Happy Weekend + Links I Love

alexander-muir-memorial-gardens-2

Happy February, everyone! I hope you’re having a great weekend so far. How are you spending it? This evening, I’m meeting friends for a Winterlicious dinner followed by the Toronto Light Festival in the Distillery District.

Hope you have a good one! As always, I’m sharing my favourite links with you…

+ Loved reading this so, so much. Harry Belafonte Knows a Thing or Two About New York. “It’s my last chance to say whatever I feel the need to say. And I think I’m formulating what that utterance should be. What have I not said that needs to be said more forcefully and more precisely? There are times we mute ourselves, we censor ourselves because we have this false pride, this need to be liked. Rather than worry about being liked, are you telling the truth, putting your best foot forward?”

+ Have you heard about Sincerely, X? TED and Audible debuted this audio series this week that features speakers sharing revealing stories anonymously.

+ Speaking of TED Talks, this one: My son was a Columbine shooter. This is my story landed in my inbox this week. I am currently reading Columbine so I found it quite timely.

+ I am loving this new literary lifestyle magazine.

+ Tips for handling difficult conversations online. We need this more than ever these days.

+ Airbnb’s CEO offers free housing to refugees. Interested in helping? You can make a donation here.

+ These words from the head of communications for the UN Refugee Agency: “My job is to make people care about the sixty million displaced people in the world. I wish I could tell every single one of their stories. Because if people knew their stories, I don’t think there would be so many walls. And there wouldn’t be so many people drowning in the seas.”

+ These caramelized banana, Nutella, and candied pecan pancakes make me so happy!

+ This strawberry milkshake cake is almost too pretty to eat.

+ 6 favourite Brooklyn restaurants.

Reading update:

I am slowly making my way through Columbine by Dave Cullen. It’s a difficult, well-executed read that belongs on everyone’s reading list!

I am also reading Tracy K. Smith’s memoir Ordinary Light and I can’t put it down. She reflects on race, faith, family, her childhood in Northern California, her relationship with her mother, and her journey to becoming a writer. Beautifully written, thoughtful, and engaging.

What I Read in January

January was a pretty good reading month for me. Here are the 6 books I read and loved this month…

you-will-not-have-my-hate

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris, translated by Sam Taylor

This short memoir is one of my favourite January reads. I’ve never read anything more beautiful and it had me in tears.

On November 13 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan theater in Paris. Leiris was left to care for his seventeen-month-old son. Days after the attacks, he shared an open letter to his wife’s killers on Facebook. Here’s a snippet from his post: “You want me to be scared, to see my fellow citizens through suspicious eyes, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have failed. I will not change.”

With grace, honesty, and vulnerability, he shares the story of his grief and struggle in the days and weeks after his wife’s murder. A gorgeously written, incredibly moving memoir about love, loss, and our power to choose love over hate.

fractured

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Her latest novel is psychological suspense at its finest. Bestselling murder mystery author Julie Prentice and her family move from Tacoma, Washington to a picture-perfect Cincinnati neighbourhood to escape a stalker. Told from the perspectives of Julie and her new neighbour John, the story is brilliantly structured and packed with twist after twist. You know something horrible has happened in the neighbourhood, but you don’t know exactly what or to whom. I read it from cover to cover in one weekend.

fig

Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Schantz’s debut novel was my pick for the “book with an unreliable narrator” category for the 2017 MMD Reading Challenge. I don’t usually read young adult novels, but this one came highly recommended by the teen librarian at my local library. Narrated by Fig, from ages six to nineteen, it’s a painfully accurate portrayal of life with mental illness and a mother-daughter relationship. Fig’s voice is so authentic and I can’t stop sharing it with everyone. Highly recommended for both teens and adults.

love-loss-and-what-we-ate

Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

I love memoirs and I’ve added quite a few to this year’s reading list. I kicked off the year with Lakshmi’s bestselling memoir. In it, Lakshmi opens up about her childhood in India, moving to the U.S. at the age of four, her immigrant experience, and her journey to self-acceptance and feeling comfortable in her own skin. She talks candidly about her family life, marriage, divorce, and of course, her love of cooking and hosting Bravo’s Emmy award-winning Top Chef. Bonus: Lakshmi shares some of her favourite recipes throughout the book. Vivid, beautifully written, bold, and brave.

our-souls-at-night

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

In his final novel, Haruf transports us to the fictional small town of Holt, Colorado. Addie Moore and Louis Waters have lived in Holt for decades. Both their spouses died years ago and they have been living alone in empty houses. One day, Addie unexpectedly shows up on Louis’s doorstep with an invitation to spend the night at her house. After some thought, Louis accepts. As Addie and Louis get to know each other through their nightly conversations, a beautiful and honest relationship blooms.

Told in plain English, it’s a story about love, companionship, grief, and second chances.

suffer-love

Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake

Sam and Hadley meet at high school. Sam falls for Hadley, but then he finds out her last name. I read this in an afternoon. Blake does an excellent job of exploring the impact one choice has on two different families. Written in stunning language, this is an achingly beautiful and realistic love story for our times.

What did you read in January?

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

snow-day

Happy Friday! Can you believe it’s the final weekend of January? It’s cold and grey and snow flurries are on the way. If it’s not too cold out, I plan on checking out the Toronto Light Festival in The Distillery District. It looks like such an amazing event!

Got any fun plans this weekend? As always, I’ve rounded up my favourite links from around the web this week…

+ The right way to fall. “The key is to not fight the fall, but just to roll with it, as paratroopers do.”

+ Real perspectives from the Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

+ Watch New York City Ballet dancers take over a subway station.

+ A new Netflix documentary series about design is coming in February.

+ LOVING the 2017 Oscar nominations by the numbers.

+ Invisible Wounds. Humans of New York’s new series tells the stories of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

+ The Taste of Emotion. Dominique Crenn on the poetry of cooking, the power of memory, and rejecting limits for women in the male-dominated culinary industry.

+ Bri shared an amazing Stockholm travel guide.

+ 9 documentaries to add to your must-see list this year.

+ Stay warm with this matcha honey hot chocolate.

Reading update:

I finished Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night this week. It was the late author’s final novel and I really enjoyed it.

I’m starting Columbine this weekend.

(Photo snapped in Alexander Muir Memorial Gardens last winter.)

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

winter wonderland on Manor Road

I am in the mood to curl up on the couch in my pajamas and binge-watch documentaries. Any recommendations?

Whatever you do, I hope you have an amazing one! As always, my favourite links this week for you to click through…

+ Don’t miss out: This weekend, you can download these 7 eBooks for free in honour of the Women’s Marches!

+ Bryan Stevenson: A Civil Rights Hero for the Age of Trump. Stevenson shares his thoughts on justice, race, America, and the importance of books. His book Just Mercy is a necessary read for our times. I finally read it last year and I’ll be rereading it soon.

+ A final thank you from Obama. How can you not love him?

+ And designers wrote the sweetest thank you notes to Michelle Obama.

+ This was a fascinating long read. To Obama With Love, Hate, and Desperation. The director of presidential correspondence, Fiona Reeves “looked for stories. Not pro-this or con-that, not screeds, not opinions about what someone heard on N.P.R. The president needed to hear the stories — that’s what he couldn’t get himself. She thought of the letters as a periscope outside the bubble, as a way for him to see as he used to see, before Secret Service protection and armored vehicles and a press pool and the world watching.”

+ Love this interview. Why the world needs more women sound mixers.

+ The brilliant question LinkedIn’s head of recruiting asks every job candidate.

+ This timely Ted Talk landed in my inbox this week. Ashley Judd: How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control.

+ An anti-smoking billboard that coughs. Seriously?

+ Must watch: Ellen’s tribute to the Obamas.

+ The perfect dinner for cold winter evenings: Slow roasted citrus salmon and winter citrus butter salmon.

+ Loving this social media cheat sheet for 2017.

+ Favourites from my Instagram feed: The beautiful in-between via @tuulavintage, Steamy with a chance of flurries via @laurenswells

+ In case you missed it, I shared the 100 books on my 2017 reading list.

Reading update:

This week I finished Padma Lakshmi’s memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate. Vivid, brave, moving, and brutally honest.

The 100 Books I’m Reading in 2017

Last January I shared a list of 100 books I wanted to read by the end of 2016; by December 31st I’d read 82 books. While my list changed as the year progressed, I found the list to be a great starting point. By the end of the year, I knew the exact number and titles of books I’d read.

I enjoyed tracking my reading progress so much that I am doing it again this year. I am sure this list will change as I discover new books along the way. After much editing, here’s my 2017 reading list…

books-for-living

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
The Door by Magda Szabo, translated by Len Rix
New York by Edward Rutherfurd
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
NW by Zadie Smith
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri, translated by Ann Goldstein
Small Island by Andrea Levy
The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola, translated by Mark Kurlansky
Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell

ordinary-light

Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith
Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
Hidden by Catherine McKenzie
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris, translated by Sam Taylor
The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew
By Gaslight by Steven Price
Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

better-now

Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Dr. Danielle Martin
Transit by Rachel Cusk [January 17, 2017]
Steal Away Home by Karolyn Smardz Frost [January 24, 2017]
Unbound: Finding Myself on Top of the World by Steph Jagger [January 24, 2017]
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller [January 28, 2017]
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill [February 7, 2017]
The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen [February 21, 2017]
Men Walking on Water by Emily Schultz [March 7, 2017]
So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum [March 14, 2017]
The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep by Steven Heighton [March 14, 2017]
Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris [April 4, 2017]
Where I Live Now: A Journey through Love and Loss to Healing and Hope by Sharon Butala [April 4, 2017]

life-on-the-ground-floor

Life on the Ground Floor by Dr. James Maskalyk  [April 11, 2017]
The Weekend Effect by Katrina Onstad [April 11, 2017]
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara [April 15, 2017]
The Slip by Mark Sampson [May 20, 2017]
The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan [June 24, 2017]
Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe
The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Outline by Rachel Cusk

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Waiting for First Light: My Ongoing Battle with PTSD by Romeo Dallaire
The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell
With Malice by Eileen Cook
Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
Weightless by Sarah Bannan
If Our Bodies Could Talk: A Guide to Operating and Maintaining a Human Body by James Hamblin
A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
In the Woods by Tana French
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

columbine

Columbine by Dave Cullen
A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
Juliet’s Answer: One Man’s Search for Love and the Elusive Cure for Heartbreak by Glenn Dixon
Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang, translated by Chi-Young Kim
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
I Found You by Lisa Jewell

nothing-to-prove

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen [January 31, 2017]
The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
You Are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Break by Katherena Vermette
How Can I Help?: A Week in My Life as a Psychiatrist by David Goldbloom and Pier Bryden
On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng [September 2017]
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly [November 7, 2017]
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti
The Dry by Jane Harper
A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner
All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg [March 7, 2017]

What’s on your reading list for 2017? Have you read any of my picks?

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

discovery walk through Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying what’s left of the weekend.

If you’re in the mood for some Internet browsing, I’ve got you covered with my favourite links from this week…

+ In case you missed it: President Obama’s farewell address. (Keep a box of tissues handy.)

+ And why President Obama’s tears matter. “For the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didn’t ask for. And you made it your own with grace and with grit and with style, and good humor.”

+ Reese Witherspoon on sexism in Hollywood. “I feel like I constantly see women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends in thankless parts, I just had enough.” I am looking forward to the premiere of Big Little Lies next month!

+ My cousin got me hooked on this Netflix series. I find it really strange, but I can’t stop watching. Have you watched it? Thoughts?

+ I started listening to The Lively Show again this week. I found this episode incredibly relatable and inspiring. Energy, Flow, and Finding Adventure in Your Own Hometown with Rob Lawless.

+ Stolen good books: why Canadian thieves outclass the British. “They have a better class of book thief in Toronto. Whereas in the UK, Potters Harry and Beatrix, as well as travel guides, top the list of titles most likely to be stolen from bookshops, thieves working the aisles in the Canadian city are targeting Haruki Murakami’s work.”

+ I bought this book last year and I finally started reading it yesterday. It is SO good.

+ If you’re looking for recommendations, I shared my winter reading list this week.

Reading update:

I finished reading Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz. I don’t usually read young adult novels, but this debut novel grabbed me from the opening line. Narrated by Fig, from ages six to nineteen, it’s a painfully authentic portrayal of life with mental illness and a mother-daughter relationship. One of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a while; I can’t stop talking about it.

I also read You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris. After his wife Helene was killed in the Paris terrorist attacks, Leiris is left to pick up the pieces and care for his seventeen-month-old son. With honesty and vulnerability, he shares the story of his grief and struggle in the days and weeks after Helene’s murder. I was blown away by his decision to choose love over hate. A beautiful and important little book.

Most Anticipated Canadian Books of 2017

Last year, I was determined to read more books written by Canadian authors and I did. Each year, approximately 10,000 Canadian books are released by publishers and their imprints from coast to coast. Putting together my 2017 reading list just got a wee bit more difficult, but I’m not complaining!

Here are 17 books from Canadian authors I can’t wait to read in 2017. These titles will be hitting shelves between January and June.

better-now

Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Dr. Danielle Martin, Publisher: Allen Lane

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Dr. Danielle Martin see the challenges in our health care system every day. As a family doctor and a hospital vice president, she observes how those deficiencies adversely affect patients. And as a health policy expert, she knows how to close those gaps. A passionate believer in the value of fairness that underpins the Canadian health care system, Dr. Martin is on a mission to improve medicare. In Better Now, she shows how bold fixes are both achievable and affordable. Her patients’ stories and her own family’s experiences illustrate the evidence she presents about what works best to improve health care for all.

transit

Transit by Rachel Cusk, Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: January 17, 2017

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: In the wake of family collapse, a writer moves to London with her two young sons. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, practical—as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.

Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change. In this precise, short, and yet epic novel, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language toward it. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one’s life and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.

steal-away-home

Steal Away Home by Karolyn Smardz Frost, Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: In this compelling work of narrative non-fiction, Governor General’s Award winner Karolyn Smardz Frost brings Cecelia’s story to life. Cecelia was a teenager when she made her dangerous bid for freedom from the United States, across the Niagara River and into Canada. Escape meant that she would never see her mother or brother again. She would be cut off from the young mistress with whom she grew up, but who also owned her as a slave holder owns the body of a slave. This was a time when people could be property, when a beloved father could be separated from his wife while their children were auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the son of a white master and his black housekeeper could become a slave to his own white half-sister and brother-in-law.

Cecelia found a new life in Toronto’s vibrant African American expatriate community. Her rescuer became her husband, a courageous conductor on the Underground Railroad helping other freedom-seekers reach Canada. Widowed, she braved the Fugitive Slave Law to cross back into the United States, where she again found love, and followed her William into the battlefields of the Civil War. Finally, with a wounded husband and young children in tow, she returned to the Kentucky she had known as a child. But her home had changed: hooded Night Riders roamed the countryside with torches and nooses at the ready. When William disappeared, Cecelia relied on the support and affection of her former mistress—the Southern belle who had owned her as a child.

Only five of the letters between Cecelia and her former mistress, Fanny Thruston Ballard, have survived. They are testament to the great love and the lifelong friendship that existed between these two very different women. Reunited after years apart, the two lived within a few blocks of each other for the rest of Fanny’s life.

unbound

Unbound: Finding Myself on Top of the World by Steph Jagger, Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Steph Jagger had seen the ski-lift sign thousands of times—“Raise Restraining Device,” it read—but one day she took it personally as a rallying cry to shake off the life she had for the life she wanted. She had always been a force of nature, so why was she still holding herself back? Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women when she was growing up, Steph emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.

In a moment, the sign on the ski lift became her mantra, and she knew she had to change her life. So Jagger walked away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a plane ticket. For the next year, she followed winter across five continents on a mission to break the world record for most vertical feet skied in a year. What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life, melt it down to its elements and get to the very centre of herself. An emotional story of courage and self-discovery that will appeal to readers of Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, Unbound will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices, whatever they may be.

swimming-lessons

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller, Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Publication Date: January 28, 2017

Synopsis from House of Anansi Press: In this spine-tingling tale Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but she never sends them. Instead she hides them within the thousands of books her husband has collected. After she writes her final letter, Ingrid disappears.

Twelve years later, her adult daughter, Flora comes home to look after her injured father. Secretly, Flora has never believed her mother is dead, and she starts asking questions, without realizing that the answers she’s looking for are hidden in the books that surround her.
the-lonely-hearts-hotel

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill, Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Exquisitely imagined and hypnotically told, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. Set in the early part of the 20th Century, it is an unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose fortune hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to escape one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their true talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing for the rich, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, both escape into the city’s underworld, where they must use their uncommon gifts to survive without each other. Ruthless and unforgiving, Montreal in the 1930’s is no place for song and dance. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes, the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make those dream come true. After Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls hit the stage and the alleys, the underworld will never look the same.

With extraordinary storytelling, musical language, and an extravagantly realized world, acclaimed author Heather O’Neill enchants us with her best novel yet — one so magical there is no escaping its spell.

the-way-of-letting-go

The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness by Wilma Derksen, Publisher: Zondervan

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Maybe it was the sting of remarks from a relative or friend. Maybe a miscarriage ended your hopes for a family. For all of your heartbreaks, maybe you wished there was someone to help you through. For Wilma Derksen, letting go of the 15 misconceptions about grief led her back to hope. In this book she tells how you can do the same.

Wilma’s world collapsed when her teenage daughter, Candace, was taken hostage and murdered. Wilma now shares her choices to “let go” of heartbreak, which gave her the courage to navigate through the dark waters of sorrow. Like Wilma, maybe your heartbreak forced you to retreat from happy expectations, of believing that life is fair, of finding closure for every circumstance. She encourages patiently: let go of the happy ending, let go of perfect justice, let go of fear, and let go of closure. Wilma’s wisdom will help you overcome your broken heart, and her advice will enable you to break free of pain to live a life of true joy.

men-walking-on-water

Men Walking on Water by Emily Schultz, Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Men Walking on Water opens on a bitter winter’s night in 1927, with a motley gang of small-time smugglers huddled on the banks of the Detroit River, peering towards Canada on the opposite side. A catastrophe has just occurred: while driving across the frozen water by moonlight, a decrepit Model T loaded with whisky has broken the ice and gone under–and with it, driver Alfred Moss and a bundle of money. From that defining moment, the novel weaves its startling, enthralling story, with the missing man at its centre, a man who affects all the characters in different ways. In Detroit, a young mother becomes a criminal to pay down the debt her husband, assumed dead, has left behind; a Pentecostal preacher brazenly uses his church to fund his own bootlegging operation even as he lectures against the perils of drink; and across the river, a French-Canadian woman runs her booming brothel business with the permission of the powerful Detroit gangsters who are her patrons.

The looming background to this extraordinary story, as compelling as any character, is the city of Detroit–a place of grand dreams and brutal realities in 1927 as it is today, fuelled by capitalist expansion and by the collapse that follows, sitting on the border between countries, its citizens walking precariously across the river between pleasure and abstinence. This is an absolutely stunning, mature, and compulsively readable novel from one of our most talented and unique writers.

so-much-love

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum, Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When Catherine Reindeer vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, So Much Love reveals how an unexpected disappearance can overturn the lives of those left behind: Catherine’s fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor finds himself thinking of her constantly. Her husband refuses to give up hope that she will one day return. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery. When, after months of captivity, a final devastating loss forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows.

A riveting novel that deftly examines the complexity of love and the power of stories to shape our lives, So Much Love confirms Rebecca Rosenblum’s reputation as one of the most gifted and distinctive writers of her generation.

the-nightingale-wont-let-you-sleep

The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep by Steven Heighton, Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Elias Trifannis is desperate to belong somewhere. To make his dying ex-cop father happy, he joins the military – but in Afghanistan, by the time he realizes his last-minute bid for connection was a terrible mistake, it’s too late and a tragedy has occurred.

In the aftermath, exhausted by nightmares, Elias is sent to Cyprus to recover, where he attempts to find comfort in the arms of Eylul, a beautiful Turkish journalist. But the lovers’ reprieve ends in a moment of shocking brutality that drives Elias into Varosha, once a popular Greek-Cypriot resort town, abandoned since the Turkish invasion of 1974.

Hidden in the lush, overgrown ruins is a community of exiles and refugees living resourcefully but comfortably. Thanks to the cheerfully corrupt Colonel Kaya, who turns a blind eye, they live under the radar of the Turkish authorities.

As he begins to heal, Elias finds himself drawn to the enigmatic and secretive Kaiti while he learns at last to “simply belong.” But just when it seems he has found sanctuary, events he himself set in motion have already begun to endanger it.

solitude

Solitude: A Singular Life in a Crowded World by Michael Harris, Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: The capacity to be alone–properly alone–is one of life’s subtlest skills. Real solitude is a contented and productive state that garners tangible rewards: it allows us to reflect and recharge, improving our relationships with ourselves and, paradoxically, with others. Today, the zeitgeist embraces sharing like never before. Fueled by our dependence on online and social media, we have created an ecosystem of obsessive distraction that dangerously undervalues solitude. Many of us now lead lives of strangely crowded loneliness–we are ever-connected, but only shallowly so.

Award-winning author Michael Harris examines why our experience of solitude has become so impoverished, and how we may grow to love it again in the frenzy of our digital landscape. Solitude is an optimistic and encouraging story about discovering true quiet inside the city, inside the crowd, inside our busy and urbane lives. Harris guides readers away from a life of ceaseless pings toward a state of measured connectivity, one that balances solitude and companionship.

Rich with true stories about the life-changing power of solitude, and interwoven with reporting from the world’s foremost brain researchers, psychologists and tech entrepreneurs, Solitude is a beautiful and prescriptive statement on the benefits of being alone.

where-i-live-now

Where I Live Now: A Journey through Love and Loss to Healing and Hope by Sharon Butala, Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: When Sharon Butala’s husband, Peter, died unexpectedly, she found herself with no place to call home. Torn by grief and loss, she fled the ranchlands of southwest Saskatchewan and moved to the city, leaving almost everything behind. A lifetime of possessions was reduced to a few boxes of books, clothes, and keepsakes. But a lifetime of experience went with her, and a limitless well of memory—of personal failures, of a marriage that everybody said would not last but did, of the unbreakable bonds of family.

Reinventing herself in an urban landscape was painful, and facing her new life as a widow tested her very being. Yet out of this hard-won new existence comes an astonishingly frank, compassionate and moving memoir that offers not only solace and hope but inspiration to those who endure profound loss.

Often called one of this country’s true visionaries, Sharon Butala shares her insights into the grieving process and reveals the small triumphs and funny moments that kept her going. Where I Live Now is profound in its understanding of the many homes women must build for themselves in a lifetime.

life-on-the-ground-floor

Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine by Dr. James Maskalyk, Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Publication Date: April 11, 2017

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: In this deeply personal book, humanitarian doctor and activist James Maskalyk, author of the highly acclaimed Six Months in Sudan, draws upon his experience treating patients in the world’s emergency rooms. From Toronto to Addis Ababa, Cambodia to Bolivia, he discovers that although the cultures, resources and medical challenges of each hospital may differ, they are linked indelibly by the ground floor: the location of their emergency rooms. Here, on the ground floor, is where Dr. Maskalyk witnesses the story of “human aliveness”–our mourning and laughter, tragedies and hopes, the frailty of being and the resilience of the human spirit. And it’s here too that he is swept into the story, confronting his fears and doubts and questioning what it is to be a doctor.

Masterfully written and artfully structured, Life on the Ground Floor is more than just an emergency doctor’s memoir or travelogue–it’s a meditation on health, sickness and the wonder of human life.

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The Weekend Effect by Katrina Onstad, Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication Date: April 11, 2017

Synopsis from HarperCollins: A persuasive, practical, and much needed manifesto that makes the case for reclaiming our weekends to increase joy, creativity, productivity, and success in our lives.

Award-winning journalist Katrina Onstad’s The Weekend Effect asks us to reconsider the role of the weekend in our lives—often lost to overbooked schedules, domestic chores, shopping, pinging devices, and encroaching work demands—debunking the belief that you have to be on 24/7 in a 24/7 economy to be successful, and revealing the extensive benefits of a well-lived weekend.

We’re working more hours that we did a decade ago, and worse, we allow those hours to slide over seven days a week, leaving no space or time to tune out and recharge. We don’t need the research to tell us that this is hurting us. Our health is deteriorating, our social networks (the face-to-face kind) are weak, and our productivity is down. It wasn’t long ago that working less and living more was considered an American virtue. So what happened?

Digging into the history, the positive psychology, and the cultural anthropology of the great, missing weekend, Onstad, herself suffering from Sunday-night letdown, pushes back against the all-work-no-fun ethos, and follows the trail of people, companies and countries who are vigilantly protecting their weekends for joy, adventure, and most importantly, for meaning.

Onstad offers real-world strategies for wrestling back this lost time with how-to practices in making the most of the weekend. Readers of The Happiness Project, All Joy and No Fun, and Thrive will find personal and business inspiration in this well-researched argument to save the weekend, and as a result, save ourselves. A well-lived weekend, filled with face-to-face socializing, idleness, and nature, is the gateway to a well-lived life.

after-the-bloom

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara, Publisher: Dundurn Press

Publication Date: April 15, 2017

Synopsis from Dundurn Press: A daughter’s search for her mother reveals her family’s past in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.

Lily Takemitsu goes missing from her home in Toronto one luminous summer morning in the mid-1980s. Her daughter, Rita, a high-school art teacher, knows her mother has a history of dissociation and memory problems, which have led her to wander off before. But never has she stayed away so long. Unconvinced the police are taking the case seriously, Rita begins to carry out her own investigation. In the course of searching for her mom, she is forced to confront a labyrinth of secrets surrounding the family’s internment at a camp in the California desert during the Second World War, their postwar immigration to Toronto, and the father she has never known.

Epic in scope, intimate in style, After the Bloom blurs between the present and the ever-present past, beautifully depicting one family’s struggle to face the darker side of its history and find some form of redemption.

the-slip

The Slip by Mark Sampson, Publisher: Dundurn Press

Publication Date: May 20, 2017

Synopsis from Dundurn Press: In this wickedly funny novel, one bad afternoon and two regrettable comments make the inimitable Philip Sharpe go viral for all the worst reasons.

Dr. Philip Sharpe, absentminded professor extraordinaire, teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto and is one of Canada’s most combative public intellectuals. But when a live TV debate with his fiercest rival goes horribly off the rails, an oblivious Philip says some things to her that he really shouldn’t have.

As a clip of Philip’s “slip” goes viral, it soon reveals all the cracks and fissures in his marriage with his young, stay-at-home wife, Grace. And while the two of them try to get on the same side of the situation, things quickly spiral out of control.

Can Philip make amends and save his marriage? Is there any hope of salvaging his reputation? To do so, he’ll need to take a hard look at his on-air comments, and to conscript a band of misfits in a scheme to set things right.

the-substitute

The Substitute by Nicole Lundrigan, Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Publication Date: June 24, 2017

Synopsis from House of Anansi Press: Warren Botts is a disillusioned Ph.D., taking a break from his lab to teach middle-school science. Gentle, soft-spoken, and lonely, he innocently befriends Amanda, one of his students. But one morning, Amanda is found dead in his backyard, and Warren, shocked, flees the scene.

As the small community slowly turns against him, an anonymous narrator, a person of extreme intelligence and emotional detachment, offers insight into events past and present. As the tension builds, we gain an intimate understanding of the power of secrets, illusions, and memories.

Nicole Lundrigan uses her prodigious talent to deliciously creepy effect, producing a finely crafted page-turner and a chilling look into the mind of a psychopath.

Which books are you dying to read in 2017? I’d love to hear in comments!

Winter 2017 Reads

This morning, we woke up to snow. And when everything is blanketed in snow, there are few things as satisfying as curling up with an engrossing read.

From memoirs to historical novels to psychological thrillers, these are the 15 books I can’t wait to get lost in this winter.

books-for-living

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Schwalbe’s beloved memoir The End of Your Life Book Club was one of my top reads last year; I’ve been recommending it to friends and strangers alike. Last night, I started his latest and it is so delightful. A must-read for book lovers.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Why is it that we read? Is it to pass time? To learn something new? To escape from reality? For Will Schwalbe, reading is a way to entertain himself but also to make sense of the world, to become a better person, and to find the answers to the big (and small) questions about how to live his life. In this delightful celebration of reading, Schwalbe invites us along on his quest for books that speak to the specific challenges of living in our modern world, with all its noise and distractions. In each chapter, he discusses a particular book—what brought him to it (or vice versa), the people in his life he associates with it, and how it became a part of his understanding of himself in the world.  These books span centuries and genres (from classic works of adult and children’s literature to contemporary thrillers and even cookbooks), and each one relates to the questions and concerns we all share. Throughout, Schwalbe focuses on the way certain books can help us honor those we’ve loved and lost, and also figure out how to live each day more fully. Rich with stories and recommendations, Books for Living is a treasure for everyone who loves books and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?”

you-will-not-have-my-hate

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris, translated from French by Sam Taylor

Synopsis from Penguin Random House: On November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, in the deadliest attack on France since World War II. Three days later, Leiris wrote an open letter addressed directly to his wife’s killers, which he posted on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his seventeen-month-old son’s life be defined by Hélène’s murder. He refused to let the killers have their way: “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.” Instantly, that short Facebook post caught fire, and was reported on by newspapers and television stations all over the world. In his determination to honor the memory of his wife, he became an international hero to everyone searching desperately for a way to deal with the horror of the Paris attacks and the grim shadow cast today by the threat of terrorism.

Now Leiris tells the full story of his grief and struggle. You Will Not Have My Hate is a remarkable, heartbreaking, and, indeed, beautiful memoir of how he and his baby son, Melvil, endured in the days and weeks after Hélène’s murder. With absolute emotional courage and openness, he somehow finds a way to answer that impossible question: how can I go on? He visits Hélène’s body at the morgue, has to tell Melvil that Mommy will not be coming home, and buries the woman he had planned to spend the rest of his life with.

Leiris’s grief is terrible, but his love for his family is indomitable. This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris confronts an incomprehensible pain with a humbling generosity and grandeur of spirit. He is a guiding star for us all in these perilous times. His message—hate will be vanquished by love—is eternal.

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Back in 2015, I read the late author’s moving novel Benediction. I loved it so much that it made my favourite reads of 2015 list. I can’t wait to pick up his final novel which The Washington Post calls “Utterly charming [and] distilled to elemental purity.”

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away, her son even farther, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in empty houses, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. But maybe that could change? As Addie and Louis come to know each other better–their pleasures and their difficulties–a beautiful story of second chances unfolds, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.

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Fig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Schantz’s 2015 debut novel comes highly recommended by the teen librarian at my local branch. I’m reading it for the ‘book with an unreliable narrator’ category for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I started it last night and I can’t put it down.

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: Love and sacrifice intertwine in this brilliant debut of rare beauty about a girl dealing with her mother’s schizophrenia and her own mental illness.

Fig’s world lies somewhere between reality and fantasy.

But as she watches Mama slowly come undone, it becomes hard to tell what is real and what is not, what is fun and what is frightening. To save Mama, Fig begins a fierce battle to bring her back. She knows that her daily sacrifices, like not touching metal one day or avoiding water the next, are the only way to cure Mama.

The problem is that in the process of a daily sacrifice, Fig begins to lose herself as well, increasingly isolating herself from her classmates and engaging in self-destructive behavior that only further sets her apart.

Spanning the course of Fig’s childhood from age six to nineteen, this deeply provocative novel is more than a portrait of a mother, a daughter, and the struggle that comes with all-consuming love. It is an acutely honest and often painful portrayal of life with mental illness and the lengths to which a young woman must go to handle the ordeals—real or imaginary—thrown her way.

better-now

Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians by Dr. Danielle Martin

This important book is getting some serious buzz in Canada right now. Dr. Martin is the Vice President of Medical Affairs and Health System Solutions at Women’s College Hospital (the hospital where I had two surgeries done) as well as an advocate for Canada’s heath-care system. In 2014, she was invited to speak to the United States Senate Sub-committee. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders says, “Dr. Martin offers a timely and insightful perspective on Canada’s commitment to providing health care as a right to all people. The U.S. health care system has a great deal to learn from Canada and from Better Now.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: Dr. Danielle Martin see the challenges in our health care system every day. As a family doctor and a hospital vice president, she observes how those deficiencies adversely affect patients. And as a health policy expert, she knows how to close those gaps. A passionate believer in the value of fairness that underpins the Canadian health care system, Dr. Martin is on a mission to improve medicare. In Better Now, she shows how bold fixes are both achievable and affordable. Her patients’ stories and her own family’s experiences illustrate the evidence she presents about what works best to improve health care for all.

Better Now outlines “Six Big Ideas” to bolster Canada’s health care system. Each one is centred on a typical Canadian patient, making it clear how close to home these issues strike.

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Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: In Ordinary Light, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith tells her remarkable story, giving us a quietly potent memoir that explores her coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. Here is the story of a young artist struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.

The Reason You Walk cover

The Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew

This important and moving memoir comes highly recommended by one of my favourite booksellers; she chose it as her staff pick. It was on last year’s reading list, but because of its popularity, I wasn’t able to borrow a copy from the library. I can’t wait to finally read it.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: When his father was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Winnipeg broadcaster and musician Wab Kinew decided to spend a year reconnecting with the accomplished but distant aboriginal man who’d raised him. The Reason You Walk spans the year 2012, chronicling painful moments in the past and celebrating renewed hopes and dreams for the future. As Kinew revisits his own childhood in Winnipeg and on a reserve in Northern Ontario, he learns more about his father’s traumatic childhood at residential school.

An intriguing doubleness marks The Reason You Walk, a reference to an Anishinaabe ceremonial song. Born to an Anishinaabe father and a non-native mother, he has a foot in both cultures. He is a Sundancer, an academic, a former rapper, a hereditary chief, and an urban activist. His father, Tobasonakwut, was both a beloved traditional chief and a respected elected leader who engaged directly with Ottawa. Internally divided, his father embraced both traditional native religion and Catholicism, the religion that was inculcated into him at the residential school where he was physically and sexually abused. In a grand gesture of reconciliation, Kinew’s father invited the Roman Catholic bishop of Winnipeg to a Sundance ceremony in which he adopted him as his brother. Kinew writes affectingly of his own struggles in his twenties to find the right path, eventually giving up a self-destructive lifestyle to passionately pursue music and martial arts. From his unique vantage point, he offers an inside view of what it means to be an educated aboriginal living in a country that is just beginning to wake up to its aboriginal history and living presence.

Invoking hope, healing and forgiveness, The Reason You Walk is a poignant story of a towering but damaged father and his son as they embark on a journey to repair their family bond. By turns lighthearted and solemn, Kinew gives us an inspiring vision for family and cross-cultural reconciliation, and a wider conversation about the future of aboriginal peoples.

fractured

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

I’ve been a huge fan of Canadian author Catherine McKenzie since devouring her debut novel in one afternoon back in 2009. I decided to read her latest book plus two others for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

We know where you live…

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

by-gaslight

By Gaslight by Steven Price

Longlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Canadian author’s second novel sounds like the perfect read for grey, snowy winter days. Publisher’s Weekly raves “With its intricate cat-and-mouse game, array of idiosyncratic characters, and brooding atmosphere, By Gaslight has much to please fans of both classic suspense and Victorian fiction.”

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: London, 1885. In a city of fog and darkness, the notorious thief Edward Shade exists only as a ghost, a fabled con, a thief of other men’s futures — a man of smoke. William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of a brutal detective, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead. His father died without ever tracing Shade; William, still reeling from his loss, is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows. Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London in search of her; what he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried. What follows is a fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and seance halls. Above all, it is the story of the most unlikely of bonds: between William Pinkerton, the greatest detective of his age, and Adam Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.

Epic in scope, brilliantly conceived, and stunningly written, Steven Price’s By Gaslight is a riveting, atmospheric portrait of two men on the brink. Moving from the diamond mines of South Africa to the battlefields of the Civil War, the novel is a journey into a cityscape of grief, trust, and its breaking, where what we share can bind us even against our darker selves.

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Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi

I spotted Lakshmi’s bestselling memoir on the “Best for Book Clubs” table at my neighbourhood Indigo. I am currently halfway through and loving it.

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Long before Padma Lakshmi ever stepped onto a television set, she learned that how we eat is an extension of how we love, how we comfort, how we forge a sense of home—and how we taste the world as we navigate our way through it. Shuttling between continents as a child, she lived a life of dislocation that would become habit as an adult, never quite at home in the world. And yet, through all her travels, her favorite food remained the simple rice she first ate sitting on the cool floor of her grandmother’s kitchen in South India.

Poignant and surprising, Love, Loss, and What We Ate is Lakshmi’s extraordinary account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges’ table of Top Chef and beyond. It chronicles the fierce devotion of the remarkable people who shaped her along the way, from her headstrong mother who flouted conservative Indian convention to make a life in New York, to her Brahmin grandfather—a brilliant engineer with an irrepressible sweet tooth—to the man seemingly wrong for her in every way who proved to be her truest ally. A memoir rich with sensual prose and punctuated with evocative recipes, it is alive with the scents, tastes, and textures of a life that spans complex geographies both internal and external.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate is an intimate and unexpected story of food and family—both the ones we are born to and the ones we create—and their enduring legacies.

the-best-kind-of-people

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

Shortlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Toronto author’s latest novel is the talk of the town. The five-panel jury (who read a staggering 161 books submitted by Canadian publishers) said: “This gripping story challenges how we hear women and girls, and dissects the self-hypnosis and fear that prevent us from speaking disruptive truth.”

Synopsis from House of Anansi Press: What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?

George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.

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Columbine by Dave Cullen

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: On April 20, 1999, two boys went to their high school with bombs and guns. Their goal was to leave “a lasting impression on the world.” The horror they inflicted left an indelible stamp on the American psyche.

Now in this definitive account, Dave Cullen presents a compelling and utterly human profile of teenage killers. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of police files, FBI psychologists, and the boys’ tapes and diaries. This close-up portrait of violence, a community rendered helpless, and police blunders and cover-ups is an unforgettable cautionary tale for our time.

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The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill (Publication Date: February 7, 2017)

Set in Montreal and New York, the highly-anticipated new novel from Canadian author Heather O’Neill is the story of two orphans who meet in a Montreal orphanage and dream of starting a circus. It sounds like an enchanting winter read.

Synopsis from HarperCollins Canada: Exquisitely imagined and hypnotically told, The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. Set in the early part of the 20th Century, it is an unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose fortune hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to escape one’s origins. It might also take true love.

Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their true talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing for the rich, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.

Separated as teenagers, both escape into the city’s underworld, where they must use their uncommon gifts to survive without each other. Ruthless and unforgiving, Montreal in the 1930’s is no place for song and dance. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes, the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make those dream come true. After Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls hit the stage and the alleys, the underworld will never look the same.

With extraordinary storytelling, musical language, and an extravagantly realized world, acclaimed author Heather O’Neill enchants us with her best novel yet — one so magical there is no escaping its spell.

unbound

Unbound: Finding Myself on Top of the World by Steph Jagger

Synopsis from HarpersCollins Canada: Steph Jagger had seen the ski-lift sign thousands of times—“Raise Restraining Device,” it read—but one day she took it personally as a rallying cry to shake off the life she had for the life she wanted. She had always been a force of nature, so why was she still holding herself back? Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women when she was growing up, Steph emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.

In a moment, the sign on the ski lift became her mantra, and she knew she had to change her life. So Jagger walked away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a plane ticket. For the next year, she followed winter across five continents on a mission to break the world record for most vertical feet skied in a year. What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life, melt it down to its elements and get to the very centre of herself. An emotional story of courage and self-discovery that will appeal to readers of Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, Unbound will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices, whatever they may be.

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The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola, translated from French by Mark Kurlansky

Zola’s historical novel was originally published in 1873 and comes highly recommended by one of my favourite booksellers. I’ve LOVED every single book he’s recommended in the past, so I know I’m going to enjoy this one.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Part of Emile Zola’s multigenerational Rougon-Macquart saga, The Belly of Paris is the story of Florent Quenu, a wrongly accused man who escapes imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Returning to his native Paris, Florent finds a city he barely recognizes, with its working classes displaced to make way for broad boulevards and bourgeois flats. Living with his brother’s family in the newly rebuilt Les Halles market, Florent is soon caught up in a dangerous maelstrom of food and politics. Amid intrigue among the market’s sellers–the fishmonger, the charcutière, the fruit girl, and the cheese vendor–and the glorious culinary bounty of their labors, we see the dramatic difference between “fat and thin” (the rich and the poor) and how the widening gulf between them strains a city to the breaking point.

Translated and with an Introduction by the celebrated historian and food writer Mark Kurlansky, The Belly of Paris offers fascinating perspectives on the French capital during the Second Empire–and, of course, tantalizing descriptions of its sumptuous repasts.

What’s on your winter reading list?

Happy Weekend + Links I Love

snow-day

Happy 2017, everyone! I hope you had a great first week back. Winter has arrived in Toronto and all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a good book or three. This weekend I plan on putting the finishing touches on my 2017 reading list.

How are you spending this first weekend of 2017? Whatever you do, I hope you have a good one! If you’re in an Internet browsing mood, I’m sharing the notable links I came across this week…

+ It’s Golden Globes night! Here’s how to watch the Golden Globes online or on TV.

+ Michelle Obama’s final speech as first lady. “Lead by example with hope, never fear.”

+ Bookmarking the top TED talks of 2016. Have you watched any of them?

+ The skill you need now: presentation literacy. “If you commit to being the authentic you, I am certain that you will be capable of tapping into the ancient art that is wired inside us. You simply have to pluck up the courage to try.”

+ Garance takes us backstage at Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, complete with stunning photos and interviews with the cast and crew!

+ The Need to Read. Schwalbe’s new book is on my winter reading list.

+ An inside look at photographing at the Olympic Games.

+ A great interview with author John Grisham on the state of criminal justice.

+ Watch: Cinematographers discuss going digital, using Instagram, and more.

+ This super helpful post: Gluten: What You Need to Know.

+ Favourites from my Instagram feed: Fishtank via @halfadams, Snow flurries and castle views via @heleneinbetween, After a week of rain, magic via @taza

+ In case you missed it, I shared this post on what I’m reading for the 2017 Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I chose the Reading for Growth path as I really want to stretch myself in my reading life this year.

Reading update:

This week I picked up Fractured by Catherine McKenzie. I couldn’t put it down and I finished it in a day. McKenzie is skilled at keeping the reader on edge. If you love suspense, I highly recommend it!

What I’m Reading for the 2017 MMD Reading Challenge

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Two years ago, I rediscovered my love of reading thanks in part to the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. Two weeks ago, I signed up for the 2017 challenge and I couldn’t be more excited. This year, readers have the opportunity to choose their own reading adventure: Reading for Fun or Reading for Growth.

In 2015, I was determined to make the time to read more. In 2016, my reading goal was to read 100 books; I read 82 (the most I’ve ever read in a year). This year, I want to stretch myself and read those books I usually avoid (like a book that’s over 600 pages or an essay collection), so I’m taking the Reading for Growth route.

After two weeks of careful planning (browsing book lists on the Internet and asking the librarian at my local branch for recommendations), I’ve finally settled on the books I’m reading for each challenge category. Today I’m sharing my list with you.

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A Newbery Award winner  A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

The teen librarian at my local branch recommended this historical fiction which won the Newbery Medal in 2002.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated – until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself – even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.

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A book in translation The Door by Magda Szabó, translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix

When I asked one of my favourite booksellers for an incredible translated book, he didn’t even pause to think. I’ve enjoyed every single book he’s recommended to me in the past and I can’t wait to dive into this one from the late Hungarian author.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: The Door is an unsettling exploration of the relationship between two very different women. Magda is a writer, educated, married to an academic, public-spirited, with an on-again-off-again relationship to Hungary’s Communist authorities. Emerence is a peasant, illiterate, impassive, abrupt, seemingly ageless. She lives alone in a house that no one else may enter, not even her closest relatives. She is Magda’s housekeeper and she has taken control over Magda’s household, becoming indispensable to her. And Emerence, in her way, has come to depend on Magda. They share a kind of love—at least until Magda’s long-sought success as a writer leads to a devastating revelation.

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A book that’s more than 600 pages  New York by Edward Rutherfurd

This category gave me the most trouble to fill, but I finally decided on British author Edward Rutherfurd’s historical novel, New York.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada: A blockbuster masterpiece that combines breath-taking scope with narrative immediacy, this grand historical epic traces the history of New York through the lenses of several families: The Van Dycks, a wealthy Dutch trading family; the Masters, scions of an English merchant clan torn apart during the Revolution; the Hudsons, slaves who fight for their freedom over several generations; the Murphys, who escape the Famine in Ireland and land in the chaotic slum of Five Points; the Rewards, robber barons of the Gilded Age; the Florinos, an immigrant Italian clan who work building the great skyscrapers in the 1920s; and the Rabinowitzs, who flee anti-semitism in Europe and build a new life in Brooklyn.

Over time, the lives of these families become intertwined through the most momentous events in the fabric of America: The founding of the colonies; the Revolution; the growth of New York as a major port and trading centre; the Civil War; the Gilded Age; the explosion of immigration and the corruption of Tammany Hall; the rise of New York as a great world city in the early 20th-century; the trials of World War II, the tumult of the 1960s; the near-demise of the city in the 1970s; its roaring rebirth in the 1990s; culminating in the World Trade Center attacks at the beginning of the new century.

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A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection  Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

I plan on reading all of Zadie Smith’s books this year, so I’m kicking things off with her essay collection.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House: Split into five sections–Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, and Remembering–Changing My Mind finds Zadie Smith casting an acute eye over material both personal and cultural. This engaging collection of essays, some published here for the first time, reveals Smith as a passionate and precise essayist, equally at home in the world of great books and bad movies, family and philosophy, British comedians and Italian divas. Whether writing on Katherine Hepburn, Kafka, Anna Magnani, or Zora Neale Hurston, she brings deft care to the art of criticism with a style both sympathetic and insightful. Changing My Mind is journalism at its most expansive, intelligent, and funny–a gift to readers and writers both.

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A book of any genre that addresses current eventsThe New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Civil Rights Litigator Michelle Alexander’s book has been on my To Be Read list for three years.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

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An immigrant storySmall Island by Andrea Levy

One of my favourite booksellers raved about the British author’s 2004 Prize-winning novel calling it “the perfect immigrant novel”.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be received as a hero, but finds his status as a black man in Britain to be second class. His white landlady, Queenie, raised as a farmer’s daughter, befriends Gilbert, and later Hortense, with innocence and courage, until the unexpected arrival of her husband, Bernard, who returns from combat with issues of his own to resolve.

Told in these four voices, “Small Island “is a courageous novel of tender emotion and sparkling wit, of crossings taken and passages lost, of shattering compassion and of reckless optimism in the face of insurmountable barriers—in short, an encapsulation of that most American of experiences: the immigrant’s life.

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A book published before you were born  The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola, translated from the French by Mark Kurlansky (Originally published in 1873)

I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book. When I asked my trustworthy bookseller to recommend a book for this category, he picked this one. He assured me I would LOVE it.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Part of Emile Zola’s multigenerational Rougon-Macquart saga, The Belly of Paris is the story of Florent Quenu, a wrongly accused man who escapes imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Returning to his native Paris, Florent finds a city he barely recognizes, with its working classes displaced to make way for broad boulevards and bourgeois flats. Living with his brother’s family in the newly rebuilt Les Halles market, Florent is soon caught up in a dangerous maelstrom of food and politics. Amid intrigue among the market’s sellers–the fishmonger, the charcutière, the fruit girl, and the cheese vendor–and the glorious culinary bounty of their labors, we see the dramatic difference between “fat and thin” (the rich and the poor) and how the widening gulf between them strains a city to the breaking point.

Translated and with an Introduction by the celebrated historian and food writer Mark Kurlansky, The Belly of Paris offers fascinating perspectives on the French capital during the Second Empire–and, of course, tantalizing descriptions of its sumptuous repasts.

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Three books by the same author  – Catherine McKenzie: Fractured, Smoke, Hidden.

I’ve been a huge fan of Canadian author Catherine McKenzie since I devoured her addictive debut novel, Spin one afternoon in 2009. I also re-read it back in November for the ‘a book you’ve already read’ category of the 2016 Reading Challenge.

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A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author  The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, translated from the Japanese by KA Yoshida & David Mitchell

This little book has been on my radar for years. I bought a copy yesterday and I can’t wait to get started.

Synopsis from Penguin Random House: You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.

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A book with an unreliable narratorFig by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Initially, I planned on reading an adult novel for this category. But when I turned to one of the librarians at my local branch for help, she said she could think of several YA novels that would work. She promptly jotted down her favourites, gave a little synopsis of each, and shared why she loved them. I don’t read much YA, but she sold me on Schantz’s debut novel. I also plan on adding all her other recommendations to my 2017 reading list.

Synopsis from Simon & Schuster Canada: Love and sacrifice intertwine in this brilliant debut of rare beauty about a girl dealing with her mother’s schizophrenia and her own mental illness.

Fig’s world lies somewhere between reality and fantasy.

But as she watches Mama slowly come undone, it becomes hard to tell what is real and what is not, what is fun and what is frightening. To save Mama, Fig begins a fierce battle to bring her back. She knows that her daily sacrifices, like not touching metal one day or avoiding water the next, are the only way to cure Mama.

The problem is that in the process of a daily sacrifice, Fig begins to lose herself as well, increasingly isolating herself from her classmates and engaging in self-destructive behavior that only further sets her apart.

Spanning the course of Fig’s childhood from age six to nineteen, this deeply provocative novel is more than a portrait of a mother, a daughter, and the struggle that comes with all-consuming love. It is an acutely honest and often painful portrayal of life with mental illness and the lengths to which a young woman must go to handle the ordeals—real or imaginary—thrown her way.

A book nominated for an award in 2017  – TBD

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A Pulitzer Prize winner  Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

I’ve never read any of Lahiri’s books and that’s about to change. Her short story collection won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 and it’s been recommended to me more times than I can count, but I never got around to reading it until now.

Synopsis from Amazon.ca: Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession.

Have you ever done a reading challenge? What are your reading goals for 2017?