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book recommendations

Each week, Globe and Mail staffers and readers 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. Tell me about a book you loved and we might publish your recommendation. Send to Lara Pingue at lpingue@globeandmail.com


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The FlyersHandout

The Flyers: In Search of Wilbur and Orville Wright, Noah Adams (Simon & Schuster)

My grandfather, a horse and plow farmer, was 25 when the Wright brothers completed the first flight in 1903. Sixty-six years later, I boarded my first air passenger flight in 1969 at age 12. In The Flyers, author Noah Adams tells the astonishing story of how the self-taught inventors of flight made this a reality. Tracing their rise, we meet hang gliders, coastal boat captains, the first woman pilot, the brothers’ rival Glenn Curtiss, historians and experimental airplane builders. I was fascinated by how the determination and genius of the Wright brothers changed our lives and the world.

-Globe reader Keith Allen, Burlington, Ont.


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Away from the DeadHandout

Away from the Dead, David Bergen (Goose Lane Editions)

Longlisted for the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize, David Bergen’s Away from the Dead is a moving war story about survival and resilience in southeastern Ukraine during the turmoil of the Russian revolution. The novel follows Lehn, a converted Jewish bookseller who marries into a Mennonite farming family, and the peasants who work on their farm. As the Red Army, White Army and anarchist brigades sweep over the territory, Bergen captures the details of what it takes to stay alive, including landowners emigrating, and peasants denying land ownership to avoid being shot. The prose is so good it disappears, leaving the reader immersed in the story.

-Globe reader Evelyn Williams, Toronto


The Mars House, Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury Publishing)

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The Mars HouseHandout

British bestselling author Natasha Pulley is best known for historical fiction, but in The Mars House she imagines a world in the future. To escape environmental disaster, Earth’s refugees are forced to seek sanctuary on Tharsis, a colony on Mars. Here, second-class citizens are called Earthstrongs, who must contend with the Naturals, who wield more power. When a couple from separate classes form a marriage of convenience to secure their political and personal goals, chaos ensues. If you love Isaac Asimov and Margaret Atwood for their speculative look at what the future may hold, you won’t be able to put down The Mars House.

-Globe reader Julie Kirsh, Toronto


Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage, Jonny Steinberg (Knopf)

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Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage by Jonny SteinbergHandout

Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage by Jonny Steinberg offers fascinating insights not only into the relationship of the Mandelas but into South Africa’s tortured modern history as well. We tend to forget that this extraordinary couple was really only married for a relatively short time before Nelson was sent to jail for nearly three decades, meaning that the ‘marriage’ survived mostly on memory. When Nelson was released, harsh realities set in. Winnie had become more cynical, changing as both his wife and his partner in politics. This is a unique, carefully researched and well-told story of love juxtaposed against the hell of state-sanctioned apartheid.

-Globe reader Don Rubin, Georgina, Ont.





Study for Obedience, Sarah Bernstein (Knopf Canada)

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Study for Obedience, by Sarah BernsteinHandout

The Booker-shortlisted novel Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein is a superbly crafted short novel. It tells the story of an unnamed narrator, an outsider, who has come to a nameless town to care for her older brother. Here, a series of unexplained events unfold, from a dog’s phantom pregnancy to crushed baby piglets on an altar to talisman figures delivered on doorsteps. The story compels the reader to go slowly in order to navigate these strange occurrences, the eerie tranquility, the multiple meanings. Much like a painting, the reader will see something different each time they consider it and look deeply into its core, which is to say, into the mind of its enigmatic narrator.

-Globe reader Dave Trembley, Thunder Bay


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The ShowmanHandout

The Showman, Simon Shuster (HarperCollins)

Comic to president? In The Showman, author Simon Shuster traces the somewhat inevitable path of Volodymyr Zelensky to Ukraine’s highest office. Zelensky’s oratory skills were honed on the stage and in front of the camera. As a comedian, he entertained Ukrainian troops on the front lines after Russia’s earlier invasion of Ukraine in 2014, showing them that he had empathy and humour. This would serve him well when he went on to lead the country when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022. In the early weeks of the war, Zelensky declared that he felt privileged to do the job that fate had put in front of him. This book is for anyone with Ukrainian heritage (more than 1.2 million Canadians) and supporters and critics alike of Ukraine’s fight for independence.

-Globe reader Stefa Katamay, Victoria


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Gilded YouthHandout

Gilded Youth, Tom Quinn (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Gilded Youth is a timely and thoroughly engaging look at growing up in the Royal family written by Tom Quinn, an inveterate reporter on the British monarchy. Going back centuries, the book’s historical accuracy will be intriguing for history buffs, but it will also appeal to all curious readers, whether monarchist or not. It includes materials from many sources, not just published books but also archival manuscripts from palace courtiers, nannies and valets. Given the recent spate of news coming from the British monarchy, this book should catch the attention of many readers.

-Globe reader Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines, ON


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DochertyHandout

Docherty, William McIlvanney (Canongate)

This 1975 novel might have been written by Thomas Hardy, had he taken up the story of a working-class family in a Lanarkshire coal town in the early 20th century. Docherty is a saga rich with the poetic descriptions that Hardy was known for, shot through with insights into the constrained lives of the family. For instance, in describing the father’s quiet stoicism in the face of the injustices of coal country life, McIlvanney compares his feats of physicality to ‘rites of exorcism.’ The author later wrote an esteemed crime-fiction trilogy set in the Glasgow of the 1970s, and fans of his work may see the legacy of Docherty in the black sheep detective Jack Laidlaw.

-Globe reader David Frank, Fredericton


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The Iliad, by Homer, translated by Emily WilsonHandout

The Iliad, translated by Emily Wilson (W. W. Norton & Company)

Late in November last year, I bought Emily Wilson’s new translation of Homer’s The Iliad and read it over the Christmas break. I found it a stunning translation, making very modern and visceral the horrors and (in)humanity of the Homeric world. The Iliad is not for the faint-of-heart, but it is no more nor less violent than some of our modern computer games, or movies for that matter. Despite events described in vivid and often bloody detail, Wilson’s translation was mesmerizing. I would highly recommend it – as a first time reading or as a multiple re-reading, after Chapman, Lattimore, and others.

-Bill Schipper, St. John’s, NL


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WeywardHandout

Weyward, Emilia Hart (St. Martin’s Press)

Emelia Hart’s debut novel, Weyward, received a “highly recommended” citation from the Caledonia First Novel Prize. Weyward is the story of three women connected over centuries who share a familial bond and a strong connection to the natural world of plants, insects and the landscape of their English village. All three struggle to live independently in a hostile world (a witch trial, a domineering father, a controlling boyfriend). I find myself worrying throughout my day over what is going to happen next. The best books stick with you, becoming more real than daily life – and this story has done just that.

–Globe reader Cheryle Schindler, Pickering, ON


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Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle ZevinHandout

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin (Penguin Canada)

I avoided Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow for a long time because of how much lavish praise it had received from literary critics and my most well-read friends. I thought there’s no way this novel could match the hype, especially when it’s about something I don’t care much about (video games). Happily, I was wrong on both counts. This is a sweeping epic of a novel that’s really about the ebb and flow of deep relationships, the insidious way that resentments can pile up over the years among the people you know best – and the ones who know you best – and the real reasons that pull us back together, into each other’s orbits. What an absolute wonder this book is.

-Adrian Cheung, senior podcast producer, The Decibel


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Unmet Needs Never Go AwayHandout

Unmet Needs Never Go Away, Brenda May Whiteman (FriesenPress)

I’ll never forget that heart-tearing feeling of dropping off my screaming infant son at daycare for the first time. Despite what modern society expected of me, my maternal instincts told me it was unnatural for my child and I to be separated from each other for many hours each day. My parenting goals seemed unreachable over those eighteen months that I worked full-time to pay someone else to care for my child. But I wanted more for my family, so I chose to go back to school instead. Thanks to Brenda Whiteman’s revolutionary book, which offers insightful and timely solutions about working while parenting, I finally feel validated in leaving my long-time profession to pursue more family-friendly working opportunities

-Globe reader Angela Slater-Meadows, Peterborough, ON


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The Forbidden NotebookHandout

Forbidden Notebook, Alba des Céspedes (Astra House)

I just finished (and loved) Forbidden Notebook by Alba des Céspedes, recently translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein. It’s a deceptively simple conceit – our protagonist, Valeria Cossati, decides to buy a diary in postwar Italy. The book consists of her journal entries, and what slowly emerges is a sense of self; we discover Valeria, it seems, at the same rate that she discovers herself. In the act of something as simple as recording her thoughts, she is able for the first time to understand herself as having an identity of her own. And what we’re left with is a series of interior portraits expressing the demands and desires pulling at a woman caught between changing generational norms of class and gender.

-Dave Crosbie, audio editor, The Decibel


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The Caine MutinyHandout

The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk (Doubleday)

Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, published in 1951, was one of my favourite reads of last year. Drawing on his real-life experience at war, Wouk masterfully constructs the two main characters. The first is Ensign Willie Keith, a WASP-y American with no real ambitions, who joins the Navy after the Pearl Harbor attack. We watch him mature into a responsible officer, facing up to challenges along the way. His nemesis is Wouk’s second main character, the volatile Commander Queeg, whose paranoid personality leads him to constantly defend his ego against his subordinates until he is ultimately deposed. This is not a horrors-of-war novel. In fact, the USS Caine warship rarely faces the enemy. There is some exciting courtroom drama in this story, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952.

-Globe reader Douglas Drummond, Nanoose Bay, B.C.


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The QuickeningHandout

The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush (Milkweed Editions)

Elizabeth Rush’s The Quickening chronicles the adventures of a group of scientists who set out to study the Thwaites Glacier in 2019. There is a gentle intimacy running throughout this book: intimacy with the fierce beauty of Antarctica; intimacy with the glacier herself and the secrets she holds about the distant past as well as the future; intimacy with the scientists and crew who together live this mission as a community. And of course there is an intimacy with the author as the she generously shares her experiences and her reflections through the course of the unusual adventure. The author writes with a thoughtful courage and honesty, neither dramatizing not sentimentalizing but staying faithful to the rhythm of the excitement, the boredom, the precision of scientific work and allowing the reader to feel a member of this dedicated team.

-Globe reader Will Draper, Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia


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Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons: The Lives of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt, by Charlotte GrayHandout

Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons, Charlotte Gray (Simon & Schuster)

Respected Canadian author Charlotte Gray has delivered yet again with her lively biography, Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons, which traces the lives of two remarkable women whose sons would change history. I was enthralled by the two main characters, Jennie Churchill and Sara Roosevelt, two talented women bound by the limitations of their time. The former, the more lively and glamorous of the two, lived more like a movie star of our day but always made her son Winston a priority, determined to propel him to the pinnacle of success. Sara, more conventional, finds time to raise her five children and concentrate on ensuring her son Franklin becomes her star. As a reader, it was fun to be introduced to these two men on the day they were born, and before they became household names. – Globe reader Elaine Bruce, Montreal


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The Adversary, by Michael CrummeyHandout

The Adversary, Michael Crummey (Knopf Canada)

I fear you have no choice but to keep reading when you encounter an opening sentence like this: “There was a killing sickness on the shore that winter and the only services at the church were funerals.” So begins Michael Crummey’s sixth novel, The Adversary, a tale of two power-hungry merchants battling for control of Mockbeggar, a tiny outport on the northern coast of Newfoundland. On one side, Abe Strapp, the hotheaded son and inheritor of the region’s largest firm; on the other the “fantastical and strange” Widow Caines, whose business acumen is surpassed only by her oddness. Like Crummey’s 2009 masterpiece, Galore, The Adversary is also the story of a town and its residents, who are caught between forces they can’t control and forces which seek to control them. It’s a novel about family and ambition and commerce and love and betrayal, and how each affects the other, in ways that are often unpredictable. You can read it for the plot, which races like the wind coming off the Atlantic, and you can read it for the sentences, which Crummey crafts as well as anyone writing today. Just read it.

- Mark Medley, Globe Opinion editor


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The Half Life of Valery K.Handout

The Half Life of Valery K., Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)

Historical fiction writer Natasha Pulley strikes again with her wildly creative novel, The Half Life of Valery K. The story follows Russian Valery Kolkhanov, a former radiobiologist, who’s imprisoned in a labour camp in Siberia by the Soviet Union. When he’s mysteriously transferred to a radioecological research facility, he begins to ask questions: What research data is being collected on the surrounding forest, where trees look like they’re rusted from within? What does Russia know? What is the value of human life? This is a stunningly forceful story based on a real nuclear disaster coverup in Russia in 1957.

-Globe reader Julie Kirsh, Toronto


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The Wren, the Wren, by Anne EnrightHandout

The Wren, The Wren, by Anne Enright (WW Norton & Co Inc)

I’m a sucker for Irish writers and Anne Enright is one of my favourites. Her latest, The Wren, The Wren, doesn’t disappoint. It has all the Irish flare for comedy and pathos that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. The novel is peppered with poetry by one of the characters, a rather loathsome Irish poet named Phil McDaragh, the husband, father and grandfather in this intergenerational family saga. It’s also a coming-of-age story of Nell, a young woman setting out on her own, caught up in an abusive relationship with a young man. Nell’s enduring bond with her mother, Carmel, is at the heart of the novel. The mother-daughter dynamic is delicately drawn and cuts to the bone. The Wren, The Wren is sometimes painful, often funny, but ultimately uplifting and transcendent. It made me laugh, cry and yes, occasionally cringe – just as our own families so often do.

-Globe reader Marlene T. McArdle, Nelson, B.C.


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The EmigrantsHandout

The Emigrants, W.G. Sebald (New Directions Publishing)

When author W.G. Sebald died in a car crash in 2001, I mourned the books that would not be written. The Emigrants, which was first published in English from the original German in 1996, is a standout for me. Told in four separate narratives, the book covers themes of Jewish trauma, personal dislocation, reinvention and the idea that we ultimately can never escape our pasts. All four stories in The Emigrants are brilliant, but the tale of Ambos Adelwarth especially stuck with me. I cannot stop returning to it in my mind.

Globe reader Robert Koby, The Mayook Valley, B.C.


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The Bee StingThe Associated Press

The Bee Sting, Paul Murray (Macmillan Publishers)

Set during the financial crash of 2008, this Booker-shortlisted novel follows a well-to-do Irish family as they face environmental, economic and personal ruin. College student Cass, PJ the adolescent, along with the parents all have to deal with personal and collective trauma. Friends are often misleading. The family cannot provide comfort and security. From the author’s opening sentence to various cliffhangers that entice and entertain the reader, The Bee Sting, with 643 pages, is an emotional trainwreck that snares the heart and offers plenty of surprises. - Globe reader Julie Kirsh, Toronto


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I Have Some Questions for YouHandout

I Have Some Questions for You, Rebecca Makkai (Penguin Random House)

Let me start by saying this: If you’re one of the many fans of Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers, you’ll find a very different book here. But don’t let that turn you off this nuanced, modern narrative of a woman who returns to the campus of the boarding school she went to for high school, this time as a film professor and podcast producer. There, she confronts the memories of her teen years, particularly around the murder of her roommate in their senior year, while also navigating the complexities of her own middle-aged life. The book’s mix of genres is almost dizzying, from true crime to coming-of-age to cancel-culture analysis, but Makkai’s skillful weaving creates a story that resonates deeply with readers’ own experiences. -Rebecca Zamon, audience growth manager


My Effin’ Life, Geddy Lee (HarperCollins)

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My Effin' Life by Geddy Lee.

Full disclosure: I am a fan of Rush and have always been impressed by Geddy Lee as a celebrity: his thoughtfulness and humour in interviews, his intensity and frankness. So I shouldn’t be surprised that his memoir, My Effin’ Life, isn’t your average rock star tell-all. No sexual exploits; some drugs, but the details are sparing; little about his wife and kids. This is his story of three friends who pushed each other artistically to be their best, and the music they created. Along the way there is heartbreak, including the death of drummer Neil Peart. But the most affecting chapter of this bestseller (not just in Canada, but also in the U.S. and Britain) is the story of his parents’ imprisonment in concentration camps during the Holocaust and how they came together after they survived.

-Globe editor Noreen Rasbach


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The Best of EverythingHandout

The Best of Everything, Rona Jaffe (Penguin Books)

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe was an instant bestseller when it was first published in 1958, and was released in a 65th-anniversary edition earlier this year. Jaffe’s novel gets inside the head of four young women who make their way to New York to find work, love and something to do. Jaffe lays bare the challenges women faced at the time, including wages not commensurate with their responsibilities or effort, harassment from male colleagues and the struggle to claim intellectual interests while being asked for so much less. This is a great read for anyone who wants a feet-on-the-ground counterpoint to Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry, which is set in the same moment in time.

-Globe reader Stefa Katamay, Victoria


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Princes in the TowerHandout

The Princes in the Tower, Philippa Langley (Simon & Schuster)

British writer Philippa Langley has an impressive track record in her research of King Richard III. In 2012, she became famous for her role in the discovery of the king’s grave in a Leicester parking lot. Richard III was known as a usurper and a monster, accused of murdering his nephews. But in Langley’s newest book, The Princes in the Tower, she overturns 500 years of history with new documentation that raises more than a reasonable doubt about the king’s role in the death of his nephews. This is an interesting and important book.

–Peter Hambly, Hanover, Ont.


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Angels and InsectsHandout

Angels & Insects, A.S. Byatt (Penguin Random House Canada)

What better way to mourn one’s favourite author than with a re-reading of their work? When I heard A.S. Byatt died in November, I headed straight to the bookcase. The predominant theme of Angels & Insects, her double novella published in 1992, is mortality: are humans destined simply to become organic matter like creatures in the natural world? Do we ascend to the heavens, or dither in the afterlife spying on our former lovers? Byatt herself, enamoured with the Victorians, addresses their struggles with these questions – through the scientists in “Morpho Eugenia” (Insects), or at the séance table in “The Conjugial Angel.” One thing seems certain, though, as she reminds us with her multiple references to the poet John Keats: there is immortality in beautiful words.

-Angela Murphy, Foreign news editor, Globe and Mail


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Handout

The House of Doors, Tan Twan Eng (Bloomsbury Publishing)

Novelist Somerset Maugham once said that fact and fiction were closely aligned in his stories. In The House of Doors, author Tan Twan Eng also writes about a real-life event of love, betrayal and murder. Set in Penang, Malaysia in the 1920s, the novel tells the story of Maugham’s visit to the home of an unhappy British couple, where he’s hoping to find inspiration for his next book – and what he uncovers certainly delivers. But Maughan also has secrets of his own. This powerful book, longlisted for the prestigious 2023 Booker Prize, entertains with provocative themes of adultery, class division and human nature.

-Globe reader Julie Kirsh, Toronto


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PossessionHandout

Possession, A.S. Byatt (Penguin Random House Canada)

When the author A.S. Byatt died in November, I went looking for my well-worn paperback copy of her Booker Prize-winning novel Possession. The story is irresistible. It is a literary mystery involving a pair of scholars piecing together evidence of a romance between two Victorian poets. And while they work together they also fall in love. Telling the story partly through poems and letters that the scholars uncover, Byatt creates a rich and densely detailed world that is utterly engrossing. Revisiting this book filled me with gratitude to Byatt for leaving us this book that is like a love letter to literature.

-Danielle Adams, Globe editor


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HamnetHandout

Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf Doubleday)

After reading and loving Maggie O’Farrell’s most recent book, The Marriage Portrait, I knew I had to get my hands on her other work. Her previous book, Hamnet, won the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction in the U.K. and it is extraordinary reading. It’s the heartbreaking story of a young family in 16th-century England. The story goes back and forth in time, between the meeting and marriage of the parents, and their son’s death during the Plague of 1596. It’s a fictionalized account of actual events and the reader determines pretty quickly that the young father is a famous playwright. That doesn’t take away from the story in any way. O’Farrell’s descriptions of time and place and her finely drawn characters make this book a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.

-Globe reader Ann Clavelle, Toronto


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Romantic ComedyHandout

Romantic Comedy, Curtis Sittenfeld (Penguin Random House)

Don’t be fooled by the book title here: Romantic Comedy is a rom-com, yes, but it’s also a smart, endearing story about career ambitions, tricky workplace dynamics and celebrity culture. Sally Minz is at the top of her game as a successful writer for a popular late-night comedy sketch show. When a famous singer comes on the show, he and Sally hit it off – until Sally self-sabatoges the budding romance with her own stubborn insecurities. The story doesn’t end there, of course, and Sittenfeld delivers a modern romance that makes you root for the all-too-human main characters.

-Lara Pingue, Programming editor


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The Palace PapersHandout

The Palace Papers, Tina Brown (Doubleday Canada)

Author Tina Brown was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the late Queen Elizabeth in 2000. One wonders if the same would have happened had the Queen lived to read Brown’s 2022 book, The Palace Papers, a tell-all about the Royal Family. In the book, Harry and Megan are portrayed as petulant. Prince Andrew gets scolded by his mother for his dubious associations. (Only Kate Middleton emerges fairly unscathed.) Brown often quotes words said in private, leaving readers to wonder how she got them. Despite weaknesses such as these, Brown has written a book you can hardly put down. Perfect for a cool November weekend.

-Globe reader Barbara Bagnell, Toronto


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Learned by Heart, by Emma DonoghueHandout

Learned by Heart, Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins)

Emma Donoghue’s brilliant new novel, Learned by Heart, is based on the true story of two teenaged girls – Anne Lister and Eliza Raine – who fall in love in nineteenth-century England. Lister had kept a secret diary written in code for much of her life, and it’s clear that Donoghue has done her homework in telling her story. Lister was a brilliant young woman who defied all traditions of her time, as she took on the responsibilities as head of her well-off household when her father’s health deteriorated. Her love interest, Raine, is just as intriguing. She was an orphan heiress who was banished from India and sent to England at just six years old. This is a lovely story, told beautifully.

– Globe reader Sandra Pate, Toronto


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Foster, by Claire KeeganHandout

Foster, Claire Keegan (Grove Press)

Claire Keegan’s novella Foster was first published in the U.K. in 2010, and gained more attention when it was published in North America in 2022. The story is told from the point of view of a nameless young girl, taken by her father to stay with the Kinsella family, knowing only that they are her “mother’s people.” What unfolds over the summer with the Kinsellas opens her eyes to the disparity between the impoverishment of her life at home and the loving homelife she discovers with this unfamiliar new family. This is a sparse story, and Keegan’s every word is purposeful. Things are left unsaid but intuited. Thoughtful, enlightening, heartbreaking and hopeful, Foster is a jewel of a book.

-Karen Bauer, Riverview, N.B.


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Are you Kindful?Handout

Are You Kindful? Bhante Saranapala (FriesenPress)

If you’re looking for a good read that will help you practice ‘kindfulness,’ a book by Buddhist monk Bhante Saranapala is for you. Are You Kindful? is written in four parts that combine spiritual and philosophical themes with practical advice on how to be kind. I now believe that we all are born with a capacity for kindfulness, present always and everywhere in people of all ethic backgrounds, races, and religions. We should also not forget kindfulness to animals and plants as they share with us the natural environment on which all life depends for survival. The challenge then is how to practice kindfulness. This is an enjoyable book to read with very little pop-psychology or other jargon. Full disclosure, I drew one of the illustrations but even if I had not I would still have recommended the book.

-Reiner Jaakson, Oakville, Ontario.


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The Crime of Sheila McGoughHandout

The Crime of Sheila McGough, Janet Malcolm (Penguin Random House)

This fall, I’ve set myself the goal of reading/re-reading Janet Malcolm’s books. They are universally marvelous because Malcolm had that thing that separates good reporters from great ones - ruthlessness. She is never cruel, but she sees everything and cuts deep. The book everyone tells you to read is The Journalist and the Murderer and that’s right. It is the great cautionary tale about the moral dubiousness of journalism. But having just finished The Crime of Sheila McGough, that is the more sweeping indictment - of the American court system, as well as the entire concept of ‘justice’. That makes it sound portentous, which it isn’t. I come to Malcolm for big ideas, but I stay for lines like: “[McGough] had the exaggerated freshness - like an overcleaned painting - that is characteristic of many elderly American women.” Savage.

-Cathal Kelly, Globe columnist


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Knowing What We KnowHandout

Knowing What We Know, Simon Winchester (William Collins)

I was already aware of Simon Winchester’s work, having previously read Krakatoa years ago. So when I saw his latest book, Knowing What We Know, in Fanfare Books in Stratford, Ont., I picked it up. The book explores how knowledge was transmitted thousands of years ago on clay tablets; how the Chinese were the first to use paper; and, of course, how we use present-day electronics. It also covers how information has been stored throughout history, from libraries to modern-day Wikipedia. I was particularly intrigued about what I learned about how information is manipulated. Did you know, for example, that the idea of bacon and eggs for breakfast was a marketing ploy? I came away from the book with the realization that I can never stop learning. To borrow a quote from philosopher and academic Karl Popper: “Knowledge is finite and ignorance is infinite.”

-Steve Hunter, Stratford, Ontario


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The Air Raid Book ClubHandout

The Air Raid Book Club, Annie Lyons (HarperCollins)

The Air Raid Book Club follows the story of Gertie, a feisty woman who owns and manages Bingham Books during the Second World War. The bookstore becomes a home base for a community of eccentrics and a safe new home for a young Jewish woman, Hedy, who has escaped the horrors of Hitler. When the London bombings begin, Gertie and Hedy form an “air raid book club” in an underground shelter, which proves to be a welcome distraction and creates a family of unique characters. In the bunker, the group finds inspiration in each other and a place to expand their views and widen their understanding of life – an unexpected gift in the midst of a violent war.

-Globe reader Dyane Matthews, Beamsville, Ont.


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The SearchHandout

The Search: Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World, Bruce Feiler (Penguin Random House)

Bruce Feiler’s masterful newest book is for anyone, at any age, who wants their work and their life to feel enlivening instead of heavy. The Search lays bare that the work world is no longer about a single career. After interviewing 155 people across sectors, Feiler paints a robust picture of how the choices people make create meaningful work. Perhaps the most powerful statement is found in the early pages, where Feiler declares, “The biggest impediment to a meaningful life is not what you don’t know about work; it’s what you don’t know about yourself.” The second half of the book is dedicated to how we can chart a path to creating our own success stories, meaningful work and life.

-Globe reader Stefa Katamay, Victoria, B.C.


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The Bad Guys Won!Handout

The Bad Guys Won! Jeff Pearlman (HarperCollins)

So much about baseball in pop culture tends towards the reverential—the warm pastoral glow of Field of Dreams, Ken Burns’ hagiographic PBS documentary—or the harshly critical. Jeff Pearlman’s The Bad Guys Won is neither. It’s a wickedly entertaining story of a New York Mets team—including first baseman Keith Hernandez, AKA Elaine’s boyfriend on Seinfeld—who smoked and drank and partied and grinded their way to winning the World Series in 1986. Everyone in baseball hated them, thus the title. But they turn out to be a lovable bunch of villains. There’s no better time to be a fan of baseball than October, and so no better time to read about one of the most rollicking seasons in the game’s history.

-Dave McGinn, Globe reporter


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Homelessness: How to End the National CrisisHandout

Homelessness: How to End the National Crisis, Jack Layton (Penguin Canada)

I came across this book by the late NDP Party leader Jack Layton at a Goodwill in London, Ontario and it’s as timely today as it was when it was first published in 2000. It highlights the crucial history behind the finance and government policy decisions in the 1990s, which eliminated affordable housing as a government initiative. The sad part is, the homelessness crisis has not been undone. Affordable housing is more out of reach today than it was when Layton wrote about it more than 20 years ago. We must act with integrity and purpose now.

-Andrea Gillis, London, Ont.


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A History of Burning, Janika Oza (McClelland & Stewart)

I just finished reading A History of Burning by Janika Oza, which was a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. It’s a well-written story capturing the trials of the family of a young lad that migrated from India to Kenya to Uganda and eventually to the U.K. and Canada. It portrays the hardships and the happy moments of four generations of a family. In many ways, it depicts the resilience of immigrants trying hard to fit into their countries of choice.

-Nasreen Jamal Kurji, Calgary






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A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles (Penguin Books)

The Gentleman is Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat born in St Petersburg in 1889. Sentenced to house arrest in a hotel for failure to embrace the Bolshevik ideology, he is told that if he leaves he will be shot. He must live in a tiny attic room with only a few prized possessions. But Rastov remembers the wise words of his Godfather, who once told him that if a man does not master his circumstances, he is bound to be mastered by them. He takes that advice to heart, and so begins a tale of intrigue and exploits, an array of beautifully drawn characters, a love affair with a famous actress, a coaching assignment with a Bolshevik bureaucrat, a dangerous emergency and many fulfilling relationships with a variety of charming characters at the hotel.

-Beverley Simpson, Toronto


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The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules, Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg (HarperCollins)

In the novel The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules, Swedish author Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg takes on ageism with a story about a group of feisty seniors who no longer tolerate the endless cutbacks and restrictions in their retirement home. Calling themselves “the league of Pensioners,” they break out of the home and embark on a series of crime sprees, intending to use their new-found wealth not just for themselves but to help out the marooned seniors still living in the retirement home. This book is part of a three-novel series, all about the rebellious nature of seniors. As a member of the Boomer generation, it’s nice to see others of my vintage have no intention of fading quietly into the night.

Beverley Kennedy, Oakville, Ont.


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Prisoners of the Castle, Ben Macintyre (Penguin Random House)

This is an epic story of survival and escape from Colditz Castle, the Nazis’ notorious prison. It tells the incredible story of men not willing to be confined while their countries are at war. It’s well written and shows the human side of a terrible war. -James Galt, Globe reader, Cobble Hill, B.C.










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Echo Lane, Sandra Kelly (Stonehouse Publishing)

Echo Lane is a riveting family saga about the haunting effects of a not-so-happy childhood. Its cast of flawed but thoroughly engaging characters includes a possible paranormal visitor. Despite this bit of delightful quirkiness, the story is thoroughly grounded in the trials and triumphs of everyday life and the universal desire for love, forgiveness and redemption. When some well-kept family secrets come to light, the story uncovers long-sought explanations that both make sense of the past and allow for a more hopeful future. This eloquently told and occasionally funny novel keeps us hooked, rooting for the protagonist, Patsy Keane, to regain her unravelling hold on life.

-Lynn Leduc, Calgary


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The Man Who Ate Toronto: Memoirs of a Restaurant Lover, James Chatto (Macfarlane Walter & Ross)

I don’t know if I would have ever picked up Toronto food writer and critic James Chatto’s 1998 memoir if it hadn’t caught my eye in a well-to-do Little Free Library. But to live in a city still bursting at the seams with great food and new restaurants since the pandemic, and now nary a major critic in sight, reading Chatto 25 years later is a poignant reminder that when it comes to dining out, the only constant is change (and, apparently, “fusion” cuisine). While you’ll recognize the names of some culinary stalwarts – Jamie Kennedy, Susur Lee, Peter Oliver and Michael Bonancini before their names became inseparable – Chatto most importantly chronicles the exciting chefs and restaurateurs of the 1980s and 1990s who may not have stood the test of time, but who certainly helped set the table for Toronto to shed its reputation as a snoozy provincial backwater.

–Cliff Lee, Globe and Mail letters editor


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Dead Mom Walking, Rachel Matlow (Penguin Random House Canada)

Dead Mom Walking is a brave, beautiful memoir about medical mistrust and the havoc and heartbreak it creates. This book came out just weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and reading it now gives it particular poignancy. Rachel Matlow’s mother received a cancer diagnosis that, because of early detection, was very treatable. But she’s shocked to learn that her mother decided to refuse all conventional treatments in favour of alternative remedies. The book chronicles the uniquely frustrating journey of watching a loved one throw away promising solutions because of mistrust of science and the medical system, succumbing instead to misinformation. I think many of us felt similar feelings of bewilderment and anger during the pandemic when friends or family members declared that they were opting out of receiving the COVID vaccine. We have a deeper understanding now of how this behaviour can fundamentally challenge relationships as it did between Rachel and her mother.

-Kristi Kasper, Calgary


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A Lady of Earth and Sunshine, Patricia Finney (on Amazon)

I loved this book, in which a middle-aged vicar and a group of determined climate activists take their protest to London. Reverend Cassie’s conscience tells her that she has to do something about the climate crisis, while her ministry keeps her busy being everything from a psychologist to a temporary cop. At home, she’s bossed around by Aureus the cat. But then something even more worrying starts happening: it seems she can work miracles and blow up tech. If you’ve ever felt despondent at the somnambulant pace at which politicians march towards meaningful climate action, beyond greenwashing slogans and empty promises, then take heart. Reverand Cassie is leading the charge. Magic realism meets climate-fiction? Why not. And when things get too out of hand, someone will always put the kettle on. Refreshing. Magical. Hopeful. Entertaining. Different. Crazy? Maybe that’s what we need.

- Karl Hourigan & Gail Hourigan, Kelowna, B.C.


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Ripe, Sarah Rose Etter (Scribner)

I buy books by their covers. Sarah Rose Etter’s novel Ripe, featuring a close-up of juicy pomenagrate seeds, came in a beautiful crimson, promising an invigorating, sensual read. That fantasy quickly faded as I followed thirtysomething Cassie through her life at a tech startup so cool it made me shiver. The novel is set in San Francisco, describing its great decline: people defecating in the streets, $3,000 rents, cold brews and cocaine. Outwardly, Cassie made it. She deals with her tense boss during the day, meets her girlfriends for fancy dinners at night, makes love to her lover each Friday. But this novel is about the abyss that lurks within, and about the costs of political ignorance and its hollow promises to society. As the once-golden city (and Silicon Valley) turns into a charade, something begins to grow inside Cassie’s body. Be warned: this novel ends darkly, or rather darkly red. Just as the book cover gave away from the beginning.

-Anna-Lena Sholtz, reporter


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The Salt Path, Raynor Winn (Penguin Books)

The Salt Path is a memoir about a middle-aged couple who, through no fault of their own, find themselves homeless and dealing with a devastating medical diagnosis. The book follows them as they decide to embark on a 1,014-km hike of the South West Coast Path in the United Kingdom. Without entering spoiler territory, it’s a lesson in how when life hands you crackers, a tent, lots of rain and a trail guide, you can still have an amazing adventure on the way to happiness, wealth and health. This book makes you realize how close we all are to the abyss, and forces you to ask yourself what you would do in the same situation. Read on and start your journey with Raynor and her husband, Moth. (Yes, Moth.)

– Globe reader Jane Gray, Novar, Ont.


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The Barcelona Complex: Lionel Messi and the Making – and Unmaking – of the World’s Greatest Soccer Club, Simon Kuper (Penguin Random House Canada)

Lionel Messi’s debut in July with Inter Miami incited me to revisit Simon Kuper’s authoritative book about the rise and fall of FC Barcelona, the club where the Argentine genius crafted his most glorious moments. Kuper has long perfected a very readable style of sports writing that combines cultural and political context (the club’s Dutch-Catalan connection) with a good grasp for Barcelona’s tactical schemes and for the psychology of professional athletes. A taciturn homebody, Messi doesn’t have the flamboyance of his rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, but this book explains very well the drive and ruthlessness that steered him to the top. -Tu Thanh Ha, Globe reporter


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Lost Dogs, Lucie Pagé (Cormorant Books)

This book is a darkly funny take on people’s inability to communicate in our hyperconnected world. It all centres around a blind pitbull named Gary who goes missing. There’s a teen who can’t crack the popularity code in her high school; her high-performing, serial-dating mother; an English Lit prof with impostor syndrome and his stage manager girlfriend who tries on personalities like fashion. I really enjoyed it. -Bill Campbell, Globe reader, Courtenay, B.C.







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Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies, Elizabeth Winkler (Simon & Schuster)

Shakespeare buffs interested in the authorship debate might be keen to pick up Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies by journalist Elizabeth Winkler, recommended by two Globe readers. The book delves into the possibility that the works of Shakespeare were written by someone else, uncovering how and why the debate became academic taboo. Reader Gail Benjafield in St. Catharines says the book is “written with great panache and good humour” while Don Rubin in Georgina, Ontario calls it “lively, amusing and worth your time.”


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Fifteen Thousand Pieces, Gina Leola Woolsey (Guernica Editions)

It’s been 25 years since the Swissair disaster, and Fifteen Thousand Pieces by Gina Leola Woolsey dropped me right next to Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Dr. John Butt after that Sept. 2 late-night phone call tells him a plane had crashed near Peggy’s Cove, N.S.: “It’s an international flight. It’s Swissair.” Meet Dr. Butt, his neighbours, his skillful assistant, a fisherman who joins the survivor search, a California ophthalmologist whose son was aboard Flight 111 from New York to Geneva, and others. The layers of telling detail deepen the story; alternating chapters limn the disaster recovery while uncoiling Dr. Butt’s complex personality. Utterly captivating.

-Moira Dann, Globe reader, Victoria


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Coq, Ali Bryan (Freehand Books)

I highly recommend the laugh-out-loud novel Coq by Ali Bryan. It follows an extended family on a trip to Paris to memorialize their mother who died ten years before. Nothing goes to plan, from a vivacious senior who invites herself along, to a botched climate protest, to a surprise appearance from a lovesick ex-husband. It all leaves protagonist Claudia at her wit’s end. I read sections of this book aloud to others because so many of the jokes were just too good to keep to myself. Coq is actually a sequel to one of Bryan’s earlier books called Roost (see the theme here?), but the novel works just as well as a standalone read.

-Anne Logan, Globe reader, Calgary


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The Postcard, Anne Berest (Europa Editions)

This new ‘autobiographical novel’, translated from French, may be the best book of 2023. Set contemporaneously and in the 20th century, the novel covers one extended Jewish family’s movements around the world amid triumphs and horrors. The second half of the novel becomes a modern-day detective story which is only solved on the last page. A postcard arrives at the Berest home in January 2003, and the quest for its sender becomes all-consuming for the author. Miss this one at your peril!

-Globe reader Jim Satterthwaite, Vancouver


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Not on My Watch, Alexandra Morton (Penguin Random House)

This is a book that has changed my life—or, at least, my eating habits. The story of the decline of B.C. wild salmon runs is written in a page turning manner by my new eco-warrior heroine, Alexandra Morton. Both an indictment of government ineptitude and a power-to-the-people account, it will inspire others with the power of one. You, too, can make a difference environmentally. This book also offers an inside look at our Indigenous communities of the West Coast, and as always in my reading, I leave with intensifying respect. My favourite read of the summer.

-Globe reader Karen Sentesy, Perth, Ontario


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Blue Skies, T.C. Boyle (Bloomsbury Publishing)

If you’ve been following the news lately, this won’t be a surprise: it could all end really badly – and it (probably) won’t be over in a one Big Bang. In California, it will be so hot that your dog will drop dead. In Florida, the water will rise, wetting your ankles and then gushing into your car, later into your kitchen. For now, it’s fiction as told by T.C. Boyle in his new novel, Blue Skies. Boyle, an observer of people getting caught up in themselves, zooms in on an all-American family: A mother experimenting with grasshoppers for fine dining. A son perpetually working on his Ph.D. and trying to find the right girlfriend. A daughter who fills her inner void with alcohol first, snakes second, twins third. A deadly combination, as it turns out. For whom, you better find out for yourself. The novel is a fun, light summer read…until it isn’t.

-Anna-Lena Scholz, reporter


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Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus (Doubleday Canada)

I’ve been reading for over 60 years and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is an excellent read. It chronicles the story of a scientist who just happens to be a woman in the 1960s, before the second wave of feminism began. The writer has a keen understanding of human dynamics, especially regarding sexist men, institutions managed by men and the general attitude of society toward career women. Garmus uses humour to lighten the tone and her one-liners made me laugh out loud. One example: “The trouble with stupid people is that they don’t know they’re stupid.” How true.

-Dyane Matthews, Globe reader, Beamsville, Ontario


Trust, Hernan Diaz (Riverhead Books)

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The book jacket of Trust describes Hernan Diaz’s novel as a literary puzzle. In fact, it is so ingeniously crafted – and engages the reader in such an unusual and interesting way – that I barely want to write anything about it at all, lest I ruin the experience of reading it fresh. So instead, let me just say: This book is so good that I actually sent a fan letter to Mr. Diaz. (He is very nice.) It is so good that it made me say, “That’s so cool!” out loud when I put together a piece of the plot that was, indeed, very cool. It’s so good that it recently won a Pulitzer. And it is so good that every time I recommend it – like right now – I think I should pick it up and read it again.

-Jana G. Pruden, reporter


Pachinko, Min Jin Lee (Grand Central Publishing)

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If you haven’t read this book, find and enjoy a fabulous read by a master storyteller and writer. Published in 2017, this is a story about a Korean family told over four generations, beginning in Korea before the Second World War, moving to Japan and ending 50 years later. It will both break your heart and lift your spirits as the family members experience pain, loss and love as they sacrifice so much for each other. Above all, read the interview with the author at the end of the book. Oh, would that we were all so thoughtful and articulate about what we do in life!

-Globe reader Fran Vargo, Qualicum Beach, B.C.


Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, (Penguin Random House)

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A book that reads as a collection of short, connected stories, Homegoing follows the decedents of two half-sisters in eighteenth-century Ghana into the present day. Its intense scope spanning centuries and continents seems daunting, but it is somehow both fast paced and intimate. The amount of rich story and complex history covered in these 300 pages is astounding. Presenting history through unforgettable characters living through it, Gyasi unflinchingly covers colonialism, slavery, racism and how that trauma echoes through generations. Beautifully written and peppered with devastating and hopeful insights, I couldn’t put this down. Reader beware, this book put me in a reading slump as nothing has captivated me quite the same since I’ve read it.

-Lauren Heintzman, designer


Old God’s Time, Sebastian Barry (Viking)

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I just finished reading Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry. It deals beautifully with topics such as love, grief, justice, and memory. An astounding novel.

-Globe reader Zena Ryder, Kelowna, BC.










Yellowface, R.F. Kuang (HarperCollins)

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How best to describe R.F. Kuang’s latest novel, Yellowface? This is a white-privilege meets freak-death meets jealous-frenemy meets Book-Twitter-drama come to life. Kuang’s unlikeable protagonist, a white woman who steals her dead Asian friend’s manuscript and reaps the rewards, left me squirming (but I couldn’t put the book down). With mischief mixed with dark moments, this novel probes cultural appropriation in publishing, taking us behind the scenes of a how a bestseller is really made.

-Maryam Shah, regional editor







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Troll, Logan Macnair (Now or Never Publishers)

This book by Canadian author Logan Macnair is fantastic. It’s about the evolution of social media and the culture shock around technology — the ways that we connect and influence each other and all the ugly ways that has manifested. The author has a PhD in criminology and specializes in terrorism and online extremism, so a lot of the book has factual claims and experiences that are rooted in real life. I loved the way it was written.

-Globe reader Ashley Altun, New Westminster, B.C.




Trees in Paradise, Jared Farmer (W.W. Norton & Company)

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While planning a trip to California this summer, I wanted to get to know the landscape I’d be staring at for hours on a train – terrain that, while beautiful, is not as “natural” as it seems. In Trees in Paradise, historian Jared Farmer tells an engaging tale of how U.S. settlement made the western treescape unrecognizable from what it was two centuries ago. It is a story in four acts: One for the decimation of indigenous redwoods, and three for new species (eucalyptuses from Australia, oranges from Brazil and palms from Mexico and the Pacific) introduced to “beautify” the land and enrich its owners. Those schemes had unintended consequences that Californians still live with today: Eucalyptus, for instance, is villainized as a “gasoline tree” in an increasingly wildfire-prone state, and Farmer rigorously examines the facts to see whether this is fair. This is not a story about a “pristine” California ruined by invaders, but about change and diversity in a plant world as socially complex as the human one. Suffice to say that I’ll never look at the palm fronds of Los Angeles the same way again.

-Evan Annett, digital presentation editor (news)


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The Colony, Audrey Magee (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

I just finished reading The Colony by Audrey Magee and would highly recommend it to other readers. Set on an isolated Island off the coast of Ireland where two foreigners have arrived to spend the summer months, this is a book that draws the reader in slowly but surely. The seemingly lazy, idyllic summer days on the island are set in contrast to the violent events occurring north of the border, The Troubles. Magee manages to create a growing sense of tension quite effortlessly as the islanders and their visitors’ lives interact over the summer. To say anything more would give the story away - but it’s an absolute must-read.

- Globe reader Pat Rivers, St. John’s, Newfoundland


I Am Homeless If This is Not My Home, Lorrie Moore (Penguin Random House)

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I Am Homeless If This Is Not My HomeHandout

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home – out June 20th – was not what I was expecting from author Lorrie Moore, a master of the contemporary story. The novel opens shortly after the Civil War with a lengthy letter, written by a woman named Libby who runs a boarding house in the U.S. south. Libby confides in her sister that she has been fielding advances from a somewhat mysterious lodger, who is “keen to relieve” her of “spinsterhood.” If this was not the material I was expecting, I most certainly would not have anticipated a … zombie? In the alternating story, set in 2016 ahead of the U.S. Presidential election, we meet Finn, rushing to his dying brother’s bedside, and later rushing away from it as he learns his former partner, long suicidal, may have attempted death once again. Finn and his lost love Lily, on a road trip through America, take over the story, as Libby’s letters get shorter, and we learn some key information about her sister, to whom she is writing. What do these two stories have to do with each other? Very little. Or maybe everything. This is a story about grief; what it does to us. The journey to death, and what the journey looks like after that for those left behind. As always with Moore, she does not lay it all out for the reader; she believes in our ability to do so. She challenges us to use our own imaginations to figure out the puzzle. And the reward is exquisite writing, wry and profound observations. And, yes, a very good story. You’ll want to read it twice.

-Marsha Lederman, columnist


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Dilla Time, Dan Charnas (Macmillan Publishers)

Dan Charnas masterfully articulates the ways that the American music producer J Dilla opened hip hop, and later all of pop, to rhythmic innovation – while unflinchingly detailing the late producer’s complicated relationships and business affairs, too. You’ll hear his songs – not just his solo work, but productions for A Tribe Called Quest, Common, De La Soul, D’Angelo and more – in whole new ways. Dilla Time is biography at its best.

-Josh O’Kane, Arts reporter




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A Delicate Truth, John le Carré (Viking Press)

I’ve been reading the espionage fiction of renowned author John le Carré since I was a teenager. So finding one of his novels in the bargain bin of my local bookstore recently felt like bumping into an old friend on the street and taking them home with me. Written in 2013, A Delicate Truth examines a world of terrorist factions, and the superpowers and mercenaries forced by modern sensibilities to fight them in the shadows. While not quite up to the intensity and depth of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and other tomes featuring spycraft master George Smiley, the book still brings le Carré's descriptive flair to a post Cold-War world where morality isn’t so black and white. He questions the democratic values of the so-called good guys – the Americans, the British – clearly referencing the covert detention and torture of jihadist suspects, asking: “Can these new rules in reality be the old barbaric ones, dusted off and reinstated?”

-Angela Murphy, foreign editor


Adrift, Lisa Brideau (‎Sourcebooks Landmark)

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Lisa Brideau’s debut novel, AdriftHandout

Lisa Brideau’s debut novel, Adrift, tells the story of a young woman who wakes up in a sailboat, looks in a mirror and doesn’t recognize her face and doesn’t know her name. This where the mystery begins. The novel, set in 2038 in Nanaimo and Haida Gwaii, covers many different aspects of the future’s society, with some hopeful bits about the climate crisis. Our local bookstore, Four Points Bookstore in Invermere, B.C., calls it “cli-fi”. We read a lot and this was one of our highlights of the year. We hope many other readers feel the same.

-Chris and Nancy Jones, Invermere, B.C.




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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.”

-Dave Ebner, editorial board


The League of Outsider Baseball, Gary Cieradkowski (Simon & Schuster)

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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


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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


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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)

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The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and MurderThe Associated Press

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)

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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)

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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


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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


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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




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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


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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




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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


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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


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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




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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


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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








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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


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