Wednesday, December 2, 2015

STAFF PICKS: BEST OF 2015

We see so many great books come into the store throughout the year that compiling a true "best of" would be near-quixotic. And if there's anything we miss, our customers usually point them out to us. Still and all, here's a queue that stood out to our booksellers over the year!

Outline 
by Rachel Cusk

An alienated female writer comes to Greece to teach a writing class. Not only does she spin enchanting lucid prose but she also meets a cast of characters that show what fools we humans be! This philosophical novel with a very European feel made the Giller shortlist.
 









Fifteen Dogs 
by Andre Alexis

Alexis, in his writerly power as God, has given a few dogs the characteristics of humans while retaining their dog-like senses. This novel has been described as thin and yet epic, much like Greek myths. We engage with his characters and super-charged senses of smell and overwhelming desires for either domination or submission. You'd be surprised at how directly his characters woof their talk about the human condition. Quite a feat for Alexis!

 






Sixty 
by Ian Brown

Did I really need to read a book about a sixty-year-old guy who wanted to be 40? This is what I thought when the book came in, but because Ian Brown had written such a heart opening book called the Boy in the Moon about his severely disabled son, I decided to give it a try. Brown writes in such a conversational way that it is relaxing to read, even though some of his "hang-ups" drove me crazy (like is he still attractive to women...particularly young women?), I was moved by the breadth of his knowledge. His reading life has made him the thoughtful man he is!

 




The Road to Little Dribbling 
by Bill Bryson

The Daily Telegraph describes this as splendid and claims it is the best travel book of the year. Its subtitle is More Notes from a Small Island, banking on the fact that Notes from a Small Island has been the bestselling travel book ever. But that was 20 years ago and with this latest wandering of the British psyche and geography, Bryson gives us the best and worst of Britain today.

 







The Art of Nature Coloring Book

A colouring book for historians and nature enthusiasts, the plates that you are asked to colour were crafted in the 18th and 19th centuries. Of course, this is when there were no cameras, just the naked eye and pen or pencil. They are stunning and you can style them your with your own colour interpretation. Check out our great selection of colouring utensils!

 






What’s Happened to Politics 
by Bob Rae

If you were disturbed by the state of Canadian politics under Stephen Harper, this book will affirm that you had every right to be! It offers prescriptions to get Canada back on track on a community, national and international level. A very refreshing look at the future of Canadian politics. Essential reading for politicos.

 








Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better 
by Pema Chödrön

Ah, the power of Pema. You could finish this book in the bath or savour it over the year. Fail, is actually a commencement lecture on ones best possible relationship with failure. Very readable and very relevant.

 










A Brief History of Seven Killings 
by James Marlon

You will never listen to certain Marley songs the same way again. A bumping multi-narrative ranging from gangsters, to Cuban revolutionaries and ghosts. James has recreated the time leading up to and after the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976. Winner of the Man Booker Award! A difficult read but incredibly compelling and creative.

 








A Japanese Lover 
by Isabel Allende

This is a story with many threads – Japanese internment during the second World War, the impossibility of family, aging, well worn secrets and death. Allende has the knack of making something seemingly improbable a great read.

 










Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words 
by Randall Munroe

Munroe, author of What If? enlightens us this time with a series of simple blueprints of everything from nuclear reactors to the big flat rocks that we live on. A great book for nerdy people of all ages!

 










Death and Life of Zebulon Finch 
by Daniel Krauss

Zebulon Finch is a small-time hoodlum living a self-involved, violent life in turn-of-the-century Michigan. After he is murdered by an unknown assailant, it would appear that Zeb's unscrupulous existence has ended, until he finds himself mysteriously resurrected. This excellently-paced horror novel is the first of a two-part epic, following the teenaged criminal through several decades of American history as he tries to solve the puzzle of his murder, and discover the purpose of his unexpected revival.







Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight 
by Tony DiTerlizzi

The Star War franchise has spawned its share of book titles over the years, but this stands as the most definitive children's book focusing on the first three films. Tony DiTerlizzi's text perfectly captures the excitement of the action sequences, and skillfully incorporates the most famous catchphrases from the movies. An excellent intro for soon-to-be fans and their already-there parents.


Why We Live Where We Live 
by Kira Vermond

Guelph writer Kira Vermond has won the Norma Fleck award for this thought-provoking picture book exploring the historical path of human civilization. Curious kids will love the often-silly illustrations, which complement informative text on the influence of everything from cultural shifts to climate change.

 







Minrs 
by Kevin Sylvester

12-year-old Christopher and his young crew members are sent to the planet Perses to mine rare minerals for a resource-deficient Earth. After the crew lose contact with their home planet, they must band together for survival; frightening circumstances that are made worse when Perses suddenly comes under attack by an unknown assailant. Excellent actio12-year old Christopher and his young crew members are sent to the planet Perses to mine rare minerals for a resource-deficient Earth. After the crew lose contact with their home planet, they must band together for survival; frightening circumstances that are made worse when Perses suddenly comes under attack by an unknown assailant. Excellent action-adventure for 10-14 year-olds. n-adventure for 10-14 year-olds.
 

The Good Little Book 
by Kyo Maclear

After being sent for a time-out, a small boy finds himself caught up in an unassuming, but life-changing, book. The "good little book" quickly becomes the boy's constant companion, until the day that the treasured tome goes missing. A heartwarming depiction all of the wonderful ways that reading can shape our lives.

 








The Winter Family
by Clifford Jackman

Though it might seem surprising to anyone taking a passing glance as it as a "genre" book, no one who's read Clifford Jackman's "The Winter Family" was surprised when it was long-listed for The Giller Prize, short-listed for the Governor General's Award, and is now starting to pop up on everyone's year's best lists. About a "family" of outlaws/mercenaries in the twilight of Manifest Destiny, Jackman's novel isn't just gory gritlit, but amounts to a studied look at how lawlessness begets law, and what happens to the agents of change once they're no longer needed.

 



Debris
by Kevin Hardcastle

The fringe grittiness of "Debris" – shotguns and fistfights and lawns strewn with debris and detritus – will likely be the dominant talking point with Kevin Hardcastle's first collection. Yet the refinement and delicacy of the seeing and telling that goes on makes for a stoic beauty that's the real success here, is what seriously sets the work apart from whatever generic comparisons it will inevitably attract. Harcastle's characters are not simply brutish dumb misfits, but men (mostly) and women driven by love and loyalty and duty in such a clear, unconflicted way that conflict is inevitable and intense. You'd be hard-pressed to find stories this loving, hurt, and alive in anything else coming out lately.




The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy
ed Joe Hill

The most far out thing about this collection is that it's the first time the Best American series has tackled Science Fiction and Fantasy. This flagship installment, edited by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King), displays the strength and merit of once-marginalized genres that are now beginning to dominate literature. As with the other Best American series, this one's a great introduction to your new favourite authors, the majority of which happen to be women here.

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