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Last month we unveiled the Globe 100 – our annual list of the best books of the year. We asked some of the authors on that list to share their favourite reads of 2014 – the books that surprised them and thrilled them, excited them and inspired them. There’s no better way to spend the holidays than with one of these titles
I liked Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven. When the end of the world comes, the daydreamers inherit the earth, for better or worse. – Heather O’Neill, author of The Girl Who Was Saturday Night.
Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm accomplishes the rarest of literary feats: It entertains and titillates, and also teaches readers through the use of data. As someone who tries to do both for a living, I was blown away by this book. – Jonah Keri, author of Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, the Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, le Grand Orange, Youppi!, the Crazy Business of Baseball, and the Ill-Fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos.
Tom Rachman’s second novel, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, is a globetrotting, time-hopping spree about the impossibility of tracking down one’s own identity. Both heartbreaking and a complete pleasure to read. – Michael Harris, author of The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connections.
My favourite book this year was Sarah Waters’s The Paying Guests, which pulls off the amazing trick of being four books, at least, in one: historical novel, intense lesbian romance, courtroom drama and page-turning crime thriller. – Emily Gould, author of Friendship.
The Kills by Richard House – The set-up of this brilliant, brutal novel involves predatory military contractors and illegal U.S. waste-burning sites in Iraq. From there, it roams far and wide. Unique, gutsy, and beautifully written. – Jeff VanderMeer, author of The Southern Reach Trilogy.
Hockey wasn’t invented but discovered. The game, and the large organizing idea behind Stephen Smith’s deeply personal Puckstruck, sleeps in ponds and in the crooked limbs of trees overhead; we merely pluck a stick from the sky and skate over the frozen world to find ourselves and each other. It’s rare to find a book that makes me proud to be Canadian: A funny, myth-busting, life-loving read. – Michael Winter, author of Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead.
Will Starling was a blast. I kinda dug the original title – Doomsday Man, as I recall – but it’s still my pick for Canadian book of the year. A real corker! – Nick Cutter, author of The Troop.
Grief takes unusual skill and talent to speak of with more than “sorry for your loss.” Sina Queyras’s MxT manages to accomplish that one thing we wish we could do, with extraordinary elegance and grace. – Sarah Lang, author of For Tamara.
I became addicted to Alison Pick’s Between Gods. Pick manages to grab what might be the most overwritten topic in contemporary memoir – finding one’s spiritual self; in Pick’s case, reclaiming Jewish roots – and do something incredibly beautiful, original and poetic with it. She takes the sophisticated, erudite high road at every turn, but holds your hand like a true friend for the duration of the journey. – Mireille Silcoff, author of Chez L’arabe.
I’m cheating: The Beast of Monsieur Racine, Tomi Ungerer’s out-of-print masterpiece, resurrected and gloriously printed by Phaidon. The text is brilliant. The pictures are full of red wine and blood. – Mac Barnett, author of Sam & Dave Dig A Hole.
I loved It Never Happened Again by Sam Alden. I don’t consider myself up on everything going on in comics, but these are exciting and new-feeling and beautiful and I wish I could draw just like him. – Jon Klassen, illustrator of Sam & Dave Dig A Hole.
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. Lest we fear that fiction is kaput, this memoir reminds us how a single novel can place its stamp on every aspect of a person’s life. – Sarah Ellis, author of Outside In.
I have travelled the warm line through the “New Northwest Passage” from Kugluktuk to Kangerlussuaq on ice and open ocean, eastbound and westbound, and still, in Boundless, Kathleen Winter re-animates for me this Arctic – crystalline, dark and deep – as if for the first time. – James Raffan, author of Circling the Midnight Sun: Culture and Change in the Invisible Arctic.
My first child hit the six-month mark at the start of 2014, and bedtime stories became a serious, intensely emotional ritual. Our favourite author is undoubtedly Sandra Boynton, whose short, funny board books have an infectious rhythm that makes the hundredth read as good as the first. I picked up a signed copy of her latest, The Bunny Rabbit Show! at Book Expo America, and read it every night with great pride and no shortage of gusto. – David Sax, author of The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue.
I can’t stop thinking about Edmund Metatawabin’s Up Ghost River, a searing memoir about a young boy and the legacy of trauma inflicted on Canada’s First Peoples by the residential school system. A gripping read. – Karyn L. Freedman, author of One Hour in Paris: A True Story of Rape and Recovery.
While writing a novel, I tend not to read anything contemporary. This year was an exception. I read – and stole a sentence from – my friend Michel Faber’s novel The Book of Strange New Things. The novel is moving, odd, unpredictable and, in the end, simple: it is about love and longing (among many other things). Michel has said that The Book of Strange New Things will be his last novel. I think this both terribly sad and wonderful. If Michel must stop writing novels, this is an intriguing place to leave his readers. – André Alexis, author of Pastoral.
When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944 by Ronald C. Rosbottom. A fascinating, often harrowing, account of a rarely discussed period of French history, Rosbottom’s book examines the social, psychological and political complexities of being a citizen of an occupied city; and the range of personal choices: from resistance, through accommodation to collaboration. – Kenneth Oppel, author of The Boundless.
Artificial Cherry, written by my good friend, Billeh Nickerson, is a gem. This collection reads like the carefully written diary of someone both silly and intensely smart, funny and deep. – Mariko Tamaki, author of That One Summer.
Beautiful Darkness by Kerascoët and Fabien Vehlmann. This book is dark and weird, despite the cute little girl with big eyes on the cover. Recommended for cynics and teens. – Jillian Tamaki, illustrator of That One Summer.
Angular Unconformity is the elegantly packaged Collected Poems of the incomparable Don McKay. McKay has been one of the most original writers in the country for decades now and this book showcases the extraordinary range of his voice, his endlessly versatile gift for metaphor, his insistent reframing of the human experience within the vast realms of wilderness and geologic “deep time.” Existence itself is the miracle in McKay’s universe, and he offers a corrective sense of our infinitesimal place within the big picture. The undercurrent of existential loneliness you’d expect from such a project is always leavened by McKay’s humour, by his almost religious sense of wonder. Whether considering a geode paperweight or the song of the Canada Goose, these poems are wry, self-deprecating and constantly surprising. A book to make you feel happy to be alive. – Michael Crummey, author of Sweetland.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill blew me away – a funny, structure-bending, lyrical novel about a marriage in crisis. Men Explain Things to Me, the searing and timely essay collection by Rebecca Solnit, was equally compelling. And the best poem I read this year was in THOU by Aisha Sasha John. – Alison Pick, author of Between Gods.
A beautiful, meaningful sentence can take days to craft and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation is effortlessly packed with them: “I bought a warmer coat with many ingenious pockets. You put your hands in all of them.” This book is cinematic and meditative prose spliced with facts, theories, quotations and history. With each small chapter, a treasure is uncovered. – Vivek Shraya, author of She of the Mountains.
I think my favourite book published in 2014 is Elena Mauli Shapiro’s brilliant second novel, In The Red. It’s a dark meditation on crime, love, money, and belonging. – Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven.