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Our Paperback Picks

A handpicked selection of our favourite recent paperback books.


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Consent

- by Annabel Lyon

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LONGLISTED FOR THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE
A FINALIST FOR THE ETHEL WILSON FICTION PRIZE
A GLOBE AND MAIL BEST BOOK
 
A sly, sensual, haunting novel about two sets of sisters whose lives collide when tragedy changes them forever.


Saskia and Jenny are twins alike in appearance only. Saskia is sober, earnest and buried in books. Jenny is glamorous, thrill-seeking and narcissisitic. Still, when Jenny is severely injured in a car crash, Saskia puts her life on hold to be with her sister.
     The differences between Sara and Mattie are even more stark. Mattie is affectionate, curious and intellectually disabled. Sara loves nothing more than fine wines, perfumes and expensive clothing, and leaves home at the first opportunity. But when their mother dies, Sara inherits the duty of caring for her sister. She moves Mattie in with her--but it's not long until tragedy strikes, and unleashes a cascade of devastating circumstances that bring these Saskia and Sara together in unexpected and destructive ways.
     Razor-sharp and profoundly moving, Consent is a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of familial duty, and of how love can become entangled with guilt, resentment, and regret.

The Knowledge Machine

- by Michael Strevens

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o Why is science so powerful?
o Why did it take so long--two thousand years after the invention of philosophy and mathematics--for the human race to start using science to learn the secrets of the universe? In a groundbreaking work that blends science, philosophy, and history, leading philosopher of science Michael Strevens answers these challenging questions, showing how science came about only once thinkers stumbled upon the astonishing idea that scientific breakthroughs could be accomplished by breaking the rules of logical argument. Like such classic works as Karl Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The Knowledge Machine grapples with the meaning and origins of science, using a plethora of vivid historical examples to demonstrate that scientists willfully ignore religion, theoretical beauty, and even philosophy to embrace a constricted code of argument whose very narrowness channels unprecedented energy into empirical observation and experimentation. Strevens calls this scientific code the iron rule of explanation, and reveals the way in which the rule, precisely because it is unreasonably close-minded, overcomes individual prejudices to lead humanity inexorably toward the secrets of nature. "With a mixture of philosophical and historical argument, and written in an engrossing style" (Alan Ryan), The Knowledge Machine provides captivating portraits of some of the greatest luminaries in science's history, including Isaac Newton, the chief architect of modern science and its foundational theories of motion and gravitation; William Whewell, perhaps the greatest philosopher-scientist of the early nineteenth century; and Murray Gell-Mann, discoverer of the quark. Today, Strevens argues, in the face of threats from a changing climate and global pandemics, the idiosyncratic but highly effective scientific knowledge machine must be protected from politicians, commercial interests, and even scientists themselves who seek to open it up, to make it less narrow and more rational--and thus to undermine its devotedly empirical search for truth. Rich with illuminating and often delightfully quirky illustrations, The Knowledge Machine, written in a winningly accessible style that belies the import of its revisionist and groundbreaking concepts, radically reframes much of what we thought we knew about the origins of the modern world.

Just Us

- by Claudia Rankine

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Now in paperback, Claudia Rankine's "skyscraper in the literature on racism" (Christian Science Monitor)


In Just Us, Claudia Rankine invites us into a necessary conversation about Whiteness in America. What would it take for us to breach the silence, guilt, and violence that arise from addressing Whiteness for what it is? What are the consequences if we keep avoiding this conversation? What might it look like if we step into it? "I learned early that being right pales next to staying in the room," she writes.


This brilliant assembly of essays, poems, documents, and images disrupts the false comfort of our culture's liminal and private spaces--the airport, the theater, the dinner party, the voting booth--where neutrality and politeness deflect true engagement in our shared problems. Rankine makes unprecedented art out of the actual voices and rebuttals of others: White men responding to, and with, their White male privilege; a friend clarifying her unexpected behavior at a play; and women on the street expressing the political currency of dyeing their hair blond, all running alongside fact-checked notes and commentary that complement Rankine's own text, complicating notions of authority and who gets the last word. Funny, vulnerable, and prescient, Just Us is Rankine's most intimate and urgent book, a crucial call to challenge our vexed reality.

The WEIRDest People in the World

- by Joseph Henrich

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A New York Times Notable Book of 2020
A Bloomberg Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020
A Behavioral Scientist Notable Book of 2020
A Human Behavior & Evolution Society Must-Read Popular Evolution Book of 2020

A bold, epic account of how the co-evolution of psychology and culture created the peculiar Western mind that has profoundly shaped the modern world.


Perhaps you are WEIRD: raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. If so, you're rather psychologically peculiar.

Unlike much of the world today, and most people who have ever lived, WEIRD people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. They focus on themselves--their attributes, accomplishments, and aspirations--over their relationships and social roles. How did WEIRD populations become so psychologically distinct? What role did these psychological differences play in the industrial revolution and the global expansion of Europe during the last few centuries?

In The WEIRDest People in the World, Joseph Henrich draws on cutting-edge research in anthropology, psychology, economics, and evolutionary biology to explore these questions and more. He illuminates the origins and evolution of family structures, marriage, and religion, and the profound impact these cultural transformations had on human psychology. Mapping these shifts through ancient history and late antiquity, Henrich reveals that the most fundamental institutions of kinship and marriage changed dramatically under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church. It was these changes that gave rise to the WEIRD psychology that would coevolve with impersonal markets, occupational specialization, and free competition--laying the foundation for the modern world.

Provocative and engaging in both its broad scope and its surprising details, The WEIRDest People in the World explores how culture, institutions, and psychology shape one another, and explains what this means for both our most personal sense of who we are as individuals and also the large-scale social, political, and economic forces that drive human history.

Includes black-and-white illustrations.

The Human Cosmos

- by Jo Marchant

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A Best Book of 2020 (NPR)
A Best Book of 2020 (The Economist)
A Top Ten Best Science Book of 2020 (Smithsonian)
A Best Science and Technology Book of 2020 (Library Journal)
A Must-Read Book to Escape the Chaos of 2020 (Newsweek)
Starred review (Booklist)
Starred review (Publishers Weekly)


A historically unprecedented disconnect between humanity and the heavens has opened. Jo Marchant's book can begin to heal it.

For at least 20,000 years, we have led not just an earthly existence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are--our art, religious beliefs, social status, scientific advances, and even our biology. But over the last few centuries we have separated ourselves from the universe that surrounds us. It's a disconnect with a dire cost.

Our relationship to the stars and planets has moved from one of awe, wonder and superstition to one where technology is king--the cosmos is now explored through data on our screens, not by the naked eye observing the natural world. Indeed, in most countries, modern light pollution obscures much of the night sky from view. Jo Marchant's spellbinding parade of the ways different cultures celebrated the majesty and mysteries of the night sky is a journey to the most awe-inspiring view you can ever see: looking up on a clear dark night. That experience and the thoughts it has engendered have radically shaped human civilization across millennia. The cosmos is the source of our greatest creativity in art, in science, in life.

To show us how, Jo Marchant takes us to the Hall of the Bulls in the caves at Lascaux in France, and to the summer solstice at a 5,000-year-old tomb at Newgrange, Ireland. We discover Chumash cosmology and visit medieval monks grappling with the nature of time and Tahitian sailors navigating by the stars. We discover how light reveals the chemical composition of the sun, and we are with Einstein as he works out that space and time are one and the same. A four-billion-year-old meteor inspires a search for extraterrestrial life. The cosmically liberating, summary revelation is that star-gazing made us human.


Having and Being Had

- by Eula Biss

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NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME , NPR, INSTYLE, AND GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

"A sensational new book [that] tries to figure out whether it's possible to live an ethical life in a capitalist society. . . . The results are enthralling." --Associated Press 

A timely and arresting new look at affluence by the New York Times bestselling author, "one of the leading lights of the modern American essay." --Financial Times


"My adult life can be divided into two distinct parts," Eula Biss writes, "the time before I owned a washing machine and the time after." Having just purchased her first home, the poet and essayist now embarks on a provocative exploration of the value system she has bought into. Through a series of engaging exchanges--in libraries and laundromats, over barstools and backyard fences--she examines our assumptions about class and property and the ways we internalize the demands of capitalism. Described by the New York Times as a writer who "advances from all sides, like a chess player," Biss offers an uncommonly immersive and deeply revealing new portrait of work and luxury, of accumulation and consumption, of the value of time and how we spend it. Ranging from IKEA to Beyoncé to Pokemon, Biss asks, of both herself and her class, "In what have we invested?"

Must I Go

- by Yiyun Li

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"One of our major novelists" (Salman Rushdie) tells the story of a woman reflecting on her uncompromising life, and the life of a former lover, in this provocative novel.

"Yiyun Li is one of my favorite writers, and Must I Go is an extraordinary book."--Meg Wolitzer, New York Times bestselling author of The Female Persuasion and The Interestings

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY MARIE CLAIRE AND ESQUIRE

Lilia Liska has shrewdly outlived three husbands, raised five children, and seen the arrival of seventeen grandchildren. Now she has turned her keen attention to the diary of a long-forgotten man named Roland Bouley, with whom she once had a fleeting affair.

Increasingly obsessed with Roland's intimate history, Lilia begins to annotate the diary with her own rather different version of events, revealing the surprising, long-held secrets of her past. She returns inexorably to the memory of her daughter Lucy. This is a novel about life in all its messy glory, and of a life lived, by the extraordinary Lilia, absolutely on its own terms. With great candor and insight, Yiyun Li navigates the twin poles of grief and resilience, loss and rebirth, that compass a human heart.

The Bass Rock

- by Evie Wyld

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WINNER OF THE STELLA PRIZE o ONE OF VOGUE'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The lives of three women weave together across centuries in this dazzling and empowering portrait of their resilience through the ages.

 
Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has always borne witness to the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries, the fates of three women are inextricably linked to this place and to one another: Sarah, accused of being a witch, is fleeing for her life; Ruth, in the aftermath of the Second World War, is navigating a new marriage and the strange waters of the local community; and six decades later, Viv, still mourning the death of her father, is cataloging Ruth's belongings in the now-empty house.

As each woman's story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that their choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men who seek to control them. But in sisterhood there is also the possibility of survival and a new way of life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with love and fury--a devastating indictment of violence against women and an empowering portrait of their resilience through the ages.

Sisters

- by Daisy Johnson

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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

"[A] skillfully crafted gothic mystery . . . Johnson pulls off a great feat in this book." --Financial Times

"It reminded me, in its general refusal to play nice, of early Ian McEwan." --The New York Times Book Review

"Johnson crafts an aching thriller about the dangers of loving too intensely." --Time


From a Booker Prize finalist and international literary star: a blazing portrait of one darkly riveting sibling relationship, from the inside out.


"One of her generation's most intriguing authors" (Entertainment Weekly), Daisy Johnson is the youngest writer to have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Now she returns with Sisters, a haunting story about two sisters caught in a powerful emotional web and wrestling to understand where one ends and the other begins.

Born just ten months apart, July and September are thick as thieves, never needing anyone but each other. Now, following a case of school bullying, the teens have moved away with their single mother to a long-abandoned family home near the shore. In their new, isolated life, July finds that the deep bond she has always shared with September is shifting in ways she cannot entirely understand. A creeping sense of dread and unease descends inside the house. Meanwhile, outside, the sisters push boundaries of behavior--until a series of shocking encounters tests the limits of their shared experience, and forces shocking revelations about the girls' past and future.

Written with radically inventive language and imagery by an author whose work has been described as "entrancing" (The New Yorker), "a force of nature" (The New York Times Book Review), and "weird and wild and wonderfully unsettling" (Celeste Ng), Sisters is a one-two punch of wild fury and heartache--a taut, powerful, and deeply moving account of sibling love and what happens when two sisters must face each other's darkest impulses.

Red Pill

- by Hari Kunzru

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NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A bold new novel about searching for order in a world that frames madness as truth from the widely acclaimed author of White Tears


After receiving a prestigious writing fellowship in Germany, the narrator of Red Pill arrives in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee and struggles to accomplish anything at all. Instead of working on the book he has proposed to write, he takes long walks and binge-watches Blue Lives, a violent cop show that becomes weirdly compelling in its bleak, Darwinian view of life. He soon begins to wonder if his writing has any value at all.
 
Wannsee is full of ghosts: Across the lake, the narrator can see the villa where the Nazis planned the Final Solution, and in his walks he passes the grave of the Romantic writer Heinrich von Kleist, who killed himself after deciding that "no happiness was possible here on earth." At a party, he meets the charismatic Anton, creator of Blue Lives, and the narrator begins to believe that the two of them are engaged in a cosmic battle. Anton is "red-pilling" his viewers--turning them toward an ugly, alt-rightish worldview, he thinks, as he starts to wonder if he is losing his mind.

The Silk Road

- by Kathryn Davis

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A spellbinding novel about transience and mortality, by one of the most original voices in American literature

The Silk Road begins on a mat in yoga class, deep within a labyrinth on a settlement somewhere in the icy north, under the canny guidance of Jee Moon. When someone fails to arise from corpse pose, the Astronomer, the Archivist, the Botanist, the Keeper, the Topologist, the Geographer, the Iceman, and the Cook remember the paths that brought them there--paths on which they still seem to be traveling.

The Silk Road also begins in rivalrous skirmishing for favor, in the protected Eden of childhood, and it ends in the harrowing democracy of mortality, in sickness and loss and death. Kathryn Davis's sleight of hand brings the past, present, and future forward into brilliant coexistence; in an endlessly shifting landscape, her characters make their way through ruptures, grief, and apocalypse, from existence to nonexistence, from embodiment to pure spirit.

Since the beginning of her extraordinary career, Davis has been fascinated by journeys. Her books have been shaped around road trips, walking tours, hegiras, exiles: and now, in this triumphant novel, a pilgrimage. The Silk Road is her most explicitly allegorical novel and also her most profound vehicle; supple and mesmerizing, the journey here is not undertaken by a single protagonist but by a community of separate souls--a family, a yoga class, a generation. Its revelations are ravishing and desolating.

Via Negativa

- by Daniel Hornsby

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A heartfelt, daring, divinely hilarious debut novel about a priest who embarks on a fateful journey with a pistol in his pocket and an injured coyote in his backseat.

"A beautiful and meditative exploration of shattered faith." --Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half


Father Dan is homeless. Dismissed by his conservative diocese for eccentricity and insubordination, he's made his exile into a kind of pilgrimage, transforming his Toyota Camry into a mobile monk's cell. Then he sees a minivan sideswipe a coyote. Unable to suppress his Franciscan impulses, he takes the injured animal in.

With his unexpected canine companion in the backseat, Dan makes his way west, encountering other offbeat travelers and stopping to take in the occasional roadside novelty (MARTIN'S HOLE TO HELL, WORLD-FAMOUS BOTTOMLESS PIT NEXT EXIT!). But the coyote is far from the only oddity fate has delivered into this churchless priest's care: it has also given him a bone-handled pistol, a box of bullets, and a letter from an estranged friend. By the time Dan gets to where he's going, he'll be forced to reckon once and for all with the great mistakes of his past, and he will have to decide: is penance better paid with revenge, or with redemption?

Transcendent Kingdom

- by Yaa Gyasi

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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
 
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FOR FICTION
 
Yaa Gyasi's stunning follow-up to her acclaimed national bestseller Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.


Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.

Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief--a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi's phenomenal debut.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light

- by Petina Gappah

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"Engrossing, beautiful, and deeply imaginative" (Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing), this epic novel about the explorer David Livingstone and the extraordinary group of Africans who carry his body across impossible terrain "illuminates the agonies of colonialism and blind loyalty" (O, The Oprah Magazine).

"This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of...David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land."

So begins Petina Gappah's "searing...poignant" (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) novel of exploration and adventure in 19th-century Africa--the captivating story of the African men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone's body, papers, and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor's sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, his rigidly pious secretary, this is a "powerful novel, beautifully told" (Jesmyn Ward, author of Sing, Unburied, Sing) that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization--the hypocrisy of humanity--while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.

You Exist Too Much

- by Zaina Arafat

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A "provocative and seductive debut" of desire and doubleness that follows the life of a young Palestinian American woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities as she endeavors to lead an authentic life (O, The Oprah Magazine).

On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother's response only intensifies a sense of shame: "You exist too much," she tells her daughter.

Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East--from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine--Zaina Arafat's debut novel traces her protagonist's progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as "love addiction." In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.

Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings--for love, and a place to call home.

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