HarperCollins Canada

Booker Prize Longlist Predictions 2016

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

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



Patricia’s 2016 Summer Picks

wantallthebooksThis summer I want to read all the books, don’t you?  ‘Spoiled for choice’ doesn’t even begin to describe the new releases out this season (…which is how a list of 6 titles turned blossomed into the 8 10 12-strong list you see before you). Whether you are looking for something heart warming or spine chilling, summer 2016 has you covered.  Here’s a small fraction of the books I’ll be devouring:

Cuddled Up With the Kids

harrypotterAt the risk of stating the obvious the book of summer 2016 is a script for a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and IIPicking up nineteen years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the play focuses on Harry’s son, Albus.  I know the risk of disappointment is always great when expectations run this high, but it’s Harry Potter, so it’s bound to be lifechanging, right? (July)

furthermoreAlice in Wonderland fans will want to check out Tahereh Mafi’s Furthermore.  In this re-vision of the Alice narrative, Alice is a 12-year old girl whose father has mysteriously disappeared.  She enlists the help of her frenemy Oliver to venture into the land of Furthermore and bring her father home. (August)

With a Flashlight Under the Covers

watchYou’re never too old to stay up too late eagerly turning pages to find out how the story ends.  For years Stephen King has been my go to late night reading buddy.  This summer he offers us End of Watch, the conclusion to the Bill Hodges trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes.  Hodges once again faces off against Brady Hartsfield who has developed unforeseen powers thanks to an experimental drug.  (June)

devilsrockI was so blown away by Paul Tremblay’s Stoker award-winning A Head Full of Ghosts that I can’t wait to get my hands on his latest, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock*Ghosts did a marvellous job of walking the line between realistic drama and supernatural thriller partly because Tremblay revels in his characters’ unreliability.  Devil’s Rock promises more of the same with the missing of a teenage boy Tommy, and the promise of finding him relying on the lies and half-truths told by the friends he was with before he disappeared. (June)

With a Box of Tissues

lilyHere’s one that’s perfect for fans of Garth Stein’s heartwarming The Art of Racing in the Rain.  And perfect for dog lovers.  And fans of quirky fiction like The Storied Life of AJ Fikry or The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Lily and the Octopus* by Steven Rowley tells the story of singleton Ted Flask, and his furbaby Lily.  As for the octopus, you’ll have to read it to find out more…   (June)

With a Highlighter

homegoingThese days my Litsy account is non-stop quotes from Yaa Gyasi’s  Homegoing*, a sprawling family story that starts in 18th century Ghana with two sisters: one who marries a British governor and lives in a castle, and one who is forced into slavery.  It’s the kind of book you put down every few pages just to savour the writing properly.  My favourite quote so far: “Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you.  Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.” Literary tattoo anyone? (June)

With a Fruity Drink in the Sun

nineSooner or later we all need something frivolous and fun.  I’m looking forward to dipping into Nine Women, One Dress*a novel about an LBD in NYC and the women who buy, return, and borrow it from Bloomingdale’s (July)– and Hadley Freeman’s Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies* — because I quite simply am still not over Molly Ringwald, Baby, or Buttercup (June).  If I’m blessed enough to need a third fruity drink book, I choose Danika Stone’s All The Feels, a YA title that celebrates geek fandom. (June)

 With a Fan (When It’s Just Too Hot)

sunlightWhen it’s too hot to move, I recommend reading about the cold.  This summer I’ll be heading to Clachan Falls, November 2020.  Jenni Fagan’s post-apocalyptic The Sunlight Pilgrims* tells the story of an Earth with three suns, melting polar ice caps, and a temperature of -40C (in England!?!).  Trust me, when it’s scorching out, this one will hit the spot.  It’s a joyful novel about how we adapt and survive.  (July)

Wherever, Whenever

spellsMy final two picks are books I’m so excited to read that I’ll dive right in wherever, whenever.  Emma Cline’s debut The Girls* is a coming-of-age story that will get under your skin with its examination of the intensity of female friendships framed by a Manson-like cult.

Toronto! Witches! Russian folklore!  Family relationships!  Shapeshifters!  Claire Humphrey’s debut The Spells of Blood and Kin has it all, and I want in. Now, please.

What are you planning to read this summer?


*Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for ARCs of the starred titles — much appreciated!




Patricia’s 2016 Spring Picks

After a grueling three years of studying, I am thisclose to finished my MLIS and I am overdue for some fun!  (To me ‘fun’ means ‘future uninterrupted nights’ of pleasure reading… lots of it… as I call all the precious books unto me.)  Here’s what I’ll be reading:


americanThe Great American Whatever* by Tim Federle

Quinn has a knack for seeing his life as though it were a screenplay, which fuels his dream of making movies someday.  He hasn’t made much of anything in recent months; his life is at a standstill that began when his sister died in a car accident.  BFF Geoff is determined to help Quinn re-engage with life.  This book is unexpectedly funny and honest.

steeleJane Steele* by Lyndsay Faye

A must read for anyone who ever thought that Jane Eyre would have been more satisfying if it’d begun, “Reader, I murdered him.”  Jane Steele reimagines Jane Eyre as a tenacious serial killer in this page-turning satirical romance.

shoreOn the Shores of Darkness, There is Light by Cordelia Strube

I really enjoy novels about precocious children like Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce and Muriel Barbery’s Paloma, and so have high hopes for Strube’s newest protagonist.  Harriet is an 11-year old mixed media artist who longs to run away to Algonquin Park a la Tom Thomson.  For those of you new to Strube, a former Giller nominee for Lemon, her writing breathlessly walks the line between sarcasm and genuine feeling.


naturalistThe Naturalist by Alissa York

Several years ago Alissa York’s Effigy knocked me flat with it’s searing writing and unputdownable story of Dorrie, the fourth wife of a Utah Mormon who married her so she could perform taxidermy on demand and provide him with animal trophies.  Somehow York fell off my radar after that, despite continuing to publish.  I’m very much looking forward to being reunited with her writing in The Naturalist, a story about a reluctant Amazon adventurer in the 1800s.

saradevosThe Last Painting of Sara de Vos* by Dominic Smith

Moving back and forth in time through the Golden Age of Holland, 1950s New York City and the present day, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos tells the story of a masterful female painter and one of her works, a painting called At the Edge of the World.  It also tells the story of an Australian grad student / forger of de Vos’ masterpiece, and what happens when the original painting and forgery are due to be shown at the same gallery.


crown'sThe Crown’s Game* by Evelyn Skye

Truth be told, I’ve already neglected my schoolwork to devour this tale of two feuding magicians in St. Petersburg.  In my opinion it’s stronger than perennial favourite The Night Circus.  I’d been concerned that a novel so full of whimsy wouldn’t have the teeth to pull off a strong ending, but it snuck up on my and broke my heart. Highly recommended.

noiseThe Noise of Time* by Julian Barnes

One of the best books I read last year was Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson’s non-fiction look at the making of Shostakovich’s Lenningrad Symphony.  Ever since I’ve been hungry to read more about this composer who was equal parts forced and compelled to create.

romanovsThe Romanovs 1613-1918* by Simon Sebag Montefiore

It’s an event whenever Simon Sebag Montefiore has a new book out, and I couldn’t be more pleased that he’s chosen to tackle the Romanov dynasty in his latest work of non-fiction.  From Mikhail to Alexander, Montefiore lavishly recounts a 300-year history of brutal violence, sex, and power.  At 784 pages, it’s a commitment, but I’m confident it’ll be richly rewarding.


*HUGE thank yous to NetGalley and Edelweiss for providing me with Advanced Readers Copies of these titles.




Farewell from your Non-Fiction Librarian (with a few upcoming Current Event recommendations as I go out the door)

It has been fun contributing to the library blog, but I’m leaving my role as non-fiction librarian – so this will be my last blog (at least for now). I’ve been seconded to library administration for the next year which will bring a whole new set of non-blogworthy challenges and interests. I hope some of my bloggy suggestions and observations over the past few years have been useful. As a goodbye, here are a few current event titles I’m looking forward to reading when they come out:

DifferentKindOfDaughterDifferent Kind of Daughter, by Maria Toorpakai (May 2016)

What to do if you’re a girl interested in sports, but live in a tribal area of Pakistan? Dress as a boy, of course. Toorpakai’s choice to live as a male, as well as her athleticism, put her into the crosshairs of the Taliban. This is the story of her remarkable journey as she rose to become the number one female Squash player in her country before fleeing to Canada – where she remains a voice for oppressed women everywhere.

Brown: What Being Brown Means in the World Today (To Everyone), by Kamal Al-Solaylee (May 2016)Brown

From the 2015 Canada Reads finalist (for Intolerable) comes this new look at the global implications of being brown-skinned. Full of stories and street-level reporting, Solaylee travelled four continents and ten countries to research the lives of persons like himself – neither black nor white, but something in between.

BoysInBunkhouseThe Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland, by Dan Barry (May 2016)

From 1974 to 2009 a group of intellectually disabled men lived in an old Iowa schoolhouse. They were paid $65 per month plus food and lodging in return for their work in a meat-packing plant. They endured neglect, exploitation, and physical and emotional abuse before finally being freed. A reminder to us all to be vigilant; that we are responsible for the social justice issues of our age.

Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, by Barton Gellman (July DarkMirror2016)

Gellman was one of the three journalists Snowden chose to receive his collection of NSA documents. Building on his twenty plus years as an investigative journalist for the Washington Post, Gellman was able to access sources in government and the tech industry to help make sense of Snowden’s massive leak. Soon Gellman himself became a target. A true-life spy story, dealing with the surveillance revolution that impacts us all.

GirlWhoBeatISISThe Girl Who Beat ISIS: Farida’s Story, by Farida Abbas (June 2016)

When ISIS Jihadists overran her village killing all men and boys, Farida Abbas was taken captive. Beaten and sexually assaulted, Abbas was taken to a market where ISIS sold female prisoners. But by then Abbas had realized that fighting back made it harder for her captors to continue their abuse. This is her heroic struggle to escape the unthinkable.

Esther the Wonder Pig: Changing the World One Heart at a Time, by Steve EstherWonderPigJenkins and Derek Walter (May 2016)

On a lighter note, Steve knew his partner Derek wouldn’t be keen on adopting a micro piglet, but he decided to go ahead anyway. This tiny pig turned out to not be so micro after all – ultimately growing into a 600 pound pet. When space became an issue, Steve and Derek bought a farm where they created a refuge for other animals in need. A charming tale about accidental animal-rights advocates.

Place a hold for a title or two today!

Black History Month

February is Black History Month in the United States. In honour of that observance, and in light of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, here are a few books on the Black experience in North America that will enrage, enlighten, and fascinate.

BookOfNegroesThe Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill

This compelling and award winning novel gives a sweeping vision of the 18th century slave trade. At the request of British abolitionists, Aminata Diallo writes her life story, beginning with her abduction from an African village, her life as a plantation slave, her transfer to Nova Scotia following American independence, and finally her journey to England. All of this is fascinating, but it is the narrator’s voice and character that make this book sing.

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle AlexanderNewJimCrow

“We have not ended racial caste in America, we have merely redesigned it,” observes Alexander. And she lays out in devastating and scrupulously researched detail how mass incarceration in the U.S. (nearly at the levels achieved by Stalin) has created a new version of the abhorrent Jim Crow laws – which permitted racial discrimination in the American south. A disturbing but essential and timely read.

HangingAngeliqueThe Hanging of Angelique, by Afua Cooper

We don’t ordinarily associate the idea of Canada with slavery, except perhaps as the terminus for the underground railway. This is the historical account of a Canadian slave who was convicted of setting a fire in Montreal in 1734, but who may have been guilty of nothing more than being a woman who refused to accept bondage.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetweenWorldAndMe

Still showing up on all kinds of bestseller lists, this short book looks at what it means to be Black in America today. Structured as a letter to his teenage son, Coates writes of his childhood, his education, his fears as a parent, and underlying all this is the issue of race. There is rage, kindness, love, and a kind of painful wisdom, all delivered with a James Baldwin vibe.

RosaParksThe Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by Jean Theoharis

Famous for refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, Rosa Parks has entered the civil rights pantheon as a mild, self-effacing, almost accidental activist. This biography sets the record straight, revealing her life as a protester both before and after the bus incident. She may have been quiet, but she was also thoughtful, passionate, and dedicated. A true hero of her time.

If you’ve read all of these, here are a few other books on this topic that aren’t to be missed: The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin; Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup; I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou (or anything else by her); and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.

BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction

Since 2005, British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction has recognized and rewarded thoughtful and provocative Canadian non-fiction works. It is the only national prize that originates in BC, and has a top prize of $40,000. The winner will be announced on February 4th. Here are the finalists:

BeyondPaleBeyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, by Emily Urquhart

When her newborn daughter is diagnosed with albinism, the author embarks on a quest to understand the condition. Urquhart is a journalist and folklore scholar, accustomed to interpreting the world through other people’s stories, so this is her approach. Part parenting memoir, part travelogue, and part cultural critique, this is a unique look at how we explain human differences through our cultural beliefs

The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting her Culture, the Arctic, and the Whole RightToBeColdPlanet, by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

In this memoir, Inuk Sheila Watt-Cloutier describes the tumult of climate change in human rights terms, not just economics. The jarring changes in the Arctic, where warming rates are double compared to the rest of the globe, threaten the Inuit way of life and serve as an early warning system for the rest of the world. Her personal story is entwined with her passionate desire to preserve the future for her culture and her grandchildren.

StalinsDaughterStalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, by Rosemary Sullivan

In 1967, Stalin’s daughter shocked the world by defecting to the United States. But coming to America did not free her from the legacy of her father’s name. Accessing KGB, CIA, and Soviet archives, Sullivan pieces together the epic life of a woman who never escaped the shadow of her monstrous father. It’s an intimate portrait, which also illuminates the broader context of her time.

StephenHarperStephen Harper, by John Ibbitson

The first part of this biography examines the very private life of our former Prime Minister. Ibbitson portrays him with all his moody flaws, giving a compelling portrait of a famously secretive individual. The second part deals with Harper’s achievements, such as uniting the Reform and Conservative parties, trade agreements and his government’s economic guidance. Neither hagiography nor mud-slinging tirade, the book is a balanced picture of an important and enigmatic figure.

Who do you want to win?

New Books Published in January & February

Here are a few new titles I’m looking forward to that are scheduled for release in the next two months. What’s on your reading list?

WalkingNileWalking the Nile, by Levison Wood

This one is for all you armchair travellers out there. Ex-army officer, Levison Wood, is the first person to have walked the entire length of the Nile (4,250 miles), crossing seven countries, foraging, camping, and defending himself against multiple dangers. It’s also an exploration of modern Africa, with reviewers commenting on the depth of the political and historical content. Sign me up!

And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East, by Richard HellBrokeLooseEngel

At twenty-three, Engel set off for Cairo to be a reporter. In the decades since, he has witnessed the Arab Spring, seen Mubarak and Morsi arrested and condemned, been taken hostage, shot at, and blown out of his hotel bed. He interviewed Libyan rebels, witnessed the arrival of Al-Qaeda in Syria, and saw the rise of ISIS. This promises to be a page-turning account of a region we all need to understand more.

IntoMagicShopInto the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart, by James R. Doty, MD

At twelve years old, Doty wandered into a magic shop to buy a plastic thumb (as one does). But instead of getting a fake appendage, he met a woman who taught him exercises to ease suffering and achieve his potential. Part memoir, part science, part inspiration, and part practical instruction, this book is being described as a guide for changing our lives, by first changing our hearts.

100 Million Years of Food: What our Ancestors Ate and Why it Matters Today, by 100MillionYearsStephen Le

Interest in Paleo diets and the like has sparked much curiosity about the evolution of nourishment. This book, by biological anthropologist Stephen Le, promises to explain how cuisines of different cultures came about through centuries of adjustments to biology and environment. He argues that ancestral diets present the best defense in protecting health. Looks fascinating.

RaisingRylandRaising Ryland: Our Story of Parenting a Transgender Child with No Strings Attached, by Hillary Whittington

Moving stories about unconditional love are always high on the reading list agenda. When Jeff and Hillary Whittington realized they were parenting a transgendered child, they posted a YouTube video chronicling the transition, and it has been viewed 7 million times. This book is the account of their journey and it illuminates a very timely subject.

UngentlemanlyA Most Ungentlemanly Way of War: The SOE and the Canadian Connection, by Colonel Bernd Horn

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was created by Churchill to sabotage Nazi interests and support partisan uprisings behind their lines. It was a unique organization focused on innovation and adventure, and many of its members were trained at Camp X in Ontario. This book looks at the Canadian contributions to this little-known aspect of the Allied fight.

IndustriesFutureThe Industries of the Future, by Alec Ross

It seems the only constant in our world, is change, change, change. This book promises to give a perspective on what’s coming in robotics, cybersecurity, genomics, and big data. Ross also covers the evolution of what work means, and addresses other global trends that affect the way we live. Looks like a must-read for all of us.

Put these on hold now!