Winter is the beach season for the mind. The time you flex your mental faculties to impress the bookish honeys with their dark framed glasses, MFAs, and discreet punctuation tattoos. But, that means you have to lift, bro. Literally, because a lot of the books you should have read this year are legitimate tomes. You can pick up the lightweight, Lee Child burner again when the sun comes out. Right now, it’s time to get huge, literarily speaking.
The Bench Presses
Go big or go home.
Capital in the Twenty First Century, Thomas Piketty [Harvard Press]
A book on economics that became a barnburning bestseller. It’s either a sign of the confusing economic times we live in or a literary example of FOMO. Sales breed sales. Either way the thesis of this book—that when capital increase outpaces economic growth the result is a kind of modern-day serfdom—is both incredibly prescient and depressing.
This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein [Random House]
Is a book about the effect that climate change will have on democracy written by someone like Naomi Klein an exercise in preaching to the converted? Most definitely. But that doesn’t make her complete overhaul of What We Need To Do To Mitigate catastrophe any less essential.
Rise to Greatness: The History of Canada From the Vikings to the Present, Conrad Black [Random House]
See, just because he gave up his Canadian citizenship, and spent his first post-prison book celebrating the miracle that is the United States, doesn’t mean the controversial media icon doesn’t love his home and native land. Eloquent, engaging, and—at over 1,100 pages—exhaustive.
To get your cold heart beating.
Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle[HarperCollins]
Darnielle, leader of the indie band The Mountain Goats, has been called the best (non-hip hop) lyricist working. And while it’s never guaranteed that a songwriter will make a good novelist, this time the shoe fits perfectly. Wolf in White Van, about a disfigured young man who has created a write-in role playing game, is a haunting, smart, puzzle of a novel that’s full of lyrical grace
J, Howard Jacobson [Hamish Hamilton]
God bless the literary dystopia: full-throated warnings that few people heed any more, but somehow still urgent. This, a love story of sorts, set in a future Europe, where something happened long before the book began that changed speech, memory, everything, is the kind of work that is worthy of the inevitable comparisons to Orwell, only with more jokes.
Punishment, Linden MacIntyre [Random House]
Consider: MacIntyre is Canada’s Richard Ford or Raymond Chandler. Not in form or style, maybe, but in the way he chronicles imperfect realism, with grit, honesty and flashes of violence and beauty. Punishment, a small town story of revenge and justice, is a perfect example.
Because, sure, mostly they’re for women, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them
Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham [Doubleday Canada]
Because you actually love Girls, and you’re pretty sure Dunham is the best heir to Nora Ephron’s wisdom, pathos and humour. And in that you’re right.
Yes Please, Amy Poehler [HarperCollins]
Like Tina Fey’s BossyPants, only with more edge and less apology. We suspect there isn’t a man alive who isn’t in equally frightened by and in love with Amy Poehler.