Celebrating British Columbia Books!

quadraIn honor of Monday’s upcoming BC day, we thought it was high time to highlight a few of our province’s literary treasures.  British Columbia is blessed to have a plethora of literary talent, many of whom root their stories in the places and regions they know best: the vast and varied British Columbia landscape. Below is a collection of both contemporary and classic BC-saturated books to keep you company while enjoying the beautiful long weekend ahead!

Happy reading!

New Arrivals

A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World by Susan Musgrave  tastehaida

This is a beaaaaautiful, hilarious, and fascinating collection of photographs, stories, and recipes that reflect BC’s wild West Coast. The first time I picked this book up at the library I knew that one round of check-outs was not going to be enough so I immediately purchased my own copy.

As proprietor of Copper Beech House, an infamous Haida Gwaii bed and breakfast,  writer and poet Susan Musgrave unveils her first cookbook which balances humour and wit to illuminate cooking and living on Haida Gwaii to life with stories gathered over decades.


The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz spawninggrounds

Best known for her gorgeous bestselling novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning and , A Recipe for Bees, Salmon Arm’s very own Gail Anderson-Dargatz has a new novel coming out this fall examines the cultural, and physical geography of the central B.C.’s Thompson-Shuswap region.



Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien 

As mentioned by Patricia in her last post, Vancouver born Madeline Thein’s newest book is already generating quite a bit of critical attention and was recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize Longlist is an international saga which stretches from 1940’s China to present-day Vancouver.


 Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland bitrot

From Coal Harbour’s “Digital Orca”, to City of Glassa literary and visual ode to our fair city, Douglas Coupland is an undeniable Vancouver icon. In his newest book, Bit Rot Coupland mixes short fiction  with essays to explore the ways humanity tries to make sense of our shifting consciousness.  (From the publisher)

Classic Reads

curveoftimeThe Curve of Time by Wylie Blanchet

Wylie Blanchet is a legend, and The Curve of Time is a testament to her bravery and independent spirit. Following the death of her husband, she explored BC’s often rugged a central coast alone with her five children summer after summer in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Her stories are incredible, albeit at times a little problematic when read from the perspective of a modern reader. That being said, if you haven’t already done so, I really can’t recommend this book enough. Did I mention that she literally died at her type writer? This woman, I tell ya.


Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson  monkeybeach

A true BC classic, since it’s orginal publication, Monkey Beach has become a fortified piece of the BC literary cannon. “Set in the Kitimaat area, Monkey Beach is a truly beautiful novel filled with details of Haisla culture and wildlife surrounding Kitimaat. It “combines both joy and tragedy in a harrowing yet restrained story of grief and survival, and of a family on the edge of heartbreak” (from the publisher).


goldenspruceThe Golden Spruce by John Valliant

What started as a feature article for The New Yorker soon evolved into this epic examination of the tragic loss of one of British Columbia’s most infamous natural wonders, the mysterious disappearance of the man who destroyed it, and a look into life on Haida Gwaii and the global forces which shape it. If you haven’t read this book, do it. Valliant is a master storyteller. He successfully lures readers in with compelling storytelling and pushes them to consider their own complicity in a modern world that often depends on the destruction of nature for survival.


Enjoy yourself out there this weekend!


Man Booker Prize Longlist 2016

As fun as it was to predict the longlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, I did an utterly terrible job of it.  Zero of my thirteen predictions made the actual longlist (which fills me with optimism that I’ll be able to do better next year).  Without further ado, here are the nominees:

From Canada

thienI couldn’t be more excited to see Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien on the longlist.  It’s an intergenerational saga that stretches from present day Vancouver back to 1940s China.  The Globe and Mail raves that this novel “will cement Madeleine Thien as one of Canada’s most talented novelists”, and I can’t wait to read it.

The other Canadian nominee we share with the UK.  David Szalay’s novel in stories All That Man Is gives us glimpses into the lives of nine males at various stages of their lives.

From the US

selloutThe US has a strong presence on the longlist with five nominees:  The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a laugh out loud satire of race in America; acclaimed short story writer David Means’ Hystopiaan alternate history novel-within-a-novel;  Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen, which the Guardian called “a courageous, masterful evocation of physical and psychological squalor”;  Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves, a debut novel set to be published in Canada in January 2017, and Elizabeth Strout’s acclaimed My Name Is Lucy Barton.

From the UK

northwaterThere are also five contenders from the UK:  A.L. Kennedy for Serious Sweet, a love story that will be published in Canada in October 2016; Deborah Levy for Hot Milk, the story of a mother and daughter who travel to Spain in search of a cure for the mother’s illness; Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, a historical courtroom drama set in Scotland that will be available in Canada in March 2017 (and looks amazing!); Ian McGuire’s The North Water, a tale about a 19th century Arctic whaling expedition; and The Many by Wyl Menmuir, a haunting novel about the effect a newcomer has on a small fishing village.

From South Africa/Australia

coetzeeThe Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

This sequel to The Childhood of Jesus will be published in Canada in October 2016.  If Coetzee wins the Booker this year, he’ll be the first person to ever win the award three times.  His previous wins are for The Life and Times of Michael K and Disgrace. 

Anyone want to predict the shortlist*?  Odds are your predictions will best mine.


*The shortlist will be announced on September 13, 2016. The winner will be announced on October 25, 2016. (Go, Madeleine Thien, go!)

Countdown to Rio 2016!

With less than two weeks to go until the start of the 2016 Summer Games, here are some titles to get you in the Olympic spirit!

chasingwaterChasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, by Ervin Anthony

Olympic swimmer Anthony Ervin rose quickly to the top of his game, winning gold and silver medals in the 2000 Sydney games at 19 years old, and world championships in his early 20’s.  After that, he disappeared from swimming for a decade, battling his own restlessness and personal demons, only to return in 2012 and qualify for the Olympics once again at 31 years old. This is an extremely candid biography of Ervin’s life, from his turbulent youth through to his current training for the Rio Games, told through a combination of traditional narrative, poetry, and illustration.

forthegloryFor the Glory, by Duncan Hamilton

A new biography of Scottish runner and Christian missionary, Eric Liddell, also featured in 1981’s Chariots of Fire. Born in China to Scottish missionaries, Liddell was a gifted sprinter and a devout man of faith, famously refusing to race in his favoured 100-meter race in the 1924 Paris Games because it fell on a Sunday (he won the 400-meter instead). Liddell’s is an incredible story of athleticism and heroism, following his journey from the Olympics, to his to missionary work in China, and through to the end of his life in a WWII internment camp, where he counselled and supported his fellow inmates even as his own health failed him.

olympicdreamAn Olympic Dream, by Reinhard Kleist

In the 2008 Beijing Games, sprinter Samia Yusuf Omar  captured the hearts of spectators for her determination and spirit, despite a last place finish in the 100-meter event. This new graphic novel tells her inspiring and heartbreaking story, leading up to her fateful attempt to cross over to Italy from Libya in search of a new coach to help her prepare for the 2012 Games.  Her story is all the more relevant today, with so many refugees like her continuing to face unimaginable hardship in their attempt to reach safety, making this timely release a must-read.

dancingwiththedevilDancing with the Devil in the City of God, by Juliana Barbassa

Juliana Barbassa, respected journalist and native Brazillian, presents a portrait of her Rio de Janeiro home as it stands in the midst of monumental change – attempting to address its long-standing issues of corruption, poverty, and inflation that have long plagued it – while the entire world watches. This title explores the history, politics, and people of Rio through research, personal accounts and interviews.

brazilsdanceBrazil’s Dance with the Devil, by Dave Zirin

On a similar theme (and title), this title was originally published in 2014, but now has an 2016 “Updated Olympics Edition”.  It’s equal parts history and current events, leading up to why the general public’s reaction to the announcement that Brazil would be hosting both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games turned so quickly from one of celebration into anger, resentment, and mass protest. Zirin has a very engaging style, making for a very engrossing read.


There’s no shortage of good Olympic Reads for kids either, so check some of these out for your younger sports enthusiasts!

championforhealthChampion for Health, by Richard Brignall

Clara Hughes is both a Summer and Winter Olympics medal winner, in cycling and speed skating, respectively. But she has had more than her share of struggles, battling alcohol and drug addiction in her teens, and depression even when she was at the top of her game. She now works tirelessly to raise awareness and remove the stigma of mental illness, as well as to bring sports access and resources to children in developing nations – her’s is a truly powerful and inspiring story!

swifterhigherSwifter, Higher, Stronger: A Photographic History of the Summer Olympics, by Sue Macy

This book gives a great introduction to the Olympic Games – from their origin in ancient Greece, their revival in the late 1880’s, up to their present form – as well as an introduction to some of the most interesting characters that have participated over the years. This title provides an excellent balance between photographs, pictures, trivia, and text, making for a highly engaging read for all ages.

greekathleteYou Wouldn’t Want to be a Greek Athlete, by Michael Ford

From one of my favourite non-fiction series for kids, this title introduces kids to all the interesting facts of the Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, and what the life of an athlete would have been like. The illustrations are particularly convincing that you wouldn’t wanted to have been one…

And finally…

lpbraziltop10riorioHave the Games got you inspired to visit this year’s host country?  The 2016 travel guides are out, and we’ve got a  great selection, including Lonely Planet’s BrazilEyewitness Guides’s Top 10: Rio de Janeiro, and Fodor’s Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo



Booker Prize Longlist Predictions 2016

The Booker Prize Longlist (aka The Booker’s Dozen) is out tomorrow.  It’s one of the literary highlights of the year.  To be nominated a book must be published in the UK between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016, and have been originally published in English.  That’s a pretty wide open field (as you can see from this Goodreads list of eligible nominees). So who will make the cut?  Here are my predictions:

Which books would make your dream longlist?  Tune in tomorrow to find details of the actual longlist.



Apps for Booklovers

It’s no great secret that I love books and all things bookish.  That love certainly extends to apps.  Apps make me a more prolific and enthusiastic reader, and I’m excited to share some of my favourite apps for booklovers with you.

find-materials-downloadbles-ebooks-3m-app3M Cloud Library

What is it?  An e-book lending app.  Basically it allows you to borrow e-books from your local library.

Available for:  Desktop devices, Android devices, Apple devices

Note:  Due to licensing restrictions, the 3M Cloud Library is only available to North Vancouver City Library card holders.

My favourite thing about it:  The selection is really good — especially for newer releases, and it’s super easy to use.

OverdriveOverdrive Media Console

What is it?  An e-book and e-audiobook lending app that allows you to borrow and download e-books and audiobooks from your local library.

Available for: Android devices, Apple devices, Microsoft devices

Note:  Due to licensing restrictions, you need to access Overdrive Media Console from the library of the municipality you live in with a card from that municipality.

My favourite thing about it:  I love how easy it is to filter out books that are checked out so I can focus on titles I can read right now.  I also love that the catalogue contains both e-books and audiobooks so I can checkout my lunchtime reads (e-books) at the same time as my gymtime reads (audiobooks).

serialreaderSerial Reader

What is it?  An app that delivers classic public domain novels to you daily in small easy-to-read chunks.

Available for:  Apple devices (though an Android version is in the works)

My favourite thing about it:  The app inspires me to wake up 15 minutes early most days so I can polish off a bit of Moby Dick before breakfast, which is great; but the best part is truly the congratulatory messages that pop up when you finish your daily dose — they’re adorable!


What is it?  Imagine Instagram was all books.  It’s like that but much better.

Available for:   Apple devices (though an Android version is planned)

My favourite thing about it:  Litsy is everything I want social media to be.  It constantly inspires me to seek out new authors and makes me generally more knowledgeable about my favourite passion:  books.


Wedding Season Survival Guide


Up until recently I didn’t really realize that “wedding season” is a thing. Then my late-twenties arrived. Gone are the halcyon days of impromptu weekend summer getaways in favor of  a regimented event schedule filled with uncomfortable footwear,  bubbly, and hopefully some earnest romance.

Some people claim to love wedding season, others claim to hate it–although I suspect most find themselves somewhere in the middle.  Regardless of where you stand in the nuptial spectrum, as Jen Doll, author of   Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest states in her article for Flavour Wire , “weddings make for great scenes, unforgettable moments of high expectation, emotion, and drama — in fiction as well as in nonfiction.” Whether you’re tying the knot, or deciding on how to fill that plus-one RSVP, consider this a survival guide full of practical tips, and literary inspiration.

Tips and Tricks

The Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook worstcasewedding

by Joshua Piven

Not to be a pessimist, but really who knew that so much could go wrong on such a happy day? This  step-by-step instruction guide is designed to help the bride and groom–and everyone else–survive the nuptials, from trimming the guest list all the way through to re-purposing unwanted presents. This manual teaches how to charm nightmare in-laws,  combat floral allergies, stop a disastrous toast, and enjoy the day.

Pocket Guide to Wedding Speeches & Toasts by Darren Noel pocketguidewedding.jpg

I’m one of those people who thinks that they’re skilled at public-speaking, until of course I actually step up to the mic.  Thankfully, the library has several copies of how-to manuals and guides to help sweaty-palmed orators float from our seats to the podium and back with some semblance of poise, and hopefully at least one laugh (or tear)  from the audience.


weddingetiquette.jpgThe Everything Wedding Etiquette Book; From Invites to Thank-you Notes–all You Need to Handle Even the Stickiest Situations With Ease by Holly Lefevre 

I think that one of the biggest sources of wedding-related anxiety results from the complex, awkward, and often contentious interrelationships that develop when two independent people and their associated families, friends, and distant cousins are brought together under one roof, fed a pile of alcohol and told to get along.   Alas, this guide is designed to help wedding planners navigate the art of seating charts, thank-you cards, and tricky in-law dramas with ease.


Literature for for the hopeless romantics….

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead seatingarrangements.jpg

A romantic comedy set over three days of a WASP-y wedding on an island off the coast of New England, this novel allows the complex interrelationships to fully blossom into hilarious, preppy depravity.  A social satire which explores themes of status, family, love and its obligations, this novel is a perfect precursor to the upcoming wedding in your calendar.

prideandpredPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

From the classic opening line, “it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”,  Austen sets the tone for this classic novel which cements advantageous marriage as a fundamental social value, and the central ambition for its main characters. Even a cynic like me was swept up in  this genteel turn-of-the-century story.


The Princess Bride   By William Goldman princessbride

“Mawidge, it’s a dweam wiffin a dweam” Enough said.

(P.S. The audiobook version narrated by Rob Reiner is particularly hilarious)


Literature for the wedding-tolerant….

janeeyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Sure, they may get married in the end…however, with Mr. Briggs’ interruption “I declare the existence of an impediment,” readers everywhere were forever doomed to wince upon hearing the words “speak now or forever hold your peace”.  This broody classic is arguably the ultimate botched-wedding.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens  greatexpec

As Jen Doll states,  “is there a more tragic and memorable jilted at the altar figure than poor, dear Miss Havisham? ” Twenty minutes before her wedding is set commence, she gets a letter from her betrothed,  Compeyson, who has defrauded her and won’t be showing up. Thus begins the rest of her life, frozen in time as a hermit in her spoiling mansion, wearing her wedding dress and one shoe, and her wedding cake left uneaten on the table.  Yeesh.



If all else fails, there’s also this awesome Wedding Season Bingo game card  from Swimmingly which is worth a good giggle.

wedding season bingo

(image source: http://www.swimmingly.com/relationships/weddings/keep-track-of-all-the-hottest-wedding-trends-with-summer-wedding-bingo/)




Treating Your Game of Thrones Withdrawal

So now that I have a literary plan in place for treating my husband’s upcoming Tour de France withdrawal, I’ll now turn towards my own current source of withdrawal – the end of the Game of Thrones season.  Here’s a list of the books and series that I’ll be reading/re-reading while waiting for 2017’s season to come!


halfaking halfworld halfwar
The Shattered Sea Trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie

If it’s the tales of revenge and all those morally grey characters in Game of Thrones that appeal to you, give Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy a shot. It follows Yarvi, crippled from birth and seen as only “half a man” in the eyes of his father (that sounds familiar…), on an epic quest – first for survival and then for revenge – which threatens to plunge the entire world into war.  I warn you though, it’s addictive, so be prepared to lose some sleep.  This series is complete, so there’s no worry about long waits between installments.


lamora1 lamora2 lamora3 lamora4
The Gentlemen Bastards Sequence, by Scott Lynch

If it’s the witty dialogue and roguish characters that suit your fancy, I highly recommend Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series. Like GoT it starts off very low-magic, at least for a fantasy world. The story follows Locke Lamora from his childhood in a gang of child-thieves – who gets kicked out for liking to steal too much (and from the wrong people) – through his development into a highly accomplished con artist. With the Gentlemen Bastards, they pull off incredibly complex, long-term cons in order to steal from the rich and then keep it all for themselves.  This series offers a great mix of humour, fantasy, and action that I will happily re-read again and again. Another warning for this one though: the series isn’t complete yet, and it’s always long – but worthwhile – wait for new installments.


kingdoms1 kingdoms2 kingdoms3
The Inheritance Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin

If it’s GoT’s issues of inheritance and dangerous family politics that are up your alley, then check out Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy. The first book follows Yeine, granddaughter to the head of this world’s ruling family, who, despite her mother abandoning her position to be with her father, suddenly finds herself named the heir. She’s then thrust into a dangerous political situation that’s made even more deadly by the machinations of the gods that her family has had enslaved for generations, and by the secrets of her own past that even she was unaware of.  The next two books each follow other characters in the same world, and all told the series spans 400 years. It’s challenging, unique, and thoroughly engrossing.

Dragons and zombies aside, Game of Thrones is loosely based on the War of the Roses, fought over the English throne from 1455-1485 between the houses of York and Lancaster. So, if you’re looking for something outside the fantasy genre that will still help fill the GoT void, check out some of these other titles about or based on the historical events.


lancaster bloodsisters
Lancaster Against York, by Trevor Royle and Blood Sisters, by Sarah Gristwood

If you’d like some non-fiction, try Royle and Gristwood’s books. Like Game of Thrones, the War of the Roses is an epic story, with a huge cast, shifting allegiances, multiple monarchs, and even a great historical mystery. Lancaster Against York does an excellent job of clearly laying out all the events and players, particularly each of the 6 kings who ruled during the conflict. Blood Sisters instead focuses on the 7 most influential women during this period, who in many cases were every bit as calculating and ruthless as their male counterparts.


roses1 roses2 roses3 roses4
Wars of the Roses Series, by Conn Iggulden

This is an historical fiction series, following the events of the War of the Roses from the death of Henry V and the coronation of the young, frail Henry VI, through the battles and political intrigue, to the founding of the Tudor dynasty that finally ended the war.  Try this one if you’re looking for close-to-accurate historical fiction.


cousins1 cousins2 cousins3 cousins4 cousins5 cousins6
The Cousins’ War Series, by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory plays it looser in terms of historical accuracy with the Cousins’ War series, but it’s nevertheless extremely enjoyable. Her series also follows the events of the War of the Roses, but from the point of view of the women involved. The series as listed here is in publication order, but many reader’s recommend starting with The Lady of the Rivers as its events are chronologically the earliest.

I hope that helps with your withdrawal, and let us know what you’re reading to pass the time between seasons!

– Kat