Monday, April 29, 2013

40 Years. 40 Books. One Shelf: A List and Contest

For The Bookshelf's fortieth birthday, we've put together a list of forty key books we've sold that have been published over the last forty years (see below). This isn't so much a "best of" list as a list of books that have been consistent bookseller or customer favourites over the years or that have been publishing firsts. In a sense, the books on this list embody what the Bookshelf has been about these last four decades.

Now that we've given our choices, we're interested in hearing about yours! Email us the titles of one or two of your own favourite books that have been published over the last forty years, aside from the ones on our list, and we'll enter your name in a draw to win all forty of the books below. Our address for suggestions is And if you add a brief explanation of why a book touched you, we'll enter your name for other prizes. We look forward to hearing from you!

We'll post (anonymously) your suggestions. To check out the customer suggestions that have already been submitted, click here.

And now our own 40 Years, 40 Books, One Shelf picks: 
Wouldn't you love to win them all!

40 Years. 40 Books. One Shelf: Customer Favourites

Below, in order of submission, are the titles Bookshelf customers have submitted for our 40 Years, 40 Books, One Shelf contest. Everyone who submits favourites for this list to gets his or her name entered in a draw to win all forty of the books on the Bookshelf's own 40 Years, 40 Books, One Shelf list. See our previous blog for more information on the booksellers' picks and on the contest.

This list is constantly growing, so check back frequently--the latest suggestions are at the top!

Customer Picks 

Love In The Time Of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This book holds a special place my heart. Years ago I met a man in university. Shortly after we met he left to travel Europe. He assigned me homework while he was away: read Love In The Time Of Cholera. I bought it at The Bookshelf. It is twenty-two years later: we are married with a daughter, living in Guelph, and both English teachers!

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
One of the most heartwarming yet depressing books I've ever read. It's about a young girl's battle with cancer while battling with the complication of being young and in love. This book really touched me, especially because I was dealing with a health-related issue at the same time so I could really relate to Hazel, the protagonist, on trying to deal with the overarching issue of health while trying to still accomplish things like school and having a social life.

Lullabies for Little Criminals, by Heather O'Neill
A great Canadian novel, reminiscent of The Glass Castle, in my opinion. I read it in grade twelve and it really put things into perspective for me. It was so easy to get caught up in my teenage "problems" and think it was the end of the world. But after reading about Baby's struggles, it was quite easy to think that maybe my problems weren't quite so bad. It allowed me to step outside of my own life and be able to view other people's perspectives, which is a skill I'm very glad to have now as an adult. 

I believe that O'Neill's novel also deserves a place on the Top 40 list. It takes a great writer to weave a tale of grit out of pure poetic prose.

Press Here, by Herve Tullet

I've bought this book for several of the children in my life, and each one has approached it with a skepticism which quickly turns into giggles and eager page-turning! It's now my go-to ice-breaker when visiting friends with young children.

Trinity, by Leon Uris
Recommended by my husband (who, incidentally, I met at the Shelf cafe).

BFG, by Roald Dahl
Strongly recommended by my daughter (thanks Dan for the recommendation).

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall Smith
It was a fave Shelf employee, Dan, who introduced me to this series. Although not Pulitzer Prize calibre, these engaging and entertaining novellas have become a staple. Like the Shelf itself, the books contain an endearing cast of quirky characters and provide a pleasurable respite; both are a source of escape and enlightenment.

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout
Thanks Barb for suggesting this wonderful read.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
A beautiful book about individuality and nonconformism. You cannot help but root for Stargirl with all your heart.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Being a teenager is messy, sad, wonderful and confusing. This book captures the beauty and pain of being an outsider in high school and the traumas and challenges some teens face.

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruez
I read this book quite often and I really do try to live by the four agreements Ruez talks about. They may sound simple but they're not so simple to implement into your everyday life, although with practice I have found living by these agreements gets easier and easier, like second nature. The four agreements are 1) be impeccable with your word, 2) don't take anything personally, 3) don't make assumptions, and 4) always do your best. Life is actually easier following these agreements; there's more joy and fewer regrets. Just trying to keep these agreements has changed my life for the better. This may be a little book but it's absolutely one of the most powerful books out there.

The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver
Every time I re-read this book I find new relations to the characters that I love, and love to hate. The strong female characters really gave power and momentum to the novel, and the down-to-earth qualities of unconventional families and parenthood make it endearing and real. The Bean Trees is a book that can entertain almost anyone!

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
Has a special spot in my heart.
(Chosen by three readers)

Blindness, by José Saramago
The imagery in this book still haunts me years after reading it. If leaving a lasting impression on your reader is the author's ultimate goal: mission accomplished, Saramago. 

Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
I fell in love with this book at my local library when I was twelve. It was my first introduction to poetry, and I have loved it (in all forms) ever since. Silverstein's poems are silly and whimsical, yet at the same time they comment on real emotions and human experience, and you can't help but feel weirdly connected to his characters and drawings.

The Underwater Welder, by Jeff Lemire
This is a really touching book, filled with such raw emotion that I had to put it down every ten minutes or so because it was too much for me. I love it.

The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
A witty tale of her Majesty, Elizabeth II discovering the pleasure of reading.The subtext is the power of books to enlarge one’s experience of people and the world. This is of course what for forty years the Bookshelf has been about!

Care of Wooden Floors, by Will Wiles
A bold and brilliant debut from a darkly funny new voice. Oskar is a minimalist composer best known for his piece "Variations on Tram Timetables." He lives with his wife and two cats in an unnamed Eastern European city. But this book isn’t really about Oskar. Oskar is in Los Angeles, having his marriage dismantled by lawyers. Meanwhile, he has entrusted an old friend to take care of his perfect, beautiful apartment. Despite Oskar leaving extensive notes on how to keep his flat in pristine condition, a tiny oversight initiates a chain of farcical, and even fatal, disasters. Care of Wooden Floors is about loneliness, friendship, and the quest for, and struggle against, perfection. And it is, a little, about how to take care of wooden floors.

Mercure, by Amelie Nothomb
I find new truths in this book every time I read it, even if it's in French.

The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
If you've ever been shocked to hear what others think of you, Barnes's book just might explain the nature of memory to you. Told with incredible precision and insight, this is the most beautifully crafted eye-opener I've ever read.

Seven Good Reasons Not To Be Good, by John Gould
This book has captivated me for weeks. The sleeve says it best: "In this piercingly funny and wise novel, John Gould treats mortality, morality and modernity with equal parts empathy and wit." John is a little-known but absolutely amazing Canadian writer. Read it!

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, by Haruki Murakami
This book introduced me to magical realism, which was interesting and exciting and is what caused Murakami to become my favourite author. The skillful use of tenses and the fact that no character in the book is identified by his or her name make it a very interesting read. My only regret is that I'll never be able to appreciate the original Japanese text, which I'm sure is even better.

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult

Even though I have been alive for only twenty years I have read countless books. It is very hard to choose a favourite but I think Picoult's House Rules is the book that made the biggest impact on me. Picoult allows the reader to have an "inside" look into a family with a severely autistic child. The book helps the reader to understand what autism is really like and it gives families with autistic children something to read that they can probably relate to. The book not only educated me but was brilliantly written. I never wanted it to end.

Galore, by Michael Crummey
What an amazing and gorgeous novel. While I sometimes have trouble with magical realism in literature, Crummey had me completely immersed and engaged with his story. Not for one moment did I think, "Yeah, but..." (as I have done with Gabriel Garcia Márquez, say). Everything is so evocative--I could see, hear, smell, and feel everything. I hate to use the word, but this is a truly "epic" novel.

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
Holy shit! This novel is a total reading experience. I had such visceral response while reading this novel, and DFW continuously blew my mind. I marveled over his use of language, his style, and the sheer audacity of it all. It is a big, bold novel. When I finished the read, I felt like I had accomplished something big.

It, by Stephen King 
When I was a child I remember staying up late at night reading it and thinking to myself, "If I go to sleep he will get me, so keep reading!!" That book was a big part of my childhood.

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Although this is a fairly recent book, I fell in love with the rich and complex characters. Gaiman has a way of writing a simple story with a straightforward plot, but he somehow makes it much more complex than it seems. Plus, I grew up in London England and was very familiar with all the underground locations used in the book.

Perfume, by Patrick Suskind

Wow. The story of a person who was born without a scent and who decides to murder people and steal their smells. Sounds gruesome, but in reality, a very beautiful story.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book was by no means a literary giant or a work of art, but the concepts that Gilbert delivered in this book really made me examine, question, and appraise my life. Her narrative is flawed, gritty, and sometimes a bit too convenient, but it is her acknowledgments at the back of the book that are so arresting and make the entire book worthwhile. These are the words: “In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it's wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

Suicide, by Eduard Levé
I actually purchased this book from you from the translated section and I could not put it down. The book is practically a public suicide note, yet beautifully written. The book provides remarkable insight into the world of an extremely troubled man (presumably the author himself) looking for a way out. Tough subject matter, yet highly recommended. 

Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson
Captures turn-of-the-millennium technology, advertising and cultural trends with well-crafted suspense.

Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

This recommendation was my junior high school librarian's anti-christopher-pike-intervention, for which I am ever-grateful.

Little, Big, by John Crowley
 One of my favourite novels of the last forty years. It's magical and it's the kind of book that takes over your life while you're reading it. I've re-read it several times, and every time, there are new, magical moments that weren't relevant to me the last time but are very relevant this time. It's a great read, and that's coming from a reader who does not read fantasy novels.

No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod
A moving novel by Canada's own Alistair MacLeod, chronicling the lives and memory of a Gaelic-speaking Cape Breton family

At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

An intriguing history of domestic life in the western world, with each chapter discussing the history and use of different rooms.

The Soul's Code, by James Hillman
One of my top ten books. Hillman is a psychologist, scholar, and international lecturer, and has taught at Yale University.  He refers to Plato and many other philosophers as he discusses what we refer to as soul/daimon/spirit/self and discusses what is truly innate in us as human beings. His "acorn theory" of the soul is fascinating and may resonate with you as it did with me: "The mighty oak's destiny is written in the tiny acorn." The book is beautifully written. This is the book that I have given to more people than any other.

The Lark In The Clear Air, by Dennis T. Patrick Sears
A witty coming-of-age story set in rural Ontario during the Great Depression that moves you to laughter and tears. The very first book I bought at the Bookshelf in 1974. It was suggested by Doug after he knew I had spent the previous summer working in the Lindsay area, the setting of this book.

Aunty High Over the Barley Mow, by Dennis T. Patrick Sears
Three years later in 1977, Doug had remembered how much I had enjoyed The Lark In The Clear Air and told me he had a treat for me. It is another lyrical journey into an adulthood full of drinking, wenching, and fighting. It is a wonderful mixture of humour, nostalgia, sentiment, realism, toughness, and loss. 

Holy the Firm, by Annie Dillard
Thoughtful, visual, deeply beautiful—this is a powerful little book. 

The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
Quirkiness at its best.

The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger
Best quirky, angsty teen protagonist.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Incredible. A deceptively complex story layered with insightful literary references. The illustrations are also deceptive--Bechdel spent painstaking hours working on the most minute detail. But it results in photographs and diary entries that feel more real and invite you into the story, more so than if she'd included the originals.

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

Never have I been so involved/attached to a novel's characters. Their journey is hard and gets harder. Yet despite increasing poverty and unfortunate circumstances, the main characters are determined to make their lives better, and their camaraderie and loyalty to one another has you cheering them on. I also learned a lot about India's history and politics. (Chosen by two readers)

The Adoption Papers, by Jackie Kay
Jackie Kay's loosely autobiographical poetry collection explores the many ways in which one constructs the notion of "self." Is it race? gender? class? geography? that determines who we are? Or are we formed by our parents' politics? Kay's poetry beautifully weaves her rich genealogical background into these loaded ideological themes. Her struggle to fit in as a black child adopted by white parents in Scotland is told through the eyes of her birth mother, her adopted mother, and herself. Stunning. 

Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
This book really influenced the way that I think about well-accepted, modern ways of human life. Ishmael argues that before modern man, we existed as a species that lived more like animals, taking from the earth only what we needed to survive. Now we stockpile, hoard, and strive for ever-greater wealth. This forms the basis of why we have pollution, climate change, species extinction, etc., and serves as a counter-argument to the belief that "it is just human nature" to consume the way we currently do.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson

My reading life will forever be touched by Frances Hodgson Burnett's book, as I was introduced to it at a time when I needed to believe in magic and transformation in The Secret Garden as a child.  It was this book that introduced me to the fact that reading could draw me into another world entirely and that my own life could be transformed through witnessing the journey of another.  Later, I was drawn back into wonder and magic through another journey by Yann Martel and the Life of Pi, a book that restored my belief that through reading, we get to participate in the imagination of another and are made better for it.

Pope Joan, by Donna Woolfolk Cross
This is the dramatic story of a woman whose courage makes her a heroine. Pope Joan was erased from history, yet the author brings her existence to life in the pages of this amazing read. Joan is a strong, bold woman, and whether real or mythical, the story of Pope Joan will not disappoint.  

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
A delightfully original and somewhat melancholy treasure of a book. The author tells the story through the eyes and feelings of three central characters: Renee, Paloma, and Mr. Ozu. We get to share and experience their conversations and interactions throughout their meeting in an elegant apartment building. From reading this book, I learned the value of friendships and intimacies and that you never know when fate may take a turn or life may change in an instant.

Barney's Version, by Mordecai Richler

I have read this one-of-a-kind novel twice and look forward to reading it many more times, as it makes me laugh and I feel that I am a part of Barney's world and his search for the key to unsolving the mystery that he finds himself involved in. The wonderful writing style of Richler and his sarcastic and funny humour keep this a favourite on my bookshelf.
From another reader: My favourite's gotta be Barney's version, for portraying exactly how much life matters--no more, no less--and doing it so superbly humorously. 


The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
To this day I consider Atwood's book to be one of the scariest things I have ever read.  I see society today and there are glimmers of the future that Atwood presented to us.  Every now and then I have to re-read this book, and every time it never fails to give me those same shivers.  The Handmaid's Tale began my love affair with Atwood--a love affair that has since extended to many of our fine Canadian authors.

The Walking Drum, by Louis L'Amour.
I first read this book when I was a young teen of about 13 because my grandmother and I used to frequent the public library and she encouraged me to read the book after her when I marveled at how she could possibly enjoy a book of 500 pages! The story Louis L'Amour tells is a tale of romance, adventure, and, most amazingly to my taste, history. I never much enjoyed history but this book somehow intrigued me and I couldn't stop reading. 

Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
While perhaps perceived as simplistic and short, this is a book that I love to read each year around Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.  I first read this book in grade school as an assignment in French literature.  Having read it in both in English and in French, I love the story in both languages. I think it is absolutely a must-read. Says the fox in the book, " Here is my secret.  It is very simple.  It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela

Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud, Martin Gayford

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

Fifteen Days, by Christie Blatchford
Fifteen Days was so evocative that it felt as if it was the kid next door who was Afghanistan.  A few years after I read it, I met a couple whose daughter was there. She had an especially dangerous job.  This book helped me understand the level of risk that she had committed to.

Martha Stewart’s Quick-Cook Menus, by Martha Stewart
I always remember about half-way through a Martha recipe that she just shows up for the photo shoot. But when I serve a Martha dish, I sense an awe in the room that makes it all worthwhile. This was one of her first books.

Griffin and Sabine, by Nick Bantock
Kids have pop-up books with big figures and primary colours.  Nick Bantock gave adults a book that required a little more manual dexterity and included art that intrigued patrons and philatelists. It drove librarians nuts.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Hadley

The Game, by Ken Dryden

Late Nights on Air, by Elizabeth Hay

The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean
I have a coffee table book of paintings in The Hermitage and looked at each one as Dean referred to it. The feeling of completeness was extraordinary.

Columbine, by Dave Cullen

Open, by Andre Agassi

Methodist Hatchet, by Ken Babstock

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey

Dark Age Ahead, by Jane Jacobs

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, by Piers Paul Read

Away, by Jane Urquhart

Diana, Her True Story in Her Own Words, by Andrew Morton
Someone higher than the servants blabbed and couldn’t be fired. In the final installment, the Queen suddenly remembered that the butler did it. The cliché is true: you can’t make this up.

Ossuaries, by Dionne Brand
The presentation is so good that I was able to ignore an intellectual reaction on the first read and just go with the emotions.  A book to read forever.

Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Romeo Dallaire

Clyde Fans, Book 1, by Seth
Seth is not only a talented artist, he is insightful about the human condition and can communicate his understanding. I passed the book on to much younger relatives.  What a great way to relate across generations.

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, by Douglas Coupland

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell

The Downing Street Years, by Margaret Thatcher
Despite the perfectionism that she displayed in public, Margaret Thatcher is impressively open in this book. She includes notes to colleagues that show her ruthless and relentless side. She writes about doubts that she had when she was publicly holding her ground. And she talks about the wardrobe designs that hid her weight.

Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick      

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

My Life, by Bill Clinton
When finished, I speculated on what percentage was true. Such an unfortunate reaction to a biography.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
McCall Smith’s pace, cadence, and issues remind me of other south Saharan countries I have visited.  This series is a wonderful way to get people started reading about Africa.

Grendel, by John Gardner
It is hard to explain the many ways in which this great novel moved me. The idea of focusing on a character like Grendel and telling the great Beowulf tale from the monster's perspective with humour and sympathy and skill was eye-opening to me. I believe it was Gardner's masterful use of language and alliteration that found me cast in his spell and craving more of his work. Gardner seems to write with an eye for the critics and embellishes his writing with interesting twists like opening Grendel with the ram--the first sign of the horoscope--and introducing each astrological sign in sequence by chapter. It's done seamlessly and adds a unified strength to the novel. Every event seems to follow a natural path.

Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee 

With ten children, my family adopted the tradition of drawing names at Christmas. My eldest brother, Phil, drew my name and left a credit card imprint at the bookstore which allowed me to buy any book I wanted each month for a full year. Disgrace was the first book I purchased. Just last year, my brother and I drove to State College, Pennsylvania together to see JM Coetzee collect his IAH award and we had the good fortune--as distant visitors--to be invited to the private reception after the awards, allowing me an opportunity to meet the author and have my book signed.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver 
This book was a life changer for me – really. What we eat and how we live changed dramatically after reading this memoir of a year long adventure with local and home-grown food. I’m so grateful this book exists! I re-read it once a year, and give copies away as gifts. Beautiful.

Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver

Magical essays that tear my heart, feed my soul, and open my eyes.

My Mother Wears Combat Boots, by Jessica Mills
A Christmas present from my son, it was fun and interesting and a different sort of parenting book, but I was especially touched by the words my son wrote inside.

Idioglossia, by Eleanor Bailey

Sadly out of print, and I lent out my copy, but it is a haunting story of family and connection, mental illness and love.  I was touched each time I read it by the strength of love through all of the challenges of life.

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill

Such a powerful read!  The image of the baby being thrown off the boat will forever stay with me.

The Time Traveller's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

I'm not usually a sucker for love stories, but this one was so beautiful and so unique!  I loved it!

Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden

I couldn't put this book down and I felt so sad for Elijah and Xavier and what the war had turned them into...this story will haunt me!

Bottle Rocket Hearts, by Zoe Whittall

I loved the angst of this story and felt connected to so many of the characters.  Made me want to write my own novel.

Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel

My first experience with historical fiction, what a joy to learn while indulging in a good book.  I have gone on to read Gabaldon, Follett, Gregory, Shaffer and Chevalier amongst others.

Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney

The first book I read to my unborn children.  They are 8 & 6 now and we still bring it out occasionally.

Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

It was my first introduction to Kurt Vonnegut who became, and still is, my favourite author of all time.  I love his sarcastic and witty ways.  

Emma's War, by Deborah Scroggins

I was given this book by a friend who I met while in Kenya working in a refugee camp.  The book was so fascinating and changed my views on international development forever.  

The Name of Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

Because every generation needs an interpreter, and he was ours.

Vernon God Little, by DBC Pierre

The modern novel sits squarely on the shoulders of subjective perspective, and no book in the last ten years obeys this intention as impressively. 

Rubicon, by John Holland

A historical account of the rise of Julius Caesar to power and the transition of the Roman republic into an empire. The book is so well written and sourced that it reads like a fictional story rather than history.

Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond

A clever account of how the distribution of power and cultural capital ended up as it did.

The Solitudes, by John Crowley

Epitomized for me writing as a form of enchantment--there was a core of mystery in that book which, reading it in high school as I did, began to convince me that literature and life itself could be infused with a sense of magic.

Embassytown, by China Mieville
A mind-bogglingly ambitious book, but what wins me over with Mieville is not his big ideas but his prose, which is sentence-by-sentence some of the best I've ever read.

Room, by Emma Donoghue

Sex at Dawn, by Christoper Ryan & Cacilda Jethà

Sex at Dawn is a book discussing a very controversial topic--non-monogamy--from an evolutionary psychology perspective. The authors of Sex at Dawn not only normalize this phenomenon, but also ground it in evolutionary theory, rendering it clear and logical.

She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

The Art Of Racing In The Rain, by Garth Stein

Killing Yourself to Live, by Chuck Klosterman

His ability to relate everything in his life to music and pop culture is amazing. The only book I've read more than once, and I plan on reading again. Outstanding. Anyone who loves music should read it--oh, and anyone who has ever been in a relationship.

Oh, The Places You'll Go!, by Dr. Seuss

This book has helped me through some very difficult times.  Dr. Seuss helps me to remember that we all go through difficult times, and then those difficult times will get better.  What a touching read.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis

I remember sitting in my grandpa's velvet wing-back chair, sniffing the pages of my new Puffin paperback, snow falling outside and my whole ten year old self wriggling in anticipation!

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

This book brings history to life like no other. Mantel engaged all my senses from the first paragraph. I wish it was a ten book series and not just a trilogy!

Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey

The Windup Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami

The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Skimming over the obvious reasons like its beautiful imagery or relatable characters or the fun in reading about a society that seemed so different from ours, it was the book's message that has stuck with me. Sometimes a path seems so easy or so obvious and when we are faced with a new challenge, all we want is what was once so easy. But if we are given an opportunity to do something great, even if doing it is hard and forces us to leave a lot behind, there is no better path to take. Life is not simple. It's beautiful and mysterious but not always easy. 

From another reader: I first read this book when I was 10 years old and remember staying up really late to finish. It was my first foray into dystopian fiction and it rocked my world.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

He writes characters brilliantly.

Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay

Wonderful characters and plot, and penned by a Canadian to boot!

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon

This is a great work of fiction. A charming read, certainly!

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
Sometimes a book need not be a classic or a paragon of writing to be one’s favourite. Sometimes, it need only be read at the right time. High Fidelity is that book for me. I read it shortly after I turned twenty and the way it talked about being a grown-up – the privileges and the disappointments – really spoke to me.

Anne of Green Gables, by  L. M. Montgomery
I first read Anne at the age of 11, and have re-read it countless times.  I still have my original copy, dog eared, yellowed, and cracked spine.  

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
I read this book once before I was a parent, and a couple of times since. Difficult reading each time, but Sebold's depiction of Heaven is one that gives me comfort and has stuck with me over the years.
We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
Dark and disturbing, beautifully written, looks at the “nature vs. nurture” origin of evil.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (Bookshelf Review available)
One of the more recent books on my list; a wonderfully written tale of suspense, obsession and betrayal.

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hussein
The most beautiful imagery in the written word … transports you to another place.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hussein
 Heartbreaking and uplifting.

Almost anything by Jodi Picoult
One of my favorite authors today; she is unafraid to take difficult, controversial topics and force the reader to consider them from all angles.

The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub
This book was, and still is, one of my favorites of all time

The Stand & It, by Stephen King
Stephen King books made up most of my library as a young-reader teenager in the 80s – he was one of the first authors I fell in “love” with. 

Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
A beautiful story of love and family.

Love Anthony, Lisa Genova
This story opened my eyes to the meaning of REAL unconditional love.
A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan (Bookshelf Review available)

About This Country, by Peter Gzowski
In 1974 I was a stay-at-home mom with one beautiful baby girl, very little money or space at home. CBC radio kept me company and kept me informed. Peter Gzowski was like family. I read the book, recalled the interviews I had heard, and regretted not hearing the ones I had missed. I'm glad this copy has survived the donation pile for every house move I have made.