The Lauras, by Sara Taylor (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
16-Adult
The Lauras by Sara TaylorAlex’s mother hits the road in the middle of the night after a final fight with her husband. It’s not the first time she has taken off, but this time it’s with pubescent Alex, who struggles with Ma’s decision to leave without telling Dad where they are going. It is the start of a years-long journey crisscrossing the United States as Ma reconnects with significant people and places from her past, settling debts and scores and fulfilling long-ago promises. The title refers to the Lauras Ma has known throughout her life, giving Taylor a useful device for slowly revealing key events in Ma’s own story. The book is narrated in the first person by Alex, some 30 years hence, though it is set in this century. Read more of this post

My Life with Bob, by Pamela Paul (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
My Life with Bob, by Pamela PaulThe title is a pun, it’s a book about reading books, and my spouse is nicknamed Bob. How could I resist??! And what a great premise. Our reading choices say so much about us. Imagine how well a stranger would understand you if she could only browse through all the books you’d read. Well, Paul has essentially opened herself up to us in just this way. Currently the editor of The New York Times Book Review, Paul is also the author of three other works of nonfiction, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony; Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families ; and Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children. By those titles alone I think she’d make a fascinating dinner guest. But wait, there’s more! Read more of this post

Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher Shockey (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Fiery Ferments, by Kirsten Shockey and Christopher ShockeyIf you follow food blogs, you’ll know that fermented foods are gaining new interest, beyond sauerkraut. Turns out you can ferment almost any vegetable, though obviously some lend themselves better to the pickle-y flavour than others. Having made my own sauerkraut with surprising success, I am interested in furthering my forays into fermentation (sorry – I simply cannot resist a powerful alliteration). In this follow-up to their first book, Fermented Vegetables, the Oregon couple has put together an excellent recipe and instruction book for creating “hot sauces, spicy chutneys, kimchis with kick, and other blazing fermented condiments,” according to the lengthy sub-title. Read more of this post

150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada’s Greatest Country, by Andrew Bondy, et al (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
150 Years of Stats Canada! A Guide to Canada's Greatest CountryHappiest birthday wishes to the best country on our planet, imho, celebrating just 150 years of giving the world lumberjack shirts, playoff beards, top curlers and hockey for both men AND women, timbits and a hungry market for cheese from all over the world, to name just a few things. I’m so grateful to live here, and wish the rest of the world could adopt a bit more Canadian outlook, including a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour. Which brings me to today’s timely review, from the brilliant satirical team behind the Canadian Twitter sensation @stats_canada, whose hilarious tweets have ill-informed thousands of followers for some five years now. Read more of this post

The Physics of Everyday Things, by James Kakalios (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Physics of Everyday Things, by James KakaliosI seem to be tripping over nonfiction books this season, and this is the second tome on physics in just a few weeks! Given how much I enjoyed Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, I looked forward to delving into this new “pop science” title on the science behind the objects we use every day. Physics prof Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, takes the reader through a typical North American’s day to examine how physics impacts our modern lives. This hypothetical day includes a visit to the doctor, a flight, and a public presentation, giving Kakalios a chance to explain everything from electric toothbrushes, fitbits and hybrid cars to touchscreens, x-rays and those electronic keys in a hotel room. Read more of this post

Super Sikh, No. 1, by Eileen K. Alden, Supreet S. Manchanda, and Amit Tayal (2015)

Adventure/Thriller (comic book)
15 to Adult
Super Sikh, No. 1Hey superhero fans – aren’t we long overdue for a badass hero with a turban? Supreet Singh Manchanda and Eileen Kaur Alden launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring their idea to life, and reached their target in just 27 hours! With the help of illustrator Amit Tayal, they launched the first issue in 2015, and have now released the fourth issue. First, it’s not a full-length graphic novel, but rather your traditional comic book, a la Superman and Spiderman. It’s 24 pages of full-colour panels, and issue one, Takeoff and Landing, introduces readers to Deep Singh, our hero, who works for the United Nations Global Unified Defense Force protecting the world on secret agent missions. Read more of this post

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse TysonOne of my roles while working at UBC involved sitting on the Science faculty curriculum committee, where we reviewed proposals for new and changes to courses, programs and degree requirements. As many of you know, my degrees are in history and information studies. So it became a half-serious joke between me and my colleagues that to get a BSc you should know more about pretty much every kind of science, from botany and ecology to physics and math, than I do. Not a high bar, I grant ya. I did complete Grade 12 studies of all the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics) but as it’s been more than 30 years, my recall is weak at best. Thus I consider myself an excellent judge of the accessibility of this little book, Read more of this post

Beartown, by Fredrik Backman (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult
33413128I have been a big fan of Fredrik Backman since reading and being absolutely captivated by his first novel, A Man Called Ove. So I didn’t hesitate when I learned he has a new novel, Beartown. I’m happy to report this novel is as mesmerising as I could have hoped. It is, however, quite a different style of writing. Ove,  Britt-Marie and Every Day could all be described as gentle reads, albeit with often irascible protagonists. This is not a gentle read. It grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you from any smug and comfortable perch. Beartown is a hockey town. It’s dying economically, but when the junior boys’ team (there is no girls’ team) makes it to the semi-finals, the entire community rejoices and pins great hopes on their success. Read more of this post

The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, by Brendan Leonard (2017)

Nonfiction
13-Adult
This is the perfect introduction to all things outdoorsy for that person on your list (or yourself) who wants to “get out more” but has no clue how to go about doing it. Think of this sizable tome (300+ pages) like a benevolent uncle sharing wisdom to make sure you will not only survive in the wild but will have a great time out there. The book is organized into six sections, and each one includes discussion of basic safety, techniques, gear, and some helpful tips on everything from how to drive in the snow to having sex in a tent. Not being a Canadian, of course he doesn’t touch the topic of making love in a canoe. Some things are better left to the experts. Read more of this post

All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (2017)

Science Fiction
Adult
All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan MastaiWhat a lot of fun this first novel turned out to be! Tom Barren lives in Toronto in a version of 2016 that is the future as it was envisioned in the 1950s – flying cars that rely on clean and unlimited energy, food replicators, disposable clothes that fit perfectly and are recycled into new ones, robots and peace. Oh, this world isn’t without its troubles, of course. His dad is a jerk, and his beloved mother was killed by a runaway hover car. (The robot that entered the programming error was dismantled.) Tom struggles with relationships and despite being 32 and the son of one of the smartest physicists around, who happens to invent a time travel device, he has not yet found his vocation. Read more of this post

The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak (2017)

Historical
13-16
The Impossible Fortress by Jason RekulakFirst up, The Impossible Fortress is an old-school computer game, created on a Commodore 64, in hopes of winning a contest and the coveted top prize of an IBM PS/2. (It features a 16-bit processor!) Remember those? How about the TRS-80, fondly recalled today as the Trash 80? This young adult novel is a delightful romp through the pop culture and early home computing history of the late 1980s, featuring appearances by Bruce Hornsby and Christie Brinkley, dial-up modems and Compuserve electronic mail, video rentals and IBM Selectric. But the most coveted item in the lives of 14-year-olds Billy Marvin and his best friends Alf and Clark is the latest Playboy magazine. They are desperate to get their hands on it. It features Vanna White, and everyone’s talking about her bum and boobs. Read more of this post

The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston (2017)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas PrestonSet in a jungle teeming with deadly snakes, dengue fever, and drug traffickers, this is the story of an expedition to find a mythological and cursed “lost” city known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) or City of the Monkey God. Jungles, legends, snakes and curses – it’s exactly up Preston’s alley! In his always readable and riveting writing style, Preston describes the history of the legend and how it caught the attention of an American filmmaker, despite many failed efforts to find the fabled city. This time, technology boosts the odds. Using “lidar” (light detection and ranging), a team of scientists, with Preston aboard the rickety plane, conducts a series of flyovers of a portion of the Mosquitia region of Honduras, generating lidar images of the landscape hidden below the thick jungle canopy. Read more of this post

Best. State. Ever. by Dave Barry (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Best. State. Ever. by Dave BarryIt’s getting harder to find humour in what’s happening across the line, so I turned to an old stand-by who delivers exactly what I needed in his latest offering, subtitled A Florida Man Defends his Homeland. Humourist Barry, formerly known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columns, now publishes a series of children’s novels, as well as continuing to write books for adults like this one. In Best. State. Ever., Barry rejects the idea that Floridians are dumb, but accepts that it’s definitely the state of weird, starting with, natch, the 2000 election and its hanging chads. Read more of this post

The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete (1991, 2011)

Nonfiction
Adult
The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New SketeIf a family puppy finds its way under your tree this year (either joining your household now, or as in our case, in spring) sprint to the store for a copy of this highly recommended classic puppy training book, recently updated and reissued for its 20th anniversary. The book was first written in 1991 by the monks of a New York state monastery with a breeding kennel. The monks’ approach is simple. Your dog is your companion, and it’s your responsibility to train your puppy.A well-behaved pooch doesn’t bark uncontrollably or jump on small children, responds to your command to leave that dead thing in the grass alone, and lies quietly even when you are eating at the table. So how do we get there? Read more of this post

Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela Walters (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Quilting Is My Therapy, by Angela WaltersAs I embark on a new phase of my life, the prospect of quilting is both appealing and incredibly daunting. I love the idea of quilting – the time, patience, and frankly love that it takes to piece leftover scraps of fabric into a creation that is both beautiful and useful. The daunting part is that I’m worried I’ll never finish, or that it will look quite amateurish. So now you’ll understand why I picked up Walters’ book; in her introduction, she expresses a hope that the pictures will inspire rather than intimidate, and more to my point, she advises “don’t strive for perfection; strive for completion, remembering that a finished quilt is always better than a perfectly quilted [unfinished] one” (p.9, addition mine). Read more of this post