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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.


The Book of Mother

- by Violaine Huisman

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A gorgeous, critically acclaimed debut novel about a young woman coming of age with a dazzling yet damaged mother who lived and loved in extremes.

A prizewinning tour de force when it was published in France, Violaine Huisman's remarkable debut novel is about a daughter's inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, a.k.a. "Maman," smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard, and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn't have it any other way.

But when Maman is hospitalized after a third divorce and a breakdown, everything changes. Even as Violaine and her sister long for their mother's return, once she's back Maman's violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries soon turn their home into an emotional landmine. As the story of Catherine's own traumatic childhood and adolescence unfolds, the pieces come together to form an indelible portrait of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.

With spectacular ferocity of language, a streak of dark humor, and stunning emotional bravery, The Book of Mother is an exquisitely wrought story of a mother's dizzying heights and devastating lows, and a daughter who must hold her memory close in order to let go.

The Greeks

- by Roderick Beaton

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A sweeping history of the Greeks, from the Bronze Age to today  

More than two thousand years ago, the Greek city-states, led by Athens and Sparta, laid the foundation for much of modern science, the arts, politics, and law. But the influence of the Greeks did not end with the rise and fall of this classical civilization. As historian Roderick Beaton illustrates, over three millennia Greek speakers produced a series of civilizations that were rooted in southeastern Europe but again and again ranged widely across the globe.  
 
In The Greeks, Beaton traces this history from the Bronze Age Mycenaeans who built powerful fortresses at home and strong trade routes abroad, to the dramatic Eurasian conquests of Alexander the Great, to the pious Byzantines who sought to export Christianity worldwide, to today's Greek diaspora, which flourishes on five continents. The product of decades of research, this is the story of the Greeks and their global impact told as never before.  

A Line to Kill

- by Anthony Horowitz

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The New York Times bestselling author of the brilliantly inventive The Word Is Murder and The Sentence Is Death returns with his third literary whodunit featuring intrepid detectives Hawthorne and Horowitz.

When Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, are invited to an exclusive literary festival on Alderney, an idyllic island off the south coast of England, they don't expect to find themselves in the middle of murder investigation--or to be trapped with a cold-blooded killer in a remote place with a murky, haunted past.

Arriving on Alderney, Hawthorne and Horowitz soon meet the festival's other guests--an eccentric gathering that includes a bestselling children's author, a French poet, a TV chef turned cookbook author, a blind psychic, and a war historian--along with a group of ornery locals embroiled in an escalating feud over a disruptive power line. 

When a local grandee is found dead under mysterious circumstances, Hawthorne and Horowitz become embroiled in the case. The island is locked down, no one is allowed on or off, and it soon becomes horribly clear that a murderer lurks in their midst. But who?

Both a brilliant satire on the world of books and writers and an immensely enjoyable locked-room mystery, A Line to Kill is a triumph--a riddle of a story full of brilliant misdirection, beautifully set-out clues, and diabolically clever denouements.

Oh William!

- by Elizabeth Strout

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Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout explores the mysteries of marriage and the secrets we keep, as a former couple reckons with where they've come from--and what they've left behind. 

"Elizabeth Strout is one of my very favorite writers, so the fact that Oh William! may well be my favorite of her books is a mathematical equation for joy. The depth, complexity, and love contained in these pages is a miraculous achievement."--Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William. 

Lucy Barton is a writer, but her ex-husband, William, remains a hard man to read. William, she confesses, has always been a mystery to me. Another mystery is why the two have remained connected after all these years. They just are. 

So Lucy is both surprised and not surprised when William asks her to join him on a trip to investigate a recently uncovered family secret--one of those secrets that rearrange everything we think we know about the people closest to us. What happens next is nothing less than another example of what Hilary Mantel has called Elizabeth Strout's "perfect attunement to the human condition." There are fears and insecurities, simple joys and acts of tenderness, and revelations about affairs and other spouses, parents and their children. On every page of this exquisite novel we learn more about the quiet forces that hold us together--even after we've grown apart. 

At the heart of this story is the indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. "This is the way of life," Lucy says: "the many things we do not know until it is too late."

The Bjorkan Sagas

- by Harold R. Johnson

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Drawing upon his Cree and Scandinavian roots, Harold R. Johnson merges myth, fantasy, and history in this epic saga of exploration and adventure.  While sorting through the possessions of his recently deceased neighbour, Harold Johnson discovers an old, handwritten manuscript containing epic stories composed in an obscure Swedish dialect. Together, they form The Björkan Sagas. The first saga tells of three Björkans, led by Juha the storyteller, who set out from their valley to discover what lies beyond its borders. Their quest brings them into contact with the devious story-trader Anthony de Marchand, a group of gun-toting aliens in search of Heaven, and an ethereal Medicine Woman named Lilly. In the second saga, Juha is called upon to protect his people from invaders bent on stealing the secrets contained within the valley's sacred trees. The third saga chronicles the journey of Lilly as she travels across the universe to bring aid to Juha and the Björkans, who face their deadliest enemy yet. The Björkan Sagas is a bold, innovative fusion of narrative traditions set in an enchanted world of heroic storytellers, shrieking Valkyries, and fire-breathing dragons. 

The Strangers

- by Katherena Vermette

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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 ATWOOD GIBSON WRITERS' TRUST FICTION PRIZE
 
From the bestselling author of The Break comes a staggering intergenerational saga that explores how connected we are, even when we're no longer together--even when we're forced apart.


Cedar has nearly forgotten what her family looks like. Phoenix has nearly forgotten what freedom feels like. And Elsie has nearly given up hope. Nearly.

After time spent in foster homes, Cedar goes to live with her estranged father. Although she grapples with the pain of being separated from her mother, Elsie, and sister, Phoenix, she's hoping for a new chapter in her life, only to find herself once again in a strange house surrounded by strangers. From a youth detention centre, Phoenix gives birth to a baby she'll never get to raise and tries to forgive herself for all the harm she's caused (while wondering if she even should). Elsie, struggling with addiction and determined to turn her life around, is buoyed by the idea of being reunited with her daughters and strives to be someone they can depend on, unlike her own distant mother. These are the Strangers, each haunted in her own way. Between flickering moments of warmth and support, the women diverge and reconnect, fighting to survive in a fractured system that pretends to offer success but expects them to fail. Facing the distinct blade of racism from those they trusted most, they urge one another to move through the darkness, all the while wondering if they'll ever emerge safely on the other side. 

A breathtaking companion to her bestselling debut The Break, Vermette's The Strangers brings readers into the dynamic world of the Stranger family, the strength of their bond, the shared pain in their past, and the light that beckons from the horizon. This is a searing exploration of race, class, inherited trauma, and matrilineal bonds that--despite everything--refuse to be broken.

Permanent Astonishment

- by Tomson Highway

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Capricious, big-hearted, joyful: an epic memoir from one of Canada's most acclaimed Indigenous writers and performers

Tomson Highway was born in a snowbank on an island in the sub-Arctic, the eleventh of twelve children in a nomadic, caribou-hunting Cree family. Growing up in a land of ten thousand lakes and islands, Tomson relished being pulled by dogsled beneath a night sky alive with stars, sucking the juices from roasted muskrat tails, and singing country music songs with his impossibly beautiful older sister and her teenaged friends. Surrounded by the love of his family and the vast, mesmerizing landscape they called home, his was in many ways an idyllic far-north childhood. But five of Tomson's siblings died in childhood, and Balazee and Joe Highway, who loved their surviving children profoundly, wanted their two youngest sons, Tomson and Rene, to enjoy opportunities as big as the world. And so when Tomson was six, he was flown south by float plane to attend a residential school. A year later Rene joined him to begin the rest of their education. In 1990 Rene Highway, a world-renowned dancer, died of an AIDS-related illness. Permanent Astonishment: Growing Up in the Land of Snow and Sky is Tomson's extravagant embrace of his younger brother's final words: "Don't mourn me, be joyful." His memoir offers insights, both hilarious and profound, into the Cree experience of culture, conquest, and survival.
 

Ring

- by Andre Alexis

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A fresh take on the romance novel from the Giller Prize-winning author of Fifteen Dogs From their first meeting, it was clear that Gwen and Tancred were meant to be together. But, as we know, the course of true love never did run smooth. Gwen's mother, intuiting that her daughter is in love, gives her a magic ring that has been passed down through endless generations of mothers and daughters. This ring grants its wearer the opportunity to change three things about her beloved. Like all blessings, this may also be a curse. Ring turns the literary romance upside down and shakes out its pockets. It's a playful meditation on the past, on magic, on race, on honour, on faith, and, yes, on love. Following on the heels of Pastoral, Fifteen Dogs, The Hidden Keys, and Days by Moonlight, Ring completes Alexis's Quincunx, a group of five genre-bending, philosophically sophisticated, and utterly delightful novels. "A great novel doesn't try to answer questions, but, like Days by Moonlight, complicates them. " --The Globe and Mail on Days by Moonlight "This imaginative travelogue will amuse readers even as it raises weightier issues. " --Publishers Weekly on Days by Moonlight "I'm far from being a dog person, but as a book person I loved this smart, exuberant fantasy from start to finish. " --The Guardian on Fifteen Dogs "A clever exploration of our essence, communication, and how our societies are organized. " --Kirkus Reviews on Fifteen Dogs

Beautiful World, Where Are You

- by Sally Rooney

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER


Here is the extraordinary, thrilling new novel from Sally Rooney, author of the internationally bestselling Normal People and Conversations with Friends.


Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he'd like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. 

Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young--but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they worry about sex and friendship and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

Fuzz

- by Mary Roach

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What's to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology. Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and "danger tree" faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter's Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque. Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature's lawbreakers. When it comes to "problem" wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem--and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

Fight Night

- by Miriam Toews

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The beloved author of bestsellers Women Talking, All My Puny Sorrows, and A Complicated Kindness returns with a funny, smart, headlong rush of a novel full of wit, flawless writing, and a tribute to perseverance and love in an unusual family.

 
Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv's absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to "Gord," her unborn grandchild (and Swiv's soon-to-be brother or sister). "You're a small thing," Grandma writes to Gord, "and you must learn to fight."

As Swiv records her thoughts and observations, Fight Night unspools the pain, love, laughter, and above all, will to live a good life across three generations of women in a close-knit family. But it is Swiv's exasperating, wise and irrepressible Grandma who is at the heart of this novel: someone who knows intimately what it costs to survive in this world, yet has found a way--painfully, joyously, ferociously--to love and fight to the end, on her own terms.

Life in the City of Dirty Water

- by Clayton Thomas-muller

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER
 
An electrifying memoir that braids together the urgent issues of Indigenous rights and environmental policy, from a nationally and internationally recognized activist and survivor.


There have been many Clayton Thomas-Mullers: The child who played with toy planes as an escape from domestic and sexual abuse, enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; the angry youngster who defended himself with fists and sharp wit against racism and violence, at school and on the streets of Winnipeg and small-town British Columbia; the tough teenager who, at 17, managed a drug house run by members of his family, and slipped in and out of juvie, operating in a world of violence and pain.

But behind them all, there was another Clayton: the one who remained immersed in Cree spirituality, and who embraced the rituals and ways of thinking vital to his heritage; the one who reconnected with the land during summer visits to his great-grandparents' trapline in his home territory of Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba.

And it's this version of Clayton that ultimately triumphed, finding healing by directly facing the trauma that he shares with Indigenous peoples around the world. Now a leading organizer and activist on the frontlines of environmental resistance, Clayton brings his warrior spirit to the fight against the ongoing assault on Indigenous peoples' lands by Big Oil.

Tying together personal stories of survival that bring the realities of the First Nations of this land into sharp focus, and lessons learned from a career as a frontline activist committed to addressing environmental injustice at a global scale, Thomas-Muller offers a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.

The Women of Troy

- by Pat Barker

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A daring and timely feminist retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it--an extraordinary follow up to The Silence of the Girls from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy.
 
"An important, powerful, memorable book."--Emily Wilson, translator of The Odyssey


Troy has fallen and the victorious Greeks are eager to return home with the spoils of an endless war--including the women of Troy themselves. They await a fair wind for the Aegean.

It does not come, because the gods are offended. The body of King Priam lies unburied and desecrated, and so the victors remain in suspension, camped in the shadows of the city they destroyed as the coalition that held them together begins to unravel. Old feuds resurface and new suspicions and rivalries begin to fester.

Largely unnoticed by her captors, the one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles's slave, now belonging to his companion Alcimus, quietly takes in these developments. She forges alliances when she can, with Priam's aged wife the defiant Hecuba and with the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

Probably Ruby

- by Lisa Bird-wilson

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For readers of Tommy Orange's There There and Terese Marie Mailhot's Heart Berries, Probably Ruby is an audacious, brave and beautiful book about an adopted woman's search for her Indigenous identity.

Relinquished as an infant, Ruby is placed in a foster home and finally adopted by Alice and Mel, a less-than-desirable couple who can't afford to complain too loudly about Ruby's Indigenous roots. But when her new parents' marriage falls apart, Ruby finds herself vulnerable and in compromising situations that lead her to search, in the unlikeliest of places, for her Indigenous identity.

Unabashedly self-destructing on alcohol, drugs and bad relationships, Ruby grapples with the meaning of the legacy left to her. In a series of expanding narratives, Ruby and the people connected to her tell their stories and help flesh out Ruby's history. Seeking understanding of how we come to know who we are, Probably Ruby explores how we find and invent ourselves in ways as peculiar and varied as the experiences of Indigenous adoptees themselves. Ruby's voice, her devastating honesty and tremendous laugh, will not soon be forgotten.

Probably Ruby is a perfectly crafted novel, with effortless, nearly imperceptible shifts in time and perspective, exquisitely chosen detail, natural dialogue and emotional control that results in breathtaking levels of tension and points of revelation.

In the Country of Others

- by Leila Slimani

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The award-winning, #1 internationally bestselling new novel by the author of The Perfect Nanny, about a woman in an interracial marriage whose fierce desire for autonomy parallels her adopted country's fight for independence

The world of men is just like the world of botany. In the end, one species dominates another. One day, the orange will win out over the lemon, or vice versa, and the tree will once again produce fruit that people can eat.

In her first new novel since The Perfect Nanny launched her onto the world stage and won her acclaim for her "devastatingly perceptive character studies" (The New York Times Book Review), Leila Slimani draws on her own family's inspiring story for the first volume in a planned trilogy about race, resilience, and women's empowerment.

Mathilde, a spirited young Frenchwoman, falls in love with Amine, a handsome Moroccan soldier in the French army during World War II. After the war, the couple settles in Morocco. While Amine tries to cultivate his family farm's rocky terrain, Mathilde feels her vitality sapped by the isolation, the harsh climate, the lack of money, and the mistrust she inspires as a foreigner. Left increasingly alone to raise her two children in a world whose rules she does not understand, and with her daughter taunted at school by rich French girls for her secondhand clothes and unruly hair, Mathilde goes from being reduced to a farmer's wife to defying the country's chauvinism and repressive social codes by offering medical services to the rural population.

As tensions mount between the Moroccans and the French colonists, Amine finds himself caught in the crossfire: in solidarity with his Moroccan workers yet also a landowner, despised by the French yet married to a Frenchwoman, and proud of his wife's resolve but ashamed by her refusal to be subjugated. All of them live in the country of others--especially the women, forced to live in the land of men--and with this novel, Leila Slimani issues the first salvo in their emancipation.