Category Archives: Best Bets

Best Bets 2017

Each year we pick our favourite books that we can’t stop recommending to people. Check out our 2017 list below!

You can also download a BCLA Best Bets 2017 (2).

 

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

This book will make you uncomfortable. It certainly made me uncomfortable. It will make you question the world and yourself. The strength of it lies in the author’s refusal to force a view or opinion on the reader. Greenwood simply tells the story in beautiful language and brings the characters to life so vividly they live in your memory long after you close the book. It is up to the reader to pass judgement, to feel and react.

– Submitted by Ariana Galeano, Richmond Public Library 

 

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Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

The eclectic “Amazing Telemachus Family” is made up of three generations of psychics, telekinetics, and con artists who find themselves facing all sorts of problems- from navigating their powers, to mob bosses, to 1990s AOL chat. Weaving together many storylines, the novel is a hilarious and heartwarming look at love and family. I’d recommend it to anyone who liked Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest and also appreciates a healthy dose of weirdness in their books.

-Submitted by Lindsay Russell, Port Moody Public Library

 

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Rabbit Cake by Annie Harnett

Reminiscent of Where’d You Go Bernadette, this story is written in the voice of 12 year old Elvis Babbitt as she grieves the loss of her mother.  It is a poignant story that is simultaneously achingly sad and utterly hilarious. Highly recommended.

– Submitted by Pat Cumming, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 

 

 

19161852The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

A fantasy novel leagues ahead of others, The Fifth Season is set on a continent under the constant threat of apocalypse via natural disaster. Some people in this world, including the main character, have the gift or curse—depending on how you look at it—of being able to move and control the forces beneath the earth’s surface; in other words, they can stop or cause natural disasters. The world-building is amazingly inventive and complex, the cast is full of complex, fascinating characters (human and sort-of- human), and the plotting is deftly crafted, with a few brilliant twists.

– Submitted by Casey Stepaniuk, UBC SLAIS Student

 

27245980The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

How much is your happiness worth? In this slim novel, Swedish author Karlsson imagines an initiative that calculates the “Experienced Happiness” (E.H.) of each person in the world. Those who have experienced greater than average happiness must pay into a fund which will be redistributed to those who have experienced less happiness. Our protagonist has been assessed with a massive E.H. bill, which vastly exceeds his earnings as a part-time video store employee. This modern parable is gently satirical and thought-provoking.

– Submitted by Tara Matsuzaki, West Vancouver Memorial Library 

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The Bill Hodges Trilogy by Stephen King

While these do each stand on their own, the three of them pack a powerful punch.  King puts his hand to hardboiled detective fiction style with some nice twists that look back at his previous work in horror.  Strong, unique characters and chilling climaxes in all three novels make for a ‘don’t put it down’ kind of read.  Great to have a title that has multiple hooks for our varied library users!

 – Submitted by Thomas Quigley, Retired Librarian in Vancouver

 

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The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing approaches the topic of loneliness in one part memoir and one part art history lesson in these beautifully poignant essays that explore the subject through artists and the city of New York. A thoughtful and relevant work that allows one to examine what it really means to be lonely in an urban landscape and how it’s changed through society and technology in an ever increasing connected world.

-Submitted by Stephanie Hong, Surrey Libraries and Vancouver Public Library

 

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The Heaviness of Things That Float by Jennifer Manuel

Bernadette has spent 40 years as a nurse living on the West Coast of Vancouver Island on the periphery of a remote First Nations reserve. As she faces her retirement and imminent move from the community, she is forced to explore her relationships with the people and place she has grown to deeply love.

 – Submitted by Kristy Hennings, Okanagan Regional Library 

 

25694617His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet

With an unreliable narrator, an intricate structure, and a remote and bleak Scottish highland setting, it’s not surprising that this book was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker. Set in 1869 this novel tells the story of Roderick Macrae who provides the reader with a memoir written while in jail, and plenty of insight into the brutal living conditions that Scottish crofters faced. Was he guilty or insane?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

 Submitted by Shelley Wilson-Roberts, New Westminster Public Library 

 

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On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor

Moor takes a question with what seems like an obvious answer “Where do trails come from?” in the middle of walking the Appalachian trail and brings the reader along with him for a fascinating exploration of history and humanity. A delightful, immersive reading experience and not to be missed.

 – Submitted by Meghan Whyte, Surrey Libraries and Vancouver Public Library 

 

 

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Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran

Politics, feminism, family, and pop culture are examined by Gen X’s columnists Caitlin Moran in Mornanifesto. This book will make you laugh out loud, ponder important issues, and maybe even shock you once or twice. If fiction and non-fiction worlds could merge, Caitlin Moran would be Bridget Jones’ funniest and smartest friend.

-Submitted by Cathy Mount, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 

 

29780253Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Comedian Trevor Noah was born to a black mother and white father in South Africa in 1984, when it was against the law for a mixed-racial couple to have a child together. In his biography, Noah describes growing up in apartheid South Africa, being raised by his strong-willed and resilient mother. His tales are often humorous and the reader gets a glimpse of a child growing up in a very different cultural environment. What is truly unforgettable are the harrowing stories Noah tells about living with the restrictions of apartheid.

– Submitted by Lori Nick, Fraser Valley Regional Library

 

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The Unbroken Machine: Canada`s Democracy in Action by Dale Smith
Dale Smith, a freelance journalist in the the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery, has done us all a tremendous favour with this 100-page primer on Canadian parliamentary democracy. His mastery of the material makes the book engagingly limpid, while the punchy argumentative style will help novices immediately appreciate the principles behind the various parts of our political system (even if they ultimately come to view some issues differently than Smith.) To achieve true accountability, democracy–which encompasses much more than elections–requires a broadly distributed command of the basics of civic literacy.  “The Unbroken Machine” brilliantly deploys the book format to support citizens in performing this function.

-Submitted by Joseph Haigh, New Westminster Public Library

 

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Bad Ideas by Michael Smith

Poetry can seem intimidating, especially if you were scarred by it in english class in high school. But Michael V. Smith’s latest collection of poems, “Bad Ideas” (2017) is very accessible and richly rewarding: reading his poems feels like watching a beautiful rainbow, his words wash over you in waves of colourful emotions – joy, sadness, grief, and humour. His poetry is not weighed down by oblique references or excess verbiage: he speaks plainly and from his personal experience dealing with family trauma, lost loved ones and long-distance friends. Bad Ideas is a great introduction to poetry in the 21st century.

-Submitted by Andrea Davidson, Surrey Libraries

 

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Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First NationsMétis, & Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel

 

A clear, precise, and unflinching series of essays on the diversity of indigenous issues in Canada, from blood quantum to two-spirit to the Sixties Scoop. Chelsea Vowel, a blogger, lawyer, and educator, writes with a sharp, informative, and entertaining voice. Challenge yourself to pick up this accessible and absorbing book.

-Submitted by Chloe Riley, Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Public Library

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Best Bets 2016

Each year we pick our favourite books that we can’t stop recommending to people. Check out our 2016 list below!

You can also download a printable PDF version of the list.

01

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his teenage son, this is a short and very well-written meditation on what it means to be a black man in the US. Powerful, accessible and highly recommended.

– Jenny Fry, Surrey Libraries

 

 

 

02The Pier Falls: And Other Stories
by Mark Haddon

The award-winning British author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has written a collection of nine short stories. I found myself haunted by the characters and stories long after I finished the book. Haddon’s dark tales take the reader to such places as the British seaside, the Amazonian jungle and a tiny, desolate Greek island.  Genres in this book include sci-fi, mystery, adventure and more. The stories are so good…I bet you can’t read just one!

– Lori Nick, Fraser Valley Regional Library

 

03The Library at Mount Char
By Scott Hawkins

Once the Librarians were normal American kids. But after being orphaned they were raised by Father who trained each child in one catalogue of knowledge – languages, healing arts, math and sciences, war, and death. Years later Father has gone missing and the Librarians must find him, or at least resolve who exactly is now in charge. Hawkins tosses you into a deeply strange, complex, and violent fantasy of our world that rewards with a most haunting reading experience.

– Anna Ferri, Vancouver Public Library and West Vancouver Memorial Library 

04Lab Girl
by Hope Jahren

Hope Jahren is a brilliant, hilarious feminist geobiologist. Her exceptional memoir traces her life’s journey thus far, exploring the lab of her scientist father as a child, studying within a male-dominated field, managing mental health breakdowns, enjoying recognition of her research, and reflecting upon marriage and motherhood. At its core, Lab Girl is the tale of her three-decade long intimate working relationship with her eccentric lab partner Bill, her love and admiration of plants, and her scientific vocation.

-Tara Matsuzaki, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 05H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald

This book is impossible to classify. It is memoir, it is nature writing, it is a meditation on family relationships – but it is much more than the sum of its parts and will draw you in. MacDonald’s writing is beautiful and her ability to evoke feelings in the reader makes this book a really powerful experience.

– Shelley Wilson-Roberts, New Westminster Public Library

 

06Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty

Mother warfare on the playground! What more do you want? How about a whodunnit thrown in the mix? This tale of small-town scandal, snobby parents, and murder is a deliciously entertaining read that will have you flipping frantically to get to the final page. And that is no lie!

– Alan Woo,  co-founder of This Book is RAD

 

 

07Captive Prince
by C.S. Pacat

In this high fantasy trilogy, Prince Damen is ousted from his throne and sent as a slave to Prince Laurent, the ruler of an enemy kingdom, where he must hide his true identity to stay alive. A compelling, fast-paced, character-driven narrative of political intrigue, tightly-plotted action, and queer romance. (Note that the first book in particular contains some graphic, dark themes.)

– Chloe Riley, Vancouver Public Library

 

08Dear Mr. You
by Mary-Louise Parker

This book took me for a spin. I’ve always enjoyed Mary-Lousie Parker’s acting roles and sass (Weeds, Angels in America, etc), so I was curious to pick up this book. I devoured this book in one sitting. Through a series of letters to the men who have impacted her life, Parker shares personal narratives that are hilarious, dark, sad, and moving. Her language is evocative and her stories are fascinating, personal, and vulnerable. Highly recommended.

 Meghan Savage, Surrey Libraries

09Humans of New York: Stories
by Brandon Stanton

Based on the blog Humans of New York. Stanton photographs strangers in the Big Apple, but in this sequel, he adds captions, pieces of conversations he had with those people. It is a powerful narrative and a celebration of our shared humanity, regardless of our roots, faiths, social statuses or bank accounts. We’re all human and yearn to belong and to be loved, and this shows so beautifully in Stanton’s images and captions.

– Ana Calabresi, Burnaby Public Library

10My Name is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout

Lucy Barton, recovering in hospital from complications from minor surgery, tells her life story, with particular focus on her relationship with her mother. This is a beautiful, astonishing book which captured me from the first page – I read it almost straight through, captivated by the title character and the story of her life. It’s a life both ordinary and extraordinary. The voice is true and the story she tells moved me and made me consider my own memories. I cannot recommend it too highly.

– Claire Westlake, North Vancouver District Public Library

11A Head Full of Ghosts
by Paul Tremblay

In a desperate attempt to save their daughter, a  down-on-its-luck family agreed to an exorcism on a reality TV show. Tremblay has written a horrifying novel that requires no gore to chill your bones. He pays homage to the familiar possession tales while turning the conventions upside down, leaving us to figure out who is telling the truth.

-Virginia McCreedy, Port Moody Library

 

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Paper Girls, Vol. 1
Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Cliff Chiang

It’s time to join the American Newspaper Delivery Guild and meet the raddest group of newspaper delivering, video game playing, dinosaur fighting, time travelling, 12 year olds girls that 1988 has to offer. Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of hit Image comic Saga, is joined by Cliff Chiang, whose art manages to capture the personalities, emotions, and actions of the characters perfectly. Who knew newspaper delivery girls could be so badass?

– Matthew Murray, creator of the Readers’ Advisory for Library Staff Facebook group

Best Bets 2015

Every year we pick our favourite books that we can’t stop recommending to people. Check them out below!

Download a PDF of this list.

01

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins is the companion novel to Life After Life which features Ursula Todd – as she lives her life over and over again – trying to get things right. A God in Ruins turns its attention to the much-loved Teddy, Ursula’s younger brother. Teddy is recruited as an RAF bomber pilot in the WWII and has accepted the fact he would die during the war. However, when the war is over, and he is still alive, he must adjust to a life he never thought he would live.

-Theresa de Sousa, Richmond Public Library

 

02

The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth

Although I’m half Danish, I don’t know that much about the Nordic/Scandinavian countries, so this book was a light and engaging way to learn a little history, politics, sociology and psychology – along with some entertaining travel stories. The author is a British travel writer who lives with his Danish wife in Denmark. His writing is great: funny, quirky, and enlightening.

-Jenny Fry, Surrey Libraries

 

03The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Melanie loves school, especially when Miss Justineau reads the class Greek myths, but it doesn’t matter that she is smart and inquisitive. Not only is she kept in a cell, restrained in a wheelchair, watched by armed soldiers, she is also going to be dissected soon.

A haunting post-apocalyptic tale with superb world building.

-Virginia McCreedy, Port Moody Library

 

04Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us by Murray Carpenter

This book is a wander through the strange world of caffeine, touching on history, science, commerce, globalization, and politics. It is both an expose and a love story, complex yet still unable to catch the full range of complexities caffeine embodies. This fascinating book is a good, light read for people who like the micro-history format or anyone who is willing to examine their caffeine habit a little bit closer.

-Anna Ferri, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 

05All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure is 12 and blind when Nazis invade Paris. She and her father flee to the walled waterfront city Saint-Malo with a most valuable and dangerous item in their possession. Young orphan Werner grows up in a German orphanage. Skilled at fixing radios, he finds himself tracking the resistance for the Nazis. The war brings him to Saint-Malo where his life and Marie-Laure’s converge. This story was a beautiful, suspenseful, illuminating perspective on WW2.

-Meghan Savage, Surrey Libraries

 

06The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

This dazzling novel centres around twelve sisters in Prohibition-era New York. While their repressive father plots to marry them off, the sisters, led by the eldest, Jo, begin sneaking out to dance in night clubs and speak-easies. An elegant and non-magical retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, this novel is full of emotionally complex relationships, brought to vivid life with Genevieve Valentine’s deft storytelling and lyrical language.

-Chloe Riley, UBC School of Library Archival and Information Studies

 

07

The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson

Perhaps best known for her Moomins books, this volume introduces English readers to the first major collection of Jansson’s short fiction. One of the major themes running through the stories is characters in physical or emotional isolation. This would be a good, representative collection for fans of short-stories and Scandinavian literature.

-Caroline Crowe, Vancouver Public Library

 

 

08

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is the work of a masterful storyteller: thoughtful, witty and irreverent. It is a novel of ideas: race, aspiration, and nationality. It is also a star-crossed love story that wends its way across three continents and three decades. Original and absorbing.

-Tara Matsuzaki, West Vancouver Memorial Library

 

 

09

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A post-apocalyptic literary thriller with beautiful writing, compelling characters, and a stand-out plot. Even if you are sick of dystopian novels, you’ll want to read this.

-Heidi Schiller, North Vancouver City Library

 

 

 

10Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

A quirky, edgy memoir by the creator and star of HBO’s Girls. Dunham examines her life from childhood, dating, and college life to fame and fortune through individual essays that are humourous, dark, and thought provoking.

-Sarah Dearman, Fraser Valley Regional Library

 

 

 

11The Good Luck Right Now by Matthew Quick

This novel tells the story of Bartholomew Neil and his struggle to find meaning after the death of his mother. Written as a series of letters to Richard Gere after Bartholomew finds a “Free Tibet” postcard in his mother’s drawer, this book is quirky, funny and philosophical and makes for a great departure from the ordinary.

-Michelle Whitehead, Greater Victoria Public Library

 

 

12The Martian by Andy Weir

Mark Watney may not have been the first human on Mars, but he might be the last. Left behind when the rest of his team was forced to evacuate, Mark must use all of his ingenuity to stay alive until, or if, help will arrive. Funny, gripping, and you’ll never have wanted more for someone to succeed in their attempts to grow potatoes.

-Matthew Murray, UBC School of Library Archival and information Studies

 

13The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston

A powerful, sweeping novel with unforgettable characters that tells the story of Newfoundland’s first premier. Don’t let the subject fool you – Joey Smallwood and Sheilagh Fielding will stay with you long after you finish the book – which is just as rewarding a read the second time around.

-Shelley Wilson-Roberts, New Westminster Public Library