Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius by Nick Hornby

Novelist and screenwriter Hornby (About a Boy, An Education) explores creativity through the parallels between two cultural giants.

What might first seem an odd pairing quickly becomes as delicious as chocolate and peanut butter in Hornby’s telling. At 192 pages, this feels something like an extended magazine feature, but it’s a fun, while informative, read. The copyright battles that Dickens fought had me howling with laughter at times, while the extreme productivity both he and Prince shared was inspirational, despite being almost absurdly daunting.

Very much a love letter to two artists that Hornby describes as “My People – the people I have thought about a lot, over the years, the artists who have shaped me, inspired me, made me think” - it’s apt to lead you to reflect on those who play a similar role in your own life.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr6730520

Wake: A Novel by Shelley Burr

A debut crime thriller set in the Australian outback, where the unsolved disappearance of a nine year old girl still haunts an isolated community two decades later.

While the plot doesn’t break new ground, the location and characters are brilliantly rendered. Not wanting to give any spoilers, I’ll simply note that this is unlikely to become a Disney or Hallmark movie. On the other hand, readers of noir or Jane Harper, who appreciate realistic characters and outcomes, will find much to enjoy here.

Adult Fiction Hardcover pr6646352

Estates Large and Small by Ray Roberston

After years of rent increases, COVID-19 proves to be the last nail in Toronto secondhand bookseller Phil Cooper’s storefront.

Making the pivot to online sales from home, and feeling himself in something of an existential crisis, he decides to teach himself 2,500 years of Western philosophy while trying to not smoke so much dope. An unexpected romance ushers in further significant change to Phil’s world, where books have been the only constants. While I cringe at using this expression, it’s apt to say that this is a love letter to the world of books and ideas, and all of those whose work is a labor of love over filthy lucre.

Adult Non-Fiction Paperback pr6502368

Eat Your Mind: The Radical Life and Work of Kathy Acker by Jason McBride

The first comprehensive biography of the darling of 80s-90s experimental fiction.

Toronto based McBride provides a fine addition to North American literary history by going deep into the life and work of a writer whose contradictions, inconsistencies and style made her generally misunderstood during her lifetime. A fascinating read, whether or not you’re a fan, or familiar, with Acker, whose influence was wide.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr6725310

Carrie Soto is Back: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto, with the most Grand Slam and Wimbledon wins in tennis, comes out of retirement after five years when her record is in danger of being surpassed.

Past her prime and far from beloved because of her relentless ambition and refusal to put on sponsor pleasing acts of false modesty and meaningless platitudes with the media, Soto faces an uphill battle, both physically and mentally, as she begins to realize, if not always question, the cost of greatness.

As with Jenkins Reid’s recent work (Malibu Rising and Daisy Jones & The Six) this is a fast read that’s commercial on the surface with plenty of serious themes underpinning the story. And I hate to say it, but I admit I’d like to see this adapted for the screen. A perfect, fun read to close out the summer with.

Adult Fiction Paperback pr6730539

Abominations: Selected Essays From A Career of Courting Self-Destruction by Lionel Shriver

Selected reviews, essays and speeches from the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, first published in The Guardian, Harper’s, The NYT and more.

Shriver has never been anything but contentious, argumentative and acerbic, and I find it somewhat remarkable that, in the cancel-culture age we find ourselves in, she continues to make her living primarily from journalism, while publishing five novels in the last six years. The subjects here include diversity in the publishing industry, cultural appropriation, immigration, tax rates for the rich and declining standards for spoken and written English with Shriver’s position generally incendiary.

While many will refuse to read this, based on what they might have read on social media, or put it down once they’ve reached their high-water mark for being offended, I found Shriver’s arguments well reasoned, the subjects worth re-consideration and enjoyed the sort of bracing contrarian voice that I associate (and miss) with Christopher Hitchens. This would make a great book club pick, but you might all need to wear head-gear and gloves once it’s time to meet and discuss. A great read for those looking to venture forth from their silos, there is likely something here for everyone to be offended by at some point.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr6665304

Transformer: A Story of Slitter, Glam Rock & Loving Lou Reed by Simon Doonan

A love letter to Lou Reed’s breakthrough album Transformer, on its 50th anniversary.

In archived material, Reed explained that he made Transformer because he thought it was "dreary for gay people to have to listen to straight people's love songs." TV personality and Drag author Doonan explores the effect this album had on him, and the greater LGBTQ+ community, along with Reed's career before and after.

The charm of this book is all in the writing: it's simply a fun, fabulous read. Regardless of what your sexual orientation or pronouns might be, and whether or not you like Reed's music, Doonan is wildly entertaining (while being slying informing) in a charming life of the party sort of way. A great addition to the already sizable Warhol/Reed/Velvet Underground/glam rock cultural canon.

Adult Non-Fiction Hardcover pr6730838

Small Game: A Novel by Blair Braverman

A survival reality TV show set in undisclosed wilderness goes horribly wrong.

In her fiction debut, Braverman shows uncommon skill at writing on the fine line between literary fiction and popular, commercial suspense. If this was a Netflix series, you'd binge it.

After a brilliant memoir (Welcome to the Goddamned Ice Cube) and feel good photo essay book (Dogs on the Trail) along with a steady output of journalism (Outside, NYT, This American Life, Vogue) it's starting to look like there's nothing Braverman can't do.Note: while not based on her experience, Braverman’s own participation on the show Naked and Afraid, helped inform this novel).

Adult Fiction Hardcover pr6716978

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