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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 Future

- Naomi Alderman

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The bestselling, award-winning author of The Power delivers a dazzling tour de force where a handful of friends plot a daring heist to save the world from the tech giants whose greed threatens life as we know it.

When Martha Einkorn fled her father's isolated compound in Oregon, she never expected to find herself working for a powerful social media mogul hell-bent on controlling everything. Now, she's surrounded by mega-rich companies designing private weather, predictive analytics, and covert weaponry while spouting technological prophecy. Martha may have left the cult, but if the apocalyptic warnings in her father's fox and rabbit sermon--once a parable to her--are starting to come true, how much future is actually left?  

Across the world, in a mall in Singapore, Lai Zhen, an internet-famous survivalist, flees from an assassin. She's cornered, desperate and--worst of all--might die without ever knowing what's going on. Suddenly, a remarkable piece of software appears on her phone telling her exactly how to escape. Who made it? What is it really for? And if those behind it can save her from danger, what do they want from her, and what else do they know about the future?  

Martha's and Zhen's worlds are about to collide. An explosive chain of events is set in motion. While a few billionaires assured of their own safety lead the world to destruction, Martha's relentless drive and Zhen's insatiable curiosity could lead to something beautiful or the cataclysmic end of civilization.  

 By turns thrilling, hilarious, tender, and always piercingly brilliant, The Future unfolds at a breakneck speed, highlighting how power corrupts the few who have it and what it means to stand up to them. The future is coming. The Future is here. 

The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle

- Kent Monkman , Gisle Gordon

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From global art superstar Kent Monkman and his long-time collaborator Gisèle Gordon, a transformational work of true stories and imagined history that will remake readers' understanding of the land called North America.

For decades, the singular and provocative paintings by Cree artist Kent Monkman have featured a recurring character--an alter ego of sorts, a shape-shifting, time-travelling elemental being named Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. Though we have glimpsed her across the years in films and on countless canvases, it is finally time to hear her story, in her own words. And, in doing so, to hear the whole history of Turtle Island anew. The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: A True and Exact Accounting of the History of Turtle Island is a genre-demolishing work of genius, the imagined history of a legendary figure through which profound truths emerge--a deeply Cree and gloriously queer understanding of our shared world, its past, its present, and its possibilities.

Volume One, which covers the period from the creation of the universe to the confederation of Canada, follows Miss Chief as she moves through time, from a complex lived experience of Cree cosmology to the arrival of European settlers, many of whom will be familiar to students of history. An open-hearted being, she tries to live among those settlers, and guide them to a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all beings and the world itself. As their numbers grow, though, so does conflict, and Miss Chief begins to understand that the challenges posed by the hordes of newly arrived Europeans will mean ever greater danger for her, her people, and, by extension, all of the world she cherishes.

Blending history, fiction, and memoir in bold new ways, The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle are unlike anything published before. And in their power to reshape our shared understanding, they promise to change the way we see everything that lies ahead.

The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle

- Kent Monkman, Gisle Gordon

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Reader Reward Price: $39.60

From global art superstar Kent Monkman and his longtime collaborator Gisèle Gordon, a transformational work of true stories and imagined history that will remake readers' understanding of the land called North America.

For decades, the singular and provocative paintings by Cree artist Kent Monkman have featured a recurring character--an alter ego of sorts, a shape-shifting, time-travelling elemental being named Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. Though we have glimpsed her across the years, and on countless canvases, it is finally time to hear her story, in her own words. And, in doing so, to hear the whole history of Turtle Island anew. The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle: A True and Exact Accounting of the History of Turtle Island is a genre-demolishing work of genius, the imagined history of a legendary figure through which a profound truths emerge--a deeply Cree and gloriously queer understanding of our shared world, its past, its present, and its possibilities.

Volume Two, which takes us from the moment of confederation to the present day, is a heartbreaking and intimate examination of the tragedies of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Zeroing in on the story of one family told across generations, Miss Chief bears witness to the genocidal forces and structures that dispossessed and attempted to erase Indigenous peoples. Featuring many figures pulled from history as well as new individuals created for this story, Volume Two explores the legacy of colonial violence in the children's work camps (called residential schools by some), the Sixties Scoop, and the urban disconnection of contemporary life. Ultimately, it is a story of resilience and reconnection, and charts the beginnings of an Indigenous future that is deeply rooted in an experience of Indigenous history--a perspective Miss Chief, a millennia-old legendary being, can offer like none other.

Blending history, fiction, and memoir in bold new ways, The Memoirs of Miss Chief Eagle Testickle are unlike anything published before. And in their power to reshape our shared understanding, they promise to change the way we see everything that lies ahead.

The Vulnerables

- Sigrid Nunez

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The New York Times-bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of The Friend and What Are You Going Through brings her singular voice to a story about modern life and connection

Elegy plus comedy is the only way to express how we live in the world today, says a character in Sigrid Nunez's ninth novel. The Vulnerables offers a meditation on our contemporary era, as a solitary female narrator asks what it means to be alive at this complex moment in history and considers how our present reality affects the way a person looks back on her past.

Humor, to be sure, is a priceless refuge. Equally vital is connection with others, who here include an adrift member of Gen Z and a spirited parrot named Eureka. The Vulnerables reveals what happens when strangers are willing to open their hearts to each other and how far even small acts of caring can go to ease another's distress. A search for understanding about some of the most critical matters of our time, Nunez's new novel is also an inquiry into the nature and purpose of writing itself.

Dominion

- Stephen Bown

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Stephen R. Bown continues to revitalize Canadian history with this thrilling account of the engineering triumph that created a nation.

In The Company, his bestselling work of revisionist history, Stephen Bown told the dramatic, adventurous and bloody tale of Canada's origins in the fur trade. With Dominion he continues the nation's creation story with an equally gripping and eye-opening account of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

In the late 19th century, demand for fur was in sharp decline. This could have spelled economic disaster for the venerable Hudson's Bay Company. But an idea emerged in political and business circles in Ottawa and Montreal to connect the disparate British colonies into a single entity that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. With over 3,000 kilometers of track, much of it driven through wildly inhospitable terrain, the CPR would be the longest railway in the world and the most difficult to build. Its construction was the defining event of its era and a catalyst for powerful global forces.

The times were marked by greed, hubris, blatant empire building, oppression, corruption and theft. They were good for some, hard for most, disastrous for others. The CPR enabled a new country, but it came at a terrible price.

In recent years Canadian history has been given a rude awakening from the comforts of its myths. In Dominion, Stephen Bown again widens our view of the past to include the adventures and hardships of explorers and surveyors, the resistance of Indigenous peoples, and the terrific and horrific work of many thousands of labourers. His vivid portrayal of the powerful forces that were molding the world in the late 19th century provides a revelatory new picture of modern Canada's creation as an independent state.

Emperor of Rome

- Mary Beard

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A sweeping account of the social and political world of the Roman emperors by "the world's most famous classicist" (Guardian).
In her international bestseller SPQR, Mary Beard told the thousand-year story of ancient Rome, from its slightly shabby Iron Age origins to its reign as the undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean. Now, drawing on more than thirty years of teaching and writing about Roman history, Beard turns to the emperors who ruled the Roman Empire, beginning with Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) and taking us through the nearly three centuries--and some thirty emperors--that separate him from the boy-king Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE). Yet Emperor of Rome is not your typical chronological account of Roman rulers, one emperor after another: the mad Caligula, the monster Nero, the philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Instead, Beard asks different, often larger and more probing questions: What power did emperors actually have? Was the Roman palace really so bloodstained? What kind of jokes did Augustus tell? And for that matter, what really happened, for example, between the emperor Hadrian and his beloved Antinous? Effortlessly combining the epic with the quotidian, Beard tracks the emperor down at home, at the races, on his travels, even on his way to heaven. Along the way, Beard explores Roman fictions of imperial power, overturning many of the assumptions that we hold as gospel, not the least of them the perception that emperors one and all were orchestrators of extreme brutality and cruelty. Here Beard introduces us to the emperor's wives and lovers, rivals and slaves, court jesters and soldiers, and the ordinary people who pressed begging letters into his hand--whose chamber pot disputes were adjudicated by Augustus, and whose budgets were approved by Vespasian, himself the son of a tax collector. With its finely nuanced portrayal of sex, class, and politics, Emperor of Rome goes directly to the heart of Roman fantasies (and our own) about what it was to be Roman at its richest, most luxurious, most extreme, most powerful, and most deadly, offering an account of Roman history as it has never been presented before.

Let Us Descend

- Jesmyn Ward

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From Jesmyn Ward--the two-time National Book Award winner, youngest winner of the Library of Congress Prize for Fiction, and MacArthur Fellow--comes a haunting masterpiece, sure to be an instant classic, about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War.

"'Let us descend,' the poet now began, 'and enter this blind world.'" --Inferno, Dante Alighieri

Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.

Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader's guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.

From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land--the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward's most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.

The Maniac

- Benjamin Labatut

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From one of contemporary literature's most exciting new voices, a haunting story centered on the Hungarian polymath John von Neumann, tracing the impact of his singular legacy on the dreams and nightmares of the twentieth century and the nascent age of AI

Benjamín Labatut's When We Cease to Understand the World electrified a global readership. A Booker Prize and National Book Award finalist, and one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year, it explored the life and thought of a clutch of mathematicians and physicists who took science to strange and sometimes dangerous new realms. In The MANIAC, Labatut has created a tour de force on an even grander scale.

A prodigy whose gifts terrified the people around him, John von Neumann transformed every field he touched, inventing game theory and the first programable computer, and pioneering AI, digital life, and cellular automata. Through a chorus of family members, friends, colleagues, and rivals, Labatut shows us the evolution of a mind unmatched and of a body of work that has unmoored the world in its wake.

The MANIAC places von Neumann at the center of a literary triptych that begins with Paul Ehrenfest, an Austrian physicist and friend of Einstein, who fell into despair when he saw science and technology become tyrannical forces; it ends a hundred years later, in the showdown between the South Korean Go Master Lee Sedol and the AI program AlphaGo, an encounter embodying the central question of von Neumann's most ambitious unfinished project: the creation of a self-reproducing machine, an intelligence able to evolve beyond human understanding or control.

A world of beauty and fabulous momentum, The MANIAC's unique blend of fact and fiction confronts us with the deepest questions we face as a species.

Tremor

- Teju Cole

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A powerful, intimate novel that masterfully explores what constitutes a meaningful life in a violent world--from the award-winning author of Open City

"A remarkable performance from one of the most brilliant and singular minds at work today."--Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies

Life is hopeless but it is not serious. We have to have danced while we could and, later, to have danced again in the telling.

A weekend spent antiquing is shadowed by the colonial atrocities that occurred on that land. A walk at dusk is interrupted by casual racism. A loving marriage is riven by mysterious tensions. And a remarkable cascade of voices speaks out from a pulsing metropolis.

We're invited to experience these events and others through the eyes and ears of Tunde, a West African man working as a teacher of photography on a renowned New England campus. He is a reader, a listener, a traveler, drawn to many different kinds of stories: stories from history and epic; stories of friends, family, and strangers; stories found in books and films. Together these stories make up his days. In aggregate these days comprise a life.

Tremor is a startling work of realism and invention that engages brilliantly with literature, music, race, and history as it examines the passage of time and how we mark it. It is a reckoning with human survival amidst "history's own brutality, which refuses symmetries and seldom consoles," but it is also a testament to the possibility of joy. As he did in his magnificent debut Open City, Teju Cole once again offers narration with all its senses alert, a surprising and deeply essential work from a beacon of contemporary literature.

The Adversary

- Michael Crummey

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From the award-winning, bestselling author of The Innocents, a dark, enthralling novel about love and its limitations, the corruption of power and the power of corruption.

In an isolated outport on Newfoundland's northern coastline, Abe Strapp is about to marry the daughter of a rival merchant to cement his hold on the shore when the Widow Caines arrives to throw the wedding and Abe's plans into chaos.
    That ruthless act of sabotage is the opening salvo in a battle between the man and woman who own Mockbeggar's largest mercantile firms, each fighting for the scarce resources of the north Atlantic fishery, each seeking a measure of revenge on the person they despise most in the world. As their unshakeable animosity spirals further each year into vendettas and violence, the community is increasingly divided and even the innocents in Mockbeggar find themselves forced to take sides, with devastating consequences.
    Through merciless seasons of uncertainty and want, through predatory storms and pandemics and marauding privateers, it is the human heart that reveals itself to be the most formidable and unpredictable adversary for each person drawn, inevitably and helplessly, into that endless feud.
    Compulsively readable and uncompromising, The Adversary is a pitch-perfect evocation of a lost time, and a shadowed mirror to our modern politics of grievance and retribution. It is Michael Crummey's finest novel to date.

The Circle

- katherena vermette

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*INSTANT TORONTO STAR 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.

Doppelganger

- Naomi Klein

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#1 NATIONAL BESTELLER o From the award-winning, bestselling author of No Logo, The Shock Doctrine, and This Changes Everything, a revelatory analysis of the collapsed meanings, blurred identities, and uncertain realities of the mirror world.

"If ever a book was necessary, it's this one." --Bill McKibben

"Thoughtful and honest . . . Incisive . . . Klein moves her reader toward the truer grounds of solidarity in these times." --Judith Butler

Over the past twenty-five years, Naomi Klein has charted and documented our politics and culture with a series of trenchant bestselling books laying bare the effects of branding, austerity, and climate profiteering on our societies and souls.

With Doppelganger, Klein takes a more personal turn, braiding together elements of tragicomic memoir, chilling political reportage, and cobweb-clearing cultural analysis, as she dives deep into what she calls the Mirror World--our destabilized present rife with doubles and confusion, where far right movements playact solidarity with the working class, AI-generated content blurs the line between genuine and spurious, New Age wellness entrepreneurs turned anti-vaxxers further scramble our familiar political allegiances, and so many of us project our own carefully curated digital doubles out into the social media sphere. 

Klein begins this richly nuanced intellectual adventure story by grappling with her own doppelganger--a fellow author and public intellectual whose views are antithetical to Klein's own, but whose name and public persona are sufficiently similar that many people have confused the two over the years. From there, she turns her gaze both inward to our psychic landscapes--drawing on the work of Sigmund Freud, Jordan Peele, Alfred Hitchcock, and bell hooks, to name a few--and outward, to our intersecting economic, environmental, medical, and political crises. Ultimately seeking to escape the Mirror World and chart a path beyond confusion and despair, Klein delivers a revelatory treatment of the way many of us think and feel now.

The Fraud

- Zadie Smith

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From acclaimed and bestselling novelist Zadie Smith, a kaleidoscopic work of historical fiction set against the legal trial that divided Victorian England, about who gets to tell their story--and who gets to be believed.

It is 1873. Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper--and cousin by marriage--of a once famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years. Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life, and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr. Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems. 

Andrew Bogle meanwhile grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. He knows that the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realize. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story.

The "Tichborne Trial"--wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claimed he was in fact the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title--captivates Mrs. Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs. Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr. Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task...

Based on real historical events, The Fraud is a dazzling novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraudulence and authenticity, and the mystery of "other people."

Wild Hope

- Joan Thomas

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From the Governor General's Award-­winning author of Five Wives, a thrilling contemporary novel about how the past never lets us go  

Isla and Jake are a couple drifting apart. She is a chef and co-owner of a farm-to-table restaurant on the brink of closing; he is a visual artist tormented by the oil-and-gas legacy of his late father. A looming figure in both their lives is Reg Bevaqua, Jake's childhood friend-turned-enemy, turned bottled-water baron.  

Reg is a demanding regular at Isla's restaurant and a man with a seething resentment toward Jake. With good reason, the feeling is mutual, but Jake keeps their past from Isla as he follows a devastating trail to the source of Reg's wealth. When Jake disappears following a winter camping trip, Isla starts to connect the dots, with all roads leading to Reg and his magnificent property on Georgian Bay.  

Seamlessly weaving together observations on the entitlements of the wealthy, the monetization of water and the politics of art, Joan Thomas has created a layered, page-turning read about how far we will go to hold on to power and what we will do to avenge old wounds.

The Bookbinder

- Pip Williams

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A young British woman working in a book bindery gets a chance to pursue knowledge and love when World War I upends her life in this new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the Reese's Book Club pick The Dictionary of Lost Words.

"Williams spins an immersive and compelling tale, sweeping us back to the Oxford she painted so expertly in The Dictionary of Lost Words."--Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

It is 1914, and as the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, women must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who live on a narrow boat in Oxford and work in the bindery at the university press.

Ambitious, intelligent Peggy has been told for most of her life that her job is to bind the books, not read them--but as she folds and gathers pages, her mind wanders to the opposite side of Walton Street, where the female students of Oxford's Somerville College have a whole library at their fingertips. Maude, meanwhile, wants nothing more than what she has: to spend her days folding the pages of books in the company of the other bindery girls. She is extraordinary but vulnerable, and Peggy feels compelled to watch over her.

Then refugees arrive from the war-torn cities of Belgium, sending ripples through the Oxford community and the sisters' lives. Peggy begins to see the possibility of another future where she can educate herself and use her intellect, not just her hands. But as war and illness reshape her world, her love for a Belgian soldier--and the responsibility that comes with it--threaten to hold her back.

The Bookbinder
is a story about knowledge--who creates it, who can access it, and what truths get lost in the process. Much as she did in the international bestseller The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams thoughtfully explores another rarely seen slice of history through women's eyes.

This is a selection of our current What To Read titles. To find other titles or authors, or just to browse, please use the search box.

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