Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book News Vol. 8 No. 44



Writers Fest author J.B. MacKinnon has received another book award nod. He has just been named to the shortlist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

In fact, it's a double whammy week for MacKinnon. He's also been nominated this week for the $25,000 RBC Taylor Prize for his book The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be.


From bizarre fantasy to Middle Eastern romance, here are four new books for young adults that are worth checking out. One is a final book in a wildly popular dystopian trilogy, and another has been described as "heartbreaker of a story...about two young women in love in Iran."


The first prison memoir ever written by an African-American has been uncovered in upstate New York. The Life and Adventures of a Haunted Convict, or the Inmate of a Gloomy Prison, tells the tale of Austin Reed, a prisoner from the 1830s to the 1850s. Though he was born a free man, the book reveals "the deep connection between the history of slavery and the history of incarceration."

What does it mean to publish short novels in the digital age? Are they a sign of the times, a nod to the internet's "too long; didn't read" syndrome, or a genre that's doomed to fail in competition with "doorstop" classics, since "now with a Kindle or iPad, War and Peace takes up no more space in your bag than a dime-store romance would?"

And what about small presses? "I think books are becoming an increasingly strange object in the same way vinyl records are now strange objects... We believe in the subtle art of subtraction....Publishing fewer titles, but very fine ones," says Callie Collins of the new literary press, A Strange Object.

The Christmas season always brings about nostalgia for Victorian literature, especially Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But, according to Colin Fleming, there's a different Dickens book we should be looking at too: The Signal Man.

Though December is a season of merrymaking, it's also one of reflection. In this Guardian piece, Peter Leonard reflects on the death of his father, Elmore Leonard, who passed away this year, and whom he describes as the "coolest guy I knew".

In the wake of Nelson Mandela's death, Binyavanga Wainaina, author of How to Write About Africa reflects on the life of another famous African: Chinua Achebe. In relation to both Mandela and Achebe, he writes that "both had the same husky voice and a noble good that trapped them into permanent bronze images hardened by the intense desires of tens of millions".

Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon novels has launched a Christmas Mini-Challenge scheme to children across the UK. The online scheme encourages kids to check out and recommend favourite books over the holiday season.

The British Library has released over a million images online, as a new inventive way to "navigate, find and display these 'unseen illutrations'". The images come from 17th, 18th and 19th century books, and include maps, geological diagrams, illuminated and decorative letters and landscapes.

"This year may go down in history as the year of the 'selfie', with even world leaders getting in on the act." As a response to all this narcissism, the Guardian newspaper is asking readers to submit 'shelfies', a snapshot of their bookshelves. Contribute here:


Are you still stuck for shiny presents to stick under the tree? Here's the Georgia Straight's list of glossy books for holiday giving. If you're looking for something local, for masters of nature photography or for something for when you'll all out of ideas, this is the list for you!

The Tyee has also released its list of picks for every quirky reader, from "your buddy the boulevardier" to "that fervent Francophile with fulsome time on her hands".

What makes a city "happy"? "When thinking of Vancouver's grid-patterned streets, "prison," "colonization" and "hegemony" may not be the first words that come to mind—but that's exactly what the Romans and Assyrians had in mind when they built cities this way millennia ago." Charles Montgomery makes a case for crowd-sourced, non-linear neighbourhoods in his new book, Happy City.

What's your favourite book for comfort reading during these cold, wet winter months? The Guardian Reading Group has chosen Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, "a parody of the doomy, tragic, close-to-the-earth gothic novels of writers like Mary Webb and DH Lawrence, and, earlier, Thomas Hardy".

When John Williams wrote Stoner in the 1960s, it "steered a mid-course between the novelist's fears and his hopes. It was respectably reviewed; it had a reasonable sale; it did not become a bestseller; it went out of print." Now, fifty years later, Stoner has become "a bestseller of the purest kind–one caused almost entirely by word-of-mouth among readers".

Russell Banks' sixth story collection has been released, called A Permanent Member of the Family. "Banks has always been a writer of profound morality and conscience; his greatness lies in the fact that he never allows these things to penetrate the surface of his words."

For many years, The Paris Review and the Unterberg Poetry Center (at NYC's 92nd Street Y) have teamed together to present onstage literary conversations. Now they're sharing the recordings of these conversations online. The most recent ones feature T.C. Boyle, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan.


Five poets/readers/poetry-lovers/writers with extensive public reading experience read poems from one of their favourite dead poets. Sunday, January 12 at 3:00pm, free. Meeting Room, level 3, Central Library, 350 W. Georgia Street. More information at

Join former BC RAIL Rock Gang foreman Gary Sim for a presentation on his new book. Wednesday, January 15 at 7:00pm, free. Alma VanDusen room, lower level, Central Library, 350 W. Georgia Street. More information at

Features poets Mariner Janes & Raoul Fernandes plus open mic. Thursday, January 23, 7–9:30pm, at The Cottage Bistro, 4468 Main Street, Vancouver. Suggested donation at the door: $5. Sign up for open mic at 7 pm. More information at

Contributors Sylvia Stopforth, Dhana Musil and Elaine Woo will read. Tuesday, January 28 at 7:00pm, free. McGill Branch, Burnaby Public Library, 4595 Albert Street. More information and registration at 604-299-8955.

WordStorm will feature Daniela Elza, Mary Ann Moore and Jan De Grass on Tuesday, January 28th, 7pm, at Demeter's Coffee Vault, 499 Wallace Street,
Nanaimo. More information

Author talks about her new memoir, Left, Right, Then Center. Wednesday, January 29 at 7:00pm. Welsh Hall West, West Vancouver Memorial Library, 1950 Marine Drive, West Vancouver. For more information, phone 604-925-7403.

Features Gillian Jerome & Daniela Elza, 7pm, Thursday, January 30th, South Building Room 406, Emily Carr University, 1399 Johnston St., Granville Island. Free and open to the public.


Launch of Elen Ghulam's new book, Graffiti Hack: A Novel. Saturday, February 8 at 7:00pm. The Landing, 375 Water Street, Vancouver. More information at

An evening of readings of both brand new and established local authors in a variety of genres from poetry to short stories to novels. Monday, February 17 at 7:00pm, free. Alma VanDusen room, lower level, Central Library, 350 W. Georgia Street. More information at

IL CENTRO Italian Cultural Centre is thrilled to announce the publication of the Rules & Regulations for the 2014 Edition of the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize. The literary prize honours and promotes the work of Canadian writers of Italian origin or Italian descent. Deadline: April 2, 2014. Complete details can be found here:

The Iceland Writers Retreat invites published and aspiring book writers (fiction and non-fiction) to participate in a series of workshops and panels led by a team of international writers from April 9-13, 2014 including Joseph Boyden. Between intimate workshops and lectures tour the spectacular Golden Circle, sit in the cozy caf├ęs of Reykjavik, soak in hot geothermal pools, listen to new Icelandic music, and learn about the country's rich literary tradition. More information at

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