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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 FMís 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 to see our highlights, or look for What To Read displays inside our bookstores.

The Librarianist

- Patrick deWitt

Hardcover $32.99
Reader Reward Price: $29.69

THE INSTANT #1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

Winner, 2024 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour 

From bestselling and award-winning author Patrick deWitt comes the story of Bob Comet, a man who has lived his life through and for literature, unaware that his own experience is a poignant and affecting narrative in itself.

Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he's known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed.

Behind Bob Comet's straight-man façade is the story of an unhappy child's runaway adventure during the last days of the Second World War, of true love won and stolen away, of the purpose and pride found in the librarian's vocation, and of the pleasures of a life lived to the side of the masses. Bob's experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsized players to welcome onto the stage of his life.

With his inimitable verve, skewed humor, and compassion for the outcast, Patrick deWitt has written a wide-ranging and ambitious document of the introvert's condition. The Librarianist celebrates the extraordinary in the so-called ordinary life, and depicts beautifully the turbulence that sometimes exists beneath a surface of serenity.

Entitlement

- Rumaan Alam

Hardcover $39.99
Reader Reward Price: $35.99

A novel of money and morality from the New York Times bestselling author of Leave the World Behind

Brooke wants. She isn't in need, but there are things she wants. A sense of purpose, for instance. She wants to make a difference in the world, to impress her mother along the way, to spend time with friends and secure her independence. Her job assisting an octogenarian billionaire in his quest to give away a vast fortune could help her achieve many of these goals. It may inspire new desires as well: proximity to wealth turns out to be nothing less than transformative. What is money, really, but a kind of belief?

Taut, unsettling, and alive to the seductive distortions of money, Entitlement is a riveting tale for our new gilded age, a story that confidently considers questions about need and worth, race and privilege, philanthropy and generosity, passion and obsession. It is a provocative, propulsive novel about the American imagination.

On Freedom

- Timothy Snyder

Hardcover $42.00
Reader Reward Price: $37.80

A brilliant exploration of freedom--what it is, how it's been misunderstood, and why it's our only chance for survival--by the acclaimed Yale historian and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller On Tyranny

"Much like life itself, freedom needs to be defined and redefined. On Freedom offers fresh insight into essential aspects of human existence--the values and obligations inherent in every individual's life."--Ai Weiwei

Timothy Snyder has been called "the leading interpreter of our dark times." As a historian, he has given us startling reinterpretations of political collapse and mass killing. As a public intellectual, he has turned that knowledge toward counsel and prediction, working against authoritarianism here and abroad. His book On Tyranny has inspired millions around the world to fight for freedom. Now, in this tour de force of political philosophy, he helps us see exactly what we're fighting for.

Freedom is the great American commitment, but as Snyder argues, we have lost sight of what it means--and this is leading us into crisis. Too many of us look at freedom as the absence of state power: We think we're free if we can do and say as we please, and protect ourselves from government overreach. But true freedom isn't so much freedom from as freedom to--the freedom to thrive, to take risks for futures we choose by working together. Freedom is the value that makes all other values possible.

On Freedom takes us on a thrilling intellectual journey. Drawing on the work of philosophers and political dissidents, conversations with contemporary thinkers, and his own experiences coming of age in a time of American exceptionalism, Snyder identifies the practices and attitudes--the habits of mind--that will allow us to design a government in which we and future generations can flourish. We come to appreciate the importance of traditions (championed by the right) but also the role of institutions (the purview of the left). Intimate yet ambitious, this book helps forge a new consensus rooted in a politics of abundance, generosity, and grace.

real ones

- katherena vermette

Hardcover $35.00
Reader Reward Price: $31.50

From the author of the nationally bestselling Strangers saga comes a heartrending story of two Michif sisters who must face their past trauma when their mother is called out for false claims to Indigenous identity.

June and her sister, lyn, are NDNs--real ones.

Lyn has her pottery artwork, her precocious kid, Willow, and the uncertain terrain of her midlife to keep her mind, heart and hands busy. June, a Métis Studies professor, yearns to uproot from Vancouver and move. With her loving partner, Sigh, and their faithful pup, June decides to buy a house in the last place on earth she imagined she'd end up: back home in Winnipeg with her family.

But then into lyn and June's busy lives a bomb drops: their estranged and very white mother, Renee, is called out as a "pretendian." Under the name (get this) Raven Bearclaw, Renee had topped the charts in the Canadian art world for winning awards and recognition for her Indigenous-style work.

The news is quickly picked up by the media and sparks an enraged online backlash. As the sisters are pulled into the painful tangle of lies their mother has told and the hurt she has caused, searing memories from their unresolved childhood trauma, which still manages to spill into their well curated adult worlds, come rippling to the surface.

In prose so powerful it could strike a match, real ones is written with the same signature wit and heart on display in The Break, The Strangers and The Circle. An energetic, probing and ultimately hopeful story, real ones pays homage to the long-fought, hard-won battles of Michif (Métis) people to regain ownership of their identity and the right to say who is and isn't Métis.

The Capital of Dreams

- Heather O'Neill

Hardcover $34.99
Reader Reward Price: $31.49

A breathtaking dark fairy tale of survival and betrayal from the vivid imagination of Heather O'Neill

Fourteen-year-old Sofia Bottom lives in a small country that Europe has forgotten. But inside its borders, the old myths of trees that come alive and fairies who live among their roots have given way to an explosion of the arts and the consolations of philosophy. No one, from the clarinetists to the cabaret singers, is as revered as Sofia's brilliant mother, the writer Clara Bottom. How can Sofia, with a tin ear and an enduring love of the old myths, ever hope to win her mother's love?

When the country's greatest enemy invades, and the Capital is under threat, at last Clara turns to her daughter. Sofia must smuggle her new manuscript to safety on the last train evacuating children from the city. But the train draws to a suspicious halt in the middle of a forest, and Sofia runs for her life, losing her mother's most prized possession. Frightened and alone in a country at war, Sofia must find a way to reclaim what she has lost. On an epic journey through woods and razed towns, colliding with soldiers, survivors and other lost children, Sofia must make the choice between kindness and survival.

In this stunning dark fairy tale of a novel, Heather O'Neill reveals once again her mastery of language that is as delicious as cake and as serious as a gunshot.

Who We Are

- Murray Sinclair , Sara Sinclair, Niigaan Sinclair

Hardcover $39.95
Reader Reward Price: $35.96

Judge, senator, and activist. Father, grandfather, and friend. This is Murray Sinclair's story--and the story of a nation--in his own words, an oral history that forgoes the trappings of the traditionally written memoir to center Indigenous ways of knowledge and storytelling. As Canada moves forward into the future of Reconciliation, one of its greatest leaders guides us to ask the most important and difficult question we can ask of ourselves: Who are we?

For decades, Senator Sinclair has fearlessly educated Canadians about the painful truths of our history. He was the first Indigenous judge in Manitoba, and only the second Indigenous judge in Canadian history. He was the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and remains one of the foremost voices on Reconciliation. And now, for the first time, he shares his full story--and his full vision for our nation--with readers across Canada and beyond.

Drawing on Senator Sinclair's perspectives regarding Indigenous identity, human rights, and justice, Who We Are examines the roles of history, resistance, and resilience in the pursuit of finding a path forward, one that heals the damaged relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. In doing so, it reveals Senator Sinclair's life in a new and direct way, exploring how all of these unique experiences have shaped him as an Anishinaabe man, father, and grandfather.

Structured around the four questions that have long shaped Senator Sinclair's thinking and worldview--Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?--Who We Are takes readers into the story of his remarkable life as never before, while challenging them to embrace an inclusive vision for our shared future.

I Heard There Was A Secret Chord

- Daniel J Levitin

Hardcover $39.95
Reader Reward Price: $35.96

Neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of This Is Your Brain on Music Daniel J. Levitin reveals how the deep connections between music and the human brain can be harnessed for healing.

Music is perhaps one of humanity's oldest medicines as well as its most universal: from China to the Ottoman Empire, Europe to Africa and pre-colonial South America, cultures have developed rich traditions for using sound and rhythm to ease suffering, spur healing, and calm the mind. Despite this history, musical therapy has long been considered the remit of ancient practice and alternative medicine, if not outright quackery and pseudoscience. In the last decade, however, an overwhelming body of scientific evidence has emerged that persuasively argues music can offer profoundly effective treatment for a whole host of ailments, from Alzheimer's to PTSD, depression, pain, and cognitive injury. It is, in short, one of the most potent and remarkably promising new therapies available today.

A work of dazzling ideas, cutting-edge research, and joyful celebration of the human mind, I Heard There Was a Secret Chord explores the critical role music has played in human evolution, illuminating how the story of the human brain is inseparable from the creative enterprise of music that has bound cultures together throughout history. Music insinuates itself into our earliest memories; it is intimately connected to our emotional regulation and cognition; its shared rhythms and sounds are essential to our social behaviors. As neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin demonstrates in this mind-expanding follow-up to This Is Your Brain on Music--which revolutionized our understanding of the neuroscience of song--medical researchers are now finding that these same deep connections can be harnessed to create profound benefits for those both young and old.

The Knowing

- Tanya Talaga

Hardcover $36.99
Reader Reward Price: $33.29

From Tanya Talaga, the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of Seven Fallen Feathers, comes a riveting exploration of her family's story and a retelling of the history of the country we now call Canada

For generations, Indigenous People have known that their family members disappeared, many of them after being sent to residential schools, "Indian hospitals" and asylums through a coordinated system designed to destroy who the First Nations, Métis and Inuit people are. This is one of Canada's greatest open secrets, an unhealed wound that until recently lay hidden by shame and abandonment.

The Knowing is the unfolding of Canadian history unlike anything we have ever read before. Award-winning and bestselling Anishinaabe author Tanya Talaga retells the history of this country as only she can--through an Indigenous lens, beginning with the life of her great-great grandmother Annie Carpenter and her family as they experienced decades of government- and Church-sanctioned enfranchisement and genocide.

Deeply personal and meticulously researched, The Knowing is a seminal unravelling of the centuries-long oppression of Indigenous People that continues to reverberate in these communities today. 

I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home

- Lorrie Moore

Trade paperback $23.00
Reader Reward Price: $20.70

"Fifty years from now, it may well turn out that the work of very few American writers has as much to say about what it means to be alive in our time as that of Lorrie Moore." --Harper's Magazine

Lorrie Moore's first novel since A Gate at the Stairs--a daring, meditative exploration of love and death, passion and grief, and what it means to be haunted by the past, both by history and the human heart


From "one of the most acute and lasting writers of her generation" (Caryn James; The New York Times)--a ghost story set in the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, an elegiac consideration of grief, devotion (filial and romantic), and the vanishing and persistence of all things--seen and unseen. 

A teacher visiting his dying brother in the Bronx. A mysterious journal from the nineteenth century stolen from a boarding house. A therapy clown and an assassin, both presumed dead, but perhaps not dead at all . . .

With her distinctive, irresistible wordplay and singular wry humor and wisdom, Lorrie Moore has given us a magic box of longing and surprise as she writes about love and rebirth and the pull towards life.  Bold, meditative, theatrical, this new novel is an inventive, poetic portrait of lovers and siblings as it questions the stories we have been told which may or may not be true. I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home takes us through a trap door, into a windswept, imagined journey to the tragic-comic landscape that is, unmistakably, the world of Lorrie Moore.

Once Upon a Prime

- Sarah Hart

Trade paperback $24.99
Reader Reward Price: $22.49

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

"Wide-ranging and thoroughly winning." --Jordan Ellenberg, The New York Times Book Review

"An absolute joy to read!" --Steven Levitt, New York Times bestselling author of Freakonomics


For fans of Seven Brief Lessons in Physics, an exploration of the many ways mathematics can transform our understanding of literature and vice versa, by the first woman to hold England's oldest mathematical chair.


We often think of mathematics and literature as polar opposites. But what if, instead, they were fundamentally linked? In her clear, insightful, laugh-out-loud funny debut, Once Upon a Prime, Professor Sarah Hart shows us the myriad connections between math and literature, and how understanding those connections can enhance our enjoyment of both.

Did you know, for instance, that Moby-Dick is full of sophisticated geometry? That James Joyce's stream-of-consciousness novels are deliberately checkered with mathematical references? That George Eliot was obsessed with statistics? That Jurassic Park is undergirded by fractal patterns? That Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote mathematician characters? From sonnets to fairytales to experimental French literature, Professor Hart shows how math and literature are complementary parts of the same quest, to understand human life and our place in the universe.

As the first woman to hold England's oldest mathematical chair, Professor Hart is the ideal tour guide, taking us on an unforgettable journey through the books we thought we knew, revealing new layers of beauty and wonder. As she promises, you're going to need a bigger bookcase.

Humanly Possible

- Sarah Bakewell

Trade paperback $25.95
Reader Reward Price: $23.36

The bestselling, prizewinning author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Café explores 700 years of writers, thinkers, scientists and artists, all trying to understand what it means to be truly human.

If you are reading this, it's likely you already have some affinity with humanism, even if you don't think of yourself in those terms. You may be drawn to literature and the humanities. You may prefer to base your moral choices on fellow-feeling and responsibility to others rather than on religious commandments. Or you may simply believe that individual lives are more important than grand political visions or dogmas.

If any of these apply, you are part of a long tradition of humanist thought, and you share that tradition with many extraordinary individuals through history who have put rational enquiry, cultural richness, freedom of thought and a sense of hope at the heart of their lives.

Humanly Possible introduces us to some of these people, as it asks what humanism is and why it has flourished for so long, despite opposition from fanatics, mystics and tyrants. It is a book brimming with ideas, personalities and experiments in living - from the literary enthusiasts of the fourteenth century to the secular campaigners of our own time, from Erasmus to Esperanto, from anatomists to agnostics, from Christine de Pizan to Bertrand Russell, and from Voltaire to Zora Neale Hurston. It takes us on an irresistible journey, and joyfully celebrates open-mindedness, optimism, freedom and the power of the here and now--humanist values which have helped steer us through dark times in the past, and which are just as urgently needed in our world today. 

The bestselling, prizewinning author of How to Live and At the Existentialist Café explores 700 years of writers, thinkers, scientists and artists, all trying to understand what it means to be truly human.

Truth Telling

- Michelle Good

Trade paperback $21.00
Reader Reward Price: $18.90

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

FINALIST for the Writers' Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy

FINALIST for the Indigenous Voices Award

FINALIST for the High Plains Book Award

A bold, provocative collection of essays exploring the historical and contemporary Indigenous experience in Canada.

With authority and insight, Truth Telling examines a wide range of Indigenous issues framed by Michelle Good's personal experience and knowledge.

From racism, broken treaties, and cultural pillaging, to the value of Indigenous lives and the importance of Indigenous literature, this collection reveals facts about Indigenous life in Canada that are both devastating and enlightening. Truth Telling also demonstrates the myths underlying Canadian history and the human cost of colonialism, showing how it continues to underpin modern social institutions in Canada.

Passionate and uncompromising, Michelle Good affirms that meaningful and substantive reconciliation hinges on recognition of Indigenous self-determination, the return of lands, and a just redistribution of the wealth that has been taken from those lands without regard for Indigenous peoples.

Truth Telling is essential reading for those looking to acknowledge the past and understand the way forward.

Fire Weather

- John Vaillant

Trade paperback $25.00
Reader Reward Price: $22.50

From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Golden Spruce and The Tiger comes a stunning account of a colossal wildfire, and a panoramic exploration of the rapidly changing relationship between fire and humankind.

In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada's petroleum industry and America's biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster melted vehicles, turned entire neighborhoods into firebombs, and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the lens of this apocalyptic conflagration--the wildfire equivalent of Hurricane Katrina--John Vaillant warns that this was not a unique event but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.
    For hundreds of millennia, fire has been a partner in our evolution, shaping culture, civilization, and, very likely, our brains. Fire has enabled us to cook our food, defend and heat our homes, and power the machines that drive our titanic economy. Yet this volatile energy source has always threatened to elude our control, and in our new age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in previously unimaginable ways.
    With masterly prose and a cinematic eye, Vaillant takes us on a riveting journey through the intertwined histories of North America's oil industry and the birth of climate science, to the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern forest fires, and into lives forever changed by these disasters. John Vaillant's urgent work is a book for--and from--our new century of fire, which has only just begun.

The Circle

- katherena vermette

Trade paperback $23.00
Reader Reward Price: $20.70

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"The Circle is a polyphonic masterpiece." --Erika T. Wurth, author of White Horse

From the award-winning and #1 bestselling author of The Break and The Strangers comes a poignant and unwavering epic told from a constellation of Métis voices that consider the fallout when the person who connects them all goes missing

 
The concept was simple. You sit a bunch of people in a circle--everyone who hurt, everyone who got hurt, all affected--and let them share. Some people, it helped them heal, for sure. Others went in angry and left a different kind of angry. Learned how the blame belonged on the system, the history, the colonizer, the big things that were harder to change than one bad person.
 
The day that Cedar Sage Stranger has been both dreading and longing for has finally come: her sister Phoenix is getting out of prison.
 
The effect of Phoenix's release cascades through the community. M, the young girl whom she assaulted, is triggered by the news. Her mother, Paulina, is worried and her cousin is angry--all feel the threat of Phoenix's release. When Phoenix is seen lingering outside the school to catch a glimpse of her son, Sparrow, the police get a call to file a report--but the next thing they know, she has disappeared.
 
Amid accusations and plots for revenge, past grievances become a poor guide in a moment of danger, and the clumsy armature of law enforcement is no match for the community. Cedar and her and Phoenix's mother, Elsie, continue down different paths of healing, while everyone in their lives form a circle around the chaos, the calm within the storm, and the beauty in the darkness.
 
Fierce, heartbreaking, and profound, Vermette's The Circle is the third and final companion novel to her bestsellers The Break and The Strangers. Told from various perspectives, with an unforgettable voice for each chapter, the novel is masterfully structured as a Restorative Justice Circle where all gather--both the victimized and the accused--to take account of a crime that has altered the course of their lives. It considers what it means to be abandoned by the very systems that claim to offer support, how it feels to gain a sense of belonging, and the unanticipated cost of protecting those you love most.

Birnam Wood

- Eleanor Catton

Trade paperback $24.00
Reader Reward Price: $21.60

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries comes an electrifying thriller about ambition, greed, environmental collapse, and how even our best intentions can lead to deadly consequences.  

INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction, the Kirkus Prize, Orwell Prize, and the Ockham Book Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the 2024 Dublin Literary Award

CBC Books' #1 Canadian Novel of the Year
A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times Book Review, the Globe and Mail, NPR, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Time, Financial Times, Slate, Kirkus Reviews, The Telegraph, Indigo, Apple iBooks Canada
A Barack Obama Summer Reading Pick


Birnam Wood is on the move . . . A landslide has closed the Korowai Pass on New Zealand's South Island, cutting off the town of Thorndike and leaving a sizable farm abandoned. The disaster has created an opportunity for Birnam Wood, a guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops wherever no one will notice.
     For Mira, Birnam Wood's founder, occupying the farm at Thorndike would mean a shot at solvency at last. But Mira is not the only one interested in Thorndike. The enigmatic American billionaire Robert Lemoine has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker, or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira and Birnam Wood, he makes them an offer that would set them up for the long term. But can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust one another?
    Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its drama, Austenian in its wit, and, like both influences, fascinated by what makes us who we are. A brilliantly constructed consideration of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is a mesmerizing, unflinching consideration of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.

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