Over the last month, I have appreciated more than ever the way a good book can make everything going on around you recede into the background. I love a book that immerses me so deeply that I miss the characters when I’m not reading it. And that’s part of why I love the CBC Canada Reads theme this year: One Book to Transport Us. So far I have only read one of the finalists, but it did the job!
Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots tells the story of a temp who does administrative work for supervillains. When she gets caught up as collateral damage of a superhero’s heroics, she works to expose how destructive superheroes actually are. This book is well outside the norm of what I typically read, but Walschots created a relatable and likeable character within a well-formed and interesting world. And the ending was not what I expected. This was an enjoyable read.
Another book that transported me in February was our Busy People Book Club pick: The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. This was a lovely, light read that made me want to re-read some of my favourite Jane Austen titles and set me on to some Jane Austen biographies.
I tried a new murder mystery series this month: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes. Set in 1920s London, the story follows a young woman trying to make a life of her own, caught up in a murder investigation. The story is a fictionalized telling of a real unsolved murder and features a fictionalized depiction of the well-known Mitford family. This read was enjoyable, but the denouement was unsatisfactory. I was left with more than one question unanswered at the end, and I think the writer and editor dropped the ball a bit on this one.
I enjoy a good short story collection, and am always amazed when a writer can enthrall me in just a few pages so that I feel invested in the characters. Jack Wang achieved this in his collection We Two Alone. The stories are set in different times and locales, but they are drawn together by their common theme of the Chinese immigrant experience. If you don’t have the energy for a novel right now, short stories might be a great choice for you.
Another way to be transported without investing a lot of mental energy is to read books geared to a younger audience. I recently read Cleo Porter and the Body Electric by Jake Burt. It’s a pandemic story, but the first draft was completed back in 2018. A girl grows up with her parents in a self-contained unit designed to protect from a deadly and mutating virus. Her only connection to the outside world is virtual. One day, though, something happens that prompts Cleo to find a way out into the unknown. This was a delightful read with an endearing main character, even if the plot hits a bit close to home.
My non-fiction this month was a dose of reality with President Obama’s first presidential memoir, A Promised Land. Full disclosure: I was only able to listen to 27 of the 30 hours of his book before it was returned on me. He offers an interesting look at newsworthy events of his presidency from the inside, notably the 2008 financial crisis. His book is far less personal than Michelle Obama’s fabulous memoir, but it does a great job of illuminating how government actually works, or doesn’t.
And this week I woke up to news that Louise Penny, one of my favourite authors, is co-writing a book with Hillary Clinton. It’s not available in the catalogue yet, but State of Terror will be published in October.
What books have transported you through these winter months? Are there any that you are eager to get your hands on? We would love to hear your recommendations.
And if you are looking for more distractions, watch for our slate of Spring Programming ready to be released shortly. And consider joining our Pen Pal program. It’s a great time to make a connection and learn someone else’s story.
We hope to welcome you back into the library space before Spring hits, but in the meantime, please feel free to call or email if there is anything we can do for you.