Come, Thou Tortoise – Jessica Grant

I read this book recently during one of those day-long rainy days and found it a welcome follow-up to a long stint with sober non-fiction. The cast of characters reads like the dramatis personae of a Canadian indie film – tortoise, Newfoundlander, lopsided man, Brits, inventor, and man with Rip-van-Winkle beard – and maybe that’s why this book is so charming. The offbeat writing also has a lot to do with the appeal. The narrator – Audrey “Oddly” Flowers – has a quirky relationship with words that makes the book read like she thinks, complete with self-edits. The other narrator is a tortoise. If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you’ll like this book. Even if Haddon’s writing was not your cup of tea, consider picking up Come, Thou Tortoise for the airplane scene, at least – it’s hilarious. (submitted by LH)

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25 Things to Say to the Interviewer, To Get the Job You Want

Much to my surprise, I  loved this eAudiobook – it is only about a hour long – and it gives very good general advice about what to say at an interview and how to conduct yourself at work. It focuses on working in the for-profit business world with consumers and clients, but its advise is broadly applicable.  Practical life-lessons for all ages, particularly those of us who are in the first half of our working lives. (submitted by Jen)

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A Plague of Doves – Louise Erdrich

It’s about the brutal murder of a white family in the fictional town of Pluto, North Dakota, and the only survivor was a baby girl.  Three Ojibwe men are wrongfully convicted and hanged for the crime. The murders and lynchings affect the entire community of white and mixed-blood residents of Pluto for generations.  The story is tragic, but the storytelling is in parts comical and poetic.  I found the characters very believable, almost alive, so it’s very easy to empathise with them. Although the lynching happened in the past, it’s still a living memory for the characters and shapes their life and how they feel in the present. The writing is so evocative that you feel as if you are there as both the past and present events take place. (submitted by RB)

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Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book. But long after I’d read the last sentence, the story was on my mind – and now I already want to read it again. Mitchell weaves a complex story about life, love, and human progress spanning centuries. The story is told through a series of separate, distinct voices, each with their own story to tell. In the beginning, it’s difficult to see how these stories fit together, but slowly we begin to see a picture of the connections between each character and their actions across time and space. The narrative is filled with uncertainty, some of which is never resolved – so those who like neat endings, beware! Yet Mitchell is an incredibly talented writer who brings this ambitious and captivating story to life. (submitted by AA)

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Lessons in Taxidermy

Bee Lavender has lived through more sickness than I thought I would have the stomach to even read about. It seems as though every unfortunate illness and ill-luck has befallen this woman: cancer, car accident, complications, and more complications. I read this book when I was quite sick and struggling through a series of unsuccessful diagnoses, feeling completely overwhelmed with chronic illness. Somehow reading Lavender’s writing about sickness actually made me feel better. Her book is empowering. Lavender faces illness without flinching, making for an uplifting, if slightly terrifying, read. The narrative is up-front and personal, which along with the book being a short 160 pages, makes it very accessible. (submitted by TH)

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The Wayfinders: why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world

I love it when I find readable non-fiction, and this book is both eminently readable and lovable. Part of the CBC Massey lecture series, it speaks to culture, language and society, and what happens as we lose the thread between ourselves and our past. Like Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress (another excellent Massey lecture that deserves its own blog post), Davis questions the global thirst for progress. However, unlike Wright, Davis is less doomsday in his outlook and celebrates modern navigators in Hawaii and aboriginal peoples in Canada, among others, in their efforts to reclaim a gentler way of thinking and doing. A very important book with a message that is becoming hard to ignore. (submitted by LH)

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The Last of the Wine – Mary Renault

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s had me dashing to the used bookstore to get all an author’s works, but this book did it. It takes place in Ancient Greece and is told in the first-person by Alexias of Athens. Renault’s writing is engrossing, rigorously researched, and feels very true to the spirit of the times and the protagonist (which means that there is little focus on women and a liberal view on love). Similar in character to Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean, I find the feeling in Renault’s work more genuine and better able to transport me to Ancient Greece. This past March, Renault was nominated for the “Lost Booker” award. (submitted by LH)

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