June Newsletter

June 2018

Hello literary fans across the GTA and beyond. Hopefully by now we’ll be reassured there will be a summer this year. As the warmer weather gradually takes hold, check out some of the recent new releases that may help you find just the right title to kick-off your own summer reading campaign. We’ve included some standout Father’s Day selections that haven’t been previously featured along with a variety of intriguing science related titles that would be great to browse through the summer or take on vacation. While some dads are strictly non-fiction readers, we’ve included some amazing fiction for those lucky enough to get the magic only fiction can provide.

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Greeks Bearing Gifts

Greeks Bearing Gifts

By Philip Kerr

The author who gave us the great Bernie Gunther mystery series has sadly left us. The most recent title in the series was published in hardcover in April this year and sees Bernie assume a new identity in Munich, circa 1956. An old friend clears the way for him to get work as a claims adjustor for a large German Insurance firm. His first case brings him to Athens to investigate a large claim by a former Wehrmacht soldier whose “losses” are likely property confiscated from Greek Jews sent to Auschwitz. Bernie’s interview with this client leads to the discovery of a grisly murder that has its roots in the German occupation of Greece in WWII.

 

Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin

By Volker Kutscher

Some readers have already discovered this enthralling new noir series set in Berlin during the waning days of the Weimar Republic. Detective Gereon Rath is new to both Berlin and the police force as he’s thrown into the maelstrom of sex, drugs and social unrest that is fomenting in Germany during this period. When a murder investigation gets him involved in a power struggle between exiled Russians, paramilitaries and criminal gangs over guns and smuggled gold, things get interesting very quickly. As he gets drawn deeper into the case he realizes he’s become a suspect. The books are being released to correspond with the TV adaptation, which was a huge hit in Germany and is now available in North America.

 

ChicagoChicago

By David Mamet

Saying David Mamet knows how to write dialogue is like saying Picasso knew how to draw. In his first novel in 20 years, the prizewinning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross and screenwriter of The Untouchables nails the mobbed up Chicago of the 1920s. Veteran of the Great War and Chicago Tribune reporter-at-large Mike Hodge falls for Annie Walsh, daughter of a Chicago florist doing a booming business at mob funerals. Their brief romance ends in a tragedy that has Hodge seeking retribution. The relationship between Hodge and Parlow, his companion reporter-in-arms, is priceless and worth the price of admission alone. Al Capone & associates, the Pinkertons, and the beleaguered city desk of the Tribune all combine to make it one incredible piece of writing well worth the long wait.

 

In a Lonely PlaceIn a Lonely Place

By Dorothy B. Hughes

This recent reprint from the New York Review of Books is the real deal. A classic of noir writing, Dorothy B. Hughes’ work was way ahead of its time in exposing misogyny in post-WWII America and has a surprisingly feminist resolution. Dix Steele is a former fighter pilot in Los Angeles in the late 1940s and feels he’s missing out on his chance at love and the good life. He reconnects with one of his former Air Force buddies who’s now on the LAPD working on catching a serial killer.  After it was originally published in 1947, this book inspired Humphrey Bogart and director Nicholas Ray to make the 1950 film adaptation – a movie definitely worth watching after you read the novel.

 

House of NamesHouse of Names

By Colm Toibin

Colm Toibin uses his considerable literary chops to retell the classic Greek tragedy of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. On the eve of the Trojan War, the Greek general offends the goddess Artemis. For retribution, she commands him to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia so his ships will be safe on their journey to Troy. As so often happens in Greek power politics of this era, there are repercussions. This tale of revenge, treachery, betrayal and blood lust unfolds through the eyes of Agamemnon’s family members – his exiled son Orestes, his daughter Electra and his wife Clytemnestra – as they reflect upon their dark predicament. Perhaps Toibin is making a point that some of the popularity of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is due to its mixed pedigree of plots derived in part from Greek mythology. Or more likely, the author is revisiting Greek mythology for its sheer depth and shaded nuance. See also Mythos by Stephen Fry for a slightly different take on the old myths or Circe by Madeline Miller for a phenomenal, subversive re-telling of the story of the most infamous female figure in The Odyssey.

 

CalypsoCalypso

By David Sedaris

The American humourist and observational provocateur is back with a hilarious look at his new beach house, middle-age and mortality. For what it’s worth: the name Calypso (in Greek myth, the goddess who kept Odysseus captive for 7 years) means “concealing the knowledge” and is derived from the same root as the English word “Hell”. When Sedaris purchases a beach house on the Carolina coast, he starts to plan how this idyllic getaway (which he calls the “Sea Section”) will take shape and dreams about the great times he’s going to have there. What he doesn’t plan for, however, is the constant reminder that you can’t take a vacation from yourself. As his body starts its latest round of betrayals, his layered observations of mortality and how his life is now more past than future is relayed in a manner that will leave you in stitches – you know, the ones that don’t have to be yanked out with tweezers…

 

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway

By Ruth Ware

The latest from the author of In a Dark, Dark Wood, Woman in Cabin 10 and Lying Game is a slippery tale of suspense that features a shady tarot reader who can’t resist temptation. She mistakenly receives a letter bequeathing her a large inheritance so she decides to play imposter and cash in. When she crashes the funeral of the deceased to see what she can learn of her “benefactor” she gets a weird vibe from the family. That weird vibe turns out to be right.

 

KudosKudos

By Rachel Cusk

The third and final installment of Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy follows Outline and Transit, both of which received multiple award citations including being shortlisted for the Giller Award in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Faye is a writer who is attending a contemporary European literary festival where personal and political identities are being forced to the surface in the wake of Brexit & the refugee crisis. The public performance a writer must enact in relation to their private self is put to the test when the tension between truth and representation begins to crack. If this sounds intriguing you might also want to check out Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, which is an exceptional novel focusing on the response to the current mass refugee crisis.

 

The Golden HouseThe Golden House

By Salman Rushdie

Over his illustrious literary career, Salman Rushdie has displayed a predilection for adroitly mixing pop-culture references with deeper undercurrents of history, myth and human drama. This time round he ups the ante and sets his sites on constructing a delicious modern fable zeroing in on the Trump dynasty and the current American zeitgeist. While real estate impresario Nero Golden made his fortune back in his native land, it’s when he and his family take up residence in Manhattan and quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society that the action unfolds to reveal the misbegotten mayhem that underlies the reality show currently dominating American society. Read this prescient literary romp before the Mueller investigation takes down the current President in glorious technicolour.

 

The Word is MurderThe Word Is Murder

By Anthony Horowitz

Veteran mystery novelist and award-winning television screenwriter Anthony Horowitz follows up Magpie Murders, his homage to golden-era British mysteries, with an inventive take on a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery featuring a fictional version of himself as Watson. A woman is seen discussing her own funeral arrangements and is found murdered six hours later. Disgraced, difficult and brilliant Detective Hawthorne is called in to investigate. Crime writer Horowitz knows Hawthorne is a handful but he’s curious and needs some new material. In partnering up with Hawthorne, Horowitz is exposed to both a baffling case and a perplexing investigator he can’t fully fathom.

 

First Snow Last LightFirst Snow, Last Light

By Wayne Johnston

In his newest novel, Wayne Johnston returns to the powerful and enigmatic character of Sheilagh Fielding, the woman who bedevils Joey Smallwood while he shepherds Newfoundland into Confederation in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and whose background story is explored in The Custodian of Paradise. Ned Vatcher is a teenager when his parents disappear without a trace during a winter storm in 1936. While searching for his missing parents, he discovers a wealth of secrets about his father’s journey – his childhood in a poor fishing family, his rise as a political aide for the most powerful man in Newfoundland and his sudden fall from grace. Ned becomes Newfoundland’s first media mogul and, along the way, he is befriended by Fielding who continues her mission to openly lampoon and hold to account the island’s rich and powerful.

 

The Only CafeThe Only Café

By Linden MacIntyre

If you were wondering what the former investigative journalist and Giller winning author of The Bishop’s Man was up to recently, here’s your answer. A refugee from the civil war in Lebanon, Pierre Cormier immigrated to Canada, where he married twice, had a family and quietly enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer. In the middle of a corporate scandal, he went missing, leaving Cyril, his teenaged son adrift. Five years later, Pierre is declared dead after genetic material and a gold chain of his is found. On the reading of his will, Cyril is subject to a series of revelations, including an introduction to a mysterious Israeli named Ari that his father knew back in Lebanon. As Cyril attempts to get to the truth of who his father was and what led to his demise, he discovers a trail of deception leading from a well-known east-end Toronto pub back to the Lebanese refugee camps of decades ago. Stop into The Only for an ale with this in hand and see if you get any response from the staff or fellow patrons…

 

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow MountainsMysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains

By Yasuko Thanh

Winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize, this work of historical fiction examines Vietnam under French rule at the outset of the 20th century. Saigon circa 1908 is in turmoil – the Vietnamese want independence and the French to leave the country. The steady stream of Vietnamese rebels being led to a guillotine in the city square is a constant reminder of the high price of dissent. Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh is a Paris trained physician who is guilt-ridden over the wealth and connections he has made and secretly loathes the French for tearing his country apart. When he joins a group of his friends in a plot to overthrow the French, his life takes a dangerous turn with far-reaching consequences from which he can no longer distance himself. Sadly, the history of Vietnam this novel so brilliantly depicts was largely absent from North American curricula before the US engagement in Vietnam. Even if it was, though, would it have made any difference?

 

The Lost VintageThe Lost Vintage

By Ann Mah

Readers of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay could be interested in this tale of a woman attempting her last chance to pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine exam. After flunking it twice, she travels back to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy to study vintner culture. During her studies she stumbles across a secret room deep in the wine cellar containing a cot, resistance pamphlets dating back to WWII and a cache of valuable wine. This discovery has her researching her family history and what she discovers blurs the line between resistance and collaboration.

 

A Conspiracy of Tall MenA Conspiracy of Tall Men

By Noah Hawley

The executive producer of the TV shows Fargo and Legion proved he’s a skilled suspense writer with the success of last summer’s addictive page-turner, Before the Fall. In his latest, Linus Owen is teaching a course on conspiracy theory at a California college when FBI agents show up to inform him that his wife, who he understood was going to Chicago to visit her mother, has died in a plane crash going from New York to Brazil. As he learns more shocking details of her disappearance he enlists the help of two of his fellow conspiracy theorists. Once they leave the protected confines of academia to unravel the growing mystery behind his wife’s demise, their quest becomes one of desperate survival rather than mere conspiracy conjecture. Described as a mix of Don DeLillo and Kurt Vonnegut, this tale will stack up to be a classic summer read.

 

Love and Other Consolation PrizesLove and Other Consolation Prizes

By Jamie Ford

You may have read Erik Larson’s phenomenal Devil in the White City, a historical account of the dramatic events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In this novel, Jamie Ford, the author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, delivers a multi-layered tale based on weirdly true events from the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair. 12 year-old Ernest Young is a charity student at a boarding school who is given an invitation to attend the World’s Fair. What he experiences there will dramatically change the course of his and his eventual family’s existence as the narrative travels 50 years forward to the second Seattle World’s Fair.

 

Churchill and OrwellChurchill and Orwell

By Thomas Ricks

This perceptive dual biography of Churchill and Orwell draws some startling parallels in the lives of two people who fought tirelessly throughout their lives to set the west’s compass towards human freedom and liberal democracy. In the 1930s both almost died while their careers were in their formative stages – near deaths that would have profoundly changed the course of the 20th century. As it turned out, their survival and clear-eyed assessment of the threat of totalitarianism along with their staunch belief in the importance of human rights served to act as a rallying cry for democracy at a time when authoritarian regimes were gaining widespread support.

 

FantasylandFantasyland

By Kurt Andersen

This sweeping history of America offers a compelling explanation that what we’re currently experiencing in North American society with the rise of Trump and “fake news” is by no means an isolated contemporary event but the ultimate expression of a particular cultural character that has evolved over many generations. The ultra-individualism of American society has always honoured and nurtured epic dreams of riches, glory, fame and unbridled power. That President Trump embodies all of these qualities so manifestly is a prime example of how American society has glorified this appetite for personal power over social collectivity and responsibility. We shouldn’t be so surprised that the lavish American experiment in liberty has so gloriously come off the rails. We in Toronto and Ontario have experienced the Ford brothers and their populist libertarian ideologies so we shouldn’t be entirely surprised if Doug’s latest grab for the brass ring has considerable support.
We know this is a curious segue, but while we’re on the topic: Richard Dawkins’ recent collection of essays Science in the Soul is now in trade paperback. It contains a passionate introduction decrying elected officials who use their positions to unleash prejudices, misogyny and misinformation that undermine empirical evidence. It also contains 42 extraordinary essays illuminating the wonders of nature while exposing all manner of faulty logic.

 

The Order of TimeThe Order of Time

By Carlo Rovelli

From the theoretical physicist that wrote the international bestselling Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Reality Is Not What It Seems comes a work that examines the tricky dimension we all live in but don’t seem to have the conceptual tools to fully comprehend. He approaches time in lyrical prose that breaks down many of the assumptions we have about it; whether we think it flows uniformly from past, present to future or whether we think clocks really do measure it. What is revealed by quantum gravity theory is a remarkably curious universe where time disappears. Melding together ideas from philosophy, science and literature, he shows that our perception of the flow of time depends on our perspective and so is better understood by first looking at our brain structure rather than the physical universe. Whether you’re going to have more time after reading this is highly unlikely but you will certainly be more aware and appreciative of its special conceptual qualities.

 

We Have No IdeaWe Have No Idea

By Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson

As typified by Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time, most of us have large gaps in our understanding of the workings of the physical universe. Never fear; PHD Comics creator Jorge Cham and particle physicist Daniel Whiteson are here! They join forces to help fill in those gaps in an engagingly graphic and humorous manner. With a mix of their popular infographics, cartoons and lucid explanations of science, they provide a number of the best answers currently available to science on perplexing questions like:

  • Why does the universe have a speed limit?
  • Why aren’t we all aren’t made of antimatter?
  • What is attacking earth with tiny, superfast particles?
  • What is dark matter, and why does it keep ignoring us?

This illustrated introduction to the biggest mysteries in physics also demystifies complex things scientists do know about like quarks and neutrinos, gravitational waves and exploding black holes. You’d think a basic astro- physics course couldn’t be this much fun, but you’d be surprised.

 

Caesar's Last BreathCaesar’s Last Breath

By Sam Kean

Voted The Guardian’s Best Science Book of 2017, Caesar’s Last Breath examines the air we breathe. It’s hard to believe but with every breath we take we inhale the history of the world. In the sextillions (that’s 1 followed by 21 zeros for those who are counting) of molecules of air we inhale with every breath, we could also be taking in trace amounts of Cleopatra’s perfume, mustard gas from WWI, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, or even stardust from the universe’s creation. This guided tour around the globe through time and the periodic table reveals a wealth of information about the nature of the air we breathe, the history of the earth and our own very existence. All this puts a new perspective on those masks people wear around – you can run, but you certainly can’t hide from the elements in our well mixed atmosphere.

 

The Ends of the WorldThe Ends of the World

By Peter Brannen

The recent volcanic activity in Hawaii has reminded us that we aren’t running the show here. In this book, Peter Brannen recounts that, in the five previous times the world experienced mass extinctions, climate change played a major role. Using fossil records from areas on the globe that experienced these events and going deep back in time, he examines each of these mass extinctions in turn. Described as part road trip and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a fascinating journey of the Earth’s history using tools of modern science that help illuminate its future. What better way to get a glimpse of our planetary past while putting our present situation in perspective?

 

WoollyWoolly

By Ben Mezrich

The author of The Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House has a knack for bringing non-fiction exposes vibrantly to life. ‘Life’ is the operative word in this case; Mezrich follows the genetic gamesmanship of a group of scientists who not only want to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction, but are determined to develop “Pleistocene Park”, a protected habitat for it on the Siberian tundra. While sounding like Jurassic Park, this scientific project involves a team of genetic scientists, fossil hunters and biologists intent on sequencing DNA from a frozen mammoth and splicing elements of it into the DNA of a modern elephant. Genetic engineering has come a long way since Dolly the sheep but, with a host of ethical issues hanging in the balance, will this feat of genetic daring-do advance scientific research or lead to more problematic experimentation?  

 

Into the Gray ZoneInto the Gray Zone

By Adrian Owen

This investigation into the emotional and cognitive lives of patients formerly considered to be in an unresponsive vegetative state will appeal to readers of Oliver Sacks and Atul Gawande. Adrian Owen is a cognitive neuroscientist at Western University and has spent twenty years researching the “gray zone” between full consciousness and brain death. Patients with traumatic brain injuries, stroke victims or those with degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s can find themselves in this semi-conscious state. Up to 20% of these cases show signs of intact cognitive awareness. The wide implications of this research – most notably: what defines a satisfying life? – is a topic that will now be debated in entirely new terms.

 

Worlds CollideThe Land of Stories: Worlds Collide

By Chris Colfer

Middle-grade readers are in for a treat as the epic conclusion to The Land of Stories series is released in paperback this month. This clever, modern retelling of classic fairy tales has twins Alex and Conner in possession of an enchanted book of fairy tales they can enter and interact with. At this point in the story, all the characters have escaped the confines of their storybook world and are out roaming about. Some are getting into all sorts of mischief and are about to participate in some very bad behaviour indeed. Just when Conner thinks things can’t get any worse…well, of course they do! Will the twins ever be able to restore order between the human and fairy tale worlds? Tune-in and see for yourself!

 

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek LibraryThe Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library

By Linda Bailey

For fans of Charlotte’s Web comes a great little tale about Eddie, a shiny green bug and voracious reader who goes on a dangerous journey to save the school library. Eddie lives behind the chalkboard in Mr. Wang’s 4th grade classroom – as does his parents, Aunt Min and 53 brothers and sisters. When Aunt Min doesn’t return from a trip to the library, Eddie takes it upon himself to find out what happened to her. His harrowing adventures surviving his trek through the hallways while dodging sneakers, spiders and falling books are just the beginning of his mighty heroic quest.

 

Saints and MisfitsSaints and Misfits

By S.K. Ali

This well-reviewed debut young adult novel has been described as a Muslim teen version of Joanna Nadin’s classic My So-Called Life. Jana’s family has just split up and she’s trying to make the newly distinct parts of her world mesh – with decidedly mixed results. Jana describes her world as being composed of three different kinds of people: Saints, Misfits and Monsters. She and her friend Jeremy are misfits who don’t fit in, especially since they’re so totally different from each other. To top it all off, it’s hard to recognize the saints and monsters behind all the masks they hide behind.

 

Neverworld WakeNeverworld Wake

By Marisha Pessl

The acclaimed author of Night Film and Special Topics in Calamity Physics tries her hand at writing for the young adult market. In this psychological suspense thriller, a group of five tight-knit high school friends are devastated by the sudden death of one of them – Jim, their official creative genius. One year after their graduation, the surviving group members reunite at the seaside where they used to hang out and try to answer questions they still have about Jim’s death. What they experience leaves them with a decision to make that will change them forever.

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