Kat’s Picks

NVCL Reads: Science Fiction and Fantasy

First up in our reading recommendations for the Canada 150 #NVCLreads Bingo game (adult version) is the Science Fiction and Fantasy square, #NVCLreadsSciFi! The following is a mix of new(ish), classic, and personal favourites by our talented Canadian SF/FAN authors:


Among Others, by Jo Walton (2011)

While Jo Walton is usually categorized as a fantasy writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to also recommend her to non SF/FAN readers as well because of her masterful prose and wonderfully realized characters.  This haunting (and Hugo award winning!) novel follows Mori, crippled and struggling to escape a troubled childhood and the tragic loss of her twin sister, killed in a confrontation with their mother who had been dabbling in dark magics.  But her attempts to build a new life for herself, including a cautious return to magic, bring her back to the attention of her mother and an inevitable confrontation.

If magic isn’t your thing you could try the more speculative My Real Children or, if philosophy is more your bag, her Thessaly trilogy and any of them will count towards the science fiction or fantasy square!


walkawayWalkaway, by Cory Doctorow (2017)

Doctorow’s latest is in the speculative fiction genre, and an interesting blend of utopia and dystopia.  Based in post-scarcity society where you can 3D-print any of the basic necessities of life including food and shelter, its premise begins with a young couple who simply choose to walk away from mainstream society and its out of control wealth and power gap and lack of jobs.  Away from society and occupying lands devastated by climate change they and those who join them discover one thing that the ultra-rich have not been able to achieve – a way to conquer death itself.

* could alternately be used for the #NVCLreadsEnvironment or #NVCLreadsDystopia



Company Town, by Madeline Ashby (2016)

Nominated in the 2017 Canada Reads contest (eventually won by Andre Alexis’ awesome Fifteen Dogs), Ashby’s biopunk novel takes place on a defunct, city-sized oil rig that was recently purchased by an uber-wealthy family company. Its main character, Hwa, is one of the few people in her community (the former oil rig) without any biotechnology enhancements, making her the ideal bodyguard for the young heir of the company. While at its basic its a murder investigation, it contains some excellent world-building, and Hwa is a fascinating, compelling character and the true strength of the book.



Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1,
by Steven Erikson (1999)

Ok, now it’s time to admit I haven’t read one of the consistently ranked best Fantasy series of all time. This one’s been on my bucket list for ages, and if it’s on yours too then this is a great excuse to pick it up.  Gardens of the Moon kicks off a 10-volume fantasy epic that spans thousands of years and follows the struggle for power in the Malazan empire. It’s renowned for its world-building, huge cast of characters, and its sheer scale. So, epic fantasy at its most epic.

*coming in at 666 pages, this could alternately be used for the #NVCLreads400


Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay (2016)

childrenofearthandskyUsually categorized as “historical fantasy”, Kay’s novels are not really fantasy and are only quasi-historical (although they are meticulously researched, so the term “alternate history” might work better), so, here’s a good read for those of you who are not really fantasy readers, but need to fill that square! Kay’s latest is set in near-Renaissance Europe (specifically 16th c. Croatia) and follows the intertwining lives of a large cast of characters – among them a woman out for revenge, a spy, an artist,  a merchant’s son, and a boy training to become a soldier – against the backdrop of a looming war.



Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2004)

I’m not sure how one could responsibly write a post on Canadian science fiction and not mention Oryx and Crake and the Maddaddam Trilogy, so if you haven’t yet read it now’s the time. Science-fiction of the post-apocalyptic variety, this novel follows Sandman, who may be the last human left alive. Mourning his friend Crake and Oryx, the woman they both loved, he searches for answers in a world destroyed by genetic engineering run amok. While many people I know preferred the sequel – The Year of The Flood – to its predecessor, Oryx and Crake remains my favourite for its disturbing and unforgettable vision of the future.

*could alternately count for the #NVCLreadsDystopia or #NVCLreadsMargaret


Need more? Other Canadian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors include Kelley Armstrong, R. Scott Bakker, Julie E. CzernedaWilliam Gibson, Tanya HuffRobert J. Sawyer, S.M. Stirling, Robert Charles Wilson

Happy reading and Happy 150th, Canada!

Kat’s 2017 Most Anticipated Reads

It’s apparently the year of the sequel, at least for my anticipated reads. But three of my current favourite series are wrapping up this year and I’m very, very excited about that. I didn’t even come close to finishing my 2016 TBR list, but since the whole point of a TBR list is to keep adding more to it, here we go!

January Releases:


The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

One of the few on my list that’s not part of a series, Arden’s debut novel draws heavily from Russian folklore, and is perfect blend of mythology, history, and magic, with fully realized characters and an incredibly well-captured setting. If you liked Uprooted, definitely read this one next. It’s a perfect winter read, although its Medieval Northern Russia Winter setting means that warm blankets and tea while reading this one are a must.

bintihome Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

In this sequel to 2015’s Hugo and Nebula-award winning novella, Binti – who left home abruptly to attend an off-world university against her family’s wishes – now returns home with her unlikely friend Okwu, and humanity must truly face whether it’s possible for the two races to truly exist peacefully.


conjuring A Conjuring of Light, by V.E. Schwab

This is the finale to Schwab’s brilliant trilogy (which includes A Darker Shade of Magic, and A Gathering of Shadows), where there are four separate worlds with four Londons. Each of the Londons have a different relationship with magic, but there is only one magician left who can travel between them. This chapter in the story promises to wrap up the trilogy in a pretty spectacular fashion, and I’m hoping we get to learn lots more about the fallen black London….


collapsingempire The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

I love John Scalzi, and not just for the twitter account he made for his kittens (@scamperbeasts), even though it’s adorable.  In his new book, humanity has gone to the stars and has colonizing many other planets, but only because of access to the Flow – a phenomenon that allows them to bypass faster-than-light travel (which doesn’t exist). But when it’s discovered that the Flow moves, and may soon cut humanity off from travel between its worlds, they must scramble to save their empire from collapse.


wakinggods Waking Gods, by Sylvain Neuvel

This is the sequel to 2016’s Sleeping Giants, a sci-fi/conspiracy story of of a team of scientists and military personnel discovering and assembling a colossal robot, who’s parts were scattered all over the earth. The book was quickly optioned for a movie last year. In this follow-up it looks like the now-assembled robot has some company, and Earth may be facing invasion. If you like straight-forward sci-fi that still manages to balance plot and character development, this series is a great pick.

borneBorne, by Jeff VanderMeer

I never actually read VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, but I heard so many good things about it that I’m going to try his new one. It’s dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction about a world destroyed by bio-engineering run amok, and a scavenger who discovers a strange biotech creature which she immediately feels strong, inexplicable bond with.


downamongthesticksDown Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire

This is the second book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series. The previous title, Every Heart a Doorway, was one of my favourite books from 2016, so I’m really excited for this one. It’s not really a direct sequel though; it follows the back-story of two of the most interesting characters from Every Heart, but promises to be much darker, as the world that sisters Jack and Jill found themselves was like a horror movie, filled with mad scientists, vampires, and death.


wardedmanThe Core, by Peter V. Brett

This is the final installment of Brett’s Demon Cycle, which is so far one of my all-time favourite fantasy series. There’s no cover for this book yet, so I’ve posted the first book in the series – The Warded Man. In this last book – The Core – Arlen and Jardir travel down for the final face-off with the demons who have plagued (and decimated) humanity for so long. This series is exciting, fast-paced, featuring some great world-building and a really fascinating system of magic, so if you’re an “epic fantasy” fan I’d definitely recommend this one.

stoneskyThe Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin

The first in this trilogy – The Fifth Season – was brilliant, and the second opened up the world and characters even further, so I’m very excited for this concluding volume. In this last one, Essun’s daughter Nassun has fully come into her power, and now between the two they will either save or destroy the world.




communication Communication Failure, by Joe Zieja

The first in this “Epic Failure” series, Mechanical Failure, was the funniest, most ridiculously silly book I’d read in a long time; while that can be a tricky thing to maintain in a series, I have high hopes for this one.  It’s a military sci-fi, which is not normally my favourite, but the snappy dialogue, ridiculous (but unfortunately not too far out of the range of realism…) characters, and unrelenting chaos and absurdity won me over and I can’t wait for more!


Of course I am continuing not to mention The Winds of Winter, The Doors of Stone, and The Thorne of Emberlain here because that’s asking way too much in a year already packed with sequelly goodness, but I can still keep my fingers crossed for at least an official publication date. What SF/FAN are you most looking forward to this year?

Happy Reading!






Kat’s Top Reads of 2016

My Top Reads list this year is admittedly a little short. While 2016 hasn’t been as bad a reading-year as it has been a year in general, I did get stuck on several books for way too long, and had more than a few misses from titles I’d had high hopes for. That being said, it’s definitely not all bad! I did find a few books that I really truly loved among those that I…. didn’t quite love as much.

arcadia Arcadia, by Iain Pears

I’m starting with my number 1 pick for the year, because it’s just that kind of year. This is an ambitious mix of sci-fi and fantasy, following 10 separate characters in 3 different timelines. It’s a little confusing and slow at first, but it’s completely amazing when all the pieces start to fit together (which they continue to do right up until the last few pages, making for an increasingly page-turning read). The book also has an app version, which allows you to put the whole story together in different ways. The plot is difficult to describe (and I don’t think the book blurbs do it justice), but it involves a lot of time travel, and explores the relationship between past and present, fact and fiction, in ways you would never expect.

everyheartEvery Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire

A close second on my 2016 favourites list, this novella is set in an unusual school that takes in children who at one point in their lives have discovered a doorway to another world. These worlds usually fit the children perfectly, but then they were somehow cast out and forced back into our world where they don’t fit anymore.  The story is lyrical and beautiful, and I adored the characters and the worlds they found, and then heartbreakingly lost. My only complaint was previously that it was too short, but fortunately there’s a sequel due out next year! This is a great pick for teens, or adults like me who are still convinced there’s a doorway to another world out there somewhere…

mechanicalfailureMechanical Failure, by Joe Zieja

This book finally allowed me to add a new title to my list of the best in ridiculously funny sci-fi & fantasy for the first time in years (it’s still a very small list. I’ll promise I’ll share when it’s bigger). In this story, Sergeant-turned-smuggler Wilson Rogers is forced to return to military service, only to find that the easy going, peacetime military of his younger days is a thing of the past, and things are about to go seriously, catastrophically wrong. It also features an ill-tempered robot whose programming won’t allow him to swear, and the phrases he comes up with to compensate earned me a lot of funny looks in the airport when I kept giggling. Another great pick for teens, and of course for very silly adults.

summerlongSummerlong, by Peter S. Beagle

A novel by the author of The Last Unicorn, this is a great pick for fans of magical realism. It features a vivid (and relatively local!) setting and characters who feel truly real and whose growth and are wholly believable, along with a bit of mythology and magic thrown into the mix. A short but beautiful and bittersweet read.


gatheringofshadowsA Gathering of Shadows, by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab has had a great year between this title and her teen book This Savage Song (written as Victoria Schwab). This is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, and it definitely lives up to the high standard set by its predecessor, with a fascinating world, interesting characters, and a fast paced plot. I particularly loved that we got to see so much more of Lila in this one. This is a great pick for series readers, as they won’t have long to wait for the final installment – A Conjuring of Light – which is due out in February.



Infomocracy, by Malka Older

In a year dominated by politics and elections, this title a timely read. In this quasi-utopian vision of the future, the world votes for a single government via a global system of micro-democracies. Keeping this system running is the Information, a global organization that controls and disseminates data in order to keep the electorate informed.  The plot of course centres around an election, but the strength and intrigue of this novel lies more in its political and informational world-building. It’s a fascinating read, full of big ideas that are worth exploring.

Well, I guess that makes this my top 6 for this year! Next year my reading resolution is to put down the book if it’s not keeping me up past my bedtime. While that might not be the healthiest approach for my sleep cycle, it should result in a healthier-sized best of list for 2017.

What were your favourites this year? Any sci-fi / fantasy you feel I’ve missed?

Happy holidays, and happy reading!

Kat’s Fall 2016 Picks

While I’m not quite ready to admit that Fall is actually on the horizon, I’m more than happy to start thinking about what I’ll read during the season. And I’m sure I’ll be ready for some serious reading time once this  foolish attempt to ride my bike up to Whistler is finished on Saturday. So here’s what I’ll be reading while I’m taking a break from my bicycle and letting my poor muscles recover!


survivingloganSurviving Logan, by Erik Bjarnason and Cathi Shaw

At 5,959m elevation, Mt. Logan is Canada’s highest peak. In 2005 North Shore Rescue put together a team of experienced mountaineers and search-and-rescue personnel to tackle the summit. The expedition started out with good weather, but it quickly took a dangerous downturn, trapping three members of the team on the mountain. This true story recounts their efforts to survive the storm as conditions turned from bad to worse, to near tragic. There are many great mountaineering books out there with amazing stories of survival, but I’m really looking forward to reading one featuring local figures.

summerlongSummerlong, by Peter S. Beagle

In his first novel since 1999, the author of the beloved The Last Unicorn tells the story of a longtime couple who take in a young waitress, who in turn begins to inspire development and change in the both of them. This book is being described as mythical fantasy, and even has a Pacific Northwest setting to boot, so this is probably the book I’m most looking forward to this season.

nutshellNutshell, by Ian McEwan

A tale of deceit and murder, told from the point of view of a 9-month-old unborn child. It’s a mix of psychological thriller, mystery comedy, and tragedy, but the narration alone sounds too odd and interesting to pass up!




numberofthingsA Number of Things, by Jane Urquhart

Inspired by Canada’s upcoming sesquicentennial (I did not know that was a word until now… 150 years, for those of you in the same boat as me), Canadian author Jane Urquhart tells the stories behind 50 Canadian objects, including a particular cherry tree, an artist’s shoe, a tea doll, and a royal cowcatcher. I had to look up what several of the items actually were (including the cow catcher… apparently my train-knowledge is lacking), so this promises to be an informative read made poetic by Urquhart’s always beautiful prose.

cyclistoutinthecoldThe Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold, by Tim Moore

Travel writer Tim Moore has previously attempted to cycle the Giro d’Italia route on a period bike while in a period costume, and the Tour de France route complete with the requisite cheating and excessive wine-drinking. Continuing to display a complete lack of self-preservation, he has most recently spent three months cycling the 9,000 km route of the old Iron Curtain on a two-geared East German shopping bike. Moore’s books are always worth a read, and are a great mix of travelogue, history, and amusement at someone else’s self-inflicted pain.

appetitesAppetites, by Anthony Bourdain

In chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain’s latest, he offers a collection of his personal favourites, both from home and from his travelling years of sampling food from all over the world. It contains recipes that Bourdain thinks everyone should know how to cook,  but also promises to “terrify your guests”… apparently that’s “with your culinary efficiency”, but I’m choosing to take it out of context. Especially since the cover itself is a bit on the terrifying side.

crosstalkCrosstalk, by Connie Willis

In Crosstalk, Science Fiction writer Connie Willis takes social media and communication to an extreme with a near-future world where couples can actually get a procedure increase empathy between them. The procedure is designed to help with emotional connection and communication, because nothing could possibly go wrong with that, right?



fateofthetearlingThe Fate of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

This is the conclusion of the Tearling Trilogy. Its first volume (The Queen of the Tearlingwas fairly standard fantasy, but in a surprising move the second volume (The Invasion of the Tearling) began crossing over into dystopian sci-fi, and after that I can’t wait to see how Johansen is going to tie it all together. But the real strength of this series has always been the wholly believable development of Kelsea’s character, from awkward, insecure teenager to strong monarch determined to save her people, so I would definitely recommend checking out the series – it’s unique, with a steady, engaging plot that gives equal weight to its characters and its action.

willfulchildWillful Child: The Wrath of Betty, by Steven Erikson

I’m always looking for new books to add to my funny sci-fi & fantasy list (which is still a work in progress), and I’m definitely on the Trekkie-spectrum, so I have high hopes for enjoyable silliness on this series. This is the sequel to 2015’s Willful Child, a spoof on the whole exploring the galaxy Star Trek type genre, which sold me with the tagline “Bravely going where they really shouldn’t”. I’ll be saving this one for a really rainy day when I need a laugh.


What are you reading this season? You know, when it arrives. Which definitely isn’t quite yet.

– Kat

Backyard Bears & Other Outdoor Musings

With multiple local bear incidents in the last week and my inclination for spending my spare time outside, in or around the woods, I’ve been thinking about living in such close proximity to wildlife as we do North Van, and what that means in terms of ensuring both their and our well-being. I’ve also been evaluating my outdoorsy know-how (particularly in regards to bear encounters!) and have decided that I could definitely use a refresher course. So if you’d like to brush up your wildlife and wilderness safety knowledge with me, here’s what I’ll be reading!

Co-existing With Our Neighbours…
livingwithbears bearsinbackyard livingwithwildlife   urbanbestiary
These titles each offer a look at living in close quarters with our furry (or feathered… or scaly) neighbours. Linda Masterson’s Living with Bears Handbook (on order) is now in its 2nd edition, and offers practical solutions to avoid conflicts with backyard bears. Edward R. Ricciuti’s Bears in the Backyard (on order) follows a similar vein for other animals – including coyotes and cougars – as well as bears,with a great mix of stories, research, and advice.

Russel Link’s Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest (on order) covers a wide variety of backyard visitors – mammals, birds, and reptiles – specific to our region, discussing both how to identify them and live harmoniously with them. Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s The Urban Bestiary is a more philosophical title, exploring the science, myth, and stories of common urban critters using a through a bestiary-like format.

In Defense (and Celebration!) of Bears…
grizzlymanifesto bearspirit
For most of us, bears inspire equal parts fear and awe, and these two titles do an excellent job exploring that. In The Grizzly Manifesto, journalist and conservationist Jeff Gailus explores the politics of Grizzly population management in both the US and Canada, and is a an eye-opening wake-up call. Bear: Spirit of the Wild is a bear photography collection from National Geographic, and (as you’d expect) is filled with powerful, spectacular shots of polars, grizzlies, black, and spirit bears from photographer Paul Nicklen’s journeys in the Canadan, Alaskan, and Norwegian wilderness.

Outdoor Safety…
ultimatebackcountry outdoorsafety bearaware
For those of you who spend time hiking and backpacking,  here are a few titles specific to outdoor adventure. Aram von Benedikt’s Ultimate backcountry Survival Manual is a recent release (May 2016), covering a wide array of backpacking gear, skills, and survival situations – including animal encounters – in detail.  BC Author Mike Nash’s Outdoor Safety & Survival covers all of the essentials, including gear, navigation, wildlife encounters, first aid, and other emergency situations (personally, I love the cover). Alternately, if you’re looking for something more focused, Bill Schneider’s Bear Aware (on order) is – in Falcon Guide style – a succinct, “quick reference bear country survival guide.”

New Outdoor Adventure Books…
bravingit becomingwild
Or, if you prefer your outdoor adventure by proxy, try one of these recent titles. Braving It by James Campbell is a story of a father and daughter’s adventures in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as an exploration of a father-daughter relationship and a child’s coming-of-age.  In Nikki van Schyndel’s Becoming Wild, she recounts her experiences living self-sufficiently for 18 months in coastal BC’s wilderness. I’m most intrigued by her bringing a cat along…? My cats wouldn’t last a minute – they’re more afraid of bugs and spiders than I am.
Wishing you happy and safe outdoors-ings, whether in person or by armchair!
– Kat






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






le Tour de France Reading List

The Tour de France is underway, which I know mostly because The Husband is suddenly not asking to go out for bike rides at 6 in the morning – he’s glued to the television at 5am instead. Which means more time for reading for me!  Ok, to be accurate, more sleeping-in time for me, because neither 5am nor 6am should even exist (I am not exactly a morning person), but then followed by more reading time!

So, whether you are a road cycling addict like my husband (and myself to a lesser extent), or you have one in the family – one who is going need something to get them through their Tour de France withdrawal come the end of July – here are some of our favourite cycling and Tour de France books!

tourdefranceTour de France: The Inside Story. Making the World’s Greatest Bicycle Race, by Les Woodland (on order @ NVCL)

For those relatively new to the Tour (like me, despite the husband’s best efforts to indoctrinate me), this title is a great overview of the its history, starting with its beginnings in 1903 as a promotional stunt to help save a floundering newspaper business, and following its evolution through the century up to present-day as it becomes the most-watched cycling event of the year.

lanterneLanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France, by Max Leonard
(on order @ NVCL)

Of course the winners of the Tour get all the fame and glory, but what about the guys who come in last? This new title chronicles the stories of those last-place finishers, some of which inspirational, with the riders’ perseverance and dedication later resulting in victories and podium places. But others are others are more on the irreverent side – like the one that stopped to sample some local wine, or the one whose doping cocktail not doing quite what they intended…

domestiqueDomestique, by Charly Wegelius

Not technically about the Tour de France but still a must-read for pro-cycling fans, this is a great behind-the-scenes book from the point of view of one of the unsung heroes of cycling – the Domestiques – whose job is to support their team leaders during the race, pushing themselves to the limit for someone else’s win. Wegelius was a pro-cyclist and domestique for 11 years, and his insights into that world are fascinating. This title was also the inaugural winner of the SweetSpot Cycling Book of the Year award in 2013.

riderevolutionRide the Revolution, by Suze Clemitson (on order @ NVCL)

While it’s great that La Course is now an annual event, and awesome to hear that a group of 7 women plan to ride the entire Tour de France route a day ahead of the men this year, there’s still no real women’s equivalent to the Tour de France. This inspirational title explores the world of women in cycling, telling the stories of those working as support staff on the men’s teams, journalists, and those pro-cyclists themselves working to bring mainstream exposure to their sport.

secretraceThe Secret Race, by Tyler Hamilton

And (sadly) what would any list about the Tour de France be without a couple titles on doping? Tyler Hamilton was a pro-cyclist on Lance Armstrong’s team, and this was the explosive book that finally exposed the truth about Armstrong, and the doping culture so pervasive in the cycling world at that time.


endoftheroadThe End of the Road: The Festina Affair and the Tour that Almost Wrecked Cycling, by Alasdair Fotheringham (on order @ NVCL)

Before the Armstrong bombshell, the cycling world was rocked by another, equally (if not more) damaging, doping scandal. This one was at the 1998 Tour, and began when a support staff member of the Festina team was stopped at the France-Belgium border and customs officials found a large cache of steroids, EPO, and other doping products in the team car.  The scandal quickly escalated, resulting in multiple police raids, arrests, and even rider strikes/sit-downs, and then later culminated in several trials, arrests, and bans from pro-cycling. This title offers a new, in-depth look at what became known as the Festina Affair, and its long-term consequences on the cycling world.

I hate to end on a buzzkill, so I’ll finish up this list with some lighter fare:

frenchrevFrench Revolutions, by Tim Moore

I’ve recommended Tim Moore’s hilarious 2014 book Gironimo before, and this is one of his earlier titles on a similar theme.  Long before he set out to to ride the infamous 1914 Giro d’Italia route on a wooden bike he built himself, he decided he was going to ride the 2000 Tour de France route ahead of the race, just to see if he could finish it. At this point in time he hadn’t been on a bike since he was a child. So of course, because it’s the Tour de France, he quickly resorts to cheating and doping, as well as drinking as much wine as he can fit in his water bottle. It has a decent amount of historical information on the Tour de France mixed in with Moore’s usual shenanigans, so it’s a great combination of funny and informative.

What are your must-read Tour de France and/or cycling books? (seriously, I’m going to need as many titles as I can to get the husband through until the next big race!)

Happy reading!