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Staff Picks

Here are some of our favourite books.

McNally Robinson co-owner and master bookseller, Chris Hall, has his own What To Read picks in a special place.


Chosen by Tyler (Winnipeg): "A surreal, dreamlike, and grotesque story — at one moment entirely down-to-earth, maybe even comforting, but at the next turn unsettling, sometimes downright nightmarish. Interspersed in the subtle horror of events is a reflection on the perils of communication: how what is said can harm, but what goes unsaid hurts the most."


Chosen by Coby (Winnipeg): "With the uncertain social/political/environmental times we're living in, and the overflow of depressing dystopian fiction that comes with it, Euterra Rising: The Last Utopia, emerges out of the dark as a relevant, hopeful, yet realistic vision of the future. In a world where most of society has crumbled (along with the internet!) the Euterran civilization rises as the-little-utopia-that-could. The story is epic, the characters edgy, and after reading it you may just wish you could pack your bags, time-travel 200 years into the future, and move straight to Euterra."


Falling: A Wake 
by Gary Kirkham
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Chosen by Hannah (Winnipeg): "After an airplane crashes on a farm nearby, Harold and Else find the body of a boy strapped to his airplane chair in their field. Gary Kirkham's bittersweet play watches two characters plummet forward through grief, loss and letting go, like the slow thump of a heartbeat in the dark."


The Afterlife of Birds 
by Elizabeth Philips
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Chosen by Joan (Winnipeg): "This gentle love story of an ordinary woman who works in a garden centre, and a man whose life revolves around the hobby of assembling bird skeletons for display will bring you to tears and re-inspire your hope for us all."


Chosen by bookseller Joan (Winnipeg): "Women and jazz! Love of music leads two women, one from a traditional Pakistani marriage and another from an ethnically Chinese background, to abandon tradition and challenge their prescribed destiny."


Chosen by Tishina (Winnipeg): "The Dead Ladies Project is a mélange between travelogue and literary engagement — although it can be self-indulgent at times, Crispin does not offer her readers romantic or spiritual catharsis à la Eat, Pray, Love. She instead suggests — through both personal explorations and through the experiences of now-dead literary folk — that we must choose to live fiercely and meaningfully. Ultimately, Crispin provides several essays that extend beyond her own circumstances and probes at the ongoing existential question about what it might mean to be alive."


Chosen by Tishina (Winnipeg): "Kirton's page as bone - ink as blood offers us imagery of familial distance/closeness and pulls magical realism into our everyday lives. Her poetics are born from the landscape of the prairie and are rooted in her identity and experiences as a mixed-race Métis/Icelandic woman. page as bone - ink as blood reads as personal explorations transformed into pretty and expansive lyricism centring themes of water/land, trauma/healing and death/rebirth."


M Train
by Patti Smith
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Chosen by Kayla (Saskatoon): "Written by rock-and-roll queen Patti Smith, M-Train journeys through eighteen chapters or "memory train stations" that represent dreamy, abstract reflections of her later life. While her highly acclaimed 2010 memoir Just Kids focuses on her early days in the Chelsea Hotel with former lover and fellow artist Robert Mapplethorpe, M-Train features tender glimpses of her relationship with Fred 'Sonic' Smith. Most of all, Smith's memoir contains a beautifully crafted, eclectic collection of moving stories about time spent writing in New York City cafes, her various travels around the world and her creative inspirations, from the work of Murakami to Bulgakov and back again. Although I have read a large part of Patti Smith's body of work, I think that this memoir is an excellent place to start if you are new to her writing."


Chosen by Madison (Saskatoon): "More a collection of vignettes than poems, Gernes’ work takes a profound look at the small, everyday moments that make up a life. Her freeform writing style has a mystical quality that morphs even the most mundane of events, such as grocery shopping and root canals, into dreamlike sequences. Surreal and utterly unique, Frayed Opus encourages the reader to pause and observe the world around them with a fresh and optimistic eye."


Chosen by Madison (Saskatoon): "Composed of equal parts fierce humour and introspection, Hurley’s essays dive into the nitty gritty of what it means to be a woman in modern geek culture. Tackling everything from internet trolls to publishing woes, The Geek Feminist Revolutionexamines the impact that feminism has had upon both science fiction and fantasy writing and the book industry as a whole. Hurley takes the reader on a journey which is alternately disheartening and empowering, using her unique voice to take a poignant (and often cheeky) stand against the suppression of the female voice."


The Bookman
by Lavie Tidhar
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Chosen by Vincent (Saskatoon): "A cyclone of literature loved, love lost, assassinations accomplished, and myths unbound and rebound. Also airships, automatons, and aliens."


The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
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Chosen by Tressa (Saskatoon): "Beautiful and heartbreaking, this book is a re-telling of The Iliad through the eyes of Patroclus, companion and lover of the famed hero Achilles. New life is breathed into these ancient characters, rendering them complex and identifiable. The skill with which this story was told, and the breadth of emotion it made me feel, are both reasons why I would wholeheartedly recommend it."


Chosen by Erica (Saskatoon): "Doctor McNinja is crimes healthiest adversary, and one of the funniest ones to boot. Along with his 12 year old raptor-riding sidekick, his gorilla receptionist, and the amazing art by author Chris Hastings, these comics had me laughing at nearly every single page."


Chosen by Sascha (Saskatoon): "An incredibly informative examination of the daily political lives of Canadian MP's, this book discusses the biggest problems and a host of potential fixes for our current parliamentary system. With a new political party on the rise, and potential changes on the way, this book is a great primer to understanding how you might want our politics to change."

The Goblin Emperor
by Katherine Addison
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Chosen by Sascha (Saskatoon): "A great simple fantasy about a rags to riches forgotten mistreated son called to become the new emperor of a fantasy elven realm. Though mostly a feel good story about royal intrigue, the story delves into many much more relate able issues as well. A unique fantasy story in that it avoids the black and white, good and evil, distinctions in order to create a much more contemporary tale in a magical elven world."


Sacred Games
by Vikram Chandra
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Chosen by David L. (Winnipeg): "If The Godfather were set in India, and featured an ageing, morally ambivalent detective as protagonist, and the country of India itself was the most important character, a novel close to Sacred Games would emerge. Suspenseful, thrilling, and serious food for thought."


The Uninvited
by Cat Winters
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Chosen by Ashley (Winnipeg): "Jazz? Romance? Historical Fiction? The Spanish Flu? Cat Winters masterfully weaves history with the supernatural in The Uninvited. The Spanish Influenza and World War I has left survivors in a world where the air was thick with death, and for Ivy Rowan constant visions of ghosts; the uninvited. A hauntingly beautiful story about family, freedom, and second chances."


Chosen by Miranda (Saskatoon): "In his latest book, Haig discusses facts and his experiences with anxiety and depression. Reasons to Stay Alive is one of the best nonfiction titles I've read so far. It's thought-provoking, sincere, relatable, and goes where most people are afraid to go."