As we slowly welcome spring and start cleaning up our yards, take a break from outdoor activity with some new books for spring 2017. These books cover the gamut from memoirs of a well-known Canadian music executive and artist to mystery on the shores of Dorset, England to historical fiction about the Franklin expedition and the evolution of electricity. Enjoy your spring and these books for spring 2017 reading.
Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear
Birds Art Life is the perfect book to open as spring arrives. You’ll want to begin reading this lovely memoir by Kyo Maclear since a large part of the memoir’s focus is on birds. Maclear describes a year in her life where she felt stressed by familial pressures and decided to reconnect with nature by accompanying a devoted birding enthusiast on his bird-watching treks across Toronto. An artist and children’s author, Maclear includes many of her sketches of birds throughout the book, which only add to its charm. As the title implies, the book is not simply a reflection of birds – Maclear expands upon her upbringing, marriage, children and aging – but birds are the vehicle that allows Maclear to reconnect with nature and find balance and perspective in her art and life. You do not need to be a birder to enjoy Maclear’s memoir, although the author does expose the reader to birding culture and many popular birding sites in Toronto including Ashbridge’s Bay and Humber Bay Park. This is a gentle, contemplative read that you will want to enjoy as you notice birds returning from their southern vacations and reconvening in our backyards, parks and on cottage lawns.
Birds Art Life is published by Doubleday Canada. Hardcover $29.95. ISBN 9780385687515
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Ingrid Coleman has trouble expressing herself in her troubled marriage to her husband and former English professor Gil, so she resorts to writing letters and placing them in books in Gil’s library. Years later, she disappears, yet Gil is certain he saw her outside his bookstore. The mystery of Ingrid’s disappearance deepens as their daughters return to take care of an ailing Gil. The former professor still lives in his marital home, a converted swimming pavilion in Dorset on the southern English coast. Flora, the younger and more rebellious daughter, discovers Ingrid’s letters and tries to piece together Ingrid’s disappearance. The narrative switches back and forth between Ingrid’s and Gil’s early married years to the present day, although it’s easy enough to follow. Although we don’t hear directly from Ingrid, she develops a distinctive voice through her letters. We also get a clear sense of the Coleman family dynamics through strong character development. Fuller uses just enough restraint in delivering a controlled pace to the story. Part mystery, part marriage analysis, Swimming Lessons is a compelling read that will have you quickly turning the pages to find out what has happened to Ingrid.
Swimming Lessons is published by House of Anansi Press. Hardcover $19.95. ISBN 9781487002152
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
This historical fiction novel by Graham Moore takes us to late 19th century New York City where Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse are in a race to bring electricity to the homes of America. Each man is making legal claims that he has invented the light bulb, and lawyer Paul Cravath has been retained by Westinghouse to defend his claim. Nicolas Tesla is hired by Westinghouse to invent a new lightbulb, one that will outperform Edison’s. Cravath becomes embroiled in a world of ruthless competition and corruption. The pages of this novel take us to the reckless upper class parties of Gramercy Park, popular NYC restaurant Delmonico’s, and Philadelphia, the home of Westinghouse. Moore, the Academy-Award-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game, demonstrates his superior talent as a writer in the book’s brisk-paced and short chapters that have been excised of irrelevance and tedium. Moore also provides great insight into the huge egos of the personalities who were at the top of their game, controlling American industry.
The Last Days of Night is being made into a movie starring Eddie Redmayne. You’ll want to read the book first.
The Last Days of Night is published by Random House. 384 pages. Hardcover $28 ISBN 9780812988901
Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances) by Denise Donlon
Denise Donlon is a household name in many Canadian homes due to her extensive career in the music industry. Donlon’s detailed autobiography covers her childhood in Toronto, her years at the University of Waterloo where she booked bands, her time as a VJ and producer at MuchMusic, her experience as head of Sony Music Canada, then later General Manager of CBC English Radio when the national broadcaster was making extensive budget cuts. Donlon’s memoir is packed full of anecdotes about numerous rock stars, and the emergence and dominance of digital music. Donlon, who has received the Order of Canada, has been responsible for nurturing so many Canadian and international artists. Donlon’s memoir will revive many memories of the music we listened to and concerts we attended during our youth. This is a fun read by a fascinating woman.
Fearless as Possible (Under the Circumstances) by Denise Donlon is published by House of Anansi Press, $24.95 ISBN 9781487000035
Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin
This well-researched novel takes place in the Arctic, beginning with Sir John Franklin’s expedition to the Northwest Passage. Ed O’Loughlin links the past with the present in a mystery involving the accidental meeting of a man searching for his brother in Inuvik and an English woman tracing her grandfather’s steps in the region. An image of a famous chronometer, one which went missing on the Northwest Passage expedition and later appeared in Britain, spurs the couple on to discover its history and how their relatives are related. The book jumps back and forth in time and across continents to link all of the elements of the story and it can be a bit of a challenge to keep all of the characters and dates clear. Throughout, the author exposes us to the chilling north and the robust men and women who survived the brutal climate and conditions. The novel is also an exposé of the conditions of Indigenous people in the Arctic and their abusive treatment at the hands of British and American explorers.
Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin is published by House of Anansi Press, $22.95, ISBN 9781487002343
Enjoy these books for spring 2017 reading. Let me know what you thought of them in the comment section.