36 Questions that Changed My Mind About You
By Vicki Grant
With a thoughtful combination of originality, wit and currency, this teen novel alternately amuses, informs and delights. When Hildy and Paul, who’ve never met, agree to take together an online psychological test consisting of 36 personal questions, they aren’t prepared for the outcome. Their answers reveal things they’ve never shared with anyone. Writing largely in text message, this Nova Scotia author brings contemporary relations to a new level.
— Helen Norrie
By Ali Smith
On the surface, British writer Ali Smith’s post-Brexit novel appears to be a story of a friendship between a young woman and a very old man. It is more than that, however, and is oddly absorbing, strangely compelling and thought-provoking.
— Cheryl Girard
By David Chariandy
In affecting, understated prose, David Chariandy’s Brother explores the lives of Trinidadian-Canadian siblings as they come of age in Scarborough, Ont. The winner of the 2017 Roger’s Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, Brother amplifies family, community, and love amidst underlying intolerance and the threat of violence.
— Nyala Ali
Carson Crosses Canada
By Linda Bailey
Of the many books published to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, this is the most attractive and amusing for youngest book lovers. Carson the dog and the intrepid Annie Magruder travel from Tofino, B.C., across Canada to visit Annie’s sister in Newfoundland. It’s a colourful, joyous journey that everyone can appreciate. Bailey is a former Winnipegger who now lives in Vancouver.
— Helen Norrie
The Change Room
By Karen Connelly
Versatile Toronto author Karen Connelly’s latest novel convincingly shows Eliza, a 42-year-old married mother of two, in a battle to protect her multi-tasking psyche from being conquered by her rampaging libido. Connelly perfectly captures the contrast not only between mundane duties and physical love play,but also between illicit and married love.
— Dave Williamson
The Dark and Other Love Stories
By Deborah Willis
In her collection The Dark and Other Love Stories, Willis shows us that love is a complicated, sometimes dark encounter between disparate people, as well as people and animals. Love is finally a mystery, and these powerful stories draw the reader in relentlessly to partake in her world.
— Rory Runnells
By James Kelman
In this novel, a 16-year-old boy from Scotland embarks on a grief-laden vacation to America with his father, mourning his mother and sister — but what this atypical kid really pines for is his accordion. Dirt Road isn’t as gritty or as Scottish as readers have come to expect from Kelman, but the curiously endearing character of Murdo packs as big an emotional punch as any of the Glaswegian keelies (hooligans) we’ve seen in the pages of this Booker award-winning author. A braw book indeed.
— John Lyttle
The End of the Day
By Claire North
Charlie begins his job as the Harbinger of Death in The End of the Day, growing into his role to understand the importance of death as a form of renewal and how it honours the living. Author Claire North serves up a stinging indictment of rationalization, capitalism, war and greed that she cleverly juxtaposes against beauty, grace and humour in a book that will remain with the reader long after the last page is turned.
— Shannon Sampert
The Heart’s Invisible Furies
By John Boyne
John Boyne’s character experiences brutality and rejection from the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland as an out-of-wedlock child who is also gay. Cyril Avery’s journey through life traces the struggle for personal happiness and a place in society for gays, from the sexually-active 1970s to the scourge and discrimination of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the ‘80s and finally, vindication that love is love is love in the massive majority vote to legalize gay marriage in Ireland in 2015. Boyne’s sharp observations and sometimes-sad narrative is tempered by his blistering wit, making this compelling reading.
— Harriet Zaidman
How to be Human
By Paula Cocozza
There are 10,000 foxes living in the city of London, England, and one of them caught the fancy of Guardian newspaper columnist Paula Cocozza. The quirky result is her first novel, which combines the wild with the tamed, the alarm of the biological clock, and human variations in behaviour against the guarantee that a fox is a fox is a fox.
— Ron Robinson
A Legacy of Spies
By John le Carré
Oh, the absolute joy and delight of reading new words spoken by George Smiley through the pen of legendary British writer John le Carré all these decades later. Here, a very aged retired former spy, Peter Guillam, is ordered back to The Circus, interrogated for an our-time scapegoat investigation re-examining the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
— Nick Martin
The Lonely Hearts Hotel
By Heather O’Neill
Following the lives of Rose and Pierrot, two orphans in early 20th-century Montreal, Heather O’Neill’s The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a tremendously satisfying tragi-comic love story.
— Melanie Brannagan Frederiksen
Lincoln in the Bardo
By George Saunders
The premise of Saunders’ first full-length novel, which won this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction, is historical. While it starts with the death of Lincoln’s 11-year-old son Willie, Saunders quickly spins history into a quirky, mystical yarn set in a graveyard — or "bardo," in Tibetan Buddhist parlance — where a community of ghosts clings to a thinning hope of "recovery" from death. Though its surprising form makes it initially challenging to access, the novel is a masterpiece of empathy.
— Julienne Isaacs
Madness is Better Than Defeat
By Ned Beauman
Black comedy and horror, paranoia and jungle madness run rampant in this satirical/philosophical espionage novel about a pair of lost expeditions to a mysterious Mayan ruin. Packed with playful language, wildly inventive plotting and note-perfect dialogue, it’s a joy from start to finish.
— Bob Armstrong
A Mariner’s Guide to Self Sabotage
By Bill Gaston
In 10 life-defining situations, master storyteller Bill Gaston expertly casts the reader squirmingly close to dubious protagonists. These disquieting, elucidating short stories address contemporary issues and are usually discernably about Canadians. There are lessons to be learned here — vicariously, happily for the reader.
— Gail Perry
Men Without Women: Stories
By Haruki Murakami
This collection of seven stories — two new for the collection — by the acclaimed Japanese novelist brings together men who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves alone. Murakami’s thoughtful prose combines curiosity, melancholy and subtle humour in his profound explorations of loneliness.
— Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson
One Brother Shy
By Terry Fallis
Canadian humourist Terry Fallis continues his streak of creating relatable characters prone to self-deprecation, unnerving honesty and darkly comical views of the world. His latest offering focuses on the search for family and for self, but the story plays out much like a cleverly written Seinfeld episode, including hilarious, hard-to-believe coincidences.
— Deborah Bowers
Sing, Unburied, Sing
By Jesmyn Ward
The ghosts in the National Book Award-winning Sing, Unburied, Sing, like Jesmyn Ward’s prose, are haunting, poetic and purifying, simultaneously evoking a surreal sense of dread and of comfort. Ward’s way with words is honest and astonishing, divulging her tremendous talent for observing and expressing the mundane and extraordinary, and the way in which the smallest gestures have the power to speak volumes.
— Sharon Chisvin
Sorry To Disrupt the Peace
By Patty Yumi Cottrell
Cottrell’s entrancing novel subtly unites a number of disparate, eccentric elements and extreme tonal shifts to create a surprisingly universal portrait of loss and grief. A striking debut from a voice that is both thrillingly turbulant and fully formed.
— Doug McLean
Strangers with the Same Dream
By Alison Pick
Set in 1921 in the Middle East, this compassionate novel about the founding of a new kibbutz impinges on many issues, including secrets, betrayal, power and the politics of motherhood amid a fledgling settlement. This book is a page-turner that will remain in readers’ minds long after they complete it.
— Bev Sandell Greenberg
By Deborah E. Kennedy
Indiana native Kennedy sets her debut novel in the fictional small city of Colliersville, Ind. The novel will stun readers with its sensitive portrayals of both likable and unlikable characters and understanding of the social tensions in today’s America.
— Kathryne Cardwell
Two Times a Traitor
By Karen Bass
When Laz quarrels with his father during a sightseeing trip to the citadel in Halifax he unexpectedly gets transported back to 1745. He is forced into acting as a spy in Louisburg, gets to meet a famous pirate, and barely escapes with his life. With plenty of action and some Canadian history as well this is highly recommended for middle-grade readers.
— Helen Norrie
When The Moon Comes
By Paul Harbridge
This is a "feel-good" book for beginning readers about the joys of skating outside under a full moon on one of the first days of winter. With wonderful illustrations that capture the nostalgic nature of the text, it will make youngsters eager to lace up their skates.
— Helen Norrie
By Hari Kunzru
A wonderfully creepy ghost story, Hari Kunzru’s White Tears takes a good, hard stare into the core of racial injustice in the U.S., using the history of blues music as a lens. Through sound and music ("sound waves never completely die away… they persist, fainter and fainter, masked by the day-to-day noise of the world"), Kunzru seems to hint that the truth is not hidden completely and that it will be paid by someone, no matter how steep the cost.
— Keith Cadieux
Arrival: The Story of CanLit
By Nick Mount
This is the most comprehensive, provocative, and engaging account we have of the rise of Canadian literature in the 1960s and ‘70s. It is eminently readable.
— Neil Besner
Between Them: Remembering My Parents
By Richard Ford
American fiction writer Richard Ford, best known for his Frank Bascombe novels, has written his first memoir, a masterful rumination on his father and mother. While short in length, it’s packed with meaningful insights and is so evocative that it conjures up memories of any reader’s own parents.
— Dave Williamson
Bookshops: A Cultural History
Riddle me this: When is a book like a Swiss Army Knife ? When it has as many tools for unlocking the mysteries of reading, books and bookstores as the famous gizmo. If you suspect that books are powder kegs — and are willing to skitter between places, topics, destinations, time periods as well as independent, chain and antiquarian stores — here there be treasure.
— Ron Robinson
Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us
By Sam Kean
Over time, the trillions-times-trillions of molecules in that last gasping breath exhaled by Julius Caesar as he died of multiple stab wounds have permeated Earth’s atmosphere. Popular science author Sam Kean explains, in his own chatty way, that every breath we take contains a wee bit of Caesar’s last breath, mixed in with molecules from a whole lot of other dramatic world events.
— Sheilla Jones
Canada’s Odyssey: A Country Based on Incomplete Conquests
By Peter H. Russell
In this enjoyable, provocative book, the University of Toronto political scientist argues Canada’s founding pillars are not only British and French, but also Aboriginal. Canada is still a work in progress, and there’s no inevitability about where our attempts to reconcile relationships between Aboriginals, Métis, English-Canadians and French-Canadians, let alone our embrace of multiculturalism, will lead. An ideal gift to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
— John K. Collins
Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s latest book is a compelling, touching, emotional and informative read on the power of friendship and life lessons told through the story of his 50-year friendship with the legendary UCLA college basketball coach John Wooden. The prolific author, social activist and NBA all-time leading scorer shares beautiful life lessons in his entertaining, funny and brilliant look at leadership as well as the strong bond between two people who seemed so different, yet had so much in common.
— Skyler Trepel
The Dog Lover Unit: Lessons in Courage from the World’s K9 Cops
By Rachel Rose
In The Dog Lover Unit, Vancouver poet and author Rachel Rose explores the unbreakable bond between police officers and their canine partners in Canada, the U.S., England and France. It is a testament to the commitment of the people who make policing more than just a career as well as the dogs who sometimes sacrifice their lives for their work.
— Andrea Geary
The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf who became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist
By Marcus Rediker
Unruly and tender-hearted, 17th-century Quaker Benjamin Lay was "the most radical person on the planet" during his time. A guerrilla-theatre activist against slavery, Lay was also a fervent vegetarian and animal-rights advocate who, while a household name in the 17th century, was later left out of history books. Marcus Rediker’s engaging biography re-establishes this "Quaker comet" as a force in the anti-slavery movement.
— Mary Horodyski
A History of Canada in Ten Maps
By Adam Shoalts
The maps of Adam Shoalts’ book are springboards for his accounts of how this country’s vast expanses were charted. If you like maps, you’ll like this book; if you like both maps and crisply recounted Canadian history, you’ll love it.
— Douglas J. Johnston
Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Men Who Are Destroying Life on Earth — And What It Means for Our Children
By Dick Russell
The titular horsemen are mostly old geezers are the industrial and political giants in the United States (including Donald Trump) who deny the overwhelming scientific evidence that Earth is heating up, trying hard to convince us they’re right so they can continue to profit politically and financially from their interests in fossil fuels. These horrid men are as repulsive as the cigarette companies that insisted smoking wasn’t dangerous long after they knew better. A sobering read.
— Barry Craig
Kennedy and King: The President, The Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights
By Steven Levingston
Perfectly balanced between the details and the bigger picture, Kennedy and King: The President, The Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights, by journalist, author and editor Steven Levingston, closely examines the relationship between King and Kennedy and their contributions to the civil rights movement.
— Julie Kentner
Last Girl Standing
By Trina Robbins
Simultaneously a history of women, comics and culture from the middle of the twentieth century, Robbins’ casual, spirited memoir outlines her unique, circuitous career through an inhospitable industry and fandom through constant upheavals in both. Robbins’ uniqueness and resolve have informed her writing and art for decades; she delivers her own story with equal power.
— Doug McLean
A Newfoundlander in Canada: Always Going Somewhere, Always Coming Home
By Alan Doyle
Doyle, best-known as the former lead singer in Great Big Sea, is an engaging and gifted storyteller who has penned a light, laugh-out-loud, enjoyable and heartwarming tale of his first journey across Canada.
— Cheryl Girard
Queers Were Here: Heroes and Icons of Queer Canada
Edited by Rob Ganev and RJ Gilmour
Queers Were Here is a fine collection of tributes but also an unrelenting memorial of the early days of Canadian queer history. Thanks to this handsome and affordable paperback, names erased by time can be seen and remembered again. These queers were here, and we should never forget them.
— Lara Rae
By David Yaffe
In this insightful biography of Canadian music legend Joni Mitchell, American author David Yaffe argues that Mitchell’s body of work holds its own not just against that of other boomer-era pop acts, but against almost any artist’s of any period. That said, he does not shy away from depicting his subject as an angry woman who has been the cause of many of her own troubles.
— Morley Walker
Richard Nixon: The Life
By John A. Farrell
John A. Farrell does not set out to rehabilitate Nixon, but his fair-minded portrayal of Nixon’s accomplishments suggests history will be favourable to the legacy of the 37th American president.
— Graeme Voyer
Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists: The Origins of the Women’s Shelter Movement in Canada
By Margo Goodhand
A brief but important history of feminism in Canada, as well as the launch of women’s shelters in 1973, is chronicled with care by Margo Goodhand in Runaway Wives and Rogue Feminists. This carefully curated history of feminist gains and losses, along with striking portraits of women who provided a safe haven for those in need, remains incredibly relevant.
— Deborah Bowers
The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen
By Hope Nicholson
Winnipeg-based author and publisher Hope Nicholson’s The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen is a fun romp through the history of women in comics, complete with striking vintage art. Recapping capes-and-tights heroines from decades past alongside escapades from ladies in horror, sci-fi, fantasy and romance comics, Sisterhood showcases just how integral both women characters and women creators have always been to the genre.
— Nyala Ali
Surviving Canada: Indigenous Peoples Celebrate 150 Years of Betrayal
Edited by Kiera L. Ladner and Myra J. Tait
By turns eloquent, scholarly, bitter, profound and angry — yet at times hopeful — Surviving Canada is a deeply discomfiting and significant book that challenges the reader to look beyond the 150th anniversary of Canada and to question almost everything we’ve ever been taught about the origins, actions and moral foundations of the Canadian nation-state.
— Michael Dudley
We Were Eight Years in Power
By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Writer and journalist Ta-Nehesi Coates delivers a powerful indictment of the world’s best-known democracy, revealing a history of hypocritical white leaders pandering to a white majority at the expense of coloured minorities. Comparing Reconstruction politics which followed America’s Civil War with Barack Obama’s presidency, Coates deftly explains the inevitability of Donald Trump’s election victory.
— Joseph Hnatiuk
Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World
By Tim Low
In arguing that half of the world’s 10,000 species of birds originated in Gondwana (and thus Australia), Tim Low combines the latest in DNA and continental drift research with national history, Indigenous folklore, plant and soil biology, apt quotations from literary giants as well as personal experiences as a birder. Even well-read birding enthusiasts will find surprises and revelations on nearly every page in this lively if challenging read.
— Gene Walz
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries
By Kory Stamper
Pantheon, 296 pages, $40
Stamper, an editor at venerable American dictionary Merriam-Webster, provides readers with an irreverent, funny and informative look at the lexicographer’s trade. Her passion for language is infectious and her insider’s view of how dictionaries are created and revised is far more fascinating than it sounds. It’s a must-read for any avowed word nerd — even if Stamper’s arguments for the inclusion of "irregardless" may make your hackles rise.
— Jill Wilson