January 2021 Staff Picks

Updated 2021/01/19

Brenda’s Pick: The smallest lights in the universe by Sara Seager

Cover image for The smallest lights in the universe : a memoirToronto-born author/astrophysicist, Sara Seager was recently named an officer of the Order of Canada for her research and study of extra solar planets. Her engaging memoir is such a mix of highs and lows from her love and fascination with the stars and planets to deeply personal stories of marriage, family and grief. She transitions from discovering an exoplanet to managing a household and two young sons with help from a group of women called The Widows of Concord. A very engaging book…

David’s Pick: Red Pill by Hari Kunzru

Cover image for Red pill : a novelThis book is a good accompaniment to the chaos and uncertainty of recent years, especially south of the border. A strange and unsettling tale of surveillance, alt-right activism, authoritarianism, propaganda, and the weight of the past; a tale of absurdity told in a very straightforward manner. The Zeitgeist is strong in this one.

 David’s Pick: Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema (2020) by Lindy West

Cover image for Shit, actually : the definitive, 100% objective guide to modern cinemaSometimes, especially lately, you just want to read something cheeky, irreverent, deliberately mindless, and funny. Lindy West’s revisionist film reviews of mostly big-budget films of the last several decades are flippant, rude, beside the point, and devastating. The eponymous trashing of Love, Actually will leave you unable to think of that film the same way ever again (unless, like many, you already hated it).

 David’s Pick: Uncut Gems by Josh & Benny Safdie (DVD)

Cover image for Uncut gems [videorecording]Not for the faint of heart, this stress-inducing nightmare stars Adam Sandler as a jewel merchant with a bad gambling habit whose attempts to clear his debts end up dragging him further into the criminal underworld. The directing is designed to ramp up the tension; Sandler’s performance is fantastic; everything about the film is calculated to get your adrenaline going and not let up.

Jayme’s Pick: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Cover image for The secret life of beesThe Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily decides to spring them both free. They escape to Tiburon, South Carolina–a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey, and the Black Madonna. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power, a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.

Jayme’s Pick: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

Cover image for The invisible life of Addie LaRueAddie is a girl who wants to be more than she is, so she makes a deal with the kind of devil whose deals are always worse than they seem. For centuries she exists in a lonely purgatory, blessed with immortality and cursed to be forgotten—until the day she meets a boy who remembers her.   See how that story echoes? See how it rings all those old bells? Crossroads at midnight and gods that come out after dark, doomed lovers and deals with devils. But Addie LaRue isn’t a retelling or a reinvention, although it feels faintly familiar. It’s a new story.

Or maybe a very old one that we all—somehow—forgot.

Jayme’s Pick: Where the world ends by by Geraldine McCaughrean

Cover image for Where the world endsBased on a real event, this is a story that sings to the soul. It belongs—in shoals—in every school and library. By the glimmer of a fulmar lamp, it gives a rare insight into the hardship of ordinary lives in the early 1700s. Off the coast of Scotland, a boatload of boys and three men are dropped on a remote sea stac. They are fowlers. Their job is to climb the sheer cliffs and hunt birds. The work is unimaginably risky and hard. For 15 hours a day, all are busy: netting, strangling, plucking, storing bird oil in the stomachs of gannets, mending horsehair ropes. The boys are so tired they sleep as they pause on ledges and have to be woken before they fall to their deaths. But it’s only for three weeks. Except… their boat does not return. 

Jayme’s Pick: When you reach me by Rebecca Stead

Cover image for When you reach meRebecca Stead’s “When You Reach Me” is positively elegant.  But don’t be deceived: In this taut novel, every word, every sentence, has meaning and substance.  A hybrid of genres, it is a complex mystery, a work of historical fiction, a school story and one of friendship, with a recurring theme of time travel running through it.  Most of all the novel is a thrilling puzzle.  Stead piles up clues on the way to a moment of intense drama, after which it is pretty much impossible to stop reading until the last page.

Jessica’s Pick: The SoBo Cookbook: Recipes from the Tofino Restaurant at the end of the Canadian Road by Lisa Ahier

Cover image for The SoBo cookbook : recipes from the Tofino restaurant at the end of the Canadian roadSoBo started out as a food truck and everyone asked Ahier to make a chowder; she was resistant because she felt “everyone and their brother in Tofino made a clam chowder.” She eventually gave in and created her smoked salmon chowder; it was the first recipe I made out of her cookbook and after one bite I knew that The Sobo Cookbook would become one of my favourite cookbooks. The recipes follow the seasons and are easy to make. In November 2020, Ahier went on Dragon’s Den and made a pitch for starting a frozen chowder company, revealing that the smoked salmon chowder now counts for 10% of her business. Ahier’s pitch was successful, and she accepted an offer from Arlene Dickinson for a stake in the chowder company and SoBo.

Natalie’s Pick: Far From the Madding Crowd (DVD) Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Based on the Thomas Hardy novel, the 2015 film version of this Victorian classic is stunning! Carey Mulligan is the independent Ms. Everdene and Matthias Schoenaerts is the swoon-worthy sheep farmer, Gabriel Oak who quietly bides his time. The costumes, soundtrack and rugged rural setting will have you wishing that the film never ends.