Each week, Globe and Mail staffers share what they’re reading now, whether it’s a hot new release or an old book they’re discovering for the first time. Here’s the latest, with more to come every Friday.
Thirty nine fiction and non-fiction books to read this spring
The Guest, Emma Cline (Random House)
The Guest is a breezy, picaresque story of class in America, set over a week in late August in the Hamptons. Alex, a 22-year-old sex worker, seeks refuge in a place she doesn’t belong but is able, with a shimmering yet ragged mimicry, to fit in – until she doesn’t. The Guest is Emma Cline’s second novel, following her hit debut, 2016′s The Girls. In between was a run of excellent short stories – White Noise in the New Yorker among her best. Through all Cline’s work, her incisive observations are a propellent. “It had been easy to slot herself into Simon’s life here,” Cline writes early in The Guest. “Its textures and habits were so finely woven that Alex had only to submit.”
The League of Outsider Baseball, Gary Cieradkowski (Simon & Schuster)
Sure, Shohei Ohtani is a great two-way baseball player – but what about Gary Cieradkowski? The graphic artist-slash-historian’s The League of Outsider Baseball is the book I recommend as a gift for the fan who has everything. In more than 200 pages of profiles and gorgeous illustrations, many in the style of old baseball cards, Mr. Cieradkowski tells backstories of the famous (Roberto Clemente’s Montreal past) and the full stories of the unheralded (Wu Ming-Chieh, star of the 1931 Taiwanese national team; early Negro League star Laymon Yokely; “major-league murderer” Blackie Schwamb). It’s a book too entertaining to put down and too beautiful to keep the cover closed.
-David Milstead, business reporter
True North: Travels in Arctic Europe, Gavin Francis (Birlinn Ltd)
My favourite “travel hack” is to read novels and non-fiction set in the destination I’m going to next. In mid-June I’ll be cruising into the land of the midnight sun – up the coast of northern Norway and into Svalbard, so I’m rereading True North: Travels in Arctic Europe because author Gavin Francis makes Europe’s far North come alive. In his 2008 book, he blends sharp travelogue with little-known (to me) history by retracing the explorations of the ancients, using Viking saga lore and Greek texts to guide him. His sketches of the people he meets and the descriptions of each magnificent landscape he hikes make me eager to see it for myself.
-Catherine Dawson March, editor
A Complicated Kindness, Miriam Toews (Vintage Canada)
I read Women Talking last year before the movie came out, and I loved Toews’ writing so much that I immediately wanted to read more of it. I came across A Complicated Kindness, a book she published nearly two decades ago. It didn’t disappoint. Toews creates a visceral world of a Mennonite community seen through the eyes of a teenage girl, and the book moves seamlessly from being funny, to devastating, to insightful.
- Menaka Raman-Wilms, host of The Decibel
The Wager, David Grann (Penguin Random House)
Canadians are no strangers to tales of doomed British expeditions, from Henry Hudson getting cast away to the disappearance of John Franklin’s ships. So this well-crafted historical yarn from David Grann adds another opus to our knowledge about the perils of imperialism, detailing the horrible fate of the crew of HMS Wager after it shipwrecked in 1741 off the western coast of Patagonia. We learn about a long-forgotten colonial conflict, the War of Jenkins’ Ear. We find out that, of course, the British sailors alienated the Indigenous people who could have saved them. We remain unsettled at the portrayal of men dropping to their knees as they see their companions sail away, abandoning them on a hostile shore.
-Tu Thanh Ha, reporter
The Gastronomical Me, M.F.K. Fisher (MacMillan)
The poet and novelist Jim Harrison called M.F.K. Fisher America’s best food writer. W.H. Auden said he knew no one in the States who writes better prose. It takes only a few pages of The Gastronomical Me, published in 1943, to understand Fisher’s revered reputation. The book recounts her voyage to Dijon, France, with her new husband in 1929. There, she discovers the splendors not just of French cuisine but of a whole new way of living, particularly in how food brings her together with an endless array of unforgettable characters. “There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk,” Fisher writes in the forward to the book. If, with summer approaching, you have an appetite for eating well and living well—of savouring your every experience—you will devour this book.
- Dave McGinn, reporter
Pure Colour, Sheila Heti (Knopf Canada)
I arrived late to the Sheila Heti party, having only cracked the spine on How Should A Person Be?, the author’s 2012 list-making novel, last year. I’m following it – also belatedly, though less so – with Pure Colour, her 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award-winner. The book is a not-quite-linear, not-quite-narrative exploration of creation, criticism and consciousness as seen through the eyes of its protagonist, Mira. That’s not quite a plot synopsis, but I think Pure Colour’s core magic is that it totally defies description (or at least one that would fit in this space). Heti’s quasi-experimental, deeply philosophical prose is at its absolute sharpest; this is a legacy-cementing work of literature.
-Rebecca Tucker, Deputy Arts editor
Bang the Drum Slowly, Mark Harris (Knopf)
In the original New York Times review of Mark Harris’s Bang the Drum Slowly in 1956, critic Charles Poore deemed the “enjoyable horsehide opera” about a dying ballplayer’s final season to be the finest of all baseball novels — better than Bernard Malamud’s The Natural from 1952 and superior to Harris’s The Southpaw from 1953. All these years later, Bang the Drum Slowly is even better now than it was, for Harris has since added a semi-anguished essay on the making of the 1973 film adaptation that starred Michael Moriarty and, as the doomed catcher from the backwoods, the little-known Robert De Niro. More drama, or ‘extra innings’, one might say.
-Brad Wheeler, arts reporter
Signal Fires, Dani Shapiro (Penguin Random House)
This is an engrossing, at times heartbreaking novel about two neighbouring suburban families, one tightknit but torn apart by external and internal factors, and one that can’t seem to connect at all, and how they all try to return to each other. Told in a non-chronological narrative across decades, most of the characters are fleshed out in a way that will make you miss them when you’re done reading, and wonder where their story leads next.
- Rebecca Zamon, audience growth manager
Heat 2, Meg Gardiner and Michael Mann (HarperCollins)
A triple shot of hard-boiled machismo, Heat 2 offers what fans of filmmaker Michael Mann’s 1995 heist masterpiece have been clamouring for ever since Al Pacino and Robert De Niro first sat down for that nighttime L.A. coffee. Working with noted crime author Meg Gardiner (the Unsub series), Mann crafts a generations-spanning novel that acts as both a prequel and a sequel to his epic tale of cops and robbers. Whether it is the dusty Mexacli border, where the young thief Neil McCauley is planning the score of a lifetime, or the streets of Chicago, where detective Vincent Hannah is tracing a psychopath who would give the first film’s Waingro nightmares, the new novel is laced with a killer atmosphere of hardcore cool. If Mann manages to adapt this into an actual film – kind of impossible given how much centres on Val Kilmer’s character, but maybe everyone is up for a challenge – then I’ll die happy.
-Barry Hertz, film editor
Generations, Lucille Clifton (Penguin Random House)
I’m reading Generations by Lucille Clifton. It’s a memoir that feels like a novel, or a long poem (Clifton was twice-nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry), with her family as the main characters even before Clifton herself. The story still resonates today, even though it was first published in 1976 and begins with Clifton’s great-great-grandmother, who was brought enslaved to the United States.
-Kasia Mychajlowycz, senior producer of audio
Her First Palestinian, Saeed Teebi (House of Anansi)
This year I challenged myself to read more of the fun, fictional stories I grew up reading, but somehow lost touch with when I began writing non-fiction myself. It hasn’t been easy. Though when I read Her First Palestinian by Saeed Teebi, it all came naturally to me. Teebi’s book is an absolute page-turner that I finished in a single sitting. His beautifully layered prose grapples with a number of engrossing characters who navigate life as Palestinian immigrants in Canada, taking the reader on a journey through their compelling, nuanced and surprising experiences.
– Temur Durrani, business and technology reporter
Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro (Penguin Random House)
Coming of age in the pre-Internet era meant my access to worldly experience was mostly limited to the 70s-build suburb where my family lived. Certainly no high schooler alive could understand my burning ambition to reach for more than my cautious parents and perfectly-behaved older sisters seemed to want from life. Then I “met” Del Jordan, the booksmart, passionate protagonist of Alice Munro’s short-story collection Lives of Girls and Women. Del gets top grades at school, her sights set on getting out of her small farming town. Though the book was published more than half a century ago, Del’s experience of disappointment, desire, conflict and love are achingly and almost universally relatable.
- Sandra Martin, head of newsroom development
City in Flames, Tomas Hachard (Flying Books)
I’m reading City in Flames by Tomas Hachard. It’s about a relationship between two young people who meet on an app, set in a world that’s having a slow meltdown kind of like ours, thanks to climate change and ‘blah’ political leadership. I love the texts between the characters, and the fact that the young woman reminds me of me in graduate school: lost and seemingly unable to complete the biggest project of her life.
- Maryam Shah, regional editor, programming
The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman (Viking Press)
Sometimes, not starting a series when it debuts works in your favour. Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club – published in 2020 – is a case in point. Set in a retirement village in southern England, four seniors band together to solve a murder. The plot is lively, and the characters are not only well drawn, but they’re a hoot, too, making this a perfect Sunday-afternoon read, when all you want to do is unwind and get ready for Monday. The best part: There are two more books in the series just waiting for me, and if I portion them out appropriately, I’ll be ready for the fourth when it’s released in September.
– Judith Pereira, Arts & Books Editor
Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Penguin Random House Canada)
I absolutely devoured Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun over the weekend. A truly compelling and, in turns, horrifying and wondrous exploration of what it would mean to be designed to love. It’s a testament to Ishiguro’s skill that he’s written an artificial being more human than most novels’ protagonists.
– Dave Crosbie, audio editor, The Decibel
The Key To Creativity, Hilde Ostby (Greystone Books)
I’m reading The Key To Creativity by Hilde Ostby. Books about the brain and psychology can often be jargon-filled and boring, but not this one. It begins with the author’s story of a cycling crash that leaves her with a head injury and an overwhelming number of creative ideas. Amazed by what’s happened to her brain, she takes us along her journey to understand how creative thinking works: strapping herself to a brain-imaging machine, drifting off in a flotation room, trying an improv class and quitting her job. Delving into exciting stories of inventors and historical figures, and interviews with prolific artists, novelists, musicians and journalists from around the world, Ostby makes brain science accessible, but doesn’t push a doctrine. Along the way you’re left with a better understanding of what makes a good idea, and the importance of doing nothing, being bored, alone and brave.
– Aruna Dutt, associate editor, Pursuits