We’ve got an eclectic new bunch of books at Backbeat! Which one are you most looking forward to reading? I’m currently reading – and thoroughly enjoying – Daydreams of Angels by the one and only Heather O’Neill. But as soon as that one’s done, it will be hard choice between these other ones…luckily having a too-long to-read list isn’t the worst problem in the world to have.
– “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own” by Kate Bolick
“Whom to marry, and when will it happen—these two questions define every woman’s existence.” So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single. Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.
This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless—the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.
Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is both an unreservedly inquisitive memoir and a broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities within ourselves to live authentically. Bolick offers us a way back into our own lives—a chance to see those splendid years when we were young and unencumbered, or middle-aged and finally left to our own devices, for what they really are: unbounded and our own to savor.
– “The Great & Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms” by Ian Thornton
Ian Thornton’s remarkable debut novel, now in paperback, is a wild, rollicking novel on chance, friendship, love, regret, and the entire history of the twentieth century.
Johan Thoms is poised for greatness. A promising student at the University of Sarajevo, he is young, brilliant, and in love with the beautiful Lorelei Ribeiro. He can outwit chess masters, quote the Kama Sutra, and converse with dukes and drunkards alike. But he cannot drive a car in reverse. And as with so much in the life of Johan Thoms, this seemingly insignificant detail will prove to be much more than it appears. On the morning of June 28, 1914, Johan takes his place as the chauffeur to Franz Ferdinand and the Royal entourage, and with one wrong turn, he forever alters the course of history.
Blaming himself for the deaths of the Archduke and his wife, Johan hastens from the scene, and for once his inspired mind cannot process what to do next. Guilt-ridden, he flees Sarajevo, abandoning his friends, family, and beloved in the fear that he has caused them irreparable grievance. He watches in horror as the Great War unfolds, every death settling squarely on Johan’s conscience. Turning his back on his old life, Johan does his best to fade out of memory.
But the world has other plans for Johan Thoms. As each passing year burdens Johan with further guilt for his inaction, he seeks solace in his writing and in the makeshift family he has assembled around himself. With everyone from emperors to hooligans at his side, and pursued by the ever-determined Lorelei, Johan winds his way through Europe and the Twentieth Century, leaving his indelible mark on both.
– “Horrorstor” by Grady Hendrix
Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör comes packaged in the form of a glossy mail order catalog, complete with product illustrations, a home delivery order form, and a map of Orsk’s labyrinthine showroom.
– “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” by Lynn Crosbie
Lynn Crosbie’s new novel is a fantastical love story about a teenage girl who embarks on a relationship with the dead spirit of Kurt Cobain.
Evelyn Gray is a miserable sixteen-year-old girl from Carnation, Washington, who is in love with Kurt Cobain. When Evelyn is taken to the hospital after a drug overdose, Cobain’s spirit reanimates itself in the body of a young man who is convalescing in the bed next to her.
Evelyn and the man — now named Celine Black — escape the hospital and run off together, determined to become famous. They find the musical success they seek, but despite their mutual devotion, they are tormented by their passion and jealousy. As their fame grows, their relationship becomes more excessive and an episode of sexual violence explodes into a shocking murder.
This is a highly original work of haute fan fiction, written in Crosbie’s poetic and emotionally evocative prose.
– “Between” by Angie Abdou
Vero and her husband Shane have moved out of the sweet suite above his parents’ garage and found themselves smack in the middle of adulthood―two kids, two cars, two jobs. They are not coping well. In response to their looming domestic breakdown, Vero and Shane get live-in help with their sons―a woman from the Philippines named Ligaya (which means happiness), whom the boys call LiLi. Vero justifies LiLi’s role in their home by insisting that she is part of their family, and she goes to great lengths in order to ease her conscience. But differences persist; Vero grapples with her overextended role as a mother and struggles to keep her marriage passionate, while LiLi silently bears the burden of a secret she left behind at home.
Between offers readers an intriguing, searing portrait of two women from two different cultures. At the same time, it satirizes contemporary love, marriage, and parenthood by exposing the sense of entitlement and superiority at the heart of upper-middle-class North American existence through a ubiquitous presence in it: the foreign nanny. Angie Abdou comically and tragically tackles the issue of international nannies by providing a window on motherhood where it is tangled up with class, career, labour, and desire.
– “My Body is Yours” by Michael V. Smith
Michael V. Smith is a multi-talented force of nature: a novelist, poet, improv comic, filmmaker, drag queen, performance artist, and occasional clown. In this, his first work of nonfiction, Michael traces his early years as an inadequate male—a fey kid growing up in a small town amid a blue-collar family; a sissy; an insecure teenager desperate to disappear; and an obsessive writer-performer, drawn to compulsions of alcohol, sex, reading, spending, work, and art as many means to cope and heal.
Drawing on his work as an artist whose work focuses on our preconceived notions about the body, this disarming and intriguing memoir questions what it means to be human. Michael asks: How can we know what a man is? How might understanding gender as metaphor be a tool for a deeper understanding of identity? In coming to terms with his past failures at masculinity, Michael offers a new way of thinking about breaking out of gender norms, and breaking free of a hurtful past.
– “God Loves Hair” by Vivek Shraya
God Loves Hair is a collection of 20 short stories following a tender, intellectual, and curious child as he navigates complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging.
Told with the poignant insight and honesty that only the voice of a young mind can convey, each story is accompanied by a vivid illustration by Toronto artist Juliana Neufeld.
– “Lost Boi” by Sassafras Lowrey
In Sassafras Lowrey’s gorgeous queer punk reimagining of the classic Peter Pan story, prepare to be swept overboard into a world of orphaned, abandoned, and runaway bois who have sworn allegiance and service to Pan, the fearless leader of the Lost Bois brigade and the newly corrupted Mommy Wendi who, along with the tomboy John Michael, Pan convinces to join him at Neverland.
Told from the point of view of Tootles, Pan’s best boi, the lost bois call the Neverland squat home, creating their own idea of family, and united in their allegiance to Pan, the boi who cannot be broken, and their refusal to join ranks with Hook and the leather pirates. Like a fever-pitched dream, Lost Boi situates a children’s fantasy within a subversive alternative reality, chronicling the lost bois’ search for belonging, purpose, and their struggle against the biggest battle of all: growing up.
– “Anatomy of a Girl Gang” by Ashley Little
A sharp and gritty novel told in multiple voices, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is the powerful story of a gang of teenage girls in Vancouver called the Black Roses, a.k.a. “the city’s worst nightmare”: Mac, the self-appointed leader and mastermind; Mercy, the Punjabi princess with a skill for theft; Kayos, a high-school dropout who gave birth to a daughter at age thirteen; Sly Girl, who fled her First Nations reserve for a better life, only to find depravity and addiction; and Z, a sixteen-year-old anti-establishment graffiti artist.
Cast out by mainstream society, the five girls lash out: they terrorize Vancouver with a raw, restless urgency, setting fire to the world around them to try to erase their painful pasts. As the Black Roses, they rob ATMs, cook crack on stoves, and savagely beat anyone who dares to harm them. Brutal and broken, they claw at the knot of darkness and violence that tightens around their lives.
Told in stark, vivid, and fearless prose, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is a narrative punch to the throat, a screaming, spray-painted portrait of urban gang culture: an unflinching story about lost girls struggling for power, voice and hope.
– “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo
This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.
Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).
With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
– “Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book” by Johanna Basford
This stunning new colouring book by Johanna Basford takes readers on a inky quest through an enchanted forest to discover what lies in the castle at its heart. As well as drawings to complete, colour and embellish, there are hidden objects to be found along the way including wild flowers, animals and birds, maps, lanterns, keys and treasure chests. Beginning at the entrance to the forest, the journey progresses through woodland, rocky caves and tree-lined mazes, over streams and a waterfall, across the trees tops, to finally reach the castle.
Also hidden throughout the book are eight symbols. Readers must find all the symbols to solve the colouring puzzle on a pull-out poster at the end of the book.
– “The Strange Library” by Haruki Murakami
From internationally acclaimed author Haruki Murakami–a fantastical illustrated short novel about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library. A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, bestselling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination.
– “Daydreams of Angels” by Heather O’Neill
The fantastic has always been at the edges of Heather O’Neill’s work. In her bestselling novels Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, she transformed the shabbiest streets of Montreal with her beautiful, freewheeling metaphors. She described the smallest of things-a stray cat or a second-hand coat-with an intensity that made them otherworldly.
In Daydreams of Angels, O’Neill’s first collection of short stories, she gives free reign to her imaginative gifts. In “The Ugly Ducklings,” generations of Nureyev clones live out their lives in a grand Soviet experiment. In “Dear Piglet,” a teenaged cult follower writes a letter to explain the motivation behind her crime. And in another tale, a grandmother reveals where babies come from: the beach, where young mothers-to-be hunt for infants in the surf. Each of these beguiling stories twists the beloved narratives of childhood-fairy tales, storybooks, Bible stories-to uncover the deepest truths of family life.
– “The Snow Angel” by Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham’s luminous novel begins with a vision. It’s November 2004. Barrett Meeks, having lost love yet again, is walking through Central Park when he is inspired to look up at the sky; there he sees a pale, translucent light that seems to regard him in a distinctly godlike way. Barrett doesn’t believe in visions—or in God—but he can’t deny what he’s seen.
At the same time, in the not-quite-gentrified Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, Tyler, Barrett’s older brother, a struggling musician, is trying—and failing—to write a wedding song for Beth, his wife-to-be, who is seriously ill. Tyler is determined to write a song that will not be merely a sentimental ballad but an enduring expression of love.
Barrett, haunted by the light, turns unexpectedly to religion. Tyler grows increasingly convinced that only drugs can release his creative powers. Beth tries to face mortality with as much courage as she can summon.
Cunningham follows the Meeks brothers as each travels down a different path in his search for transcendence. In subtle, lucid prose, he demonstrates a profound empathy for his conflicted characters and a singular understanding of what lies at the core of the human soul. The Snow Queen, beautiful and heartbreaking, comic and tragic, proves again that Cunningham is one of the great novelists of his generation.
– “Dorothy Must Die” by Danielle Paige
I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?
Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy.
They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.
I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I’ve been trained to fight.
And I have a mission.
– “Flee, Fly, Flown” by Janet Hepburn
When Lillian and Audrey hatch a plot to escape from Tranquil Meadows Nursing Home, “borrow” a car, and spend their hastily planned vacation time driving to destinations west, they aren’t fully aware of the challenges they will face. All they know is that the warm days of August call to them, and the need to escape the daily routines and humiliations of nursing home life has become overwhelming. Flushed with the success of their escape plan, they set out on their journey having forgotten that their memory problems might make driving and following directions difficult. Their trip is almost over before it begins, until they meet up with the unsuspecting Rayne, a young man also heading west in hope of reconciling with his family. As Lillian and Audrey try to take back the control that time and dementia has taken from them, Rayne realizes the truth of their situation. But it’s too late – he has fallen under the spell of these two funny, brave women and is willing to be a part of their adventure, wherever it leads them.