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What To Read

Wondering what to read next? Here are our top recent picks.

In Winnipeg tune in to Morning Light on Classic 107 FM (8:30 AM on the first Friday of every month), and in Saskatoon tune in to CFCR 90.5 FMs Green Eggs and Ham with the Reverend (between 8:00-10:00 AM the first Thursday of every month) and catch McNally Robinson co-owner Chris Hall as he shares our next batch of What To Read picks.

You can also keep an eye on the Books section of the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday so see our highlights, or look for our What To Read displays inside our bookstores.


Stampede

- by Brian Castner

Hardcover $35.00 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $31.50

A gripping and wholly original account of the epic human tragedy that was the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98. One hundred thousand men and women rushed heedlessly north to make their fortunes; very few did, but many thousands of them (and their pack animals) died in the attempt.

The electrifying announcement in 1897 that gold was to be found in wildly enriching quantities in the Klondike River region in remote Alaska was demonically well-timed to attract an exodus of economically desperate Americans. Within weeks, tens of thousands of them were embarking from western ports to throw themselves at some of the harshest terrain on the planet--in winter, yet--woefully unprepared, with no experience at all in mining or mountaineering. It was a mass delusion that quickly proved deadly. Brian Castner tells the unvarnished yet always striking and often amazing truth of this greed-fuelled migration.

The Bookseller of Florence

- by Ross King

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Reader Reward Price: $35.96

Award-winning and bestselling author Ross King is back with another rich, gripping history--a story of rivalry, new technology and the finest illuminated manuscripts known to history, all set against a Renaissance Florence backdrop.

Against the endlessly rich and fascinating backdrop of Renaissance Florence, The Bookseller of Florence brings to light an extraordinary story about the city and its culture--that of Vespasiano da Bisticci, the "king of the world's booksellers," Florence's most indispensable and prolific merchant of knowledge. His bookshop in the heart of Florence was a gathering place for the city's most prominent poets and philosophers, and it was there that Vespasiano and his team of scribes created beautiful illuminated manuscripts for their clients, a cast of powerful popes and wealthy European princes.

But in 1476, as Vespasiano began working on one of his most famed and gorgeous works, the Urbino Bible, the printing press came to Florence and threatened his life's work. The Bookseller of Florence tells the story of the people at the forefront of the world's greatest cultural and technological revolution. It explores the clash between old and new and the way it can produce an explosion of fresh ideas, and is the definitive tome on one of the world's most transformative moments in time.

When the Stars Go Dark

- by Paula Mclain

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes an atmospheric novel of intertwined fate and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?


Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When unspeakable tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino. She spent summers there as a child with her beloved grandparents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her to heal. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. Anna is in no condition to become involved with the search--until a childhood friend, now the village sheriff, pleads for her help.

Then, just days later, a twelve-year-old girl is abducted from her home. The crimes feel frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna's childhood, when a string of unsolved murders touched Mendocino. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with these missing girls, she must learn that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together true crime, trauma theory and a hint of the metaphysical, this tense, affecting story is about fate, unlikely redemption and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives--and our faith in one another.

The Glitter in the Green

- by Jon Dunn

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An acclaimed natural history writer follows the trail of the remarkable hummingbird all over the world.

Hummingbirds are a glittering, sparkling collective of over three hundred wildly variable species. For centuries, they have been revered by indigenous Americans, coveted by European collectors, and admired worldwide for their unsurpassed metallic plumage and immense character. Yet they exist on a knife-edge, fighting for survival in boreal woodlands, dripping cloud forests, and subpolar islands. They are, perhaps, the ultimate embodiment of evolution's power to carve a niche for a delicate creature in even the harshest of places.

Traveling the full length of the hummingbirds' range, from the cusp of the Arctic Circle to near-Antarctic islands, acclaimed nature writer Jon Dunn encounters birders, scientists, and storytellers in his quest to find these beguiling creatures, immersing us in the world of one of Earth's most charismatic bird families.

Peaces

- by Helen Oyeyemi

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The prize-winning, bestselling author of Gingerbread; Boy, Snow, Bird; and What is Not Yours is Not Yours returns with a vivid and inventive new novel about a couple forever changed by an unusual train voyage.

When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment--and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favourite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together.

A spellbinding tale from a star author, Peaces is about what it means to be seen by another person--whether it's your lover or a stranger on a train--and what happens when things you thought were firmly in the past turn out to be right beside you.

Peyakow

- by Darrel J. Mcleod

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Mamaskatch, Darrel J. McLeod's 2018 memoir of growing up Cree in Northern Alberta, was a publishing sensation--winning the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction, shortlisted for many other major prizes and translated into French and German editions. In Peyakow, McLeod continues the poignant story of his impoverished youth, beset by constant fears of being dragged down by the self-destruction and deaths of those closest to him as he battles the bullying of white classmates, copes with the trauma of physical and sexual abuse, and endures painful separation from his family and culture. With steely determination, he triumphs: now elementary teacher; now school principal; now head of an Indigenous delegation to the UN in Geneva; now executive in the Government of Canada--and now a celebrated author. Brutally frank but buoyed throughout by McLeod's unquenchable spirit, Peyakow--a title borrowed from the Cree word for "one who walks alone"--is an inspiring account of triumph against unimaginable odds. McLeod's perspective as someone whose career path has crossed both sides of the Indigenous/white chasm resonates with particular force in today's Canada.

The Code Breaker

- by Walter Isaacson

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The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn't become scientists, she decided she would.

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book's author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his co-discovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.

Should we use our new evolution-hacking powers to make us less susceptible to viruses? What a wonderful boon that would be! And what about preventing depression? Hmmm...Should we allow parents, if they can afford it, to enhance the height or muscles or IQ of their kids?

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.

Return of the Trickster

- by Eden Robinson

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
In the third book of her brilliant and captivating Trickster Trilogy, Eden Robinson delivers an explosive, surprising and satisfying resolution.


All Jared Martin had ever wanted was to be normal, which was already hard enough when he had to cope with Maggie, his hard-partying, gun-toting, literal witch of a mother, Indigenous teen life and his own addictions. When he wakes up naked, dangerously dehydrated and confused in the basement of his mom's old house in Kitimat, some of the people he loves--the ones who don't see the magic he attracts--just think he fell off the wagon after a tough year of sobriety. The truth for Jared is so much worse.

He finally knows for sure that he is the only one of his bio dad Wee'git's 535 children who is a Trickster too, a shapeshifter with a free pass to other dimensions. Sarah, his ex, is happy he's a magical being, but everyone else he loves is either pissed with him, or in mortal danger from the dark forces he's accidentally unleashed, or both. The scariest of those dark forces is his Aunt Georgina, a maniacal ogress hungry for his power, who has sent her posse of flesh-eating coy-wolves to track him down.

Even though his mother resents like hell that Jared has taken after his dad, she is also determined that no one is going to hurt her son. For Maggie it's simple--Kill or be killed, bucko. Soon Jared is at the centre of an all-out war--a horrifying place to be for the universe's sweetest Trickster, whose first instinct is not mischief and mind games but to make the world a kinder, safer, place.

The Committed

- by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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The sequel toThe Sympathizer, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and went on to sell over a million copies worldwide,The Committed tells the story of "the man of two minds" as he comes as a refugee to France and turns his hand to capitalismThe long-awaited follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winningThe Sympathizer, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide,The Committed follows the man of two minds as he arrives in Paris in the early 1980s with his blood brother Bon. The pair try to overcome their pasts and ensure their futures by engaging in capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing.Traumatized by his reeducation at the hands of his former best friend, Man, and struggling to assimilate into French culture, the Sympathizer finds Paris both seductive and disturbing. As he falls in with a group of left-wing intellectuals whom he meets at dinner parties given by his French Vietnamese "aunt," he finds stimulation for his mind but also customers for his narcotic merchandise. But the new life he is making has perils he has not foreseen, whether the self-torture of addiction, the authoritarianism of a state locked in a colonial mindset, or the seeming paradox of how to reunite his two closest friends whose worldviews put them in absolute opposition. The Sympathizer will need all his wits, resourcefulness, and moral flexibility if he is to prevail.

Both highly suspenseful and existential,The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen's position in the firmament of American letters.

The Mission House

- by Carys Davies

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From the multiple award-winning author of West and The Redemption of Galen Pike, a captivating and propulsive novel following an Englishman seeking refuge in a remote hill town in India who finds himself caught in the crossfire of local tensions and violence.

Fleeing his demons and the dark undercurrents of contemporary life in the UK, Hilary Byrd takes refuge in a former British hill station in South India. Charmed by the foreignness of his new surroundings and by the familiarity of everything the British have left behind, he finds solace in life's simple pleasures, travelling by rickshaw around the small town with his driver Jamshed and staying in a mission house beside the local presbytery where the Padre and his adoptive daughter Priscilla have taken Hilary under their wing.

The Padre is concerned for Priscilla's future, and as Hilary's friendship with the young woman grows, he begins to wonder whether his purpose lies in this new relationship. But religious tensions are brewing and the mission house may not be the safe haven it seems.

The Mission House boldly and imaginatively explores post-colonial ideas in a world fractured between faith and non-belief, young and old, imperial past and nationalistic present. Tenderly subversive and meticulously crafted, it is a deeply human story of the wonders and terrors of connection in a modern world.

The Centaur's Wife

- by Amanda Leduc

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Amanda Leduc's brilliant new novel, woven with fairy tales of her own devising and replete with both catastrophe and magic, is a vision of what happens when we ignore the natural world and the darker parts of our own natures.

Heather is sleeping peacefully after the birth of her twin daughters when the sound of the world ending jolts her awake. Stumbling outside with her babies and her new husband, Brendan, she finds that their city has been destroyed by falling meteors and that her little family are among only a few who survived.

But the mountain that looms over the city is still green--somehow it has been spared the destruction that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Heather is one of the few who know the mountain, a place city-dwellers have always been forbidden to go. Her dad took her up the mountain when she was a child on a misguided quest to heal her legs, damaged at birth. The tragedy that resulted has shaped her life, bringing her both great sorrow and an undying connection to the deep magic of the mountain, made real by the beings she and her dad encountered that day: Estajfan, a centaur born of sorrow and of an ancient, impossible love, and his two siblings, marooned between the magical and the human world. Even as those in the city around her--led by Tasha, a charismatic doctor who fled to the city from the coast with her wife and other refugees--struggle to keep everyone alive, Heather constantly looks to the mountain, drawn by love, by fear, by the desire for rescue. She is torn in two by her awareness of what unleashed the meteor shower and what is coming for the few survivors, once the green and living earth makes a final reckoning of the usefulness of human life and finds it wanting.

At times devastating, but ultimately redemptive, Amanda Leduc's fable for our uncertain times reminds us that the most important things in life aren't things at all, but rather the people we want by our side at the end of the world.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

- by Bill Gates

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

In this urgent, singularly authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical--and accessible--plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid an irreversible

climate catastrophe.


Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help and guidance of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science and finance, he has focused on exactly what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide toward certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only gathers together all the information we need to fully grasp how important it is that we work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases but also details exactly what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.

He gives us a clear-eyed description of the challenges we face. He describes the areas in which technology is already helping to reduce emissions; where and how the current technology can be made to function more effectively; where breakthrough technologies are needed, and who is working on these essential innovations. Finally, he lays out a concrete plan for achieving the goal of zero emissions--suggesting not only policies that governments should adopt, but what we as individuals can do to keep our government, our employers and ourselves accountable in this crucial enterprise.

As Bill Gates makes clear, achieving zero emissions will not be simple or easy to do, but by following the guidelines he sets out here, it is a goal firmly within our reach.

Four Hundred Souls

- by Ibram X. Kendi

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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o A chorus of extraordinary voices tells the epic story of the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present--edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire.

"A vital addition to [the] curriculum on race in America . . . a gateway to the solo works of all the voices in Kendi and Blain's impressive choir."--The Washington Post
 
"From journalist Hannah P. Jones on Jamestown's first slaves to historian Annette Gordon-Reed's portrait of Sally Hemings to the seductive cadences of poets Jericho Brown and Patricia Smith, Four Hundred Souls weaves a tapestry of unspeakable suffering and unexpected transcendence."--O: The Oprah Magazine

The story begins in 1619--a year before the Mayflower--when the White Lion disgorges "some 20-and-odd Negroes" onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history. 

Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume "community" history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith--instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness. 

This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.

Under a White Sky

- by Elizabeth Kolbert

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER o The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction returns to humanity's transformative impact on the environment, now asking: After doing so much damage, can we change nature, this time to save it?

"Important, necessary, urgent and phenomenally interesting."--Helen Macdonald, The New York Times
  
That man should have dominion "over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth" is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. So pervasive are human impacts on the planet that it's said we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.
 
In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world's rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a "super coral" that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth.

One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. In The Sixth Extinction, she explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. Now she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.