Scotiabank Giller Prize

Book Awards Season is (finally) here!!!

Some of us get excited about our kids going back to school, and some of us get excited about pumpkin spice season.  I’m sure I’m not alone in absolutely adoring fall because it marks the arrival of book award season — that wonderful time of the year when my TBR pile strains beyond all hope of ever reading every book on it — and I love it.

Here are some of the nominated works I hope to read soon:

From the Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist:

truckI Am a Truck by Michelle Winters

Agathe and Réjean Lapointe are about to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary when Réjean’s beloved Chevy Silverado is found abandoned at the side of the road—with no trace of Réjean. As her hope dwindles, Agathe falls in with her spirited coworker, Debbie, who teaches Agathe about rock and roll, and with Martin Bureau, the one man who might know the truth about Réjean’s fate. Set against the landscape of rural Acadia, I Am a Truck is a funny and moving tale about the possibilities and impossibilities of love and loyalty.*

Boy EatingThe Bone Mother by David Demchuk

Three neighbouring villages on the Ukrainian/Romanian border are the final refuge for the last of the mythical creatures of Eastern Europe. Now, on the eve of the war that may eradicate their kind—and with the ruthless Night Police descending upon their sanctuary—they tell their stories and confront their destinies.  Eerie and unsettling like the best fairy tales, these incisor-sharp portraits of ghosts, witches, sirens, and seers—and the mortals who live at their side and in their thrall—will chill your marrow and tear at your heart.*

mindsofwinterMinds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin

Fay Morgan and Nelson Nilsson have each arrived in Inuvik, Canada, about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Both are in search of answers about a family member: Nelson for his estranged older brother, and Fay for her vanished grandfather. Driving Fay into town from the airport on a freezing January night, Nelson reveals a folder left behind by his brother. An image catches Fay’s eye: a clock she has seen before. Soon Fay and Nelson realize that their relatives have an extraordinary and historic connection — a secret share in one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of polar expedition.*

(I’ve read only one of the longlist, Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster and I highly recommend it for its refreshing blend of gritty and magic realism.)

From the Man Booker Prize Shortlist:

lincolnLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo  is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?*

(I’ve read two of the remaining five on the shortlist — Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves.  I’m partway through a third, Paul Auster’s (possibly pointless but nonetheless enjoyable) 4 3 2 1.  So far my money is on Hamid to take the prize; I’d go for the audiobook read by the author.)

From the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers Literature:

marrowthievesThe Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden – but what they don’t know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves.*

(If you haven’t already read it, please stop reading this post immediately and check out fellow finalist Angie Thomas’ gut wrenching The Hate U GiveIt’s topical, powerfully written, and well worth reading for Starr’s dad’s ideas about Harry Potter alone.)

From the National Book Award Longlist:

naomi kleinNo Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein

Remember when it all seemed to be getting better? Before Trump happened? What went wrong, and what can we do about it? Naomi Klein – scourge of brand bullies, disaster capitalists and climate liars – shows us how we got to this surreal and dangerous place, how to stop it getting worse and how, if we keep our heads, we can seize the opportunity to make it better.*

manhattan beachManhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.*

pachinkoPachinko by Min Jin Lee
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.*

I’d love to hear what book award nominees excite you.

Happy stacking! Happy reading!


*Blurbs provided by publishers.

Meet our new Community Librarian

Name: Mikale Fenton

Mikale sailing in Clayoquot Sound while enjoying a good book

Mikale sailing in Clayoquot Sound while enjoying a good book

Job Title:  Community Librarian

Best book I have read this year: This is a tough one! I think that I’d have to say Rachel Cusk’s “The Outline”. At its core it’s about a woman who travels to Greece to teach a writing course, and the mostly one-sided conversations she has with the people she encounters along the way. While it may not sound like much, the novel is written with such delicate precision that through each fascinating conversation Cusk explores philosophical questions and universal themes surrounding relationships, memory and interpretation. I’ve heard mixed reviews for this book, but personally I was devastated when it was over.

On a side note, although I tend to gravitate mainly towards literary fiction I’m also a complete junkie for dystopic fantasy and thoroughly enjoyed Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven”, a quiet and dark dystopic tale set in the familiar Great Lakes landscape. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a more mature entry into the apocalypse genre.

Rachel Cusk's Outline

Rachel Cusk’s “The Outline”


I will read any book by: John Valliant, Joan Didion, Michael Ondaatje, Joseph Boyden, John Steinbeck, & Haruki Murakami.

Best place to curl up with a book on a rainy day: Currently my favorite reading nook is in my new apartment on the couch nestled in with the radio, my house cat and an endless supply of licorice spice tea!

Best place to lounge with a book in the sun: I spend a lot of time camping and hiking on the North Shore mountains and on the west coast of Vancouver Island where I always make sure to bring my book along. That being said, I think some of my most memorable and sureal reading sessions have been atop of a BC ferries sundeck battling with cross winds while keeping an eye out for marine life.

A book I know I should read, but haven’t: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’ve had it on my nightstand for longer than I’d care to admit, but I always seem to come up with an excuse to read something else. The shame…. the shame…

The book I push on all my friends because it is soooooooo good: A good friend recently referred to me as an “audiobook evangelist” after listening to me preach the same tired sermon about the library’s incredible collection of downloadable e-audiobooks and how to find the goodies. Like anyone, I have a hard time finding as much time as I’d like to read, however as an avid runner and cyclist  audiobooks are my go-to. Top recommendations: the audiobook version of “World War Z” is enough to make anyone an audio convert. As an “oral history” told from the perspectives of a dozen Zombie apocalypse survivors (just bear with me), this audiobook takes advantage of its format by employing dozens of A-list actors to narrate each chapter with their own unique voice and dialect. Trust me and skip the terribly-adapted movie, all you need are headphones to enjoy this story.

For classics, one of my favourite books of all time is “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I feel like this book is as close to perfection as a novel could possibly be. It’s a beautifully-written, sprawling epic about three generations of two families in California’s Salinas Valley who inadvertently re-enact the story of Cain and Abel.

Where you can find me: When not out in the community, I spend my Fridays and Saturdays helping library customers choose their next read at on the Reader’s Advisory desk and the 3rd floor Info desk here at NVCL.

I love to talk books and would love to hear from you. Tweet me at @mikalefenton and tell me what you’re reading!


North Shore Giller Prize Party!

The 2nd Annual North Shore Giller Prize Viewing Party returns to North Vancouver on Tuesday, November 10 from 5:30pm-8:30pm.  

Join notable CBC Radio broadcaster and acclaimed author, Grant Lawrence, to celebrate Canadian Literature. The Scotiabank Giller Prize Awards Gala will be livestreamed from Toronto.

There will be light appies, readings from the 5 shortlisted books, beverages and raffle prizes.

Let’s have a look at the opening passages of shortlisted titles:

from Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis:

One evening in Toronto, the gods Apollo and Hermes were at the Wheat Sheaf Tavern. Apollo had allowed his beard to grow until it reached his clavicle. Hermes, more fastidious, was cleanshaven, but his clothes were distinctly terrestrial: black jeans, a black leather jacket, a blue shirt.

They had been drinking, but it wasn’t the alcohol that intoxicated them. It was the worship their presence elicited. The Wheat Sheaf felt like a temple, and the gods were gratified. In the men’s washroom, Apollo allowed parts of himself to be touched by an older man in a business suit. This pleasure, more intense than any the man had known or would ever know again, cost him eight years of his life.

from Arvida by Samuel Archibald, translated by Donald Winkler:

My grandmother, mother of my father, often said:

“There are no thieves in Arvida.”

For a long time, it’s true, there were only good people in Arvida. Honest and industrious Catholics, and the Protestant owners and managers of the aluminum plant, who were basically, if you could believe my father, good human beings. You could leave your tools lying around in the garage. You could leave car doors unlocked and house doors open.

There was a very beautiful photo from after the war, which was, like all beautiful photos, an empty picture, with practically nothing in it and everything outside it. In it, a dozen bicycles were strewn over the lawn in front of the clinic. Outside the photo, in the building’s basement, children were lined up before a large white curtain, waiting to be vaccinated against polio. Outside the photo, the few times I saw it, my grandmother pressed her finger down on it, saying:

“You see? There are no thieves in Arvida.”

That’s what she said all her life, my grandmother, mother of my father. Except for about twenty years when, from time to time, she looked at my father and said:

“There were no thieves in Arvida. Now there’s you.”

from Outline by Rachel Cusk

Before the flight I was invited for lunch at a London club with a billionaire I’d been promised had liberal credentials. He talked in his open-necked shirt about the new software he was developing, that could help organisations identify the employees most likely to rob and betray them in the future. We were meant to be discussing a literary magazine he was thinking of starting up: unfortunately I had to leave before we arrived at that subject. He insisted on paying for a taxi to the airport, which was useful since I was late and had a heavy suitcase.

The billionaire had been keen to give me the outline of his life story, which had begun unprepossessingly and ended – obviously – with him being the relaxed, well-heeled man who sat across the table from me today. I wondered whether in fact what he wanted now was to be a writer, with the literary magazine as his entrée. A lot of people want to be writers: there was no reason to think you couldn’t buy your way into it. This man had bought himself in, and out, of a great many things.

from Daydreams of Angels by Heather O’Neill

One afternoon in 1946 a child was telling his toy soldiers the tale of a certain tall, menacing-looking Gypsy who was walking down a road in rural France. He had a trained bear and he played the violin. Something magical was meant to happen to him, naturally. However, in the middle of the tale, the child was called to lunch and never returned to the story.

The Gypsy stood there, contemplating his existence. He wasn’t even a real Gypsy, not a member of the great Romany people, but more like the fictional kind, like the ones that you see in old-fashioned storybooks. He had on a pair of black leather boots, a pinstriped suit and a hat with its brim pulled down over one eye. He had a twinkle in the eye that you could see and a violin case under his arm. At least the boy must have thought that Gypsies were the most handsome men in the world, because he was darn good-looking. He was just a stereotype, a collection of spiffy attributes and flashy characteristics. He was one dimensional in that sense. He had no depth.

from Martin John by Anakana Schofield

Mam repeatedly asks whether or not he can hear her — d’ya hear me Martin John? Because we can assume she doesn’t feel heard. She doesn’t want to hear what it is he would say, if he were to speak the truth. She saw a man on telly once. She has seen plenty men on telly, but this one frightened her. She has seen many men on telly who frighten her. But he frightened her in a particular way. He frightened her the way she feels frightened when she sees someone lash out at a dog. In actual fact, she’s not a woman easily frighted. The dark, insects, vermin, death, moths in the flour — none bother her.

But a glance, a moment, in which there’s an indication of what might be the truth of a person sits longer at her. A rat would run under the cupboard sooner than look at you. A man or woman who lets a boot fly at a dog or throws an item at a chicken in their way has a raw and sealed-in-something that she’s convinced can never be dislodged. That man on the television made her afraid because she recognized something of her son in him. There were many who talked of their crimes in that programme. They talked like they were uncomfortable ingredients in a recipe. Something hard to shop for like chopped walnuts, ground lemon rind or tamarind. They used the names of the crime, I murdered, I raped, I killed, I punched. Not him. The details are gone. He talked above and around his crime. He remained oblivious or chose oblivion. He was unsure why he was in here. He did not say he hadn’t done it. He did not say it was a mistake. He merely said nothing either way.

Limited tickets available, get yours today! 

All funds benefit the 2016 North Shore Writers Festival, co-planned by the North Vancouver District Public Library, the North Vancouver City Library, and the West Vancouver Memorial Library.

Sponsored by: The North Shore News
Food and beverage provided by Thrifty Foods, Bridge Brewing Company, and Loblaw’s City Market.

For more information, email Meghan Crowe at


Literary Prize Lovers’ TBR

gillerIt’s been an exciting week for literary fiction.  First up was the announcement of The Scotiabank Giller Prize’s 2015 longlist.  The list features twelve titles, and includes fantastic authors like Heather O’Neill (who read at this year’s North Shore Writers Fest).  With the shortlist being announced on October 5, only the most dedicated Canadian fiction fans will have time to tackle all twelve titles in time.  (Is it just me who spends an inordinate amount of energy ghost judging literary awards?)  If you only read a few, here’s what I recommend:

outlineOutline by Rachel Cusk

Get to know the main character of Outline, not through her actions, but for the things people confide in her.  The novel is told in ten conversations.  If the concept doesn’t grab you, it’s worth reading for the writing alone.

trueAll True Not a Lie in it by Alix Hawley

I enjoy historical fiction about the New World.  In Hawley’s debut novel she invites us into the man (and myth) of Daniel Boone (of whom I must confess I know nothing).  Author Alexei Zentner raves, “Alix Hawley’s debut novel is audacious and bold, like an early Ondaatje, with writing that is luscious, lyrical, and bloodthirsty.” 

undermajorUndermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt*

A foreboding castle.  A colourful cast of villagers.  A dark secret.  A beguiling beauty.  Welcome to Patrick deWitt’s world.


bookerAnd then this morning the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced.  I’d read only two titles on the longlist (Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread, and Lalami’s The Moor’s Account) and was really hoping to see the latter make the cut.  Sadly, it didn’t, which only makes me more interested to get to know the titles that bested it.  My husband, has already read three of the shortlist and recommends:

sevenkillingsA Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

First off, there are way more than seven killings in this violent novel about a turbulent time in Jamaican history.  Second, it clearly evokes a sense of place and character.  Third, it’s HUGE, which is always an appealing quality in a fall read, no?

A Little Life by Hana Yanagiharalittlelife

See how anguished the guy on the cover looks?  Apparently the whole book is like that.  The whole book.  All 720 excruciatingly beautifully written pages of that level of pain.

What about you?  Are you excited for awards season?  Do you try and read the longlists, shortlists, or do you wait for the winner to be announced?  Sound off in the comments.

Happy Reading!


Patricia’s Fall 2014 Picks

We made it!  Now that the kids are finally back to school, life can return to normal.  (Yay!)  Normal for me is reading book blogs and savouring the decision of what to read next.  Will it be a book by an old favourite?  One that’s longlisted for a major award?  Or maybe some non-fiction?  Read on to discover my Fall 2014 picks.


My old favourite for September is none other than Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.  In Egg and Spoon, Maguire takes on Russian folklore.  I’m looking forward to reading it aloud to my girls.betrayers

I’m sure I’m not the only one looking forward to finding out the Giller Prize winner this year.  I think the longlist looks amazing (like a checklist of things people could buy me for Christmas even) and the book I’m most looking forward to of the lot is David Bezmozgis’ The Betrayers*. An Israeli politician flees scandal for Yalta, where he must confront the man who denounced him to the KGB.

learnNo fall release resonates with me quite so much as Benedict Carey’s How We Learn. Having recently tried to educate my children at home, wondered if I’m getting it right, and how I could help them better, this title has shot to the top of my TBR pile.  For fans of Outliers and How Children Succeed, this title promises to teach us how to study smarter, not harder.



October’s old favourite had to beat out some tough competition:  John Grisham, Jodi Picoult and David Nicholls* all have new books out this month.  (Click on the author’s names to see the new titles.)  In Some Luck*, Jane Smiley begins a new trilogy.  Beginning in 1920, each chapter tells the story of a year in the life of an Iowa family.

Just in time for Hallowe’en comes V-Wars Volume 1*.  Bram Stoker award-winning author, Jonathan Maberry promises that the vampires in thisasyouwish graphic novel “will be based on creatures that appeared in actual beliefs.”  I guess that means nobody sparkles.

For non-fic this October, I’m going once upon a time to As You Wish, Cary Elwes‘ collection of tales on the making of The Princess Bride.


jennyStephen King’s Revival is out this November!

I’m intrigued by Jenny Erpenbeck’s award-winning novel End of Days*, in which an unnamed woman lives and dies different deaths in each chapter.  It sounds perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

vodkaNine-year old Lev and his family fled Russia during the 1980s.  In his memoir, A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, he retraces their long journey to America in order to understand himself more deeply.

Happy Fall Reading!  Thanks as always to NetGalley and Edelweiss for keeping me in books!


Giller Shortlist Announced

I don’t think it’s any secret that I think that Lisa Moore is an extraordinary writer.  She writes lines that I feel in my gut and stay in my heart.  Her novel Caught, the tale of an escaped convict trying to reconnect with his partner in crime, is my favourite novel so far this year.


Read it. You know you want to.

So I was thrilled to find out that the novel has been shortlisted for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Competing against Moore for the $50 000 prize are:

goinghomeDennis Bock for Going Home Again

Charlie and Nate are two brothers each with a failed marriage under their belts.  After decades apart, the two reconcile and try to be each other’s family.  Then Charlie meets up with an old love Holly and Nate finds himself attracted to Holly’s teenaged daughter.

Lynn Coady for her short-story collection Hellgoinghellgoing

Coady’s Hellgoing is the sole collection on the shortlist this year.  In Quill and Quire magazine, reviewer Alex Wood raved, “Misreadings, miscommunications, and disconnections lead to moments of awkwardness and revelation. To her credit, Coady makes us feel every bit of her characters’ confusion and discomfort in a collection as difficult as it is insightful and rewarding.”

cataractCraig Davidson for Cataract City

Canada’s answer to Elmore Leonard writes about Southern Ontario in decline in this tale of two childhood friends who find themselves on different sides of the law in adulthood.

Dan Vyleta for The Crooked Maidcrooked

It’s Vienna in 1948.  Anna Beer is returning to the city she left to find her estranged husband.  Robert Seidel is also returning to Vienna to visit his ailing stepfather.  Their paths cross in interesting ways in this gothic novel.

What a deliciously dark shortlist.  The winner will be announced November 5th live on CBC Television.  Those who don’t want to celebrate alone, can join in the Scotiabank Giller Light Bash here in Vancouver.  You can also see Lisa Moore at the upcoming Vancouver Writers Fest.

Venn Diagramming the Literary Awards Season

I love cool visual aids and diagrams. This Venn Diagram shows the intersections of shortlisted nominees for recent noteworthy Canadian fiction prizes: The Governor General’s Literary Award, The Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize (+ The English Man Booker Prize, which sported two Canadian finalists).  For a larger image of the diagram, click on the image or go here.

Created by Peter Scowen for The Globe and Mail, the Venn diagram highlights the relatively small pool of authors with books in the running for the Canadian prizes. Indeed, only 10 authors make up the 16 shortlist slots. (Last year, 13 authors made up the 15 shortlist slots).

Also noteworthy is that central intersection of Westcoasters Patrick deWitt, for The Sisters Brothers, and Esi Edugyan, for Half-Blood Blues. These two young writers are such literary prize keeners! (Deservedly so, in my opinion.)

I also thought this would be a nice opportunity in anticipation of prize season to provide you all with dates of Winner announcements and links to the various prize homepages and their shortlists:

Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize: Winner will be announced on November 1

Scotiabank Giller Prize: Winner will be announced on November 8 (to watch the awards via live broadcast and celebrate in style, check out the Giller Light Bash event happening in downtown Vancouver).

Governor General’s Literary Award: Winner will be announced on November 15