Hello All! Summertime and the readin’ is easy, right? …Well, yes and no actually. Any reader will tell you that as pleasurable and engaging as this enterprise is, the subject matter one chooses can range from the delightfully silly and whimsically wise to the darkest depths of human experience. The insights gleaned from absorbing some of these heavier experiences can be equal parts devastating, revelatory, liberating and sobering. Having said that, as booksellers, we try to provide as wide a variety of material to engage with as we can so you can find the right title for you at any given time throughout your reading journey. It’s August and if you can find some time to relax with a book this month, we’d like to help you select one that grabs you. Here’s the tip of our literary iceberg this month…
By Raphaelle Giordano
Newly released in trade paperback, this bestselling, French novel tells the tale of Camille, a 38 year-old native Parisian who, despite outward signs of a fulfilling life, is seriously stuck in a rut. Seeking to regain her spark and find true joy and fulfillment in life, she embarks on a surprising journey to do just that with the help of an unorthodox therapist specializing in disrupting dreary routine. Definitely a feel good novel that may just inspire your own journey to shed boredom and dissatisfaction while tweaking that dull routine of yours.
By Liam McIlvanney
This gritty and remarkably nuanced police procedural set in Glasgow in 1969 sees Detective Investigator Duncan McCormack brought in to try and catch a brutal serial killer known as the Quaker. As talented an investigator as he is, McCormack has two strikes against him before he even begins this deadly hunt. He’s young and an outsider from the Highlands with no experience in the Glaswegian urban jungle, a fact that the senior investigators are all too eager to point out. As their resentment builds and as the Quaker strikes again, McCormack realizes that this daunting case could get the better of him and ruin his career before it’s even begun.
By John Crowley
Crowley was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. Touted as a late career masterpiece by the LA Times, Ka is a dreamlike tale of a man who learns the secret language of crows and tells the story of a 2 thousand year-old crow, Dar Oakley and his travels. From his time before Julius Caesar came to the Celtic lands to the voyages with Irish monks west to the Americas and trips to the land of the dead and Ka, the realm of the crows, Dar Oakley’s story reveals secrets that could change humans’ entire way of life – at a time when they are most in need of them.
By Ragnar Jonasson
The author is a lawyer from Reykjavik who learned his mystery writing craft translating Agatha Christie mysteries into Icelandic. This is his second novel and features Ari Thor Arason, the same policeman introduced in his debut, Snowblind. A close-knit fishing village in northern Iceland where no one locks their doors is staggered by a murder. One of Ari’s colleagues is shot in the middle of the night in a deserted house and it is up to Ari to try and figure out the motive behind it. The trail leads back to a new mayor in Reykjavik and a psychiatric ward with a tragic past.
By Laura Lippman
Multiple award-winning writer Lippman’s latest is a modern noir gem inspired by James M. Cain’s Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce. A man and woman meet at a local bar in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Believing they are both just passing through town, they are surprised by the strength of their chemistry and begin a summer long affair. Despite their physical intimacy, both hold back dark secrets. Someone dies during this period and both wonder if this was an accident or were they set up in some way? Both have become so entwined in each other’s life that they don’t know how to extricate themselves – leading to the realization that if their love doesn’t save them, it will certainly destroy them.
By Eliza Robertson
This Canadian author’s short-story collection Wallflowers was a NYT Editor’s Choice and this candid coming of age novel set in the 1950s exploring the range of emotions between love and lust garnered serious attention in hardcover and had critics drawing comparisons to Donna Tartt’s Secret History. Willa’s mother has found a new beau who has two sons. Her older sister Joan pairs off the older teenage son, while 9 year-old Willa is drawn to the solitary younger brother, Patrick. As they grow up Willa becomes enmeshed in Patrick’s manipulative games that are increasingly sexually charged. As Willa matures and begins to assert her independence, an act of desperation creates equally serious consequences.
By Sally Rooney
This work by young Irish writer Rooney made it onto many “Best Books of 2017” lists including those of Vogue, Slate and Elle. The messy edges of female friendship are slyly and adroitly rendered as humorous, cool headed- Frances and her beautiful and self-composed best friend, Bobbi, come within the orbit of older, sophisticated Melissa, a well-known successful photographer and her elegant husband, Nick. As amusing and ironic as Frances and Nick’s flirtation begins, it develops into a shared intimacy that slowly erodes her best friendship. As Frances begins to lose control over other close relationships, she starts to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body in a way that challenges her previous certainties.
By Mike McCormack
This work was winner of the Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year and Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. An elegantly written, spare, elegiac tale of a man who, while grounded in the unexpected beauty of life and language, comes to the realization how deceptively well the richness of our experience constantly conceals its shocking brevity. He sits at the table at his house on All Souls Day and recalls his entire life in a flowing stream of prose as he changes from boy to man, father, husband and citizen. His thoughts expand from his personal memories of moments of revelation and appreciation of small but momentous acts to larger historical events of time and history that define us all. He distills his life in a single glimpse”… all the terror and gratitude that existence inspires.” Highly recommended if you love and appreciate the beauty of the written word.
By Jason Matthews
Contemporary spy fiction doesn’t get much better than this.The conclusion to the Red Sparrow Trilogy (Red Sparrow, Palace of Treason), sees Russian counterintelligence chief Dominika Egorova and CIA Agent Nate Nash continue their hazardous liason as they struggle to foil Putin’s covert plan to assassinate a high-ranking U.S. official and replace them with a mole Russian intelligence has been cultivating for 15 years. Wondering if the mole is a rightwing real estate mogul financed by Russian oligarchs? Good question! Find out in the riveting conclusion to this startlingly relevant scenario that may just have the jump on the Mueller investigation.
By Diana Gabaldon
Over the course of writing her multi-volume Outlander series, Gabaldon has imagined a beguiling world rich in characters whose stories are extended here. These include 2 never-before-published novellas and a collection of 5 short stories: Besieged, Survival, Virgins, The Space Between, Lord John and The Plague of Zombies, A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and The Custom of the Army. This would be a great addition for readers of the Outlander series who may want to reimmerse themselves in this romantic time travelling epic.
By Nuala O’Connor
Royal watchers were enthralled with the progress of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent romance and marriage. Marrying into aristocracy wasn’t quite this rosy back in the day as this story based on the life of Isabel Bilton will confirm. In 1887 Isabel was the eldest daughter of a middle-class military family living in a small garrison town and by 1891 she is “the peasant countess”, Countess of Clancarty. A talented entertainer and singer she moved to London at 19 and became a successful music hall entertainer. She fell in love with a young aristocrat, William, Viscount Dunlo. When they married at 20, William’s father does everything in his power to annul the marriage and it became a sensational court case of the era. How “Belle” survives this ordeal is a testament to her strength as a woman who would not forgo her dreams in the face of an establishment that viewed her as a commoner attempting to live above her station.
By Richard Wagamese
The final novel by Richard Wagamese – who bestowed upon us many fine works including Indian Horse, Medicine Walk and Embers – leaves us with a tale steeped in the redemptive power of love, mercy and compassion – and a profound understanding of the land’s ability to heal. Frank Starlight has been quietly working his remote farm for decades, when Emmy and her child suddenly arrive on his doorstep. In order to escape a life of violence and abuse, she is forced to commit a desperate act that leads her to Frank. As this accidental family develops into a real one, Emmy’s abusive ex is determined to hunt her down and seek revenge.
By Adam Sternbergh
Wow! Think of Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson, and the Coen Brothers writing about a small town populated solely by people who are in Witness Protection Programs. Small twist: the citizens of The Blinds – a small town in rural Texas, have had their memories erased to safeguard their new identities and help them make fresh starts. As a further precaution, no one is allowed to leave or have contact with the outside world- unless of course they’d like to be killed. Small problem however: after 8 years of keeping an uneasy peace, the local sherriff suddenly has a suicide and a murder to contend with as the town’s residents begin to revolt…
By Laurent Binet
The author of HHhH (concerning the assassination of Himmler’s henchman, Reinhard Heydrich), returns with a satiric romp through the world of French intelligentsia taking as its starting point the death of literary and cultural critic Roland Barthes. In 1980 Barthes is struck and killed by a laundry truck after having lunch with French presidential candidate Francois Mitterand. Police detective Jacques Bayard is put on the case after it’s suggested that this was not just a tragic accident. As the investigation gathers steam and as Detective Bayard bones up on Barthes for Dummies, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva are all questioned. The investigation leads to a search for a lost manuscript by linguist of Roman Jakobson – The Seventh Function of Language – that turns into a riotous globetrotting expedition celebrating modern French thought. Looks like fun for readers who enjoy a good literary mystery and who liked Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Café.
By Craig Davidson
Craig Davidson’s previous novel, Cataract City, his gritty fictional homage to Niagara Falls, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize. His latest continues to draw inspiration from the uniquely rich, noir like atmosphere and character of this tourist town. Jake Breaker is a neurosurgeon who grew up there in the 80s. He became close to his uncle Calvin, a sweetly eccentric misfit obsessed with occult artefacts and bizarre conspiracy theories. When he was 12, his uncle invited him to join “The Saturday Night Ghost Club”, an informal project investigating some of the more macabre urban myths of the area. That summer becomes a touchstone experience that informs his future occupation. It’s also the first hint into the chilling truths behind his Uncle’s dark preoccupations.
By Miriam Toews
Releasing later in the month, this explosive novel based on real events in Manitoba Colony – a remote Mennonite community in Bolivia- reveals a grim, dark episode that reverberates throughout history. A group of women across many ages and generations, meet in a hayloft to review their options after discovering the extent of their sexual abuse over time. They all had been drugged and raped by a group of men for years. They are given 48 hours to deliberate and decide on behalf of all the women in the community, whether or not to continue living there. These discussions, recorded by a man they all trust, reveal nuanced voices that will haunt you with their shared anger and pain, as well as their strength, will and determination to regain their lives on their own terms.
By Jonathan Losos
Subtitled Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution, this work by eminent biology professor and Curator of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology provides a fascinating overview of modern evolutionary theory. Sounds dry? Au contraire mes amis! Our natural history is full of examples of evolutionary contingency as well as convergence. Meaning: while phenomena like eyes and wings and tree-climbing lizards have evolved independently many times over, there are numerous instances where tiny random mutations have caused entirely new evolutionary paths. In examining the role each of these forces play in evolution he analyses if certain extant species of plants and animals (including humans!) are inevitabilities or evolutionary flukes. Along the way he visits evolutionary scientists around the globe whose research with guppies, fruit flies, lizards and bacteria are changing the way we understand natural selection and are leading to discoveries that can protect ecosystems, secure food supplies and deal with harmful viruses and bacteria. Biology 101 was never this much fun!
By Tom Sancton
When Liliane Bettencourt, the heiress to the L’Oréal fortune died in Sept.2017, she was the world’s 14th wealthiest person and first richest woman. While interesting in its own right, what’s more interesting is the story behind L’Oréal’s shadowy corporate history and her relationship with one Francois-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer who was a protégé of Salvador Dali. Over a span of two decades, Bettencourt gave him hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts, cash and insurance policies. If you think Liliane’s only daughter, Francoise, was a little concerned over her mother’s relationship with Banier… well, you’d be correct. What started out as a private lawsuit mushroomed into an epic courtroom drama and a massive scandal that consumed France.
By Deborah Levy
This author of 6 novels, (two of which, Swimming Home and Hot Milk were shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is also a theatre writer and gifted radio dramatist. Add this first volume of her memoir on writing, gender politics and philosophy, one gets the distinct impression Levy is a serious literary polymath. Taking as her starting point – Orwell’s essay: Why I Write, she reflects on her own writing life with wit, clarity and candour. Staking claim to the territory a writer must inhabit is no mean feat and this “living autobiography” will give both readers and writers rich insights into the demands and rough terrain of a contemporary writing life.
By Carol Off
Journalists are schooled in remaining objective and not becoming personally involved with the subjects of their fact finding missions. Yet this story about a CBC reporter who felt compelled to help an Afghan family escape certain death garnered significant recognition as a lesson in humanitarian compassion. Carol Off first encountered Asad Aryubwal in 2002 when she and a CBC TV crew were in Afghanistan making a documentary. He told them shocking details of his life under one of the warlords working with the UN and American troops in their fight against the Taliban. Once his story was documented, he and his family were under a death sentence and had to escape. Their quest for a new home became a daunting journey through a bewildering maze of international red tape. Off was compelled to abandon her role as disinterested media witness and become personally involved in their plight or be complicit in their deaths. This firsthand account of battling through the Harper government’s unwelcoming immigration policies is an eye-opening example of the fraught realities and significant impediments facing refugees trying to establish new lives in a largely unwelcoming new world.
By Richard Collingridge
Now that space exploration is largely in the hands of private enterprise (namely Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson), it’s refreshing to see a beautifully illustrated picture book about a little rocket ship and it’s trip into space to deliver a spectacular birthday message to our own very special little blue planet. Yes, some young readers of this wonderful picture book may very well grow up to be space tourists but this work acts as an open passport to all who open its pages and marvel at the amazing planet we all inhabit.
By Marie-Louise Gay
This acclaimed picturebook author and illustrator hits the nail on the head with this one. Young Mustafa is slowly coming to know his new home after emigrating from the only world he knew. Gay has an uncanny ability to inhabit a child’s feelings and fears and this is a brilliant study of a young child’s tentative exploration of their new, strange world.
By J.A. White
This inventive middle-grade spin on the story of Scheherazade will appeal to readers of Coraline and A Tale Dark and Grimm. Although Alex has always been a fan of scary stories and knows quite a few of them, it’s a different story when he has to tell a new scary tale every night to a witch who has him imprisoned and will do away with him when he fails to deliver. With writerly tips on how to add suspense, plot twists, hooks and interior logic, this tale will help budding writers put together scary scenarios and may just help Alex evade a gruesome fate.
By Judith Russell
Withering-By-the-Sea introduced middle-grade readers to a Victorian era tale about the trials and tribulations of Stella Montgomery, a feisty young orphan dealing with her three nasty aunts at the dreary Hotel Majestic. In the sequel, our intrepid and funny heroine is shipped off to a mouldering family estate and introduced to her two odd cousins and their governess. Surrounded by the many secrets hidden throughout her new home, will she be able to find out where she really came from and who she really is?
By Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
From the author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a middle-grade graphic novel depicting the harrowing plight of current undocumented immigrants. Young Ebo is from Ghana. His older brother has disappeared and his sister left on a hazardous journey to Europe months ago. Not wanting to be left behind he sets out on his own to follow his brother on a trail to Tripoli and across the Mediterranean to Europe. Following him, young readers will get a real sense of the scope of imminent danger that accompanies him every step of the way as well as the prolonged uncertainty of life in a refugee camp.
By Ethan Aldridge
This middle grade graphic novel would appeal to readers of the Amulet series and Witch Boy. Swapped at birth, Edmund and Childe live very different lives. Edmund lives in the World Above and must hide his magic powers from his unsuspecting parents and older sister. Meanwhile, Childe lives in the magic World Below as a human curiosity at the Royal Palace. When a cruel sorceress takes over the World Below the brothers come together to attempt to save both worlds – even though they’re not sure to which world they belong.
By Christina De Witte
Many Instagram and Internet surfers are familiar with the hilarious life and adventures of Chrostin, the character now featured in De Witte’s graphic extravaganza offering insightful tips on negotiating life for teen girls. Described as Hyperbole and a Half for young adults, this guide covers topics including mental health, self-care and the downside of surviving on pizza. Telling the story in her signature comic and relatable style, De Witte offers savvy advice to young women on how to empower young women to challenge society’s unrealistic standards of beauty and embrace their individuality throughout all of life’s many facets: family, friends, social life and the internet, body image, love, food, fashion, work, society and diversity.
By Bruce Handy
This insightful guided tour of classic children’s literature invites adults to rediscover the considerable joys and lessons fairy tales and other stories like Where the Wild Things Are, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Charlotte’s Web, Dr.Seuss stories, Ramona Quimby and Wizard of Oz continue to deliver. Subjects include anarchy, absentee parenting and the themes The Runaway Bunny shares with Portnoy’s Complaint…who knew?