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    Book Club in a Bag

    Best of 2012

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    'Tis the season for best of the year booklists, just in time to help you with your Christmas shopping! If you have bibliophiles or avid readers on your list, have a look at some of the lists below for some ideas. We've also featured our top suggestions for those picky readers you know, one taken from each best list.

    Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012

    This list presents the ten best of 2012, including both fiction and nonfiction. Chris Ware's latest offering is the one that made it onto my "must-read" list. If you're in shopping mode, consider this one for the jaded reader who appreciates art and creativity, but has seen it all. This one is truly unique.

    Building Stories by Chris Ware

    is actually a collection of 14 books, including hardcover and soft pamphlet-style, housed in a keepsake box. The stories can be read in any order, and tell about the residents in a three-story Chicago apartment building, including a lonely single woman, a couple who are growing to despise each other, and an elderly landlady. As seen in the pages of The New Yorker, The New York Times and McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Building Stories collects a decade's worth of work, with dozens of "never-before published" pages (i.e., those deemed too obtuse, filthy or just plain incoherent to offer to a respectable periodical).

    This graphic novel is unlike anything you've seen, and would definitely make my list!

    Publishers Weekly notes that "Ware provides one of the year's best arguments for the survival of print" and raves "the spectacular, breathtaking visual splendor make this one of the year's standout graphic novels."

    Quill & Quire Books of the Year 2012 (fiction)

    Quill & Quire takes a different approach to the "best of" list; instead of a general list of the titles you'd see other places, they have chosen those that mattered the most in the world of fiction publishing. These top five are a mix of the stand-outs in terms of quality of writing and those that stood out due to the controversy or conversation generated around them.

    If you're shopping for someone who appreciates the classics, supports Canadian creative endeavours, or simply loves to read but doesn't have the time to devote to a long novel, you can't go wrong with the latest short story collection by one of Canada's literary treasures.

    Dear Life by Alice Munro

    is, impressively, the author's fourteenth short story collection at the age of 81. And more impressive is the fact that, as the Quill & Quire reviewer notes, "Munro continues to evolve, refusing to remain complacent with past successes." So, if you're shopping for a newly published book, and you want to choose something destined to become a classic, look no further.



    The Telegraph: Christmas 2012: fiction of the year

    This one's from the British perspective, and features more than a dozen best picks including a few upcoming releases to pre-order. Although Hilary Mantel's Man-Booker-Prize-winning Bring Up the Bodies (a sequel to 2009's Booker winner Wolf Hall) will be on everyone's lips, the book that caught my eye is a decidedly lighter work that would be a great gift for fans of Brit-lit and those with a healthy appreciation for quirkiness and dark humour.


    The Yips by Nicola Barker

    is fiction both outrageous and familiar, delving into family relationships with both commonplace and unusual, often hilarious, situations (as illustrated by the main pursuits of two of her characters: golf and genital tattooing). As The Telegraph notes, this author's "books aren’t so much breaths as wind tunnels of fresh air," and also notes, "No writer gets the darkness, hilarity and irrelevance of modern Britain better."


    For the American perspective, have a look at

    The Washington Post's best books of 2012

    Another list that includes both fiction and nonfiction, and also has a good selection of graphic novels among the twenty titles listed.

    One of the timeless genres, for me, is the coming-of-age novel. Whether the person on your Christmas list is young and able to identify with the story in the moment, or mature and contemplating the experiences that shape a person's life, many people can identify with and enjoy these novels.

    Arcadia by Lauren Groff

    is a coming-of-age story set on a commune in New York. From the bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton comes a lyrical and gripping story of a great American dream. In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what would become a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic, rollicking, and tragic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after.

    ...and if you're STILL looking, and have an extremely picky reader to shop for, have a long browse through the

    Largehearted Boy's list of Best of 2012 Book Lists Online

    where you will find such gems as Most Disappointing (for the person you don't *really* want to shop for?); Cat Wisdom 101 (top cat books- YOU know who it's for); and myriad Best Cookbooks, Best Children's books, and anything else you will need!

    Bryce Courtenay 1933-2012

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    Acclaimed author Bryce Courtenay died today after a long battle with stomach cancer, he was 79. Courtenay produced over twenty novels after a distinguished career in advertising. He is best known for his book The Power of One that told the story of a man’s life in South Africa in the 1930s and 40s. Courtney was born in South Africa and the majority of his novels have a strong tie to his homeland. His most recent book, "Jack of Diamonds," was published Nov. 12.

    Karen Dudley and Chadwick Ginther reading at Louise Riley

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    Join authors Karen Dudley and Chadwick Ginther

    at Louise Riley library on Tuesday, November 20 at 7pm.

    Come to hear two Canadian authors read from their latest work, and stay to get your autographed copy!

    This event is part of Karen and Chadwick's author tour that includes stops in Toronto, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Calgary. Stay tuned for more information at

    Food for the Gods

    Food for the Gods by Karen Dudley

    By turns whimsical, thrilling, hilarious and touching, Karen Dudley’s ingeniously original Food for the Gods and its sequel, Kraken Bake (forthcoming in 2014), reinvent a classical hero, while bringing to life the crowded, throbbing streets of ancient Athens in a way that both honours the Greek myths and reinterprets them for a new generation of readers.

    "Karen Dudley takes Greek mythology and gives it a wild spin. This giddy mashup of fantasy, mystery, comedy, cookbook, and self-help column is bawdy, inventive, and just plain fun."—Sharon Shinn, author of the Twelve Houses Series

    Thunder Road

    Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther

    In a flash, Ted Callan’s world exploded. Now he’s on the road looking for a fresh start. What he finds is a mysterious young woman named Tilda who tells him he’s destined for more than an ordinary life. When three stout men assault Ted in his hotel room, ordinary starts to look very appealing. The next thing he knows, his body is covered in an elaborate Norse tattoo, complete with the power of the Gods. Accompanied by the trickster Loki and the beguiling Tilda, Ted wants nothing more than to have his old life back. No more tattoos. No more mystic powers. No more smart-ass Gods. The problem is, if he succeeds, it might just be the end of the world. This novel is the first in a trilogy, the sequel Tombstone Blues, is set for release in 2013.

    "Chadwick Ginther is a major new talent. His stunning debut novel grabs you by the throat and shakes you mercilessly; his prose is vivid and sharp and his are settings gritty and terrifyingly real. This is serious fantasy for grownups." —Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Triggers

    We Will Remember

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    Remembrance Day marks a time to call to mind those who went to war, those who have lived through it, those who died, and those whose lives were and are forever changed by the far-reaching impact of war and conflict. For me, although I've read various history books examining different aspects of many conflicts, the most immediate window into a historical time period is through historical fiction. If you'd like to 'remember' through the eyes and lives of fiction, we've put together a small sampling of this vast literature to get you started.



    The Sojourn

    Andrew Krivak

    Krivak follows his revelatory memoir (A Long Retreat) with this lush, accomplished novel. After Jozef Vinich's mother dies while saving his life as an infant, Jozef and his widowed father relocate from a small Colorado mining town back to their Austrian homeland. Though Jozef's boyhood is marred by lingering feelings of abandonment, resentment, ingrained sadness, and two bullying stepbrothers, his life is enhanced by frequent dreams of his mother and a close friendship with troubled distant cousin Zlee. Both boys revel in the family hunting trips, which hone their sharpshooting abilities, expertise put to use when both go off to fight in WWI as marksmen, over Jozef's father's objections. Krivak dexterously exposes the stark, brutal realities of trench warfare, the horror of a POW camp, and the months of violent bloodshed that stole the boys' innocence. Once home from war, the author's depiction of Jozef's arduous return to life, love, and family is charged with emotion and longing, revealing this lean, resonant debut as an undeniably powerful accomplishment. (Novelist)


    The return of Captain John Emmett

    Elizabeth Speller

    Londoner Laurence Bartram, three years after coming home from WWI and a shell of his former self, starts to reawaken at the outset of this moving mystery debut from British classics scholar Speller (Following Hadrian). The young widower begins probing the apparent suicide of fellow veteran John Emmett—whom he remembers most vividly as a fearless schoolboy—primarily as an excuse to see Emmett's fetching sister, Mary. But as Bartram and his intrepid friend, Charles Carfax, uncover Emmett's role in the execution of a "boy officer" court-martialed for desertion—as well as discover how many others involved have subsequently met with suspicious ends—the investigation becomes compelling in its own right. It also spurs Bartram to finally confront some hard truths about himself. Though Speller eventually falters with an overreliance on coincidence, for the most part she delivers an elegant, engrossing read. (Novelist)


    War Comes to the Big Bend

    Zane Grey

    Prolific writer Grey (1872–1939), best known for his countless westerns, also wrote about pressing social and political issues of his day. This novel, originally serialized in 1919, takes place during WWI and addresses patriotism, immigrant tensions, labor unrest, socialist agitators, and Bolshevik saboteurs. And despite its corny 1919 dialogue, it delivers powerful commentary. Kurt Dorn is a young wheat farmer in the Columbia River basin of Washington State, in debt and in conflict with his stubborn German father and fighting the threats and intimidation of the Industrial Workers of the World, portrayed as a well-financed pseudo-labor union. The IWW intends to disrupt the wheat harvest and hamper America’s entry into the war. But Dorn is a patriot, and through force of will, fists, and gunplay, he and other patriotic farmers battle the IWW. But Kurt loses everything, including his father. In despair and desperation, he joins the army and goes to France to fight the Germans, only later realizing that his love of a woman is more important than the death he seeks. Add a kidnapping, pursuit, escape, vigilante justice, and vivid scenes of brutal trench warfare, and Grey serves up a gripping tale with a sober message. (Novelist)


    My Dear I Wanted to Tell You

    Louisa Young



    It’s 1907, and 11-year-old Riley Purefoy leaves his working-class home to become the benefactor of Sir Alfred Waveney. He meets Nadine, Sir Alfred’s daughter, and a relationship begins that will span both personal and global uncertainties. When the chaos of WWI erupts, Riley enlists in the army, in which he is transformed by the nightmare of war and the resulting physical and emotional scars. As Riley and his commanding officer, Peter Locke, fight for their country in the trenches, their families await their return. When a horrific injury sidelines Riley, he finds himself on a new kind of battlefield, where a lengthy and complicated rehabilitation leaves him uncertain of his and his country’s futures. Moving between the battlefields of Europe and the lives of those working and waiting at home, My Dear I Wanted to Tell You is the story of people torn apart literally and figuratively by war. Through it all, Riley Purefoy is an irresistible, deeply memorable character, whose travails bring the Great War and those who suffered from it to life. (Novelist)


    The Postmistress

    Sarah Blake

    To open Blake’s novel of WorldWarII and the convergence of three strong women is to enter a slipstream, so powerful are its velocity, characters, and drama. How can you resist Frankie Bard, an American journalist of gumption and vision who is bravely reporting on the Blitz from London? Her distinctive voice and audacious candor are heard on radios everywhere on the home front, including Cape Cod, where Iris James, in love for the first time at 40, keeps things shipshape at a small-town post office. The third in Blake’s triumvirate of impressive women, Emma, the waiflike wife of the town’s doctor, is not as obvious a candidate for heroism until a tragedy induces her husband to join the war effort. As Frankie risks her life to record the stories of imperiled Jews, Iris and Emma struggle to maintain order as America goes reluctantly to war. Blake raises unsettling questions about the randomness of violence and death, and the simultaneity of experience––how can people frolic on a beach while others are being murdered? Matching harrowing action with reflection, romance with pathos, Blake’s emotional saga of conscience and genocide is poised to become a best-seller of the highest echelon. (Novelist)



    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

    Jamie Ford

    Henry Lee is a 12-year-old Chinese boy who falls in love with Keiko Okabe, a 12-year-old Japanese girl, while they are scholarship students at a prestigious private school in World War II Seattle. Henry hides the relationship from his parents, who would disown him if they knew he had a Japanese friend. His father insists that Henry wear an "I am Chinese" button everywhere he goes because Japanese residents of Seattle have begun to be shipped off by the thousands to relocation centers. This is an old-fashioned historical novel that alternates between the early 1940s and 1984, after Henry's wife Ethel has died of cancer. A particularly appealing aspect of the story is young Henry's fascination with jazz and his friendship with Sheldon, an older black saxophonist just making a name for himself in the many jazz venues near Henry's home. Other aspects of the story are more typical of the genre: the bullies that plague Henry, his lack of connection with his father, and later with his own son. Readers will care about Henry as he is forced to make decisions and accept circumstances that separate him from both his family and the love of his life. (Novelist)

    2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Will Ferguson

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    Calgary author Will Ferguson’s 419 has been named winner of the 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The Scotiabank Giller Prize is Canada’s most distinguished literary prize, awarding $50,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English.

    Will Ferguson presents 419 at a WordFest Special Event at the Calgary Public Library:

    Tuesday, November 13
    John Dutton Theatre, Central Library

    Will Ferguson will discuss his writing career, his latest venture into literary fiction and reflect on the Scotiabank Giller Prize experience.

    Copies of 419 will be sold at the venue and a book signing will follow the event. Tickets for the event are $10 and can be ordered through the EPCOR Centre Box Office at 403.294.9494 or online at

    Will Ferguson is the author of several award-winning books and is an extremely talented and diverse writer that includes travel and humourous novels:

    Beyond Belfast Hitching Rides With Buddha Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw
    How to be a Canadian Happiness™ Spanish Fly


    Check out Will Ferguson’s books at your local library and check him out in person at this very special WordFest and Calgary Public Library event!