Island, by Alistair MacLeod
The best writer in Canada. A series of his best short stories, all of which are about Cape Breton Island. The beauty and brutality of life are superimposed in a set of incredibly memorable stories.
River Thieves, by Michael Crummey
A novel about the early contact between Newfoundlanders and the Beothuk aboriginals at the turn of the 19th Century.
The Last Crossing, by Guy Vanderhaeghe
A fabulous novel about the Canadian West in the latter part of the 1800s.
According to Queenie, by Beryl Bainbridge
A historical novel about the later life of Samuel Johnson.
Personal Injuries, by Scott Turow
A fast-paced novel about a crooked lawyer who is forced to work undercover for the FBI.
Family Matters, by Rohinton Mistry
A novel about life in Bombay and the trials of a family caring for an elderly parent.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland
The fictional account of lives and relationships associated with a Vermeer painting -- reads like a mystery story.
The Last Amateurs, by John Feinstein
A documentary account of a year in the life of college basketball players in the Patriot Conference, one of the few NCAA Division I conferences where student athletes really are student athletes.
A Long Finish, by Michael Dibdin
A detective novel featuring Aurelio Zen, an Italian homicide investigator who looks into the murder of the owner of a large vineyard. A great read for those who love wine.
My Dog Skip, by Willie Morris
Goose's personal all-time favorite and her nominee for the Purina Prize in dog-lit. A beautiful little book about growing up with a dog with personality (although not quite as much personality as Goose!).
Bel Canto: A Novel, by Ann Patchett
A novel about hostages and opera. A Peruvian revolutionary cadre takes control of the Vice-President's mansion in the midst of an opera recital for international guests. The hostage-taking becomes a long-term stand-off. Over time, love stories emerge among hostages, among terrorists and between hostages and revolutionaries. Then, it ends........ very funny, very sad.
Absolute Friends, by John Le Carre
A panoramic account of espionage from the 1960s to the present. Ted and Sasha are student activists in Germany whose lives are transformed by this experience and by the manipulations of their spymasters.
The Master, by Colm Toibin
A fictionalized account of the life of Henry James. One of the best-written novels of the 21st Century.
Saturday, by Ian McEwan
Henry Perowne is a British neurosurgeon whose Saturday begins with watching a jet liner go down. Things become even more interesting as the day progresses. Absolutely riveting -- his best yet.
The Big Why, by Michael Winter
Rockwell Kent, a New York painter, moves to an outport in Newfoundland in the 1920s. Go figure!
Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden
Xavier Bird and Elijah Whiskeyjack are Oji Cree who volunteer to serve in World War I. The story is their descent into the hell of trench warfare and their aunt's life back home near Moose Factory. Not for the squeamish.
No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
In southwest Texas, an antelope hunter discovers the aftermath of a gunfight among dope dealers and a suitcase full of cash. Life is never the same for him or the Texas sheriff who investigates the ensuing mayhem.
Only Say the Word, by Niall Williams
A novel within a novel about a young man who grows up in Ireland to become a poet and writer, husband and father. One of the most beautifully crafted and handsomely written books in recent years.
The Time In Between, by David Bergen
A young woman travels to Viet Nam to find her father, a veteran of the war, who has disappeared somewhere in the country.
A Good Night to Go to China, by David Gilmour
A father leaves his young son asleep at home to visit a neighborhood bar. When he returns, the child has disappeared. The story follows the father's attempt to find the child and his coming to terms with the loss.
The Dog and I, by Roy MacGregor
A series of stories about Globe and Mail columnist Roy MacGregor's five dogs that he has had over his lifetime.
The Deafening, by Frances Itani
Grania is a young woman growing up in rural Ontario just before World War I. The novel tells of her life as a deaf child and her life during WWI while her husband, Jim, serves as a stretcher bearer in Europe during the bloodiest part of the war.
Mission Song, by John Le Carre
A Congolese translator living in England is hired to translate at a meeting among warlords, mercenaries, and functionaries. It's all about the moral muck of foreign intervention. A great, fast read!
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
Didion's account of her life after the sudden death of her husband. She has the rare ability to cut through to the heart of the matter.
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwen
A brief account of a young English couple's wedding night. McEwen conveys a sense of the times (the 1960s) and the experience of two young people who are in many ways mismatched.
Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje
An account of two women's lives after an incredibly traumatic experience in Northern California. One woman goes to Reno; the other to France. Their lives divide in interesting ways. As in his previous novels, Ondaatje's prose is wonderful -- the story line, however, is less accessible than in his other books.
A Spot of Bother, by Mark Haddon
George Hall believes his eczema is cancer. His wife is having an affair with a former co-worker. His daughter is marrying a man that no one likes. His son, Jamie, believes that his parents are unable to accept that he's gay. The result is a remarkably funny novel about an unremarkable family. Haddon's previous novel was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Heat, by Bill Buford
Buford, former fiction editor of The New Yorker, spends a year working up from "kitchen bitch" to grill chef at Mario Batali's Babbo Restaurant in NYC. Great insights into high-end restaurants, chefs with big egos, and the passion of gourmet cooking.
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
Surely, one of the grimmest reads ever. A man and his young son appear to be among only a very few survivors of a nation-wide holocaust. They are heading south to avoid freezing in winter. In this post-apocalyptic world, the relationship between father and son is stunning.
Life Class, by Pat Barker
A novel about a group of young painters coming to grips with war in 1914 in England.
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
A wonderful novel about an old emigre who has written a novel as a 20 year-old. The novel is lost and resurfaces -- it also connects other love stories back to the original story line. Beautifully written scenes of heartbreak.
Mister Pip, by Lloyd Evans
On a South Pacific island, civil war breaks out. The children of the island are left without teachers. The only remaining European (actually, a New Zealander, as we learn) is an eccentic older man nicknamed Pop Eye. He takes over the school and reads Great Expectations to the children. What emerges is remarkable.
Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden
The second of a projected trilogy of books about a Cree family. Two interconnected stories of an older bush pilot, Will Bird, and his nieces, Annie and Suzanne. A mystery story as well as an account of the intersection of two cultures. The plot is a bit unbelievable but the writing is superb. Winner of the 2008 Giller Prize.
The Gathering, by Ann Enright
In Ireland, A woman attends the wake for her brother who apparently has committed suicide. Her large family is there and the description of her brothers and sisters is simultaneously hilarious, poignant, and brutal.
A Most Wanted Man, by John Le Carre
A young man, apparently Arab, appears in Hamburg and comes to the attention of the counter-terrorist apparatus in Germany. Who is he and why is he meeting with a British banker? Things are never as they seem in Le Carre's novels. Perhaps Le Carre's best book since Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
A Map of Glass, by Jane Urquhart
The intersection of two stories -- one in contemporary Toronto in which a woman, Sylvia, leaves her husband for another man, Andrew. The other is a historical account of the ancestors of an artist, Jerome, who finds Andrw's body on a small island in the St. Lawrence River.
The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst
Social satire about the Thatcher years in Britain. Sex, class and money and the Conservative Party! Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize.
Late Nights on Air, by Elizabeth Hay
A novel about the staff of the CBC radio station in Yellowknife. If you're a CBC Radio devotee, you will love this. Makes you love the Far North, too.
Limitations, by Scott Turow
A compact story about the limitations of justice. Scott Turow always writes intriguing mysteries.
The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud
Life among the chattering class in NYC. Filled with very funny vignettes ending with the realization there may be less than meets the eye among the intelligentsia. Arguably the best novel of the year.
The Retreat, by David Bergen
A family from Calgary summers at a commune-like retreat near Kenora. Their eldest daughter becomes involve with a young Aboriginal man. Conflict ensues.
Yesterday's Weather, by Anne Enright
A series of short stories by the acclaimed Irish writer and winner of the Man Booker prize for The Gathering. These are edgy stories with a bite -- read a few at a time.
Consolation, by Michael Redhill
A novel that transcends centuries from 21st C Toronto to its beginnings in the mid-1800s. An incredibly touching story about life in early Toronto and our attempts to understand it historically. Best book I've read in two years.
Fantasyland, by Sam Walker
If you are a baseball fan, you will love this account of Sam Walker's involvement in an elite Rotisserie League baseball tournament. It's hysterically funny.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsen
A very good murder mystery with fascinating characters. The story line is a bit farfetched, but the characters are unforgettable.
Now I Can Die in Peace, by Bill Simmons
The funniest baseball book around. Simmons is outrageously funny in describing the year that his beloved Bosox shattered the "Curse of the Bambino."
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Fabulous historical novel about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn. Very witty and full of interesting historical tidbits. Man Booker Prize winner -- a great read.
Martin Sloane, by Michael Redhill
Jolene Iolas, a college student falls in love with a 50-ish artist, Martin Sloane. IN the midst of a seemingly intense love affair, Martin disappears. Confusion and mystery ensue.
The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsen
A sequel to his first book with many of the same characters. Much more riveting than his first book. Murders galore!
Our Kind of Traitor, by John Le Carre
A young British couple encounters a Russian expatriate on a Caribbean holiday. They are drawn into assisting the Russian, a high-level money launderer, in protecting him and his family from the Russian oligarchy.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsen
The third and final novel in the series. Everyone gets their just deserts in a rambling, somewhat dull conclusion to the trilogy.
Solar, by Ian McEwen
A Nobel prize-winning physicist gone amok. At times this is hysterically funny and at times a bit frightening.
By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham
By the author of The Hours -- a very clever plot and a book that is evocative of New York City. Art dealer Peter finds himself falling in love with his wife's younger brother.
A Place of Greater Safety, Hillary Mantel
By the Man Booker winner -- this is an earlier book that fictionalizes the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. The characterizations of Robespierre, Danton, and Desmoulins are wonderful -- couldn't put it down!
Three Stations, by Martin Cruz Smith
The seventh in the Arkady Renko series. Great images of modern day life in Moscow -- the story line is a little stretched for credibility but a good mystery nonetheless.
February, by Lisa Moore
Fictional portrait of a woman whose husband dies in the Ocean Ranger tragedy off the coast of Newfoundland and her subsequent life with four children. Sometimes tragic -- often hysterically funny.
Can I Keep My Jersey?, by Paul Shirley
Hilarious account of a marginal NBA player bouncing through the NBA, CBA, and assorted teams in Greece, Spain, Poland, and Russia. You'll laugh out loud.
Cat's Table, by Michael Ondaatje
A cast of interesting (and sometimes disreputable) characters travel by ship from India to London. The passengers include three boys who roam the ship, learn the secrets of the passengers, and later on meet again as adults. A terrific read!
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
2011 Booker Prize Winner. Tony and his friends meet Adrian in school. Later on, life events challenge Tony to reconsider the past. A very amusing, intelligent (and short) novel. Things were never as they seemed.
Life, by Keith Richards
Now we know how Keith Richards survived decades of debauchery!
Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff
A remarkably accessible biography of the last great ruler of the Egypt. Cleopatra's affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and her remarkable success in ruling Egypt make for interesting reading. This is history at its best: wonderful descriptions of Rome and Alexandria. Interesting speculations about Cleopatra's motivations throughout her life.
A Good Man, by Guy Vanderhaeghe
The last book in the trilogy about historical events in the 1980s in western Canada. Wesley Case leaves the Northwest Mounted Police to ranch in Montana. He becomes witness to Sitting Bull's journey to Canada after the Little Bighorn and his subsequent return to the U.S. Embedded in this is a story about the Fenian raids and another about love.