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What To Read

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

Tune in to Morning Light on Classic 107 FM (8:30 AM on the first Friday of every month) and catch McNally Robinson co-owner Chris Hall as he shares our next batch of picks, and keep an eye on the Books section of the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday so see our highlights.


The Mission House

- by Carys Davies

Hardcover $33.00 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $29.70

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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Reader Reward Price: $30.60

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

Hardcover $42.00 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $37.80

#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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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?

"A superb and honest reflection of our extraordinary time."--Nature

 
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.

Hello, Habits

- by Fumio Sasaki

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The internationally best-selling author of Goodbye, Things shares insights and practices to help us embrace habits and become the best versions of ourselves.
Fumio Sasaki changed his life when he became a minimalist. But before minimalism could really stick, he had to make it a habit. All of us live our lives based on the habits we've formed, from when we get up in the morning to what we eat and drink to how likely we are to actually make it to the gym. In Hello, Habits, Sasaki explains how we can acquire the new habits that we want--and get rid of the ones that don't do us any good. Drawing on leading theories and tips about the science of habit formation from cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and sociology, along with examples from popular culture and tried-and-tested techniques from his own life, he unravels common misperceptions about "willpower" and "talent," and offers a step-by-step guide to success. Ultimately, Sasaki shows how ordinary people like himself can use his principles of good habit-making to improve themselves and change their lives.

The Crash Palace

- by Andrew Wedderburn

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A joy ride set on a crash course with the past. Audrey Cole has always loved to drive. Anytime, anywhere, any car: a questionable rustbucket, a family sedan, the SUV she was paid to drive around the oil fields. From the second she learned to drive, she’s always found a way to hit the road. Years ago, when she abandoned her oil field job, she found herself chauffeuring around the Lever Men, a B-list band relegated to playing empty dive bars in far-flung towns. That’s how she found herself at the Crash Palace, an isolated lodge outside the big city where people pay to party in the wilderness. And now, one night, while her young daughter is asleep at home, Audrey is struck by that old urge and finds herself testing the doors of parked cars in her neighbourhood. Before she knows it, she’s headed north in the dead of winter to the now abandoned Crash Palace in a stolen car, unable to stop herself from confronting her past The Crash Palace is a funny, moving, and surprising novel by the author of the Amazon First Novel Award–nominated The Milk Chicken Bomb. Audrey is unlike any character you’ve met before, and you'll love being along for the ride.

The Plague Cycle

- by Charles Kenny

Hardcover $37.00 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $33.30

A vivid, sweeping history of mankind's battles with infectious disease, for readers of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Yuval Harari's Sapiens and John Barry's The Great Influenza.

For four thousand years, the size and vitality of cities, economies, and empires were heavily determined by infection. Striking humanity in waves, the cycle of plagues set the tempo of civilizational growth and decline, since common response to the threat was exclusion--quarantining the sick or keeping them out. But the unprecedented hygiene and medical revolutions of the past two centuries have allowed humanity to free itself from the hold of epidemic cycles--resulting in an urbanized, globalized, and unimaginably wealthy world.

However, our development has lately become precarious. Climate and population fluctuations and aspects of our prosperity such as global trade have left us more vulnerable than ever to newly emerging plagues. Greater global cooperation toward sustainable health is urgently required--such as the international efforts to harvest a Covid-19 vaccine--with millions of lives and trillions of dollars at stake.

Written as colorful history, The Plague Cycle reveals the relationship between civilization, globalization, prosperity, and infectious disease over the past five millennia. It harnesses history, economics, and public health, and charts humanity's remarkable progress, providing a fascinating and timely look at the cyclical nature of infectious disease.

Icebound

- by Andrea Pitzer

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In the bestselling tradition of Hampton Sides's In the Kingdom of Ice, a riveting and cinematic tale of Dutch polar explorer William Barents and his three harrowing Arctic expeditions--the last of which resulted in a relentlessly challenging year-long fight for survival.

The human story has always been one of perseverance--often against remarkable odds. The most astonishing survival tale of all might be that of 16th-century Dutch explorer William Barents and his crew of sixteen, who ventured farther north than any Europeans before and, on their third polar exploration, lost their ship off the frozen coast of Nova Zembla to unforgiving ice. The men would spend the next year fighting off ravenous polar bears, gnawing hunger, and endless winter.

In Icebound, Andrea Pitzer masterfully combines a gripping tale of survival with a sweeping history of the great Age of Exploration--a time of hope, adventure, and seemingly unlimited geographic frontiers. At the story's center is William Barents, one of the 16th century's greatest navigators whose larger-than-life ambitions and obsessive quest to chart a path through the deepest, most remote regions of the Arctic ended in both tragedy and glory. Journalist Pitzer did extensive research, learning how to use four-hundred-year-old navigation equipment, setting out on three Arctic expeditions to retrace Barents's steps, and visiting replicas of Barents's ship and cabin.

"A visceral, thrilling account full of tantalizing surprises" (Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal ), Pitzer's reenactment of Barents's ill-fated journey shows us how the human body can function at twenty degrees below, the history of mutiny, the art of celestial navigation, and the intricacies of building shelters. But above all, it gives us a first-hand glimpse into the true nature of human courage.

The Liar's Dictionary

- by Eley Williams

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Reader Reward Price: $26.96

An exhilarating, clever, funny debut novel from a prize-winning talent, chronicling the misadventures of a lovelorn Victorian lexicographer and the young woman who decodes his trail of made-up words a century later. Will enthrall readers of CS Richardson, Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Mountweazel n. the phenomenon of false entries within dictionaries and works of reference. Often used as a safeguard against copyright infringement.

Peter Winceworth is a lexicographer in Victorian-era London, toiling away at the letter "S" for a multi-volume Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Secretly, he begins to insert unauthorized fictitious entries into the dictionary in an attempt to assert some artistic freedom.

In the present day, Mallory is a young intern employed by the same publisher. Her task is to uncover these mountweazels before the dictionary is digitized. She also has to contend with threatening phone calls from an anonymous caller. Why, she wonders, is the change in the definition of "marriage" so upsetting to the caller? And does the caller really intend for the publisher's staff to "burn in hell"?

As these two narratives, characters and times entwine, both Winceworth and Mallory discover how they might negotiate the complexities of the nonsensical, relentless, untrustworthy, hoax-strewn and undefinable path we call life. An exhilarating debut from a formidably brilliant young writer, The Liar's Dictionary celebrates the rigidity, fragility, absurdity and joy of language.

Wreck This Picture Book

- by Keri Smith

Children's hardcover $23.99 - Add to Cart
Reader Reward Price: $21.59

An Indie Next List Selection

Keri Smith, creator of the mega-bestselling Wreck This Journal, now brings her imagination and inspiration to children with this picture book that explores the very active experience of reading.


What if there were a book that changed every time you read it?

Actually, every book does this. We are all part of the books we read, because our individual reactions, ideas, and emotions make the book whole, and these things are changing all the time. Keri Smith has helped millions of people free their creativity and find their own voice with her interactive books, and now she brings that sensibility to children and to the act of reading. This picture book is an invitation to honor your own vision and to welcome imperfection. Kids will discover that reading can engage all five senses, and that what they themselves bring to a book is an important contribution. (And of course they'll be invited to do a bit of harmless "wrecking"!)

Cat Kid Comic Club

- by Dav Pilkey

Children's hardcover $15.99 - Add to Cart
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A pioneering new graphic novel series by Dav Pilkey, the author and illustrator of the internationally bestselling Dog Man and Captain Underpants series.In Cat Kid Comic Club, Li'l Petey, Flippy, and Molly introduce twenty-one rambunctious, funny, and talented baby frogs to the art of comic making. As the story unwinds with mishaps and hilarity, readers get to see the progress, mistakes, and improvements that come with practice and persistence.



Squid Kid and Katydid, Baby Frog Squad, Monster Cheese Sandwich, and Birds Flowers Trees: A Haiku Photo Comic are just some of the mini-comics that are included as stories-within-the-story, each done in a different style, utilizing humor and drama, prose and poetry, illustrated in different media including acrylics, pastels, colored pencils, felt-tip markers, clay, hand-made cardboard sculptures, photographs, pipe cleaners, construction paper collages, and cookies.



Readers of all ages will be inspired to dream up their own stories and unleash their own creativity as they dive into this new graphic novel adventure from Dav Pilkey and his heartfelt, humorous, and amazing cast of characters in the Cat Kid Comic Club.

Treasures of Winnipeg's Historic Exchange

- by George J. Mitchell

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A breathtaking full-colour photography book celebrating the architectural splendour and cultural heritage of Winnipeg's famed Exchange District, a National Historic Site and one of the city's most vibrant artistic, commercial, and tourist hubs. The Exchange District is the architectural jewel of Winnipeg's downtown core, a thirty-block area featuring 150 remarkably preserved heritage buildings dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These iconic buildings are among the best examples in North America of several turn-of-the-century architectural styles, including Romanesque, Italianate, Beaux-Arts, and Chicago School. From its origins in the 1880s as a commercial and industrial gateway to the Canadian West to its current revitalization, the Exchange exemplifies the spirit of a modern city embracing its past while creating a bright and dynamic future.

Treasures of Winnipeg's Historical Exchange is a sumptuous visual feast for residents and visitors. With stunning photography highlighting the impressive scale and intricate detail of the Exchange's imposing banks, sprawling warehouses, and commercial towers, this book will amaze and delight anyone interested in Winnipeg's history and architecture. In addition, the book captures the renewed energy, creativity, hospitality, and entrepreneurial spirit that have invigorated the Exchange in recent years, making it one of Canada's most vibrant up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

The Lesser Known

- by Darren Bernhardt

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Manitoba's history is one of being carved. Ice sculpted the land before nomadic first people pressed trails across it. Southern First Nations dug into the earth to grow corn and potatoes while those in the north mined it for quartz used in arrowheads. Fur traders arrived, expanding on Indigenous trading networks and shaping new ones. Then came settlers who chiselled the terrain with villages, towns and cities. But there is failure and suffering etched into the history, too. In Winnipeg, slums emerged as the city's population boomed. There were more workers than jobs and the pay was paltry. Immigrants and First Nations were treated as second-class, shunted to the fringes. Rebellions and strikes, political scandals and natural disasters occured as the people molded Manitoba. That past has been thoroughly chronicled, yet within it are lesser-known stories of people, places and events. In The Lesser Known, Darren Bernhardt shares odd tales lost in time, such as The Tin Can Cathedral, the first independent Ukrainian church in North America; the jail cell hidden beneath a Winnipeg theatre; the bear pit of Confusion Corner; gardening competitions between fur trading forts and more. Once deemed important enough to be documented, these stories are now buried. It's time to carve away at them once again.

All Together Now

- by Alan Doyle

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Reader Reward Price: $24.30

National Bestseller

One of Newfoundland's funniest and most beloved storytellers offers his cure for the Covid blues.


Is there a more sociable province than Newfoundland and Labrador? Or anywhere in Canada with a greater reputation for coming to the rescue of those in need?

At this time of Covid, singer, songwriter and bestselling author Alan Doyle is feeling everyone's pain. Off the road and spending more days at home than he has since he was a child hawking cod tongues on the wharfs of Petty Harbour, he misses the crowds and companionship of performing across the country and beyond. But most of all he misses the cheery clamour of pubs in his hometown, where one yarn follows another so quickly "you have to be as ready as an Olympian at the start line to get your tale in before someone is well into theirs already." We're all experiencing our own version of that deprivation, and Alan, one of Newfoundland's finest storytellers, wants to offer a little balm.

All Together Now is a gathering in book form--a virtual Newfoundland pub. There are adventures in foreign lands, including an apparently filthy singalong in Polish (well, he would have sung along if he'd understood the language), a real-life ghost story involving an elderly neighbour, a red convertible and a clown horn, a potted history of his social drinking, and heartwarming reminiscences from another past world, childhood--all designed to put a smile on the faces of the isolated-addled.

Alan Doyle has never been in better form--nor more welcome. As he says about this troubling time: "We get through it. We do what has to be done. Then, we celebrate. With the best of them."