by: ZINC Staffers
Looking for some good holiday reading? OR, simply wondering which books the ZINC team couldn’t put down this year? We’re sharing a shortlist of some of our favourite literary discoveries from 2019, in both fiction and non-fiction.
As a group of book-lovers and devoted readers, it was difficult to narrow the list – and to keep our praise short. But, six have made the cut, and we think there’s a little something for everyone on this year’s list.
LINCOLN IN THE BARDO BY GEORGE SAUNDERS: COLLEEN’S PICK
This book is unlike anything I’ve tried reading before – which makes it a little tricky but so interesting. Basic premise? Abraham Lincoln’s son (Willie) dies while his father is President and nearing the peak of the civil war (true story). Willie ends up stuck in the “bardo” – a transitional space between death and the afterlife – with a ragtag group of ghosts who don’t really understand that they’re dead but know that the boy shouldn’t be there. The story blends non-fiction with a script of fantastic characters to tell a story that’s moving and will leave you thinking about what happens ‘next’ for all of us. Warning – there are some disturbing images in there too, but if you can stomach that, I highly recommend!
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE BY GAIL HONEYMAN: DANA’S PICK
This novel was my book club’s pick for September and was more than a pleasant surprise. While not something I’d usually reach for on the shelf (autobiographies and memoirs are my go-to), it’s one I’ve been recommending to everyone. In this story, Eleanor, a quirky woman who lives a routine-filled life void of any social interactions, takes an unexpected journey, ultimately finding love, friendship and her cat, Glen. If you’re looking for a read that is warm, uplifting and will unexpectedly make you laugh then this is the book for you.
SON OF A TRICKSTER BY EDEN ROBINSON: COLLEEN’S PICK
Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson is a beautifully moving read, so when I heard she was starting a trilogy I couldn’t wait to dive in. Son of a Trickster is the first in the series about Jared, a young First Nations man who in the midst of family instability and facing a range of drug, alcohol and violence pressures, learns that he is one of the sons of Wee’git, the trickster figure that appears in Indigenous mythologies. This story is both very real about some of the challenges young people and First Nations people face, while also being completely fantastic, with witches and talking otters and much, much more.
THE MEASURE OF MY POWERS: A MEMOIR OF FOOD, MISERY AND PARIS BY JACKIE KAI ELLIS: MARCI’S PICK
I’m always impressed and somewhat suspicious when someone writes a memoir early in life. I figure it must take a lot of confidence or ego to pull it off, especially if the person hasn’t faced extreme hardship or wild public notoriety. Is baking the perfect croissant for your bakery in Vancouver a struggle? Amazingly yes, and in reading about Kai Elli’s other challenges—alongside the recipes for the dishes and baked goods that mark tough periods in her life—I felt like I was peeking into another woman’s world. Her honesty was astonishing and kept me reading through the night. As did the fact that a lot of the book takes place in Paris and involves chocolate. 🙂
BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR BY ELIZABETH GILBERT: MARCI’S PICK
You can always tell how much a non-fiction book has moved me by glancing to see how many pages I’ve turned down at the corners. (Yes, I am a dog-earer of books. But only my own copies.) This practical yet hilarious book of creative advice from the bestselling writer of “Eat Pray Love” explodes some of the beliefs that keep us from trying new things – whether writing, dance, painting, or any creative pursuit. I loved her view on perfectionism as “just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified.” Great reading for those of you thinking about starting a novel—or any creative project of your own—in the new year.
A HIGHER LOYALTY BY JAMES COMEY: COLLEEN’S PICK
It’s not exactly poolside reading, but I picked this book up off a side-table while on vacation (too lazy to go up to my room to pick up my other book) and couldn’t put it down. If you think this is just a Trump tell-all, it’s not (though there’s a good dose of that). I had no idea what a critical part James Comey- former FBI Director – had played in many big news stories I’ve followed over the years – including the prosecutions of crime boss John Gambino and insider-trading Martha Stewart – let alone the Hilary emails and Russian-video of President Trump. Maybe it’s the ex-journalist in me but getting to hear these stories told from his perspective was so interesting. News nerds will like this one.
What do you ZINC about our 2019 reads? Have suggestions for books we should read in 2020? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.