Happy Canada Day: Our Favourite Reads From the Last 12 months (2013 edition)

So we did this post last year and it seemed like a good one, so why not do it again, we thought? No reason at all! In honour of Canada Day, I asked the bloggers at The Reader—avid readers of Canadian books all—a question: what was your favourite Canadian read since last Canada Day? Here—in their own words—is what they told me:

Julia picked a local author for one of her favourites: Kin (M), the most recent book from Nova Scotia author Lesley Crewe.

Julia said: “This poignant, powerful and heartwarming story about three generations of a family is set in a beautiful Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Life, love and loss are the main themes of the novel. I felt emotional connection with the characters and storyline. Reading “Kin” I found myself immersed in an ocean of memories from my childhood. I loved reading this novel!” According to Crewe’s website, she has a new book next year. No details yet, but we’ll keep you posted!

Sam went a little outside of her comfort zone with some of her reading this year, and it really worked for her. Her pick? “The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (Mby Cory Doctorow. This is one of the books in PM Press’ Outspoken Authors series, a project that combines science fiction, essay and interview, into an attractive, pocket-sized book. I’m still relatively new to science fiction, and sometimes struggle with it because I like character-centred books and find that a lot of emphasis is put on ideas and settings in sci-fi. Now, I do my best to expect this. I like this series because the fiction and non-fiction aspects compliment each other. In the novella, Doctorow presents a battle between natural and man-made, examining the meaning of progress from the point of view of a transhuman whose body does not mature – it’s a fun mix of big ideas, and basic human urges. There was violence, but with reflection. In his essay, we get Doctorow’s direct thoughts about digital rights management; something particularly relevant to libraries. Wrap it up with an interview, and it feels like you’ve spent an afternoon with the author!”

Maureen picked a nonfiction title: an autobiography from a Canadian icon. “Well, while perhaps it is not the best Canadian book of recent years, the one that I enjoyed the most was Waging Heavy Peace (M), by Neil Young. I picked it up after reading Life (Mby Keith Richards and Just Kids (Mby Patti Smith and was not disappointed at all that it lacked the polish of these other memoirs. Waging Heavy Peace has an uneven, yet sincere quality that is really quite engaging. I think what I enjoyed the most about it is the way it seems to mimic a conversation. Young begins with interests and trivialities and it seems once he becomes confident with either himself or with you his stories become warmer and more personal.”

Louise is an avid reader of all kinds of books: she had to weed through a lot of titles to pick one, and finally came up with this: “I read a lot of Canadian fiction this year (mostly mysteries and thrillers) but nothing stood out for me like Linwood Barclay’s latest thriller Trust Your Eyes (M). After his father’s death in a tractor accident Ray Kilbride travels home to settle his father’s estate. While home he also has to figure out how to deal with his younger brother Thomas, a schizophrenic savant, who is map-obsessed. He spends most of his days on his computer on the website Whirl360 memorizing maps for the CIA in case a disaster wipes maps off the Internet. Thomas also believes he is receiving phone calls from former US President Bill Clinton. But one day Thomas gets more than he bargained for when he sees what he believes is a murder in progress. He shows Ray a screenshot and demands that Ray check things out. The chain reaction their investigation sets off and the characters they meet along the way (including an ice-pick wielding henchwoman) kept me up reading until the jaw-dropping end!”

David’s pick is People Park (M), the debut novel by Newfoundland author Pasha Malla. “Although it is a somewhat unusual novel in it’s writing style and topic, and not my usual reading fare, I found it utterly compelling. The language is innovative and engaging, the characters are ripe with personality, and the setting is vivid. While I’ll admit that I didn’t fully understand the ending, but strangely it didn’t matter to me at all. I simply embraced the wild, weird and wonderful reading experience. I’ll probably read this one again while I await Pasha Malla’s next novel”.

And me? I also picked People Park by Pasha Malla! Set around a city’s anniversary celebration for their prized park, it feels a suitably patriotic choice for a Canada Day post. I found it really interesting that David and I—who don’t generally read the same kinds of books—both picked the same title from a sea of choices. It’s certainly a testament to the book itself and like David, I found myself willing to just sit back and embrace the beautiful strangeness of this book. In my book journal, I said this one was “part Infinite Jest, part Swamplandia”: it is certainly an inventive and exciting book from a young author.

Happy Canada Day, everyone!

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