Looking for your next great read? We've reviewed some of our favourites to help you find 'the one.' To see these and more like them, check out our Staff Picks table in-store, or visit our Instagram page for more great book recommendations!
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Will recommends Andre Alexis' Fifteen Dogs
Imbedding higher consciousness in fifteen dogs to wager whether any of them will die happy is a frivolous experiment for Greek Gods. Not so for Canadian author André Alexis who magics creativity, wonder, struggle, grief, and poetry from these Toronto mongrels.
Will recommends Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison was a teacher before writing this Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, so whomever said “those who fail, teach” are wrong! I find it marvelous that Morrison’s first book delights in the play of a little girl’s narrative. Nevertheless, its subject and themes seen primarily through little Claudia are serious and complex aspects of 1940s, racially-skewed US.
Morrison’s book is a statement: White supremacy does not manifest itself as explicit violence or epithets alone but also implicitly through a family’s poverty, children’s dolls, and even in little Pecola’s eyes. In a few words, The Bluest Eye is powerful social awareness of the unspoken inputs easily-imposed on ourselves and others.
Nevada recommends Elizabeth Strout's Olive, Again
Elizabeth Strout brings us another glimpse into the life of Olive Kitteridge within the small town, Crosby, Maine. This book is a beautiful display of connection through loss and the joyous moments - often overlooked - that keep us hopeful as each person's unique life experience unfolds.
Strout has yet again managed to dive deep and honestly into these well-developed characters to continue the narrative drive present in the last book, they grab hold of our hearts and keep us long after the book has ended. Especially Olive, who is harsh and obnoxious at times, but readers can't help but sympathize and admire her stubbornness, as well as character growth over the course of the two novels. This is an unforgettable read.
Rob recommends Tim Kinsella's Sunshine on an Open Tomb
Why are crack-pot conspiracy theories so often the domain of the right-wing? Why do they get to have all the fun, huh? Kinsella ponders this in his longly incubated fourth novel. Taking the form of a collaged monologue from the unwanted son of a dynastic American family (think the Bush gang + witchcraft), we're whipped along past all the touchstones of the American Century, with our narrator disputing the accepted story with "I-Was-There" knowledge at every assassination, staged break-in and forced privatization. And there's a love story tangled in amongst all the SkullnBones secret societies and distant genocides. But we already know what was going on here, right?
And the dialogue? It's out there --- way out there, like some sort of psycho-emotional Mad Libs. "Duh, unga-bunga?"
Kinsella finds the ley line between high and low-brow while being unapologetically neither. There are sentences here that lift the weight of entire pages while chapters pass by like a hungover afternoon. Is this academic pulp? Or political mysticism disguised as debunked biography? It's both, and hilariously so.
For fans of Vonnegut, Jodorowsky, astrology and political theatre.
Samantha recommends Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House
This is an important book; not just because it deals with the rarely discussed domestic violence that can happen in LGBTQ relationships, but because the writing is a revelation. You might find yourself cringing from Carmen’s painful descriptions of trauma. You might want to pause at her chapter's vignettes and marvel at her ability to change form and perspective and voice. The brilliance of this author is astonishing, fresh and honest. If you buy it you won’t be sorry.
Nevada recommends Ruta Sepety's Fountains of Silence
Zooming in on the main character, Daniel Matheson, he travels with his parents from Texas to Madrid, Spain where his father hopes to secure a massive business deal. Daniel is a driven and passionate photographer, hoping to connect with his mother's Spanish roots through his lens. However, he soon discovers there are horrifying secrets Spain wishes to keep quiet, and in meeting Ana, he is determined to seek out the truth in the form of photographs.
A wonderful historical fiction filled with mystery, romance, and intriguing characters. This is a casual by-the-fire read meant to completely immerse you in the beauties and dangers of civil war Spain (with a focus on Madrid). This book captures fractions of this suffering elegantly, which may spark interest in Francisco Franco, the dictator that spent years tearing families apart. For myself, after I finished this book I spent a lot of extra time in the library learning what I could about the Spanish Civil War.
Micaela recommends Erin Morgenstern's Starless Sea
The premise of this book follows Zachary, a master student in Vermont, as he comes across a book that somehow reflects part of his own life. As he goes off to discover how this book knows what it does, a mysterious and complex world unfolds before him and for some reason, he can't be kept away.
If you are a fan of The Night Circus, you will love this book. Everything I loved about Erin's first book from the prose, the magic, the mystery, and the interweaving are in this book and she somehow manages to do it all even better. The Starless Sea is a complex book full of cosy nooks of detail and stellar characters to follow, with an added touch of meta-fiction and time travel.
The world that Erin Morgenstern creates feels like home and an adventure all wrapped up in honey and love. I couldn't put it down until I finished it and every page made me "ooh" and "ahh." This book is a stunning work of diction that I can't recommend enough. If there is one book you pick up this fall, let it be The Starless Sea.
Anton recommends Alan Moore's The Killing Joke
This dark story of madness and crime features Batman’s arch-enemy, the Joker, as he attempts to prove that everyone is, just like him, only “one bad day” away from madness. Fast-paced and tightly-focussed, this fairly simple story is fleshed out by superb dialogue and the striking, vivid, and sometimes disturbing illustrations of artist Brian Bolland, which includes some of the most iconic imagery in comic book history. Gripping, unsettling, and controversial, The Killing Joke remains the definitive Batman and Joker story (fans of the films will notice the influence of this story on various adaptations, including those of directors Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan), and a must-read story both for Batman fans, and for anyone interested in the history of graphics as a medium.
Also recommended for people who like this book: Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin.
Anton recommends Robert Mueller's Mueller Report
The report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 election and obstruction of justice lays out its arguments and evidence in clear, comprehensible fashion, despite frequent redactions to protect allegedly sensitive information. The first volume covers the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 Presidential election, while the second volume covers allegations of subsequent obstruction of justice by President Trump. Each volume contains a summary which lays out the essential points, and the reasoning for the special counsel’s decisions. Whatever side of the debate you are on, this book constitutes a vital historical document for those who want to look past the media spin and read Mueller’s own words, then draw their own conclusions about one of the most significant political stories of modern times.
Also recommended for people who like this book: A Higher Loyalty, The Threat, From Russia With Blood
Samantha recommends Chloe Mayer's Boy Made of Snow
I urge you to read this book today. Its fairytale story leads you to an English countryside during WW2 and a family completely destroyed by the war, but not in the way you would think.
Told from alternating voices and perspectives, I devoured this book in one day. I couldn't wait for another staff member to read it so we could rave and rage about it all. I bet you will feel the same.
Peter recommends Ian McEwan's Machines Like Me
What if the Beatles got back together? Or, what if Britain lost the Falklands War? How about this: what if the nice young man sitting next to you on the bus this morning, had a USB port in his belly button and an on/off switch at the base of his skull? And that’s just for starters. But would any of this make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. So, kick back and enjoy the ride, as Ian McEwan skewers the human condition as only he can with a bottle of red in one hand and a hammer in the other.
Lotte recommends Kate Harris' Lands of Lost Borders
Never before has an author transported me as much as Kate Harris in her part-travel memoir, part-meditation, Lands of Lost Borders. In 2006, dissatisfied with her life in the lab and as a waypoint in her misplaced longing to journey to Mars, Kate Harris and her childhood friend Mel set off to cycle the length of the Silk Road. In between tales of adventure in the wild emptiness of the Tibetan Plateau, she ponders the nature of borders, exploration, and the history thereof. Harris' narrative, both poetic and pensive, is so beautifully constructed that it strikes the reader with a sense of nostalgia and belonging; I left each page feeling like I had been cycling alongside her. Despite already having read it twice in the past year, I still find myself gripped by her every word. Even if you do not cycle, have not picked up travel lit before, or have yet to illegally hop the border into Tibet, you will find a home in this contemplative book.
Peter recommends Dante Alighieri's Hell
ALL YOU WHO ENTER HERE, ABANDON HOPE!
Welcome to hell. It's everything you ever expected. And more! But without the endless footnotes and appendices. Just hell. Pure hell.
So, whether you're new to hell, have been visiting all your life or, after looking for a way in for decades and now in middle age have wholly lost your way, relax. You're in luck. This is the most fun you're going to have.
Your guide today is Alasdair Gray, Scotland's very own Virgil. Stick with him and you should be fine.
The tour's about to begin, so let's get started. Here's the door!
Rob recommends Tade Thompson's Rosewater Insurrection
When a shantytown springs up around a mysterious alien biodome in 2060s Nigeria, Kaaro learns he is a Sensitive: one of a small set of humans able to interact with the dome in a space called the Xenosphere. Vivid and spooky, with even the familiar concepts twisted on their side. For fans of Cixun Liu and William Gibson.
Syd recommends Craig Davidson's Saturday Night Ghost Club
This book pays homage, in many ways, to the classic coming of age novel but propels itself beyond that format's traditional scope. Follow along as a young boy unearths ghosts both supernatural and hereditary. This cozy novel blends together the innocence of an influenceable boy on the cusp of young manhood, learning how to navigate the moments where his faith and trust in adults begins to waver. This sudden shift to a world where suddenly he is able, and actively questioning those he looks up to, is explored through a scaffolding with his grown self, a neurosurgeon. Both tender and challenging, Craig Davidson's new book is an excellent read for a broad range of readers.
Madeline recommends George Saunders' Fox 8
Hands down the cutest book I've ever read. Written entirely in phonetics, see the world through the eyes of Fox 8: a fox who has taught himself to speak 'Yuman'. Hilarious and heartwarming, this short story does an excellent job outlining the negative impact that humans are inflicting on the environment. If you loved Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, this book is for you!
Joanne recommends Sabahattin Ali's Madonna in a Fur Coat
Finally published in English, it's a shame that we've waited almost 70 years to read this exceptional book by bestselling Turkish author Sabahattin Ali.
The story begins in the 1930’s in Turkey when work was scarce. The narrator, unemployed and struggling to survive, meets an old friend who arranges a clerking job for him. It is here that he shares an office with Raif Efendi, a frail man who rarely speaks. On his deathbed, Raif gives the narrator a leather-bound notebook. It is this notebook, set in 1920’s Turkey and Germany, that makes up the majority of this brilliant novel. It tells Raif’s hauntingly beautiful story of missed opportunities, a changing world and love lost.
Exceptionally well written, mesmerizing and poignant. It is a classic masterpiece that I highly recommend.
Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Sarah Winman's Tin Man
Tin Man is one of the most beautifully written books I have read so far this year. Half way through it changes perspective and tone, and I fell so deeply in love with the characters and their stories that I slowed down the pace of my reading so it wouldn't end.
Madeline recommends Nicola Griffith's So Lucky
A quick, compelling read; you’ll finish it in a day or two. After
Mara and her wife separate, Mara is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Though this is fiction, it's an important read, as it lets the reader glimpse into the life and mind of someone who feels invisible and helpless, and should really be required reading. If you've ever felt uncomfortable when face to face with another person’s physical disability, this book is for you.
Peter recommends Stephen Greenblatt's Tyrant
"Tyrants are the enemies of the future."
You can skip all the other political potboilers of the season. This titillating exegesis on the blight of tyranny packs a punch not even the strongest comb over could withstand.
From the distant past to here, this morning, there have always been tyrants. And although tech and the social media have added a page or two to their playbooks, the narcissism, the indifference to others, indeed to the globe, have always been part and parcel. Shakespeare knew this centuries ago and made an intimate study of it.
From Richard III to Lear to Coriolanus, Greenblatt walks us through Shakespeare's understanding so that now, standing inside the mind of creation like Macbeth even for a moment is doubly disturbing in this highly entertaining tutorial of tyranny.
Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life
It takes a special reader to consider picking up a book that is as long as this one. Now consider that this book has violence and abuse and torturous scenes in it and the audience for this book becomes even narrower. Still, I urge you to try this book. Yes, it is dark and has subject matter that may be disturbing, but the language and writing and characters in this book are so strong you will end up being grateful it is 720 pages long, because you won’t want it to end. Although the book’s cover flap will tell you that the book is about four friends and their lives and relationships, it is really about Jude. I wish he was real. I feel like I know him and his whole life’s painful story. This book isn’t for everyone but if you think it might be for you, if you are open to reading about a kind of pain you don’t find in books very often, then pick this up, take it home, and turn off your phone. This book is going to take over your life for a little while but it is very much worth it all.
Olivia recommends Rhiannon Navin's Only Child
Only Child has a fresh, novel perspective on a topical matter occurring, sadly, with increasing magnitude. Told through the eyes of 6-year-old Zach, whose brother has been killed in a school shooting, you'll see Zach's ability to stay hopeful while helping himself and his family. It is powerful, heartbreaking and healing all wrapped into one. A must read.
Colin recommends Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash
Snow Crash is one of the defining novels of the cyberpunk genre and a perfect introduction for the curious. Set in a near future North America, Snow Crash features a memorable cast of characters dealing with a viral outbreak that is equal parts computer based and organic. Sword fighting, virtual reality, brain hacking, and pizza delivery, there is something for every reader in this fast paced classic of Science Fiction.
Catherine recommends The Shoe on the Roof by Will Ferguson
Anytime I’m able to try a new Canadian author I jump at the chance, and Ferguson has quickly become a new favourite. This book combines great writing and unique subject matter with really clever humor. It’s definitely full of little twists, nothing that knocks your socks off but the kind that keeps you saying “just one more chapter” and before you know it, it’s 1:00am.
The Shoe on the Roof is an easy but very engaging read and wraps up in a tidy bow at the end, if maybe a bit too quickly. This is a memorable book, the story and characters in it will stay with me and I will definitely be checking out Ferguson’s other titles!
Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Jann Arden's Feeding My Mother
Jann Arden has put together the most beautiful tribute to her mother with this book. The package itself is gorgeous to hold and the photos s throughout are thoughtful, kind and real. The recipes are an unexpected gift which allows us as readers to be part of her world, her home, her family; what a treasure.
But by far the best part of the book for me is the insight into her family coping with Alzheimer's disease. There are incredible truths and insights page after page. I cried along with her too many times to count. Her pain and guilt and humour are exactly what we would all expect to feel going through this. I have not read another book on this topic that has moved me this much. Jann's determination to ensure her mother's humanity, her humour, doesn't get lost int he story is steadfast throughout the book. She manages to achieve it by giving us the gift of her mother's sly joes and her determination to maintain her independence even at her most vulnerable moments.
If you don't have someone in your life with Alzheimer's or Dementia, this books unflinching look at this family dealing with it every day in every way is something we should read: and if you do have someone in your life, buy some Kleenex before you sit down with this book. By the end, you are going to love Jann Arden more than you already do.
Samantha (owner of Bolen Books) recommends Benjamin Ludwig's Ginny Moon
Ginny Moon is one of those books that gets a lot of hype from a publisher before it is published. Rarely does such a book live up to the hype.
Ginny Moon is one of the rare ones.
Ginny's voice is so honest and so earnest I immediately fell for her, and I was on team Ginny. I wanted this 14-year-old autistic young woman to be happy in her new adopted home. I wanted her parents to help their family be a whole.
In some ways, this book reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Maybe it is because of the obvious similarities in the voice of the protagonist, maybe it is the autism angle, maybe it is the frustration I felt due to some of the communication misfires that happen.
No matter what the reason is, Benjamin Ludwig has written a book that is engaging, heartbreaking, realistic and a true must-read of the year. Take Ginny Moon home with you today; she needs to be loved by you.
Madeline recommends Fredrik Backman's And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this beautiful novella is a look at an old man's descent into Alzheimer's disease. As the narrative jumps from one point of view to another; see the grandson, wife, and son interact with 'Grandpa' as he repeats himself and confuses his son for his grandson, desperately trying to share his lasting memories. A great choice for anyone (children included), who knows or has known someone with Dementia. Have tissues ready!
Mitchell recommends Anthony Marra's The Tsar of Love and Techno
When this book was suggested to me, the title and jacket blurb had me genuinely worried. It didn't seem like a book that I would usually be interested in reading. But The Tsar of Love and Techno has ended up being one of the most beautiful and well executed books I have ever had the pleasure of picking up. Rich with metaphors and imagery, complex characters, diverse interactions, and vivid landscapes, this book has thoroughly impressed me. For those who are afraid of short stories, fear not! Each of the segments are connected, Marra has interwoven them so naturally that by the time you finish this book, it will feel like one complete journey. Anthony Marra has written something deeply moving and profound. I will continue to suggest it to anyone I am able to when given the chance.
Liam recommends Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood
Brian McClellan has built a great debut in this dark fantasy world. Gunpowder-attuned mages and terrifying wizards; he has blended flintlock firearms with a more traditional fantasy flavour. Dropped straight into the plot with plenty of action, readers who find themselves frustrated at a myriad of viewpoints will appreciate having a select few characters whose actions and storylines intertwine for a focused and exciting tale.