personal perspective, Demon braves the modern perils of foster care, child labour, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Originally written from Charles Dickens' personal experience with institutional poverty and its damage to children in his society, Kingsolver evokes Dickens’ anger, compassion, and faith in the transformative powers of a good story in this Pulitzer Prize winner.

5. Oldman's River - New and Collected Poems by Sid Marty

Well-known for his writing on environmental advocacy, local natural history, and Western Canadian culture, Sid Marty's most recent publication, a book of poems entitled Oldman's River, marks the 50th anniversary of his first collection of poems, Headwaters.

Beloved for his intimate, lyrical poetry, Marty's depiction of selfhood, connection to place and to landscape have proven him a unique and dissenting voice in Canadian literature as well as a consistent presence in the Canadian environmental movement. These are poems, often strongly resonant of western speech, that celebrate all the vicissitudes of rural life, the loves and losses, the valleys and peaks of life on the prairies, foothills and in the mountains of Alberta and British Columbia.

6. Trust by Hernan Diaz

In this early 1900s New York story of class and capitalism, Benjamin and Helen Rask are at the peak of wealth before the boom of the 20s comes to an end. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Diaz puts these competing narratives into conversation with one another, into a novel that spans over a century and becomes more exhilarating with each new revelation.

7. Women Talking by Miriam Toews

The sun rises on a quiet June morning in 2009. August Epp sits alone in the hayloft of a barn, anxiously bent over his notebook. He writes quickly, aware that his solitude will soon be broken. Eight women—ordinary grandmothers, mothers and teenagers; yet to August, each one extraordinary—will climb the ladder into the loft, and the day's true task will begin. August, like the women, is a traditional Mennonite, and he has been asked to record a secret conversation. Gradually, as we hear the women's vivid voices console, tease, admonish, regale and debate each other, we piece together the reason for the gathering: they have forty-eight hours to make a life-altering choice on behalf of all the women and children in the colony. Acerbic, funny, tender, sorrowful and wise, Women Talking is composed of equal parts humane love and deep anger.

8. Fire Weather by John Vaillant

Fire has been a partner in our evolution for hundreds of millennia, shaping culture, civilization, and, very likely, our brains. Fire has enabled us to cook our food, defend and heat our homes, and power the machines that drive our titanic economy. Yet this volatile energy source has always threatened to elude our control, and in our new age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in previously unimaginable ways. In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada's oil industry and America's biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster melted vehicles, turned entire neighbourhoods into firebombs, and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Vaillant warns that this was not a unique event, but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.


The Whyte Museum Book Shop is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - and we offer more than just books! Stock up on art supplies, stationery, journals, and artisan gifts to make the perfect Banff souvenir or gift.

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