Hello literati of all persuasions and permutations – welcome to the November Book Bonanza. We’re right in the middle of book award season with the Governor General Award winners being just announced, the Writers’ Trust Awards on Nov.7, the U.S. National Book Awards on the 14th and the Giller Winner on the 19th. See below for the nominees of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Click on the covers to bring up their brief descriptions. It’s worth noting that the talented juries who judge these awards have read prodigiously over several months to curate what they believe is a vibrant selection of the best books of the publishing season. We in the bookselling community applaud their efforts so we can continue to do what we do best and augment their selection with those of our own. Definitely a win-win situation for readers, so come visit us and check out the full literary menu along with our calendars, stationary items, toys and puzzles for more gift giving ideas.
By Will Aitken
Novelist Aiken travelled to Luxembourg in 2015 to experience the rehearsals and premiere of Anne Carson’s translation of Sophokles’ 5th century BCE tragedy Antigone. The artful production of this timeless protest against injustice resonated with him so powerfully that he barely survived its emotional shockwaves. It provides an intimate backstage view of the creative process at work amongst the principal players as well as documenting the response to the play by Hegel, Virginia Woolf, Judith Butler and others who were also profoundly moved by this exploration of absolute power, resistance, and the life and death struggle for truth and justice.
By Terese Marie Mailhot
This electrically charged memoir exploring growng up on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in British Columbia takes the form of a notebook Mailhot wrote after being hospitalized for the double diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar II. Both a memorial to her social worker and activist mother and a reconciliation with her father who was murdered under mysterious circumstances, her true voice develops as she writes and reestablishes her connection to her family, her people and her place in the world.
By Elizabeth Hay
A previous Giller winner for Late Nights on Air, Hay’s latest work is a moving family memoir detailing the lives of her formidable parents, herself and her siblings as they transit through their overlapping orbits. While Elizabeth got the “difficult” and “selfish“ label growing up, she always had a sense, that she would be the one who was going to end up looking after her parents in their final years. Sure enough, this feeling was borne out. As her very independent parents became more dependent upon her, Elizabeth charts the family’s shifting dynamics, sibling rivalries, miscommunications, simmering resentments and family upheavals – all underlain by love and devotion to her larger- than- life parents.
By Judi Rever
Many Canadians came to know the horrors of the Rwandan genocide through Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands With the Devil. In this new book, Canadian journalist Rever puts her own life in danger investigating the complete story of the genocide. Using new interviews with Rawandan Popular Front defectors, former soldiers, atrocity survivors and leaked UN court documents, she reveals that far from being the saviours who ended the Hutu slaughter of innocent Tutsis, Paul Kagame and his rebel forces were just as murderous as the Hutu genocidiare and in fact shot down the Presidential plane that sparked the genocidal conflagration. Post-genocide, they successfully rallied world guilt and attracted funds to rebuild Rwanda while maintaining and extending Tutsi influence in the region.
By Lindsay Wong
Sub-titled: How I Survived Ice Hockey, Drug Raids, Demons and My Crazy Chinese Family, this darkly comedic memoir of a young woman growing up in a shockingly dysfunctional family, highlights how dangerous untreated mental illness can be. Lindsay grew up with a paranoid schzophrenic grandmother and a mother who was constantly afraid of the “woo-woo”, Chinese ghosts who drop by in times of personal turmoil.The harrowing escapades she and her mother endure in avoiding these ghosts come to affect her own mental health. While not a survival guide approved by Health Canada, it dramaticaly shows how people devise their own methods of dealing with mental illness in the absence of community mental health supports.
By Peter Robinson
The 25th installment of the Inspector Banks series sees the good Inspector investigating a young woman’s apparent suicide. The location of the body inside a car on a lonely stretch of road doesn’t add up, nor does the nearby death of a well-dressed older man from a fall in the wild moorland. While piecing together the inconsistencies of these two cases he learns an old enemy of his has returned with a new identity and is deadly determined to get what they want.
The previous 24th Inspector Banks investigation, Sleeping in the Ground is now in trade paperback. This case sees the Inspector and his team involved in the aftermath of a wedding in the Yorkshire Dales gone terribly wrong and we aren’t talking questionable bridesmaids’ gowns.
By David Mamet
To say that Mamet knows how to write dialogue is like saying Picasso knew how to draw. His first novel in 20 years, the prizewinning playwright of Glengarry Glen Ross and screenwriter of The Untouchables amongst other literary feats, nails 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 tragedy that has Hodge seeking retribution at any price. The relationship between Hodge and Parlow, his companion reporter- in- arms is priceless and worth the price of admission alone. Al Capone and associates, the Pinkertons, along with the beleaguered city desk of the Tribune all combine to make this one incredible piece of writing well worth the wait.
By Ali Smith
The 2nd novel in Smith’s seasonal quartet begun in Autumn, employs the author’s unique shape-shifting literary skills in evoking winter on a number of levels. Winter’s extremes in temperature, light and shadow can be a tough season that tests our mettle, while at the same time making a number of things more visible and clear. The narrative sees a group of people, both strangers and family, converge on a house in Cornwall for the Christmas season. Art’s mother has started seeing things and he’s frightened he’s starting too as well. Smith plays with these narrative threads while she juxtaposes elements of winter’s various guises to flesh out a warm hearted and generous novel deeply rooted in memory, art, love, reconciliation and the glory of evergreens in winter.
By John Boyne
The author of Boy in the Stripped Pajamas and Heart’s Invisible Furies returns with a tale of a pathological writer and a parable for out times. Marcus Smith is a young aspiring writer with ruthless ambition. A chance encounter with a celebrated novelist gives Marcus the opportunity to shamelessly ingratiate himself. As his career advances he starts to collect stories by any means he sees fit, regardless of the consequences they may have on the people they are about. A cat and mouse psychodrama unfolds that demonstrates how easy it is to achieve fame if you are prepared to sacrifice your soul.
By Helene Tursten
The author of the Inspector Irene Huss investigations has written an irreverently comic collection of stories based on the life an irascible 88 year-old Swedish woman who is nothing if not brutally practical. Maud has led a quiet, solitary existence, travelling the world and surfing the net, yet she’s had a few interesting misadventures dealing with people who insinuate themselves too close for her comfort. She’s avoided serious trouble so far but when the police investigate a body found in her apartment, is her freedom loving days well and truly over?
By Rachel Joyce
Now available in paperback, the author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry has a High Fidelity by Nick Hornby type of vibe with some obvious departures. Its 1988 in Britain and the arrival of the CD is sending shockwaves through the music and recording industry not to mention the local, vinyl record store. Frank’s Music Shop is a haven for music lovers of all descriptions and Frank is a bit of a star in finding just the right music for the right person. When Ilse Brauchmann walks into his store however, he’s totally at sea in more ways than one.
By Sebastian Faulks
The author of Birdsong and A Week in December returns with a novel set in Paris in 2006. Hannah is a young American researching the lives of women during the German Occupation of Paris in 1940-44. Tariq is a 19 year-old boy from Morocco who is seeking new life and adventure. Both characters experience culture clash as well as historical dislocation as they are each plunged back into the dark years of the Nazi Occupation and the Algerian War. Both find their futures shaped by the lives of the dead and the ghosts of the Paris Metro.
By Jonathan Lethem
This is Lethem’s long- awaited return to the mystery genre after his memorable and highly entertaining Motherless Brooklyn from 1999. A shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles is home to private investigator Charles Heist. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, he is sought out by garrulous Phoebe Siegler who is looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella. This unlikely pair set out to locate Arabella who’s gotten herself into a pickle that will sorely test their collective wiles.
By Sophie Hackett, Andrea Kunard, and Urs Stahel
Released last month to coincide with the photography exhibit of Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier at the AGO, the curators of this exhibit attempt to chronicle the massive and irreversible geological impact of humans on the earth. These disconcerting images are accompanied by essays by artists, curators and scientists that posit that Earth has now entered the Anthropocene, a new era of geological time where human activity is the driving force behind environmental and geological change. This work puts contemporary art directly into the conversation about the future of the planet with environmental science and anthropology. See also: The End of the Earth by Jonathan Franzen, a new collection of essays that examines the place of art, empathy, technology, beauty and nature in establishing a viable future.
By Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris
This exquisitely illustrated work for all ages addresses the slow erosion of our connection to nature through the loss of language. In 2007 a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary dropped 40 common words concerning nature on the belief they were no longer being used enough by children to warrant their inclusion. The words chosen to replace these natural phenomenon were “attachment”, “blog”, “broadband”, “voice-mail” and other terms of the digital world. Macfarlane and Morris decided to create a “spell book” that conjured back 20 of these lost words from “acorn” to “wren”. Inspired poetic descriptions and wonderfully rendered images combine to celebrate the intrinsic magic and centrality of nature in everyday life while providing a graphic statement of what we lose when we no longer use language to describe its quiet magnificence. See The Overstory by Richard Powers for another searing account of the centrality of nature in our continued existence.
By Rick Mercer
Social satirist extraordinaire is ending his Rick Mercer Report at the conclusion of this season. Before proceeding with his next project he’s finishing up his 15 seasons and 250 rants with a celebratory swan song that includes never-before-been-published rants from the last 5 seasons and a selection of memorable rants from earlier years. It also includes new essays along with hilarious and scary moments from his shows, both from in front of the camera and behind the scenes where things went rather unexpectedly and some adventures that became just too weird to put on air. On the Canadian comedy scene also watch for – Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy by Paul Myers, the definitive story of the legendary sketch comedy troupe newly released in trade paperback.
By Mark Dery
The eccentric life and mysterious genius of Edward Gorey is the subject of this intriguing biography that contains 54 black and white photographs and illustrations by Gorey throughout. The author of Gashlycrumb Tinies, Doubtful Guest and many other works of deliciously sinister and macabre goings on continues to influence culture through contemporary artists like Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket, though little is known about the man himself. This definitive biography provides a rich character study of the gregarious recluse who specialized in the whimsically morbid and who published over 100 books and illustrated works by Samuel Beckett, T.S.Eliot, Edward Lear, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Muriel Spark and Bram Stoker amongst many others.
By Nicholas Jennings
Now in trade paperback, Jennings’ biography of the reclusive folk-pop icon who informed the sound of the 60s and 70s is the result of this veteran music journalist’s meticulous research and unprecedented access to Gordon Lightfoot himself. It chronicles Lightfoot’s life from his school principal recording him when he was 9, up through his early career as a songwriter and throughout the heyday of the 60s and 70s when he played the world’s concert halls. We are presented with a musical perfectionist who partied as hard as he performed. As his constant touring and lifestyle took its toll on his relationships and health, he also picked up numerous music awards and the admiration of his contemporaries, including Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, as well as his legions of fans who consistently sold out his legendary Massey Hall concerts year after year.
By Chris Turner
Now in trade paperback, the winner of the National Business Book Award is an even-handed and well researched examination of the life-cycle of the northern Alberta oil sands. With national and regional political tensions boiling over the federal government’s purchase of Trans Mountain pipeline, as well as the contentious implementation of a necessary carbon tax at the provincial level, this title proves to be extremely timely. Those on the spectrum between diehard oil boosters and advocates of environmental clean fuels should read this book for some much needed perspective. In the quest to bring significant carbon energy reserves to the global market, the oil patch has been a lightning rod for economic, environmental and political conflict. In The Patch, oil’s global market interconnections are examined, placing the Alberta oil sands in relation both to other reserves around the world as well as to the greater predicament facing the global economy as it attempts to make the transition to a clean, sustainable and affordable energy future.
By Colm Toibin
This ingenious work of biography, literary criticism and psychology examines the lives and writings of Oscar Wilde, W.B.Yeats and James Joyce through their relationships with their respective challenging fathers. He draws on these writers’ lives in the particular manner in which their fathers affected both the writer’s day- to- day reality as well as how these contentious relationships surfaced in their writing. Joyce’s character Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses opines – “A father… is a necessary evil.” There is rich material and insights to glean from writers and their relationship with their mothers that adds to this discussion over the nature/nurture debate in terms of how it plays out in the creative lives of artists and writers. See also Colm Toibin’s Mothers and Sons and New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families, Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley and for an astute, wider cultural perspective and corrective – Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty by Jacqueline Rose.
By Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
Browsers of the New Yorker magazine know how deeply satisfying it is to read and reflect on a cartoon that really knocks you over with its double-barrelled insight and humour. The latest from the authors of Plato and Platypus Walk into a Bar and Heidegger and a Hippo Walk through Those Pearly Gates focuses on understanding philosophy through cartoons and cartoons through philosophy. They use a selection of some of smartest cartoonists working today to provide a thorough introduction to the major debates in philosophy through history right up to the present. Gaining philosophical insights into topics ranging from religion, gender, knowledge, morality and the meaning of life (or lack thereof), is a whole lot of fun with these two guiding you along the way.
By Yotam Ottolenghi
This world renowned chef and restauranteur has made Middle-Eastern cooking accessible to many households across North America. While home cooks have been inspired to integrate tahini, pomegranate molasses, za’atar and other Middle Eastern staples into their cooking, long ingredient lists have often relegated his recipes to weekend projects rather than weekday meals. His latest cookbook offers a collection of very accessible, pared down recipes that are full of his signature nuanced flavours. The recipes are organized into brunch dishes, soups, vegetables, grains and legumes, pasta, fish, meats and desserts, transforming any weekday meal into a simple, richly flavoured feast.
By Anna Olson
If you’re thinking of sprucing up your festive and holiday menus, celebrity baker and chef Anna Olson has over 100 savory and sweet menus to do it in style. She shares the recipes she most loves to make during the holiday season including a festive brunch, entertaining a crowd, cozy suppers, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, an elegant New Year’s evening along with sensational sweets, holiday cookies, celebratory cakes, festive pies, tarts and fancy bars. She also provides hundreds of tips on menu planning, make-ahead preparation and taking the stress away from these preparations so you can actually enjoy the season without sweating the small stuff.
By Ina Garten
Aka “The Barefoot Contessa”, Ina Garten is a home cook who does not think of herself as a professional chef but has worked alongside chefs for decades in order to inform and enhance her home cooking sensibilities. Her brand new cookbook showcases her most irresistible recipes along with the best professional tips and practices she has picked up over the years. From the secret of making her slow- cooked Truffled Scrambled Eggs to the key to the crispiest, juiciest Fried Chicken Sandwiches and how to decorate her show stopping Chocolate Chevron Cake, she provides a wealth of practical advice and support as she guides you through this amazing hand-picked and time- tested selection of her best recipes.
By Stephanie Hua, Coreen Carroll, and Linda Xiao
Cannabis is now officially legal in Canada notwithstanding our curious provincial patchwork distribution systems. Having said that, a certain portion of the population is not so much interested in smoking it as it is in eating it. As a “controlled substance”, its potency is rather high when ingested so it behooves interested parties to educate themselves on the subject. This collection of bite-sized, low dose treats provides bakers of all skill levels with a range of recipes from simple Spiced Superfood Truffles to more advanced Strawberry Jam Pavlovas. Complete with instructions for creating essential cannabis ingredients like butters and oils, it also provides detailed information on dosage and portion necessary to create an easy and safe edible experience.
By Molly Ostertag
The author of Witch Boy continues this very entertaining graphic novel series about Aster, a boy who happens to have unusual talents as a witch as opposed to his brothers who are all shapeshifters. While he must be wary of his great uncle who has used his powers for evil, he must forge his own path and help his normal friend Charlie deal with a curse that could affect everyone, both normal and magical alike.
By Rainbow Rowell
In a sequel of sorts to her previous bestselling YA novel, Carry On, Cath and Wren are twin sisters who, in dealing with their mother leaving their family, totally immerse themselves in the world of Simon Snow, a Harry Potterish character from Carry On. As they get older Wren moves away from the whole Fandom scene while Cath continues to identify with it. As they head to college, Wren announces she doesn’t want to be Cath’s roommate and Cath feels isolated and abandoned in an unfamiliar environment. Is she going to be able to gain her independence and does she even want to if this means giving up on Simon Snow in the process?
By George Saunders
The Man Booker winner for Lincoln in the Bardo returns with a darkly comic middle-grade story about the unintended consequences of taming the natural world. Fox 8 has always been the underachieving daydreamer of his pack. When he teaches himself to speak “Yuman” by listening outside while kids are being read bedtime stories, his pack takes notice. As a new mall is being built that threatens their survival, he is sent on a dangerous quest to help save them.
By Kate Davies
Now in paperback, this 1st installment of a middle-grade trilogy is described as the Addams Family meets Despicable Me and perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket. Young Imogen happens to have been born into a family of exceptionally inept criminals. Some of the stunts they’ve been involved in range from attempting to steal an entire carnival to accidentally kidnapping themselves. Even though Imogene has “retired” from participating in her family’s unlawful shenanigans, there is no doubt she has more talent in this regard than all of them. When her family is accused of pulling off a robbery she knows they’re not capable of, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.
By Nicholas Gannon
This illustrated sequel to the Doldrums, continues the adventures of Archer Helmsley and his friends, Adelaide, Oliver and now, Kana. Archer’s famous explorer grandparents are finally coming home after being stranded on an iceberg. Rumours begin that their extended absence was just a publicity stunt, a story Archer knows just isn’t true. How is he and his friends going to convince the world otherwise? A rollicking middle-grade adventure for young explorers who discover some of the biggest secrets and adventures are hiding in your own backyard.
By Ernest Cline
The author of Ready, Player One returns with an alien invasion thriller that subverts and embraces science fiction conventions in his own engaging fashion. Now in a new paperback format, this coming-of-age, science fiction tale has young gamer Zack Lightman wishing for an epic space adventure to happen in real life. Be careful what you wish for. When the alien space ship from his favourite video game suddenly appears in real life, he thinks he’s flipped. As things get more involved in saving earth, he gets this sinking feeling that everything is turning into fiction – and what is real these days anyways?
By Jessica Townsend
This fabulous middle-grade sequel to Nevermoor sees Morrigan Crow and her best friend Hawthorne Swift join the scholars of the magical Wundrous Society after their less than auspicious and gruelling start. In spite of her success in gaining admission to this elite magic community, she still feels like an outsider and questions whether she can prove she truly belongs amongst its ranks. A great little series for younger Harry Potter fans.
By J.K. Rowling
Speaking of Harry Potter, the 2nd installment of the Fantastic Beasts series is due mid-month in its original screenplay format. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ended with Dark wizard Grindelwald captured in New York with the help of Newt Scamander. Here Grindelwald escapes with the plan to enslave Muggle society under pure blood wizards. Dumbledore once again enlists the help of Newt to try and stop Grindelwald’s evil plans. This illustrated series captures earlier events from the wizarding world and alludes to the later Harry Potter stories as it moves forward. The film will also release mid-November.