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

Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar (2017)

Historical
9-12
Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth BeharIt’s so much fun to read “historical” novels set in a time you can almost call your own childhood! Alas, I’m a little too young to remember go go boots, which is what 11-year-old Ruthie has her heart set on. But life is challenging for a Jewish-Cuban immigrant family in 1960s New York City, and Papa already works hard to feed and care for his family. Mami misses Cuba terribly, but tries to hide it as lamenting her homeland only annoys her husband who deeply values the freedom of life in America after Castro’s Communist takeover of the family’s business. Ruthie understands both points of view, but like her mum, cherishes her memories of Cuba, though they are fading more quickly than she’d like. Read more of this post

Still Life, by Louise Penny (2005, 2015)

Mystery
Adult
Still Life by Louise PennyMy good friend John has been recommending this series for two years. When I spotted Still Life, the first entry in the Inspector Gamache series, on the shelves at my local Grand Forks Public Library, I decided to give it a try. This is an anniversary edition, and included a foreword by the author and an informative profile of the author and this debut mystery by James Kidd as an afterword. There are now 12 titles in the series, I believe,and each has won several awards. Still Life introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec. He is a thoughtful, kind, and astute homicide investigator who mentors his team and has earned the high respect of underlings, colleagues and boss, though we learn he seems to be stuck career-wise. Read more of this post

The Goat, by Anne Fleming (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
9-12
The Goat, by Anne FlemingEleven-year-old Kid moves from Toronto to New York City for a six-month stay while her actor/screenwriter mother works on an off-Broadway production. Teacher Dad is going to work on his own play while homeschooling Kid, which includes daily visits to various NYC museums. They are staying in cousin Doug’s apartment just off Central Park, looking after his dog Cat while Doug is in Europe. When Kid discovers the rumour of a good-luck goat on top of the building, she teams up with new friend Will to find out the truth. Along the way, Fleming switches voices so the diverse residents in the building get to share their stories, including the goat himself! Read more of this post

Cold Girl, by R. M. Greenaway (2016)

Mystery
Adult
Cold Girl, by R.M. GreenawayI feel a bit ashamed that my interest in this debut Canadian mystery was first piqued by the fact its plot is loosely based on the real-life tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous women on the Yellowhead Highway west of Prince George known as the Highway of Tears. Additionally, the author is from Nelson, a nearby West Kootenay town, which is still in B.C. but a good 1500 kms from where she has set this mystery. (That’s how big our gorgeous province is.) Anyway, the “local” setting intrigued me and I picked up a copy from my library. This is the first in a series, and number 2 has just been issued, under the title Undertow. In the series debut, several very different cops are investigating the disappearance of a popular singer, Kiera Rilkoff. Read more of this post

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruurs (2016)

Picture Book
3-10, with appeal for all ages
Stepping Stones by Margriet RuursWhen Canadian picture book author Margriet Ruurs first saw Nizar Ali Badr’s artwork made of river stones, she was instantly captivated. How could a handful of river rock speak so eloquently? But they do! And Orca Books’ pairing of Ruurs’ touching narrative with Badr’s art has resulted in a stunning picture book that will delight readers of all ages. The book opens with Rama and Sami enjoying childhood in Syria, a life of school and fruit and tea and family and neighbours. But when bombs start to fall, the community breaks apart. 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

Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead? Ed. Rudyard Griffiths (2016)

Nonfiction
Adult
Do Humankind's Best Days Lie Ahead?The semi-annual Munk Debates bring some of the world’s biggest thinkers and personalities together to talk about big issues and ideas. Normally the focus is on current news topics, but in November 2015, Canadians Steven Pinker and Malcolm Gladwell squared off against each other, each with a European colleague, to tackle the idea of progress. In “Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead?” Pinker and British journalist Matt Ridley take the pro side, asserting that thanks to everything from cellphones to clean water, we are indeed making steady progress and we are living, collectively speaking, better lives than ever. Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton joins Gladwell in presenting the nay view, pointing to the wealth gap, natural disasters and deadly conflicts as proof that life is different but not better, and our path forward is a dark one. Read more of this post

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson (2015)

Nonfiction
15 to Adult
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LusitaniaOn Friday, May 1, 1915, the luxurious passenger liner Lusitania left Cunard’s New York City pier bound for Liverpool. Late April weather had been stifling in the city but on May Day the skies dawned cool and grey. Few of the passengers who boarded that morning saw the German Embassy’s notice in the newspaper warning that all ships “flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction” in the war-zone waters around the British isles. A few had misgivings but brushed them off, believing the warning was not intended for passenger ships, and besides, as Captain William Thomas Turner assured the few who asked him about the threat of German u-boats, a convoy of warships would protect the liner through the war zone. Read more of this post

Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (1964, 1992)

Contemporary Fiction (in its day, folks!)
Ages 9-13
Harriet the Spy, by Louise FitzhughHere’s a children’s novel that completely got past me both when I was a child and when I worked as a children’s librarian. (It happens.) I have been meaning to read it for years, and finally picked it up. Awesome book that is older than I am, and clearly a game-changer in the world of children’s literature. Harriet M. Welsch is 11 years old, sassy, opinionated and determined to become a writer. To be a writer, her governess Ole Golly tells her, you have to write. So Harriet writes in her notebook, obsessively noting what she observes about her family, her friends, and the Manhattan neighbourhood she calls home. “Sometimes you have to lie. But to yourself you must always tell the truth,” Ole Golly advises her. Read more of this post

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins (2014)

Mystery
Adult
The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsSo it’s not a comedy, that’s for sure. Rachel Watson is a depressed alcoholic whose husband left her for another woman as a result of her out-of-control drinking. Since then she also lost her job, but hasn’t told her flatmate. Instead, she continues to take the commuter train to London every day, which happens to take her right her old neighbourhood. She can even see her old house, number 23, where her ex lives with his new wife and baby. She also sees number 15, the home of a couple she’s never met but constructs a fantasy about them – a happy and successful couple she names Jason and Jess, in love and faithful to each other. Until the morning she sees “Jess” in the arms of a man who is not “Jason.” Read more of this post

Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe (2015)

Nonfiction
8-13
Thing ExplainerStumped by jargon? Have you ever wished someone would just explain a complex idea using just a few common words? Roboticist turned cartoonist and author Randall Munroe does exactly that in this book of big ideas aimed at kids. He uses a blueprint style to explain “Complicated Stuff in Simple Words,” according to the subtitle. A thousand words, in fact, or as he puts it, ten hundred words. A helicopter is a “Sky boat with turning wings,” and “Tall roads” are bridges. Each idea is explained with simple line drawings, identifying tags with explanations that are often humourous as well as informative. Read more of this post

Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World, by Gillen D’Arcy Wood (2014)

Nonfiction
Adult
Tambora The Eruption that Changed the WorldVolcanoes capture our attention with their staggering power and destruction. Of course we here in B.C. know Mount St. Helens, and you’ve likely heard of Krakatau that killed more than 35,000 in 1883, mostly from tsunamis. You may recall the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, sending 5 cubic kilometres of rock, ash and dust into the air. The ash in the atmosphere deflected the sun’s warmth for two years, creating cooler, wetter summers in North America and deeper droughts in Africa. Well, the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora was six times the magnitude of Pinatubo, contaminating fresh water and causing three years of successive crop failures due to cool weather, though no one made the connection at the time. Read more of this post