Author: nvclMikale

NVCL Reads: Dystopic Canadian Novels

Reading today’s headlines it is no surprise that dystopian fiction has attracted a new audience.  Book sales of classics like 1984 and Brave New World have skyrocketed, meanwhile Canada’s dystopic diva Margaret Atwood has found a new fanbase for her classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, with Hulu’s dark and wildly popular TV series.

In honour of these dark times, may I present #NVCLreadsDystopia

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandelstation eleven

I absolutely LOVED this book.

Station Eleven asks a question that most dystopian novels miss: how do the survivors of a worldwide epidemic learn to enjoy life after they’ve learned how to survive? What happens to art when 99.9% of the world is dead? Emily St.John Mandel weaves convincing characters together with the most intriguing elements – Shakespearean theatre, a traveling symphony, cults, kidnappings, a very fluffy puppy, secret poets, sci-fi comic books, the life of the rich and famous, and the life of a paparazzo. Station Eleven is one of those books that sits in your mind, begging for attention, long after it’s over. (From the publisher).

The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
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Although it was originally published in 1985, as mentioned earlier The Handmaids Tale is likely the best known piece of Canadian dystopian fiction today. Set in a near-future totalitarian England, the Republic of Gilead,  the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence.

If you’ve had enough of Gilead, Margaret Atwood has plenty to offer for those interested in imagining just how bad things could get.

As the first book in the dystopic trilogy, and soon to be it’s very own HBO series, no Canadian dystopic list would be complete without Margaret Atwood’s riveting novel Oryx and Crake. 

When the story opens, the narrator Snowman is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes – into his own past, and back to Crake’s high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief. (From the publisher).

Neuromancer by William Gibson neuromancer

Neuromancer was  the first novel to win the Nebula, Huge and Philip K. Dick Award–an unprecedented achievement which thereby legitimized cyberpunk as a mainstream branch of science fiction literature. Set within the Matrix, a world within the world and global consensus- hallucination, Neuromancer follows the story of Henry Case. Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction. (From the publisher).

 

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

companytown

New Arcadia is a city-sized oil rig off the coast of the Canadian Maritimes, now owned by one very wealthy, powerful, byzantine family: Lynch Ltd.

Hwa is of the few people in her community (which constitutes the whole rig) to forgo bio-engineered enhancements. As such, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig—making her doubly an outsider, as well as a neglected daughter and bodyguard extraordinaire. Still, her expertise in the arts of self-defense and her record as a fighter mean that her services are yet in high demand. When the youngest Lynch needs training and protection, the family turns to Hwa. But can even she protect against increasingly intense death threats seemingly coming from another timeline?

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability and heightens the unease of a rig turning over. All signs point to a nearly invisible serial killer, but all of the murders seem to lead right back to Hwa’s front door. Company Town has never been the safest place to be—but now, the danger is personal. (From the publisher).

 

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji  nostalgia

For fans of the HBO series Westworld, comes a taut and thought-provoking novel about the personal identity and the power of one’s past.

In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.

Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him? As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient. (From the publisher).

 

Mark your calendars! March 21st is the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Aptly, March 21st is a day of new beginnings for a few symbolic reasons. Not only does it mark the first day of Spring, it is also the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In honor of this worthy occasion, we’ve put together a short list which highlight a few of our favourite books which encourage readers to question biases, confront discrimination, and end intolerance.

For more information about the day, visit the UN’s site here.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates betweentheworldandme

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he’s sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him — most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. What were they afraid of? In Tremble for My Country, Coates takes readers along on his journey through America’s history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings — moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago’s South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America’s ‘long war on black people, ‘ or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police. In his trademark style — a mix of lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, essayistic argument, and reportage — Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here. (From the publisher)

The Break by Katherine Vermette 

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A 2016 Canada Reads, Governor General’s Literary Award, and Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize  finalist (among many other awards), Vermette’s debut novel is a startling look into the lives of First Nations women in Winnpeg’s North End.

“When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Metis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed. ” (From the publisher)

hiddenfiguresHidden Figures; The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly 

Now a major motion picture, this phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA at the leading edge of the feminist and civil rights movement, whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space–a powerful, revelatory contribution that is as essential to our understanding of race, discrimination, and achievement in modern America as Between the World and Me and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. (From the publisher)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whithead  undergroundrailroad

The National Book Award Winner and #1 New York Times bestseller from Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave’s adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned–Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor–engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. (From the publisher)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie americanah

A searing new novel, at once sweeping and intimate, by the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun: a story of love and race centered around a man and woman from Nigeria who seemed destined to be together–until the choices they are forced to make tear them apart. Ifemelu–beautiful, self-assured–left Nigeria 15 years ago, and now studies in Princeton as a Graduate Fellow. She seems to have fulfilled every immigrant’s dream: Ivy League education; success as a writer of a wildly popular political blog; money for the things she needs. But what came before is more like a nightmare: wrenching departure from family; humiliating jobs under a false name. She feels for the first time the weight of something she didn’t think about back home: race. Obinze–handsome and kind-hearted–was Ifemelu’s teenage love; he’d hoped to join her in America, but post 9/11 America wouldn’t let him in. Obinze’s journey leads him to back alleys of illegal employment in London; to a fake marriage for the sake of a work card, and finally, to a set of handcuffs as he is exposed and deported. Years later, when they reunite in Nigeria, neither is the same person who left home. Obinze is the kind of successful “Big Man” he’d scorned in his youth, and Ifemelu has become an “Americanah”–a different version of her former self, one with a new accent and attitude. As they revisit their shared passion–for their homeland and for each other–they must face the largest challenges of their lives. Spanning three continents, entering the lives of a richly drawn cast of characters across numerous divides, Americanah is a riveting story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world. (From the publisher)

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese Indianhorse

Saul Indian Horse is dying. Tucked away in a hospice high above the clash and clang of a big city, he embarks on a marvellous journey of imagination back through the life he led as a northern Ojibway, with all its sorrows and joys.

With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. (From the publisher)

Mikale’s Top Picks for 2016

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Dear 2016, see ya later.

Like so many of us, I’m sort of ready for this year to be over. While in my personal and professional life I’ve met a number of invaluable people, and had more adventures than I can count, in general I think it’s fair to say that on a global level 2016 was a bit of a dud. As such, I find myself looking forward to 2017 with anxious trepidation… With all these feeeeeeelings it’s been a great year to  escape into the beautiful, fantastical world of fiction.

2016 was a great year for books,therefore allow me to  present my top five reads of the past year. I noticed a few patterns in my reading this year (apparently I’ve read A LOT of depressing literary fiction) so in an effort to be a little less insular, I’ve broken my list down into five of my  go-to’s.

Hope you enjoy, and good luck out there.

 

Best Series:  Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels brilliantfriend

I am halfway through this four-part coming-of-age series which spans the life-long friendship of two intelligent and perceptive girls growing up in the Naples region of Italy.  Although the premise may seem simple, this character-driven series is all about the complexities and nuances of  both female friendship, and more generally of women’s lives. As such, it felt like one of the more fully developed explorations of a women’s experience I’ve ever read, with feminist themes throughout. Don’t let the awful cover art fool you: I can’t recommend this one enough and have already bought copies of My Brilliant Child for a few of my favorite women this Christmas.

*Still haven’t convinced you? Read this blog post about the author’s mysterious identity! 

Best Short Story Collection: B.J. Novak’s One More Thing 

onemorethingIf I were ever to decide to track down a celebrity and woo them with every ounce of wit and charm I posses, I’m pretty sure it would be for The Office’s B.J. Novak. While he didn’t do much for me as TV star, as an author? Oh boy.

He first came into the literary spotlight with the genius children’s story  The Book With No Pictures however with his latest collection of short stories Mr. Novak has proven himself capable of captivating audiences of all ages. In short, One More Thing is hilarious and charming. I listened to the audiobook, and found myself giggling like a lunatic on the seabus listening to a fictionalized John Grisham come to grips with a monumental typo, then later tearing up over the title story of a Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket draw which threatens to unravel a family.  Although I am not normally a huge short story fan, this book captivated me.

 

Best Dystopic Why-Bother-With-Life Fiction: The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver   mandibles

Word of advice: this is not an appropriate read when feeling down or financially pinched, during election time, or when travelling long distances on public transit.  Set in the not-too-distant future, The Mandibles is the story of one upper middle class Brooklyn  family as they struggle for survival following the crash of the US dollar in favor of an international currency called the Bancor.  Shriver’s story is less fantastical and more of an examination of how delicate our economic system really is, and thus is not only plausible but illuminating. Like a modern day Grapes of Wrath, this book  takes its readers down a seemingly endless hole of hopeless despair, and doesn’t offer a breath of air until ( thankfully unlike Grapes) the end. What I liked most about this book was how much I learned about economic theory. What I disliked? Well, it wasn’t the right choice of reading material during the US election…..

 

vegetarianBest Quirky and Compelling: The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian is an experience. This three-part South Korean novella is  about a “previously unremarkable” young woman who decides to quit eating meat after a violent, bloody dream; a decision that sets in motion a series of events which eventually tears apart her family and social circle. Reading this book reminded me of a more guttural Murakami, with imagery so startlingly visceral and bizarre that I wish there was an accompanying graphic novel. Many of my coworkers didn’t get into this one, but the fact that I’m still thinking about this book six months later tells me it deserves to be on this list.

Overall Favourite: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton  course-of-love

I spend too much a lot of time thinking about the nature of relationships and the concept of romanticism.  As such, this book hit me right in the gut by combining both a well-written story, and the theoretical examination of a marriage.  I’ve already talked about this book so often both on this blog and to my friends that I’ll keep it short, and rather point you to this. Since first reading my library copy, I’ve purchased two copies to give out to friends, and have a few more to handout as Christmas presents.

 

-Mikale Fenton

And the Award Goes to……

gillerprizepartysplash

It’s the most wonderful time of the literary year…. Awards season! Earlier this month the Nobel Prize for literature was handed out to folk icon Bob Dylan, followed closely by the Man Booker who went to Paul Beatty for The Sellout on Tuesday the Governor General award for literature was handed out to Madeline Thien,  and now we have the largest literary prize for fiction in Canada just around the corner….The Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The Giller Prize was founded in 1994 by Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife, literary journalist Doris Giller, who passed away from cancer the year before. The award recognizes excellence in Canadian fiction and is in large part responsible for the continued growth of Canadian literary talent. The prize has so far endowed more than three-quarters of a million dollars to Canadian writers from coast to coast. In 2005, The Giller Prize teamed up with Scotiabank to create the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Next Monday, November 7th NVCL will be hosting the 3rd Annual  North Shore Giller Viewing Party in support of the North Shore Writer’s Festival! 

There will be light appies, beverages, literary trivia and raffle prizes. Any funds raised will benefit the 2017 North Shore Writers Festival, co-planned by the North Vancouver District Public Library, the North Vancouver City Library, and the West Vancouver Memorial Library.  For more information about the event please visit our calendar by clicking HERE.

Tickets are just $10 + taxes and fees and are available by CASH ONLY at NVCL’s Welcome tax, or online by clicking here.

In honor of the prize and more importantly the party, I’ve created a list of all our shortlisted nominees so you can get to work reading and placing your bets on who will take home the final purse prize!

 

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien 

donotsaywehave Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks than surely you’ve heard of local author Madeline Thien’s masterful work, Do Not Say we Have Nothing. Not only did she take home the recent Governor General award, but she’s also been nominated for various other awards including the Man Booker.

This epic sprawling drama  takes us inside the lives of an extended family who’s lives stretch from Mao’s Cultural Revolution to Tienanmen Square and confronts the reader with questions about how art, music, and love for one another sustains humanity through times of horror and genocide. A beautiful read!

The Party Wall by Catherine Lerouxpartywall

Translated from french, Quebquois author Catherine Leroux’s The Party Wall shifts between and ties together stories about pairs joined in surprising ways. A woman learns that she may not be the biological mother of her own son despite having given birth to him; a brother and sister unite, as their mother dies, to search for their long-lost father; two young sisters take a detour home, unaware of the tragedy that awaits; and a political couple–when the husband accedes to power in a post-apocalyptic future state–is shaken by the revelation of their own shared, if equally unknown, history.

Lyrical, intelligent, and profound, The Party Wall is luminously human, a surreally unforgettable journey through the barriers that can both separate us and bring us together.–From the publisher

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittal bestkindofpeople

What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable? George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt? With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.-From the Publisher

The Wonder by Emma Donahue wonder

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, ‘The Wonder’ – inspired by numerous cases of ‘fasting girls’ between the sixteenth century and the twentieth – is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, this book is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.-From the publisher

Yiddish for Pirates by Gary Barwin yiddishforpirates

Set in the years around 1492, Yiddish for pirates recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship’s crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot who becomes his near-constant companion. From a present-day Florida nursing home, this wisecracking yet poetic bird guides us through a world of pirate ships, Yiddish jokes and treasure maps.-From the publisher

 

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl13ways

Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks. Even when she starts dating guys online, she’s too afraid to send pictures. So she starts to lose. She counts calories consumed, miles logged, pounds lost, raw almonds eaten – she even undertakes an epic battle with a Von Furstenberg. But no matter how much weight she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?-From the publisher

 

Hope to see you on the 7th!

Cheers,

Mikale Fenton

Mikale’s Fall Picks 2016

teabooks

Short, crisp rainy days. Slow-cooked root vegetables spiced with nutmeg and coriander. Crispy home-made bread. Wool sweaters. Tea. Thick books.After a whirlwind summer, there are not enough cliched nouns to describe how much I love and relish the fall season.

This is the time of year where I typically pull-back from my social calendar, take a break from weekend adventuring and settle in for some serious nesting. It also happens to be one of the greatest seasons for literary fiction as publisher’s unleash many of their heavy-hitters for awards season and early Christmas shopping. The only issue I had choosing this fall’s picks was limiting the list to a reasonable number because so many of my favourite authors are releasing new titles, and each book looks so, so good.

And thus begins a new season of glorious hibernation….at least until ski season.

 

The Course of Love by Alain de Bottoncourse-of-love

If we have crossed paths in the past couple of weeks then you’ve probably already heard me raving about this book. It is essentially a cross between a novel and literary essay, as we follow Kristen and Rabih through the ebbs and flows of their long-term monogamous relationship. The story is told in two parallel voices: one follows the two central characters as they navigate “happily every after” and the challenges which blossom after love’s original conception– raising children, adultery, laundry etc.. The other voice  objectively analyzes each of the character’s thought patterns and actions with remarkable clarity and psychoanalytic prowess.  I truly loved this book, and look forward to reading it again–albeit next time on my own copy so that I can scribble in the margins and underline my favorite passages.

wenjack.jpgWenjack by Joseph Boyden

Nearly 50 years after his tragic death, 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack’s story may finally be getting the attention it deserves.  As noted in this recent Maclean’s article,  this year three Canadian artists are using each of their respective mediums to shed light on the Residential School experience using Chanie as their voice and focus. Boyden, alongside Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie and graphic novelist Jerry Lemire,  mobilize the incredible power of narrative and one boy’s tragic story to illuminate this horrific chapter in the history of Canada’s First Nations peoples.  In Wenjack, Boyden has created an imagined re-telling of Chanie’s last hours alive as he runs away from a North Ontario Residential School realizing too late just how far away home is.  Like all of Boyden’s novels, Wenjack is already being touted as a literary masterpiece full of haunting landscapes, imagery and characters.

By Gaslight by Steven Price bygaslight

Back in 2014 Victoria, BC authorSteven Price made literary headlines when his latest novel, By Gaslight caused a highly competitive auction at the Frankfurt Book Fair before being sold for a rumored record-breaking advance. Since then, anticipation has been building among readers everywhere to get a chance to dive into this Victorian period piece and see what all the fuss is about. At nearly 800 pages, it is a spellbinding thriller embedded with dark, poetic imagery and detailed descriptions.

 spawninggroundsThe Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I have been a fan of Anderson-Dargatz since picking up her brilliant debut novel Cure for Death by Lightning many moons ago. Since then, the author has written numerous other beautiful novels which each with a distinct sense of place rooted in our beautiful province and the struggles which erupt as nature and man intertwine and collide. Her latest novel weaves multiple-generational stories of settlement along a fictional river in south-central B.C., not far from Kamloops. The Spawning Grounds has been receiving excellent reviews as an instant BC classic with a supernatural twist.

Nutshell by  Ian McEwan nutshell

Aside from the fact that Ian McEwan is undoubtedly one of our country’s strongest writers, his new novel sounds so fantastically bizarre that it’s hard to resist. Set within a mother’s womb, the story is told from the perspective of what McEwan describes as “a rather old fetus nostalgic about the times when he was small enough to float freely around in the womb” in this Globe and Mail interview, who bares witness to murder, deceit and all other matters of thriller intrigue. Again, impossible to resist.

Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon

moonglowReading Chabon is to read magic. Ever since The Adventures of Kavalier and ClayI have been a loyal Chabon-ist, and felt that his novels sparkle with an electric sense of playful history. In his latest book, Chabon blurs the lines between fiction, memoir and biography as he tells the story of his grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.  Although the author tends to obsess over detailed side plots, such as the craft of comic making in the 1940’s in Adventures, and has at times been accused of losing track of the central story, I find these tangents  fascinating.

 

Happy nesting!

-Mikale

Funny Women

comedycellar

I love comedy. Whether via online videos, podcasts, or attending weekly har-har rituals like Vancouver’s Sunday Service , I’m an addict for a good laugh. In particular however, I’m hooked on funny women.

I may be biased, but there is something deeply refreshing about hearing a brilliant modern woman speak frankly about all the experiences, taboos, and general double standards that come packaged with a set of ovaries with refreshing,  hilarious and brutal candidness. Thankfully, these days  it seems as though female comedians are getting more of the attention and praise they deserve, and there is therefore a plethora of performers and formats to choose from.

Here I present a list of a few funny women and their funny books. Most are available from the library in print, but as the resident audio-book evangelist allow me to spread the gospel and sing it from the hills—it is one thing to watch one of your favorite comedians on YouTube, but to spend hours listening to them reading their own memoirs is a whole other experience. Not only do you get a chance to hear the author perform impressions, crack-up at their own jokes, or sometimes tear up over an old memory, many authors insert little aside commentaries for the exclusive pleasure of audio listeners.

 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer amyschumer

Unless you’ve been living under a pop-culture rock for the past few years, then you have also had the pleasure of hearing or seeing Amy Schumer perform. Aside from being a critically-praised stand-up comedian, she wrote and starred in last year’s film Trainwreck, and has been featured on numerous TV shows and films. Her new book shares hilarious, and often touching stories from her life in her characteristic unflinchingly candid style.

Not sold yet? Check out this hilarious excerpt from Vogue magazine.  

Not That Kind of Girl; A Young Woman Tell You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham  dunham

Lena Dunham is one of those young women who are so accomplished at such a young age that you almost want to hate them…… except that her special brand of self-defecating humour and brazen attitude make it extremely hard to do so. In her first memoir, Dunham recounts stories from her childhood, sex life, and experiences navigating the milieu of everything in between.

 

Notaro

I’m Just a Person  by Tig Notaro

I’ve already talked about this one before, but I really really love Tig Notaro so here we go again.  Her new book talks about a span of only four months in 2012 where Notaro was hospitalized for a debilitating intestinal disease called C. diff, her mother unexpectedly died, she went through a breakup, and then she was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. She then took her grief onstage to become one of the most intimate, and startling stand-ups out there today. For more information on her story, and the way her comedy has changed since that fateful period of time, I highly recommend checking out this great interview she recently gave with The Guardian. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey bossypants

What I liked most about listening to Bossypants (aside from her hilarious bonus audio commentary) was learning  more about her process breaking into the comedy scene in the 90’s and 2000’s, working at SNL, and the struggles she encountered as a woman in the field. Fey is classy, clever and funny as hell. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

kaling Whenever I read Kaling’s work I feel as though I’m having a glass of wine with an old friend and giggling over the absurdities of our lives. Admittedly I haven’t had the chance to read Kaling’s newest book, however I loved her first collection of essays Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? , and the audio version of Why Not Me? features guest appearances by other Office legends like B.J. Novak–so I have faith.

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

Yes Please! By Amy Poehler 

The Bedwetter;  Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein

Seriously–I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea. By Chelsea Handler

 

-Mikale Fenton

 

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.

 

thien

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!

-Mikale