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.
Readers: We’d love to hear from you.
Tell me about a book you loved and we might publish your recommendation. Send to Lara Pingue at email@example.com
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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. Catherines 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.”
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
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
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
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)
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.
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.
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