April 22, 2016 at 5:48 am #245472
15. Dave Eggers – A Hologram For the King (2012)
In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter’s college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy’s gale-force winds. This taut, richly layered, and elegiac novel is a powerful evocation of our contemporary moment — and a moving story of how we got here.May 24, 2016 at 2:34 am #245473
16. Paolo Bacigalupi – Pump Six and Other Stories (2008)
Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Paolo’s work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning, and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.
The eleven stories in Pump Six represent the best of Paolo’s work, including the Hugo nominee “Yellow Card Man,” the nebula and Hugo nominated story “The People of Sand and Slag,” and the Sturgeon Award-winning story “The Calorie Man.”July 2, 2016 at 8:10 pm #245474
17. John Kennedy Toole – A Confederacy of Dunces (1980)
A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole’s hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter. His story bursts with wholly original characters, denizens of New Orleans’ lower depths, incredibly true-to-life dialogue, and the zaniest series of high and low comic adventures.July 9, 2016 at 6:13 am #245475
18. Qiu Xiaolong – Years of Red Dust (2010)
Published originally in the pages of Le Monde, this collection of linked short stories by Qiu Xiaolong has already been a major bestseller in France (Cite de la Poussiere Rouge) and Germany (Das Tor zur Roten Gasse), where it and the author was the subject of a major television documentary. The stories in Years of Red Dust trace the changes in modern China over fifty years—from the early days of the Communist revolution in 1949 to the modernization movement of the late nineties—all from the perspective of one small street in Shanghai, Red Dust Lane. From the early optimism at the end of the Chinese Civil War, through the brutality and upheaval of the Cultural Revolution, to the death of Mao, the pro-democracy movement and the riots in Tiananmen Square—history, on both an epic and personal scale, unfolds through the bulletins posted and the lives lived in this one lane, this one corner of Shanghai.July 25, 2016 at 8:40 am #245476
19. Antony Swithin – The Winds of the Wastelands: The Perilous Quest For Lyonesse, Book Three (1992)
Simon Branthwaite and his companions travel northwards up the River Aramassa, leaving the Stoney Mountains far behind. Many adventures befall them in this unknown country. During one, they encounter Essa, a servant girl whose mysterious origins and strange knowledge both aid and baffle them when she joins their quest.
When they come to Reschora they are welcomed by its rulers, but warned against travelling further north, though no one will tell them why. Then, at last, comes a clue to the existence of Lyonesse. Ignoring all pleas, Simon and his friends set out north into the lonely and treacherous lands of the Nine Gods. There they will encounter their strangest and most perilous adventures so far…July 27, 2016 at 11:59 pm #245477
20. Antony Swithin – The Nine Gods of Saffadne: The Perilous Quest For Lyonesse, Book Four (1993)
After many perilous adventures, Simon Branthwaite and his companions have reached the land of the Nine Gods, to find themselves at the mercy of its fierce and xenophobic people. Their fate seems sealed, until they are saved by an amazing revelation – but at a cost.July 31, 2016 at 5:29 am #245478
21. Haruki Murakami – Hear the Wind Sing (1979)
Hear the Wind Sing is the very first novel by Haruki Murakami. Written at his kitchen table in the hours before dawn, this remarkable short work — a powerful, at times surreal story about two young men coming of age — helped launch the career of one of the most acclaimed authors of our time.
In this novel, an unnamed narrator returns to his hometown for summer break, which he mostly spends drinking and smoking at nearby J’s Bar with a friend known only as the Rat. As the long, hot days roll by and the radio plays a steady stream of Elvis and the Beach Boys, he reflects on women and writing.
Bearing all the hallmarks of Marakami’s later books, Hear the Wind Sing is a fascinating insight into a great writer’s beginnings.August 14, 2016 at 2:48 am #245479
22. Haruki Murakami – Pinball, 1973 (1980)
Three years after Hear the Wind Sing, in 1973, the narrator has moved to Tokyo to work as a translator and live with indistinguishable twin girls, but the Rat has remained behind, despite his efforts to leave both the town and his girlfriend. The narrator finds himself haunted by memories of his own doomed relationship but also, more bizarrely, by his short-lived obsession with playing pinball in J’s Bar. This sends him on a quest to find the exact model of pinball machine he had enjoyed playing years earlier: the three-flipper Spaceship.August 16, 2016 at 2:09 am #245480
23. Stephen King – End of Watch (2016)
The spectacular finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers—In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.
In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.
Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.
In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.September 17, 2016 at 11:16 pm #250370
24. Len Deighton – MAMista (1991)
Deep in Marxist Guerilla territory a hopeless war is being fought.
The Berlin Wall is demolished. Marx is dead. Try telling that to Ramon and his desperate men hiding in the jungle cradling their AK 47s, dusting off the slabs of Semtex and dreaming of world revolution. MAMista takes us to the dusty, violent capital of Spanish Guiana in South America, and thence into the depths of the rain forest; the heart of darkness itself. There, four people become caught up in a struggle both political and personal, a struggle corrupted by ironies and deceits, and riddled with the accidents of war. They are four people who never should have found themselves bound together in a mission for revolution.
Ralph Lucas, the Australian doctor, came to the jungle on charitable business, strictly civilian. Tending frontline casualties of war, with too few medical supplies and only a beautiful but untrained woman by his side, was not on the agenda. Gerald Singer, tough, black warrior, with an indomitable sense of humour, was already in guerrilla territory. He can take it. Up to a point. Angel Paz, part charming youngster, part violent hoodlum, has theories about everything. His arrogance will set in motion the last terrible endgame.
But it is Inez who will suffer the most; for being a woman, an educated woman. At guerrilla headquarters she was Ramon’s right-hand. In the jungle she is the butt of men’s jokes and the subject of their fantasies.
For the men in Washington this MAMista ‘patrol’ is just one short entry in a busy worldwide agenda. But for the three men and one woman trapped in the jungle of our nightmares it is the sentence of death. Never has Deighton portrayed so accurately the terror and the tedium of war, or the shifting alliances and betrayals between people who have nothing to lose but their lives.September 30, 2016 at 11:12 pm #245481
25. Alexander Solzhenitsyn – Prisoners (1953)
Prisoners is set in the cells and offices of Stalin’s Counter-Intelligence SMERSH in July 1945, crowded with repatriated Russian prisoners-of-war, and shows the rough and ready methods used for despatching prisoners to Siberia. In exposing the travesty of justice to which these men were subjected, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates his awareness of where the Revolution was leading Russia: far from forging a new nation, it was creating an unbridgeable gulf between the revolutionaries and ordinary Russian humanity.October 29, 2016 at 2:58 am #245482
26. Marcelo Figueras – Kamchatka (2003)
In 1976 Buenos Aires, a ten-year-old boy lives in a world of school lessons and comic books, TV shows and games of Risk–a world in which men have superpowers and boys can conquer the globe on a rectangle of cardboard. But in his hometown, the military has just seized power, and amid a climate of increasing terror and intimidation, people begin to disappear without a trace.
When his mother unexpectedly pulls him and his younger brother from school, she tells him they’re going on an impromptu family trip. But he soon realizes that this will be no ordinary holiday: his parents are known supporters of the opposition, and they are going into hiding. Holed up in a safe house in the remote hills outside the city, the family assumes new identities. The boy names himself Harry after his hero Houdini, and as tensions rise and the uncertain world around him descends into chaos, he spends his days of exile learning the secrets of escape.
Kamchatka is the portrait of a child forced to square fantasy with a reality in which family, politics, history, and even time itself have become more improbable than any fiction. Told from the points of view of Harry as a grown man and as a boy, Kamchatka is an unforgettable story of courage and sacrifice, the tricks of time and memory, and the fragile yet resilient fabric of childhood.November 1, 2016 at 1:53 am #245483
27. Gord Downie & Jeff Lemire – Secret Path (2016)
Secret Path is a ten song album by Gord Downie with a graphic novel by illustrator Jeff Lemire that tells the story of Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who died in flight from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School fifty years ago.
Chanie, misnamed Charlie by his teachers, was a young boy who died on October 22, 1966, walking the railroad tracks, trying to escape from the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School to return home. Chanie’s home was 400 miles away. He didn’t know that. He didn’t know where it was, nor how to find it, but, like so many kids—more than anyone will be able to imagine—he tried.
Chanie’s story is Canada’s story. We are not the country we thought we were. History will be re-written. We are all accountable. Secret Path acknowledges a dark part of Canada’s history—the long suppressed mistreatment of Indigenous children and families by the residential school system—with the hope of starting our country on a road to reconciliation. Every year as we remember Chanie Wenjack, the hope for Secret Path is that it educates all Canadians young and old on this omitted part of our history, urging our entire nation to play an active role in the preservation of Indigenous lives and culture in Canada.
The next hundred years are going to be painful as we come to know Chanie Wenjack and thousands like him—as we find out about ourselves, about all of us—but only when we do can we truly call ourselves, “Canada.”
Proceeds from Secret Path will be donated to The Gord Downie Secret Path Fund for Truth and Reconciliation via The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) at The University of Manitoba.December 4, 2016 at 6:12 am #245484
28. Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.December 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm #245485
29. Jonathan Lethem – Lucky Alan & Other Stories (2015)
Jonathan Lethem’s third collection of stories uncovers a father’s nervous breakdown at SeaWorld in “Pending Vegan”; a foundling child rescued from the woods during a blizzard in “Traveler Home”; a political prisoner in a hole in a Brooklyn street in “Procedure in Plain Air”; and a crumbling, haunted “blog” on a seaside cliff in “The Dreaming Jaw, The Salivating Ear.” Each of these locates itself in Lethem-land, which can be discovered only by visiting. As in his celebrated novels, Lethem finds the uncanny lurking in the mundane, the irrational self-defeat seeping through our upstanding pursuits, and the tragic undertow of the absurd world(s) in which we live.
Devoted fans of Lethem will recognize familiar themes: the anxiety of influence taken to reductio ad absurdum in “The King of Sentences”; a hapless, horny outsider summoning bravado in “The Porn Critic”; characters from forgotten comics stranded on a desert island in “Their Back Pages.” As always in Lethem, humor and poignancy work in harmony, humans strive desperately for connection, words find themselves misaligned to deeds, and the sentences are glorious.
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