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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 

thebreak

 

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)

I Want All the Books!

The weather might be terribly treacherous, and driving might be dangerous, and I might not be able to be on social media or the Internet much these days because too much negativity is just plain bad for me; but THIS IS THE BEST BOOK WEEK in a very long time!  I’m pretty sure many of us could read only books that were published this week and be happy little bookworms for quite some time to come.  There’s something for everyone.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s a selection of this week’s choicest goodies:

impossibleThe Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak*
Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd.  Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.**

norseNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman*
Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.  In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki–son of a giant–blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.**

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee*
A new tour de force from the bestselling author of Free Food for Millionaires, for readers of The Kite Runner and Cutting for Stone. PACHINKO follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.**

possessionsThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy*
In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances. […] A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.**

refugeesThe Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen*
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer was one of the most widely and highly praised novels of 2015, the winner not only of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but also the Center for Fiction Debut Novel Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, the ALA Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the California Book Award for First Fiction. Nguyen’s next fiction book, The Refugees , is a collection of perfectly formed stories written over a period of twenty years, exploring questions of immigration, identity, love, and family.**

 

Happy reading!

-Patricia

*Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for advanced readers’ copies of these titles.

**Blurbs provided by publishers.

 

 

Patricia’s Most Anticipated Reads of 2017

As a reader, I love a good TBR list – preferably a long one. I’ve signed myself up for two reading challenges this year — Litsy A to Z (title stream — where I read a book for each letter of the alphabet) and Litsy Reading Challenge (which is basically a book bingo card).  Now the challenge is to figure out where these fabulous looking titles fit in:

Historical Fiction

maidenThe Chosen Maiden by Eva Stachniak

The lush, sweeping story of a remarkable dancer who charts her own course through the tumultuous years of early twentieth-century Europe. Beautifully blending fiction with fact, The Chosen Maiden plunges readers into an artistic world upended by modernity, immersing them in the experiences of the era’s giants, from Anna Pavlova and Serge Diaghilev to Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso.(January)

neroThe Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival. (March)

Literary Fiction

transitTransit by Rachel Cusk*

Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change.  (January)

 

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders*

The captivating first novel by the best-selling, National Book Award nominee George Saunders, about Abraham Lincoln and the death of his eleven year old son, Willie, at the dawn of the Civil WarSet over the course of […] one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel – in its form and voice – completely unlike anything you have read before. (February)

exitwestExit West by Mohsin Hamid*

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet–sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors–doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . . (Februrary)

littlesisterLittle Sister by Barbara Gowdy

Rose is a sensible woman, thirty-four years old. Together with her widowed mother, Fiona, she runs a small repertory cinema in a big city. Fiona is in the early stages of dementia and is beginning to make painful references to Rose’s sister, Ava, who died young in an accident.  It is high summer, and a band of storms, unusual for their frequency and heavy downpour, is rolling across the city. Something unusual is also happening to Rose. As the storms break overhead, she loses consciousness and has vivid, realistic dreams–not only about being someplace else, but also of living someone else’s life.

Is Rose merely dreaming? Or is she, in fact, inside the body of another woman? Disturbed and entranced, she tries to find out what is happening to her. (April)

Horror

littleheavenLittle Heaven by Nick Cutter

From electrifying horror author Nick Cutter comes a haunting new novel, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Stephen King’s It , in which a trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. […] Paranoia and distrust grips the settlement. The escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell–or the closest thing to it–invades Little Heaven. (January)

skitterSkitter by Ezekiel Boone*

Ezekiel Boone continues his shivery and wildly entertaining homage to classic horror novels with Skitter , the second book in his The Hatching series. There’s a reason we’re afraid of spiders… (April)

Science Fiction / Fantasy

amateursThe Amateurs by Liz Harmer

PINA, the largest tech company in the world, introduces a product called port . These ports offer space-time travel powered by nostalgia and desire. Want to go back to when your relationship was blossoming? To when your kids were small, or when your parents met? To Elizabethan England? To 1990s Seattle? Easy. Step inside the port with a destination in mind, and you will be transported. But there is a catch: it’s possible that you cannot come back. And the ports are incredibly seductive, drawing in those with weaker wills… (March)

dragonteethDragon Teeth by Michael Crichton*

Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novela thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate Americas western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars. (May)

I’m also super excited about the new Gregory Maguire, Hiddensee– based on The Nutcracker – due out this fall.

Non-Fiction

bearsBears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey

Lisa Dickey traveled across the whole of Russia three times–in 1995, 2005 and 2015–making friends in eleven different cities, then coming back again and again to see how their lives had changed. Like the acclaimed British documentary series Seven Up! , she traces the ups and downs of ordinary people’s lives, in the process painting a deeply nuanced portrait of modern Russia. (January)

octoberOctober: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville

The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer China Miéville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history.  In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later, it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions? (May)

What books are you most excited about for 2017?

-Patricia

(Blurbs taken from the publishers.)

*Thanks to Edelweiss and NetGalley for ARCs of these titles.

Mikale’s Top Picks for 2016

minnie

 

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

Christmas Classics, Old and New

Looking for a Christmas read? Look no further!

Five Old Classics

dickensA Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens’ famous novella about an old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who receives a lesson in the true meaning of Christmas and is transformed into a kinder, gentler version of his former self after visitations from the ghost of his former business partner and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. First published in London in December, 1843, and immediately popular, this work has never been out of print.

tolkienLetters From Father Christmas, by J.R.R.Tolkien
Tolkien wrote these lovely illustrated letters to his children between 1920 and 1942. From the pens of Father Christmas and his secretary, they document the goings-on of the preceding year at the North Pole, focusing on the exploits of Father Christmas, his elvish assistants, and the North Polar Bear and his cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka. The stories include a description of the huge firework display that creates the northern lights; the 1939 letter makes a reference to the Second World War.

lwLittle Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, Little Women tells the lives of the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – as they grow into young women in nineteenth-century New England. The novel is loosely based on the lives of the author and her three sisters. Alcott followed her Little Women with a sequel, Little Men.

cciwA Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
The Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s delightful and nostalgic description of a Christmas from his boyhood: “One Christmas was so much like the other in those years around the sea-town corner now … that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six”. You can read the book, or listen to Dylan Thomas reading the story himself (1952 recording) on YouTube.

togThe Tailor of Gloucester, by Beatrix Potter
A tailor sends his cat, Simpkin, on an errand to fetch food and some thread that he needs to complete a waistcoat for the mayor, who is to be married on Christmas Day. Once the cat is out, he discovers the mice that the cat had concealed under some teacups. Written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, this children’s story was published in 1903. Potter declared that, of her own works, this was her favourite.

Five Modern Classics

chlistThe Christmas List, by Richard Evans
A Utah real estate developer by the name of James Kier opens the newspaper on the Saturday three weeks before Christmas, and is surprised to see his obituary and read that he has died in a car crash. The New York Times bestselling author of The Christmas Box and The Walk series returns with a holiday novel of hope, love, and redemption.*

acpA Christmas Promise, by Thomas Kinkade
James Cameron, a minister who runs a mission in Central America, has decided to spend the holidays in Cape Light. But when his car collides with another car, a hint of trouble befalls this close-knit community. No one is hurt, but out-of-towner Leigh Baxter is forced to stay in town until her car is fixed. What she doesn’t expect, however, is that the charm of this beautiful seaside hamlet and its citizens will soon win her over.*

hoiHolidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
A re-release of a holiday classic, expanded with new stories. This collection includes Sedaris’s famously hilarious Santaland Diaries, in which he describes his stint as a Christmas elf at Macy’s department store in New York.

polarThe Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
A young boy takes a magical train ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve, and receives the first gift of Christmas from Santa. This work won the annual Caldecott Medal for illustration of an American children’s picture book in 1986.

scjgSkipping Christmas, by John Grisham
Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences.*

*Description from Bibliocommons

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

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