In like a lion, out like a lamb laden with books

March 2016 Newsletter

What will it be folks? “In like a lamb, out like a lion?” or, as John Belushi quipped, will it be more like “[i]n like a sea otter, out like a giant anaconda?”
Well, whatever manner of transition March throws at us weather-wise, we can be sure there’s lots of literature available to help us cope. Keep scrolling to see a sampling of what’s new.
Titles of Note – March 2016

Leaving Berlin (Joseph Kanon) 

If you are a fan of Cold War espionage it doesn’t get any better than Kanon’s latest. Berlin 1948 is ground zero in modern Cold War tensions and a fertile breeding ground for intelligence gathering, deception, and betrayal.  A young American writer of East German descent has recently run afoul of the McCarthy communist witch hunts. In order to remain an American citizen he is recruited by the fledgling CIA to act as bait to the East German’s cultural community desperate to build their credibility in competition with other political sectors of the divided city. His tour of duty as a double agent while learning on the fly as things go terribly wrong is riveting from start to finish.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours (Helen Oyeyemi)

Oyeyemi is a brilliant young novelist known most recently for the extremely powerful and unique take on race, gender, family, and myth that she created in her novel Boy, Snow, Bird. Her latest work is an interconnected short-story collection that explores the concept of “keys”, both literal and figurative. Told in her inimitable personal style that is at once both playful and perceptive, these tales tug at the boundaries of multiple realities where keys can fulfil many purposes.

The Little Paris Bookshop (Nina George)

For bibliophiles with a soft spot for romance, George’s tale centres on Monsieur Perdu, the proprietor of his self-styled “literary apothecary” – a floating bookstore on the Seine. Here he dispenses just the right title for the bearer of specific worldly woes. As intuitively gifted as he is at helping others find their way through selected reading experiences, he’s not able to address his own heartbreak. After deliberating with his companions in similar need of reconnection, they set off on a floating adventure to meet their respective destinies dictated by their travels, books, and knowledge of the human heart.

Falling in Love (Donna Leon)

Donna Leon’s Death at La Fenice introduced her Commissario Guido Brunetti series to mystery readers. After many investigations, Brunetti returns to the world of opera and the life of soprano Flavia Petrelli. This time the world famous soprano is being hounded by a particularly obsessive stalker with a deadly jealous streak. Along with learning about the psychology of stalkers, readers also get a backstage tour of Teatro La Fenice.

The Alphabet House  
(Jussi Adler-Olsen)

Adler-Olsen takes a break from his crime writing beat to deliver an intense psychological thriller set in WWII that stacks up well to the works of Alan Furst, Joseph Kanon, and Philip Kerr. Two British pilots on a reconnaissance mission over Dresden are shot down and in making their escape accidentally jump aboard a train of wounded SS officers from the eastern front heading for medical treatment. Their masquerade proves particularly demanding when they discover the extent of the “treatment” they are to experience along with the fact that they aren’t the only ones with hidden motives and life threatening secrets on this harrowing journey.

H is for Hawk (Helen Macdonald)

Macdonald’s multiple award winning memoir is another masterfully executed literary hybrid. Mixing elements of personal memoir about her unique grieving process for her father that involved the arduous training of a goshawk with a treatise on T.H.White’sThe Goshawk, this remarkable book is an extended meditation on life, love, nature, and the progression of reconciliation with mortality that struggle, and wisdom bring.

Smarter Faster Better (Charles Duhigg)

The author of the bestseller,The Power of Habit, returns with an in-depth study of productivity using a variety of comprehensive case studies. These case studies demonstrate that how we think, identify goals, construct teams, and make decisions is far more important in being productive and working smarter than pushing ourselves harder towards greater efficiency.

The Right to be Cold( Sheila Watt-Cloutier)

Watt-Cloutier is a Canadian Inuit with a long history activism and policy-making for environmental and human rights issues concerning climate change in the north. In this memoir of her life in the Canadian Arctic she addresses the irreplaceable loss of cultural knowledge and wisdom that is now directly impacting not only northern native peoples but both indigenous and non-native populations around the globe.  She is a passionate spokesperson for human global rights and continues to play a central role in bringing the world’s attention to the shocking realities of the degradation of the northern environment.

The Wander Society (Keri Smith) 
Keri Smith has been on a mission to open us up to the profound joys of creativity by rethinking what a simple journal can be since introducing her book Wreck This Journal several years ago. Her latest advances this concept to the natural but often overlooked and undervalued process of wandering about with no fixed plan or goal other than being open to the experience of the unknown. How she stumbled upon this process of the “Wander Society” in some handwritten notes she found in an old copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass will certainly pique your interest and perhaps motivate you to start your own chapter in this secret society.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (Jon Ronson) 

While one of Ronson’s previous titles, The Psychopath Test, examined the working definitions and experience of meeting real-life psychopaths, his latest focuses on interviewing the victims of high profile public shaming. The concept of shame encompasses wide emotional territory and Ronson narrows his examination more specifically to online shaming and the wholesale demonization of individuals who have been exposed grievously transgressing collective norms of behaviour and judgement. Ronson argues that this has become an insidious variant of social control that we have unleashed and as Ronson points out, implicates us all in our inability to temper or safeguard against its very personal destructiveness.

The Three Sisters Bar & Hotel (Katherine Govier)
Govier turns her attention to Alberta in the early 1900s where the railway has opened up the Rocky Mountains to international tourism and the newly elected government of the day is eagerly promoting the regions pristine attractions. A wide cross-section of adventurers are drawn to the region for a host of reasons, including former poacher Herbie Wishart who reinvents himself as a trail guide and outfitter to a secretive expedition of a famous American archaeologists. When the expedition disappears in a freak snowstorm, the reputation of the whole Rocky Mountain Park area is seriously jeopardized and the mystery of the expedition is left to be solved by Wishart’s female descendants.

Far From True (Linwood Barclay)

Barclay has carved quite a niche for himself as a top flight international suspense writer. This is the sequel to Broken Promise and the second book in the Promise Falls Trilogy featuring private investigator Cal Weaver and Detective Barry Duckworth. As they pursue their separate investigations involving suspicious deaths, an unsettling break-in, and two remarkably similar homicides in the crime-beleaguered town of Promise Falls, Barclay expertly mixes the body count with a healthy dose of black humour.

A Measure of Light (Beth Powning)
Powning has proven she’s an exceptionally compelling historical fiction writer and her latest work examines the harsh realities of Puritan life in 17th century Massachusetts through the eyes of Mary Dyer, the real life historical figure. While some of you may have read Stacy Schiff’s Witches, the history of the infamous Salem witch hunts of 1692, Powning examines a slightly earlier period in which the Puritan magistrates were determined to quash any dissent within their community, particularly the upstart Quakers who openly challenged their absolute authority. When Mary and her friend Anne Hutchinson question the judgements of Puritan rule, they and other Quakers find themselves facing the full wrath of the Puritan leadership.

The Nest (Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney)
The four Plumb siblings are in a fine pickle. They have long depended upon their trust fund, aka “The Nest” as they so fondly refer to it, and now it is in jeopardy just before they are to inherit it due to the antics of the eldest Plumb. As the three other siblings consider their fates without their long-desired financial windfall, they hope against hope that resourceful older brother Leo might just be able to salvage it before it is all too late. An intelligent comic romp with a host of secondary characters explores money, relationships, expectation, ambition, and all those ties that bind regardless of the circumstances.

His Whole Life (Elizabeth Hay) 

Hay’s synthesis of a coming-of-age tale and family drama with the political backdrop of the second Quebec separation referendum makes for a strong multi-dimensional narrative. Ten year-old Jim and his Canadian mother Nan form the core of the novel as they travel to their uncle’s cottage in eastern Ontario during the slow dissolution of Nan’s marriage to George, her American husband and Jim’s father. Their shifting allegiances, familial tensions, and bonds of loyalty all have parallels in the larger Canadian political landscape which Hay thoughtfully develops.

Wages of Rebellion (Chris Hedges) 

The subtitle of this Pulitzer Prize winning author, social critic, and political commentator’s latest says it all:  “The Moral Imperative of Revolt.” He provides a philosophical, historical, and social overview of the conditions around particular historical turning points – such as 1848, 1917, and more recently the Arab Spring and Occupy movements – that create revolution, rebellion, and resistance. With the current pressures of environmental destruction and extreme concentration of wealth, our contemporary situation is ripe for what the philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr coined “sublime madness”, the state were individuals feel compelled to take on overwhelmingly powerful and oppressive forces. The rise of Donald Trump and other pervasive right wing forces around the world make for an explosive backdrop to Hedges examination.

Dead Wake (Erik Larson)

Soon to be released in trade paperback, Larson’s latest foray into narrative non-fiction examines the ill-fated voyage of the luxury passenger liner Lusitania as it leaves New York on May 1st, 1915, bound for Liverpool. Ten months into WWI, the rules of engagement between civilian and military vessels in war zones were changing but the older generation of navigation exemplified by the Captain of the Lusitania were slow to understand the full extent of this new reality. Larson draws on people and perspectives from across the national boundaries of American, British, German, and other European nations as military secrets, natural events, human pride, and territorial conflict all converge to create one of the largest naval disasters of the 20th century.

The Best of Writers & Company (Eleanor Wachtel) 

As most readers know,Eleanor Wachtel, the host of CBC Radio’s Writers & Company is an extraordinary literary interviewer and national treasure. This collection of interviews marks the 25th anniversary of the show and highlights her most memorable interviews with Alice Munro, Toni Morrison, Ann Carson, Jonathan Franzen, and J.M. Coetzee, among many others.

The Dorito Effect (Mark Schatzker) 

The highly manufactured flavour of the Dorito corn chip is indicative of the extent to which the billion dollar food industry will go to hijack our taste buds so that natural flavours seem bland by comparison. Schatzker provides a highly readable exposé of  industrialized food production since the 1940s that has increasingly altered the taste of what we eat and as a result, has radically altered our diet and attitudes toward what we eat. He and other nutritionists and food scientists point out that only by experiencing the richness of true natural flavours will we be able to get back to healthy eating and the benefits this provides.

The Reason I Jump (Naoki Higashida)

This memoir of a 13 year-old boy with severe autism gives a first-hand view of the rich complexity of his inner world. He used an alphabet grid to painstakingly spell out answers to questions he imagined people want to know about his interaction with the world and other people. What he expresses disproves the notion that people with autism are anti-social loners who lack empathy and proves that in fact they have exceptionally refined and subtle emotional, intellectual, and creative lives. This absorbing memoir has an introduction by David Mitchell and is translated by his wife, K.A. Yoshida.

Griffin & Sabine: 25th Anniversary Edition and Pharos Gate (Nick Bantock)
These two releases mark the return of Nick Bantock’s fabled Griffin & Sabine series back to the literary world. Part romance, part mystery, and totally engrossing works of art – this series of interwoven private correspondence between Griffin and Sabine in the form of collage, letters, and postcards they send each other during their far flung travels over the years is simply magical. The 25th Anniversary edition of Griffin & Sabine contains new artwork, an original postcard. and specially created decorative stamps. The Pharos Gate is the concluding volume of their lost correspondence and answers the question “Whatever happened to those two anyways?”

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